Books and literature

The first pile at Hanford generated 250 million watts—250 megawatts or MW—of thermal power and produced each year about a hundred kilograms of plutonium. A rule of thumb is that a megawatt of fission heat in a natural uranium reactor accompanies the production of about a gram of plutonium-239 per day. About six kilograms were […]

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Readers expect to be argued with, and persuaded by. They don’t want to be told, repeatedly, what they already know, and they’re rarely tolerant of being lectured at. Writing happens among; writing is an exchange. I’ll go further with this point, so bear with me. Readers aren’t just people out there who buy, borrow, or […]

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Most of what academics write is intended to persuade other academics of something. That’s true for essayists, too. James Baldwin, when asked if writing an essay was easier than writing a novel, replied, “An essay is essentially an argument. The writer’s point of view in an essay is always absolutely clear. The writer is trying […]

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Identifiable skills, practical techniques, working notes, instinct, gut feeling, hunches. Though they may sound like an unlikely troupe of players, when you write and revise you call on all of them. But no tool for working your way into a draft is more important than just reading it as carefully as your ears will let […]

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“One profession that is particularly close to my heart, a profession that can get away with nearly anything,” Wagenbreth told his colleagues, “and this group are our dear journalists.” Journalists with a good reputation, he said, had excellent access to officials with security clearances and business executives, and could even travel through the Iron Curtain […]

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What makes Rousseau and his self-described ‘history of the human heart,’ so astonishingly germane and eerily resonant is that, unlike his fellow eighteenth-century writers, he described the quintessential inner experience of modernity for most people: the uprooted outsider in the commercial metropolis, aspiring for a place in it, and struggling with complex feelings of envy, […]

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I want to persuade you that when you have a memory, you don’t retrieve something that already exists, fully formed—you create something new. Memory is about the present as much as it is about the past. A memory is made in the moment, and collapses back into its constituent elements as soon as it is […]

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Without our memories, we would be lost to ourselves, amnesiacs flailing around in a constant, unrelenting present. It is hard to imagine being able to hang on to your personal identity without a store of autobiographical memories. To attain the kind of consciousness we all enjoy, we probably rely on a capacity to make links […]

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Jeeves: And if, in consequence, Mr. Winship should lose the election… Wooster: I imagine democracy would survive the blow Jeeves. J: The talk in the servants’ hall Sir is that Lady Florence has informed Mr. Winship that if he does not win the electon their engagement will be at an end. W: Good God! You […]

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Students who weren’t too overawed by the reputations and accomplishments of the college’s senior members could find them useful in more practical ways. At one High Table, Jane Freeman, who was just beginning to write her thesis and feeling daunted at the prospect of tackling what was essentially the writing of her first book, found […]

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