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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

Trimmed Hedges

Sorry about the title. It was the closest I could come to “Shattered Glass.” The subhead is “Pulitzer winner. Lefty hero. Plagiarist.” Chris Hedges is a reporter who apparently has been very busy for many years, in fact, according to this report by Christopher Ketcham he’s been so busy telling important things to the world […]

Fooled by randomness

From 2006: Naseem Taleb‘s publisher sent me a copy of “Fooled by randomness: the hidden role of chance in life and the markets” to review. It’s an important topic, and the book is written in a charming style—I’ll try to respond in kind, with some miscellaneous comments. On the cover of the book is a […]

How literature is like statistical reasoning: Kosara on stories. Gelman and Basbøll on stories.

In “Story: A Definition,” visual analysis researcher Robert Kosara writes: A story ties facts together. There is a reason why this particular collection of facts is in this story, and the story gives you that reason. provides a narrative path through those facts. In other words, it guides the viewer/reader through the world, rather than just throwing […]

In the best alternative histories, the real world is what’s ultimately real

This amusing-yet-so-true video directed by Eléonore Pourriat shows a sex-role-reversed world where women are in charge and men don’t get taken seriously. It’s convincing and affecting, but the twist that interests me comes at the end, when the real world returns. It’s really creepy. And this in turn reminds me of something we discussed here […]

Literal vs. rhetorical

Thomas Basbøll pointed me to a discussion on the orgtheory blog in which Jerry Davis, the editor of a journal of business management argued that it is difficult for academic researchers to communicate with the public because “the public prefers Cheetos to a healthy salad” and when serious papers are discussed on the internet, “everyone […]

What is the appropriate time scale for blogging—the day or the week?

I post (approximately) once a day and don’t plan to change that. I have enough material to post more often—for example, I could intersperse existing blog posts with summaries of my published papers or of other work that I like; and, beyond this, we currently have a one-to-two-month backlog of posts—but I’m afraid that if […]

A good comment on one of my papers

An anonymous reviewer wrote: I appreciate informal writing styles as a means of increasing accessibility. However, the informality here seems to decrease accessibility – partly because of the assumed knowledge of the reader for concepts and terms, and also for its wandering style. Many concepts are introduced without explanation and are not clearly and decisively […]

Parables vs. stories

God is in every leaf of every tree, but he is not in every leaf of every parable. Let me explain with a story. A few months ago I read the new book, Doing Data Science, by Rachel Schutt and Cathy O’Neil, and I came across the following motivation for comprehensive integration of data sources, […]

Advice on writing research articles

From a few years ago: General advice Both the papers sent to me appear to have strong research results. Now that the research has been done, I’d recommend rewriting both articles from scratch, using the following template: 1. Start with the conclusions. Write a couple pages on what you’ve found and what you recommend. In […]

Things that I like that almost nobody else is interested in

This post by Jordan Ellenberg (“Stoner represents a certain strain in the mid-century American novel that I really like, and which I don’t think exists in contemporary fiction. Anguish, verbal restraint, weirdness”) reminds me that what I really like is mid-to-late-twentieth-century literary criticism. I read a great book from the 50s, I think it was, […]