* “On Joseph Epstein,” which is of interest even when it is wrong; I’m also struck by how much things have changed: “In her 1939 essay ‘Reviewing,’ Virginia Woolf called the nineteenth-century reviewer ‘a formidable insect’ with ‘considerable power’ to alter the public reception of a book.” Today the barbarians aren’t just at the gates but in the temple.
* “It’s Different for Girls,” which is one of the only good women-in-tech pieces I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of them); the last paragraph is especially good.
* “How Creativity Could Save Humanity: Stefan Zweig, the obscure Austrian writer whose life and work inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel, believed imagination could help propel society toward universal tolerance and accord,” which has many counter-intuitive (to me) points; I especially like the comparisons between Europe and Brazil.
* “U.S. children read, but not well or often: report.” My guess—and it’s purely a guess—is that the top end is doing extraordinarily well and perhaps better than ever (books are cheaper, good writing more available due to the Internet, good writing is more useful and visible, etc.—see Penelope Trunk’s dubious argument in “The Internet has created a generation of great writers “), and the bottom end that can barely read and write effectively has been with us since at least the 1960s and probably earlier. As with so much else I suspect that the middle is the real issue lies and where the real action is.
Part of this view comes from teaching English at the University of Arizona, where most honors students were at least competent writers for their age and some were really good—sometimes much better than I was at their age. Many professors and teachers do the standard bemoaning of the-kids-these-days-with-their-newfangled-gadgets, but I didn’t see much of that among those with real skills.