Friday on a holiday weekend

You’re off to the beach or the mountains or the neighborhood barbecue. I’m off to the news desk for today, tomorrow, and Sunday. Don’t cry me a river; just check out the items below before you check out for the weekend.

Hot damn: The Library of America is bringing out H.L. Mencken’s complete Prejudices series in two volumes, an excellent and thoughtful [cough] Christmas/birthday/anniversary present for that bookworm in your life.

A loss to literature: Sorry to report that Beryl Bainbridge has died. You may have read years ago her grimly comic Bottle Factory Outing, but she captured my heart with According to Queeney, a magnificent historical novel about Samuel Johnson in his last years with Mrs. Thrale and her family. Reading one of her books would be a tribute to her.

Who could tell?: Jan Freeman quotes a wicked anti-prescriptivist suggestion from Language Hat: Someone should arbitrarily denounce a perfectly good word, or compare two equally correct English sentences and announce that one is good and the other bad, and then watch the prescriptivist forces fall into line.

English majors will recall the terrifying experiment in I.A. Richards’s Practical Criticism, in which he removed authorial identification from thirteen poems, some celebrated and some low-grade, discovering that without the marks of prestige readers had difficulty separating the good from the bad.

Separating the true authorities from the bogus is equally tricky.

THAT’S what they meant: The language blog Johnson at The Economist goes from strength to strength. A couple of days ago it explained what was back of the Russian diplomatic language about the latest espionage brouhaha.

Only one more week: You think Twitter will stop overloading every ten minutes once the damn World Cup is over?



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