It’s true that you can now play Oregon Trail for free, in DOS, via the Internet Archive. It’s also true that before there was a Bill Gates who founded Microsoft, there was Swiftwater Bill Gates of the Klondike Gold Rush, no relation. Microsoft Bill Gates’ grandfather, also named William Gates, was also a prospector active in the same time and place as Swiftwater, which just goes to show that history wants what history wants. Read the life story of the other famous Bill Gates, written by his mother-in-law, here. I bet he would have liked one of those waste-to-water machines.
Click here to see how Mr. Gates is related to Princess Di, the Bushes, FDR, and Richard Nixon.
Last week, before I knew she was the new face of Celine (or before I knew what Celine was, to be honest), I shared Joan Didion’s “At the Dam” in the Required Reading feature here. I was taught this essay, and I teach it. Not because Joan Didion is uber-fashionable at the moment, but because it’s really good.
Flavorwire’s Elisabeth Donnelly has an interesting piece up today trying to take the pulse of the growing Didion-as-icon trend. Donnelly quotes Haley Mlotek in what feels like an especially prescient observation:
As she puts it, citing Joan Didion as your idol says that:
…we’re cool, that we’re educated, that if we are not young and white and slender and well-dressed and disaffected and sad and committed to the art of writing as an arduous and soul-sucking process that must be endured yet Instagrammed simultaneously, then we will be, at least, as close as possible to those identifiers even if it kills us.
We’ve also been doing this with Leonard Cohen. Citing him as your idol signals different things, but the desire to look back and hold up great talents in their later years is nothing new. We do it, of course, with Betty White. We probably would have done it with Bill Cosby soon. I for one am not sure why we don’t do it with Dick Van Dyke or Marianne Faithful.
Head’s up: New York Magazine, a mere four hours ago, has issued a warning that loving Joan Didion is a trap.
Literature Map says:
What else do readers of [any other famous author] read? The closer two writers are, the more likely someone will like both of them. Click on any name to travel along.
Did it map you right? Tell us in the comments.
A good and very practical demonstration on what the ear wants from the late Gary Provost:
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.”
Prufrock turns 100 this year, T.S. Eliot 122. Read it here. Read it now.