Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

May 16, 2013

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. We'll free-for-all today, as I don't have any polls or particular topics pulled out today. We'll get started in a few -- and take a minute to read about the astronaut who became a meme, a delightful story by Joel Achenbach that ran yesterday.

Okay, this is pretty great. It took me awhile to unpack it, but I love the idea of our dumb memes spreading out into the ether with the speed of light.

Does the new Dan Brown novel provide a compelling reason why the dying man would leave instructions in code?

I don't know. How do you define compelling? "Because otherwise there would be no reason for 200 pages of plot." Does that count as a compelling reason? Then yes.

It was really interesting, in reviewing this book, to think about the different between "good" and "readable/compelling," and the different values and properties that those two words imply.


I would love examples, in fact, of books/movies that are:


A) Readable but not good

B) Good but not readable.

C) Good and readable.

Did you see it? Things don't look good for the East Coast.

This was forwarded a lot...but it seems a bit misleading. The chart seems to account for total number of racist tweets, rather than racist tweets per capita. And, yes, there will probably be many more racist tweets in New York City than there are in Missoula, Montana. Because there are many more people living in New York.

Umberto Eco. I love his essays, he can be very very funny, but I can't stay awake even in so compelling a tale as "The Island of the Day Before."

I think this is true. I put Umberto Eco in the same category as Barbara Kingsolver for me. On a paragraph level, I adore both of their writing. And yet I never want to stay up all night and finish one of their books.

At least half a dozen of my Facebook friends posted the new cartoon about depression that popped up recently on Hyperbole and a Half, which hadn't been updated for 2 years. How unusual is it that something like that reaches so many people when a blogger has been inactive?

Not so unusual in this case, I think, in that a lot of fans had programmed their various alert systems to ping them when and if the creator ever posted something new. So it's not like people were checking back on the site every day; it's that they were suddenly emailed out of the blue that the side had a new update.

Are Dan Brown books equivalent to Iron Man movies? They are enjoyable and not too serious, kinda like reading People Magazine at the dentist office. I've been to Florence, so I'm interested in Inferno. There's definitely lots of places there that would make a great scene for a "historically" based mystery. The fantastic cemetary overlooking the city comes to mind.

Hmm. I would say this is not a fair comparison. The Iron Man movies are incredibly witty. The dialogue is smart -- these are not dum-dum action movies. That's the difference. Iron Man is a smart movie disguised as a brainless action movie. The Dan Brown books are fairly brainless books disguised as smart literature.


So I don't know what the movie comparison would be. Anyone? (Something that makes you feel intelligent, but when you unpack it, it's not, really).

Thank you for the reminder. I love Kingsolver's book of essays, "High Tide in Tucson." And I have never gotten more than a chapter into any of her novels.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I really do think she is a beautiful writer and a lovely person. I'm just not worthy.

Readable but not good - Dan Brown Good but not readable - James Joyce Good and readable - Tolkein

I need to give Lord of the Rings another try, don't I?

Any of the flood of Jane Austen imitators over the past ten years. They're just fanfic.

That being said, I'm really pretty excited about the Austenland movie.

P.G. Wodehouse. We need Michael Dirda on this chat. I'm still mourning his departure from Post-chat-dom.

I feel moderately guilty for surreptitiously turning this into a book-theme at the last minute. We'll stagger along without Michael Dirda, but know that we would be infinitely richer if he were here with us.

Shameful admission: I MISS the "Mr. T ate my [bleep]" meme. When that one hit big, I was about 11 years old, which was exactly the right age to fully experience the dawn of one of humanity's greatest achievements, but also exactly the right age to use it for absolute nonsense. I whiled away many an hour surfing the multifaceted wonders of the "Ate My [bleep]" webring, and yea, it was a good time to be a child.

More shameful admission: I'd never heard of this meme before. Even more shameful admission: I had to bleep out your PG-11 word there, because I didn't know if it would get past Post censors.

So are you ready to buy more Powerball tickets for the next drawing, now that you know the rules? :)

The jackpot is up to $425 million. If we all pooled in five bucks, we'd probably win.

I'd put any John Grisham in "readable" -- immensely readable for the most part. He's a good writer (and they translate well to movies), but I don't think he's a good writer. In the same genre, I'd put the MIchael Connelly books as both good and readable -- great stories, but a little more artistry in the words and story construction. Good and not readable -- may I present to you "the Sound and the Fury"?

Love this: "He's a good writer, but he's not a good writer." We know exactly what you mean.


Except I don't think his recents stuff has even been readable. I just can't.

Yes, I did read the firm way back when. It was a good story, but a bad book. I.e. the plot was good but the writing stank. I remember one line went something like "Mitch walked into the room uneventfully."

"A good story but a bad book." Another lovely phrase.

Thank you, Cupcake. And thank you for your review the other day. Dan Brown's writing is like fingernails on the blackboard for me. He uses "Indignity" to mean "indignation." Etc. Etc. Etc. Over and over again. And yet he claims to ahve an editor!

Wait, I didn't not notice that. As in, "She brimmed with indignity." He does that?

This goes double for "The Avengers."

It's possible I saw The Avengers twice.

Really has you thinking about Montana lately doesn't it. I wish I'd known of the existence of the local festival before your tweet yesterday, would have been fun to go hang out with a bunch of wacky Montanan's tomorrow (and yeah, there's plenty of racism out there too... people just don't notice the racist things people say about Native Americans as much as they notice the tweets about African Americans/Latinos/Asians/etc.). Given that the map is built on straight number of tweets alone and not per capita, it's amazing that places like Montana/Idaho/Wyoming show up at all. Hmm, maybe I should be rethinking my desire to hang out with Montanans again... I do love that place though, and as with anywhere the great people far outweigh the idiots.

So, this festival of which we speak can be found here. It is happening in Arlington. It's an evening of Rocky Mountain Oysters. For those of you who like that sort of thing.

Any of the James Bond books/movies.

So, is the basic criteria for "readable" just, "I want to know what happens next?" It's about story rather than writing? (I think so -- just wondering if there are other nuances).

To Kill a Mockingbird


hee. oops. i meant good storyteller, not a good writer.

No no. I like your first way much much better.

I feel like giving advice today. Isn't anyone having a wacky Facebook problem?

I don't know. Isn't anyone?

It's not cinema, but I vote for Mad Men. I tried so hard to like that show, but c'mon there's absolutely nothing there. It was a mildly interesting period/character piece for maybe the first season, but there really is nothing to look at there.

I think you're right. This makes me think of an article I read recently -- which I can no longer find, naturally -- about actors we convince ourselves are better than they are.


Primary example was January Jones as Betty in Mad Men. The character is played so flatly, so unaffectedly, that hours are dedicated to figuring out what Betty's deal is. This analysis distracts us from the fact that what is up with Betty might be that January Jones is not a good actress.

"So I don't know what the movie comparison would be. Anyone? (Something that makes you feel intelligent, but when you unpack it, it's not, really)." I know this may be controversial, but I nominate the Matrix.

I support this controversial choice.

I just started a Michael Crichton (of ER and Jurassic Park fame). Don't know yet about good, but seems pretty readable. Am I unrealistic to hope for good?

I think you're right. (I also think that in a chat recently, someone informed us that Michael Crichton started saying some weird things and putting some weird ideas in his books by the end of his life. But I can't remember what those things were now).

So, Cupcake, are you a TV watcher? I love this time of year - the excitement of all the new TV shows and making fun of the ones that seem so bad. I'm really only excited for SHIELD and for the Sleepy Hollow one, which looks ridiculous! I love being able to watch all the trailers for these shows and wonder what the TV execs who greenlit some of them were thinking.

I watch what Hank Stuever tells me to watch, except for the things I know are bad but can't let go of. ("How I Met Your Mother." Disastrous this season. Must see through to the end.)

Carlos Ruiz Zafon -- "The Shadow of the Wind" / "The Angel's Game" / "The Prisoner of Heaven."

Thank you.

I love watching her stories on tv and in movies, but I haven't been able to read her books. It's been a very long time, so maybe I need to try again.

There was a movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express on recently. Heckuva storyteller, even if not much of a writer.

Doesn't the discussion begin and end with Michael Crichton. I mean, who didn't love Jurassic Park so fun to read, but really not a quality piece or writing. Plus, the fact that he resurrected Ian Malcolm (who very clearly died in the book) for the sequel after everybody loved him in the movie is just awesome. I enjoy reading Crichton's books because while the subjects often seem "important" (cloning, abortion, corporate greed) they taste like candy.

Ooh, yes. It's the Dan Brown phenomenon. "This book is talking about an important issue. It must be a smart book."

I'll probably get lots of people angry by saying this but - the "Hunger Games" books totally fall into the "readable but not good" category. I spent the first half of the first one thinking I was reading bad fanfic, but it just sucked me in and I kept going "One more chapter! I must know what happens!" Every time I read them (and I've probably read them three times in the last year), it takes me a while to get past the writing. My friend called them "book crack" and I totally agree - you can't stop even though you know you should.

I would argue the first book was good and readable. I would further argue that the books remained good, because Suzanne Collins is a skilled writer, but became less readable, because the series just wasn't as interesting when they were out of the Games. So I think we have distinctly opposing opinions.

Ha! Totally agree that , well, there was no there, there in the Matrix movies, if you know what i mean. Husband really enjoyed them. whereas I just sorta thought Wha?? I wasted time on that?


How could you have missed that?!? he uses the almost right word, as Mark Twain said.

Almost the right word is so much worse than obviously the wrong one.

Or does that defeat the purpose of a learning environment?

I tend to feel like the answer is B, although I am sure that there are degrees specifically for which the online nature of courses will not be as important as for others. (I could see taking calculus online, but French or American Literature? Not so much). Do others here have examples of when an online course of study is advisable?


Also -- if you just need a degree to check off a box, and that's more important to you than personal development, that might be an argument for an online degree.

Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but no, we probably wouldn't win. Assuming what you meant by "win" was the jackpot and not other winnings...141 people currently online times 5 would be 705 tickets. The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510. 705 tickets would give us a 0.0004023% chance of winning the jackpot and nothing else.

Oh my good gracious. I was being facetious. (Have we met before?)

It's dark and ominous and horrifying so it must be intelligent. Bleah. Why does only unpleasantness get to be "real" and "intelligent"?

You don't have to convince me. I'm the only person in America who truly feels that Shakespeare in Love deserved its Best Picture win over Saving Private Ryan.

I'm guessing that for millions of Americans this would be The Big Bang Theory. They sometimes use big words so I know I must be smart to watch it.

And also it's about nerds. So. INTELLIGENCE.

If I remember correctly it also singled out the actress who plays Danny Targaryen as a bad actress...Not sure I followed their logic in that argument. She's pretty terrific, is she not?

That was indeed the same article. And she was the outlier for me. Because I agree. She is fabulous.

I can't get over the intro to Angels & Demons, where he thanks his editor.

Wouldn't you thank the person who made you a bazillionaire?

As far as movies go, I'd nominate Inception.

Oh, true. When the whole adventure could have been avoided if Michael Cain had just brought Leonardo DiCaprio's children to Paris, then true.

I remember when this came out, all of my peers (mind you, it was high school), thought it was so deep, full of messages, blah blah. I finally watched it a couple years later and my only thought was "Really?" What a waste of time.

Things are so much deeper when you're 16.

I felt the same way about Inception. "Oooooooh, it's so deep and complicated and trippy." Er, no? It's a good but fairly conventional action thriller which relies on the old "Is this really happening?" plot device. It felt to me like it was being taken as an "ultra-weird" movie by the kind of people who get really upset and walk out of David Lynch films.


Congratulations on your article on the new DSM. A potentially confusing topic presented with admirable clarity. Wow, Cupcake can report and write!

Er, thank you? I don't know whether to be flattered or concerned that you seem surprised that I know how to do my job. I'll go with flattered. (This piece)

Your $425 million is a bit off. It's now up to $550 million.

Oh, so we'd probably definitely win, then.

I have also stuck it out! What do you think of the fact that the last season will take place entirely over the wedding weekend? Seems like not enough for 22 episodes. Especially since we have already spent time on that weekend previously.

I think we both know that even if the entire season takes place over one measure of The Wedding March, we are going to have to watch it through to the end.

Avatar makes the Matrix look like A Brief History of Time. In fact, the whole concept of Avatar is a weak copy of the Matrix.


AAAAAARGH, that show. A decidedly non-geek friend uses it as her sole reference for comprehending geek culture, and since it premiered, she's been on my case about, "You're such a Sheldon" or "I know what you need in a guy. Someone like Sheldon." STAHP.

Oh no. Oh no no no no no.

My mother and I have totally different approaches to reading. She learns of a book she wants to read, an "important" book, always good. She reserves it online from the library, then goes and picks it up, never browsing. I browse through the stacks. My favoirite genres are memoirs, crime novels, and realistic fiction. I'm always entertained, but much of what I read is not "good." I don't learn a lot from what I read. But I'm always telling my mom about the interesting lives I'm reading about--random people you never heard of who write memoirs about their lives. She says, "where did you find that book?" Just browsing. I judge books by their cover and don't always finish everything I start, but I find some great reads that way.

I think you should both read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. It is a historic true crime novel that is very well written and acclaimed. This book will bring you both together.

Wait, really? Sadly, at least where I was concerned, the franchise was doing really well at the disguise. I've never given a thought to even seeing them, and wrote them off as stupid action movies this whole time. But I'm apparently missing out?

You are. Jon Favreau is such a quick thinker, and Robert Downey Jr. pulls it off marvelously. And, as someone else pointed out, The Avengers is really better than Iron Man, even.

Can you explain why the university professors have to share an apartment, while the Cheesecake Factory waitress somehow manages to afford to live on her own?

I think because the university professors are too socially awkward to strike out on their own, right?

Readable but not good: Jodi Picoult? All her books are very more-ish, you HAVE to know what happens next, and they are all on topics! relevant! to! our! time! but they all feel very empty to me, like I've eaten a meringue and nothing else for dinner. Good but not readable: I think Borges, Thomas Pynchon and to a lesser extent David Foster Wallace? All authors that are excellent and rewarding but you have to be in a certain frame of mind to buckle down and really read them as opposed to just reading something to enjoy yourself. Good and readable: I have to disagree with you and say Umberto Eco... The Name of the Rose is a MURDER MYSTERY in a MONASTERY with a MYSTERIOUS LIBRARY. But also all kinds of digressions on history, religion, culture... it is perfect. Also Fitzgerald since I have Gatsby on the brain. And Steinbeck. Jane Austin of course, and the Bronte sisters.


Obviously the commenter has never written a book. I have (4), and trust me on this, a good editor rescues the author from making an @$$ of him/herself many times over.

I think the commenter's point was that, in commenters' opinion, the editor DIDN'T rescue Dan Brown from making a clown of himself, because the book was bad. Right? It's like the naked emperor, impassionedly thanking his tailor for making such a beautiful suit of clothes.

How about all those movies that try to show how "terrible" suburban life is (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, etc. and even Pleasantville to an extent)? They try to show how "phony" living in suburbia is but then you realize that all the issues they talk about have nothing to do with single family detached houses and everything to do with just being a human.

I love this comment. Love love. Seriously, folks, it's not like our city lives are so much richer. (Except that, with the exception of American Beauty, the examples you site are set in the 1950s, and the point might have been as much about the repression of the era as the repression of the suburbs.)

Yes, I know that you were being flippant, but readers may not think so, and it frustrates me when people think they have significantly better odds by pooling their money. The odds are mostly the same, and if you do win, you have to share your money. (I'm an economist...can you tell??) No, we haven't met before, but I love your articles and this chat.

Oh, the readers here knew I was being flippant. If they didn't, we would have lost them a long time ago.

I vote for Vanilla Sky. Really, most movies that are set up to be 'complicated' are really, in the end, not. The exception that proves the rule is Momento, of course.


I strongly believe that people should consume the media (film, books, TV, etc.) that they enjoy and not care so much whether it is considered "good" or "cinema" or "art" or any of that crap. I read enough books in school and received all the degrees I want to receive at this point in my life. I read or watch movies/TV to relax and enjoy a brief diversion from the everyday pace of life. So, read Harry Potter, watch Iron Man movies, and stupid sci-fi TV shows, who really cares as long as you like it.


Was there a winner? I bought two tickets yesterday but forgot to check to see what the numbers were.

There was no winner. The jackpot continues to rise. (Serious question: What would you do with $400 million that you wouldn't do with, say, $40 million? I mean, at a certain point, the amount of money just becomes absurd. Buy a private island? Buy a new private jet for every single trip you took?)

I know we're almost to three, but for once I don't have anywhere to rush off to, so we'll go a bit late.

Back in my day it was Freaks and Geeks, Twin Peaks, MacGyver, Quantum Leap, etc. What are they today?

Oh, excellent question. Also, you forgot Sliders.

I put this forth as a theory: The real geeks are watching Game of Thrones and True Blood. "But everyone watches those shows," you say -- and you are right. The difference is not that geeks are watching radically different shows. The difference is the level of research, reading and fandom that is put into these shows. For example: You could be a regular watcher of Lost. But you could also be an AP Geek watcher of Lost, and it all depended on how much time you put into theorizing the show.


Does this make sense? I think I am a genius.

Which is one of several reasons I'm not bothering with Baz Luhrmann's "Great Gatsby." Another reason: Baz Luhrmann.


A greatly unappreciated comic actor. Split-second timing. Yes, yes, we all appreciate him for those eyes, but he's really a terrific actor.


With a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on it? I want to read this on the subway.

In order to collect dirty stares from the purists across from you?

So the BBC Magazine had this article about grammar and a follow up quiz. Let's see how everyone does. Maybe we can all report back next week. Lots of love and cupcakes. article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22403731), quiz (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22512744)

Oh, a homework assignment for next week! I love it. (I'll fail).

Ugh, so painfully true, but yes. I would watch that. I am sure though, in our defense, that we have both watched much worse.

Everything with Barney this season, really.

Is this the Texas version of Pride & Prejudice, with cheerleaders?

Yes. You can usually buy it alongside the words of Charlotte, North Carolina Bronte.

I think so, but I think it also includes premise - I've plowed through a series or two because I'm intrigued about the possibility based on the premise, even though with every passing page I shake my head at the wasted opportunity to tell a good story. (Example: I thought the Sookie Stackhouse books started out as an intriguing parable, but the books just got dumber and dumber. Kind of like my insistence on sticking with "The Office", hoping the glory days will return and it will fulfill its promise.)

Did you read Hank's essay on The Office today? He argues -- and I agree -- that we have been living the glory days of The Office all along, even if we didn't realize it.

Grisham cheerfully admits that his first book was his best. "My books get steadily worse."

Posting. (Liking).


Try this: Let your "intuition" decide what is true.

Confuse correlation and causation.

Draw firm conclusions from personal anecdotes.

Appeal to "nature" and what "native people" believe.

Add a little conspiracy theory. Layer on emotion.

An example to get you started: "My intuition just tells me that vaccines are bad for you. Native people have lived just fine for centuries without putting "toxins" in their bodies -- they are more in tune with nature. I also have a friend whose son became autistic after he was vaccinated. The doctor said it wasn't the reason why, but he has a typical western medicine mindset and must be taking money from the vaccine companies. I don't want to argue about it -- it makes me so angry!"

 Link: https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-good-ways-to-annoy-extremely-logical-people

Not even "logical" people. Just discerning, half-brained people. But you are right. The example is going to raise my blood pressure for the rest of the day.

I tend to break books down into a different three categories: books I read because I want to, books I read because I have to (for my own good books), and books I won't read because everyone else tells me I have to read them. Quick examples would be anything by Nora Roberts, anything by Michael Pollan, and anything that involves vampires, sparkly or not.

I cannot express to you how distressing I find your third category. Why be so stubborn? Don't you want to read what everyone else is reading, because it might help you understand your fellow humans? Don't you think of it as fascinating anthropology? As part of the cultural conversation? As a way of understanding what it means to be a typical human in the 21st century? That's how I look at it. And, preemptively, the whole, "I have better things to do with my time" argument doesn't compute with me either. I feel like this kind of cultural literacy is really important!

YES! Pure entertainment, but makes you feel smart. Like eating dark chocolate, but you don't feel bad because it's heart healthy.

Chocolate analogy = good.

I agree with you re the books becoming much less interesting after the Games. I read the first two books in about 24 hours. Then I waited to read Mockingjay for 2 weeks. I wish I just hadn't. Also, I proudly and unabashedly nominated the two Percy Jackson series for good and readable.


So are you going to bother with the next season of Downton Abbey now that a crucial character decided to leave and demanded to be killed off? Cause I'm not.

I must. I cannot stop.

This reminds me why I love Christiane Amanpour. When asked in an interview what was the last book she read, she asked back the one I really read or the one I want people to know I read. :)

Oh, excellent answer.

This was indeed my point. "The Da Vinci Code" was badly written but NOTHING like the constant word-misusage of "Angels & Demons" -- yet in the latter the editor is thanked.

Thought so.

I don't think she reads fiction anymore. I once told her that I am more liberal than she is. She took exception to that characterization until I clarified that I only meant "more liberal with regard to which books I will consider reading." I think I developed my lowbrow approach to reading the summer I won the summer reading contest at the library, which for adults was "read a book from as many states as possible." Each book could count for only one state, but could qualify either by being set in the state or by an auther from that state. The last week of the contest I went through the fiction stacks looking for short books that could qualify for each of the states I hadn't yet read. And for good measure, I found books for DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam as well.

But that's what I'm saying. "Mr. Whicher" is not fiction. It's rip-roaring non-fiction that gets at detective methods in the 19th century, and also gets at class issues and Britains evolving notions of privacy. I think you both need to read it. I want to conduct a book match-making experiment on you. (I don't mean that to sound as creepy as it did).

I was an English major in college and read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Austen, Hardy, all the heavy-duty "LITERATURE" tomes. Now I read mysteries, crime thrillers (Ridley Pearson, Mo Hayder) and strange things like In The Night Circus. I tried to re-read Anna Karenina a couple of years ago and made it through three chapters. I think my brain is just filled with too much other stuff to absorb deep philosophies while I'm reading these deays.


For me, it was Pleasantville. I kept thinking it was so profound until I tried to write a school essay on it and got about a paragraph or two before I decided there was nothing left to say.

But, the moment where Tobey McGuire helps Joan Allen apply the black and white makeup, and ... oh nevermind.

Absolutely nothing. $4 million would set me for the rest of my life. It just means my family would get more. But the thing is, when the jackpot gets this high - it seems almost financially irresponsible NOT to play. At least that's how I view it.

It's true. If we're not playing the lottery, we're essentially just wasting our money.

If the odds of winning are 1 in 175 million and your plan was to purchase 1 tickets and your friend's plan was to purchase 1 ticket AND you pool your money and share 2 tickets, your odds of winning have just doubled. Your odds have gotten signficantly better than before. HOWEVER, the odds of winning are still very very very very very low. And the benefit of each addition ticket is less. 1 ticket = 1:175 million. 2 tickets = 1:87.5 million (large increase in your odds - but still low odds of winning). 3 tickets = 1:58.3 million (smaller increase in your odds).

Guys -- we really get it. We really do understand how eensily small the odds are of ever winning the lottery. We're just joshing around. I promise.

The concept of 'real geeks' and 'fake geeks' or nerds really fascinates me. When did the concept of 'culture' get co-opted to mean 'us vs. them?' I know that's not what you are implying, but the endless 'nerd' wars kind of infuriate me.

I think there is a difference. I don't have time to articulate, or think through, what that difference is now, but I'll think through something for next week.

Ugh. It starts right off condemning an error that is in punctuation, which has nothing to do with grammar. This is as bad as all drugs now being called "narcotics" when most of them aren't.

You're going to pass this text with flying colors, aren't you?

Antiques roadshow and How It's Made. I also watch Adult Swim, which should be called Shows For 30something Nerds.


has mistakes in it. Like spelling "neighbors" with a u.


Avatar is not The Matrix, it's Dances With Wolves (or Pocohontas (sp?)). Google Avatar and Dances with woives for some fun.

This is right. I was trying to think of such an example, and you nailed it.

Then you must not read the Post's reader comments much, do you, Cupcake?

I do. They just make me sad.

I'm not saying Saving Private Ryan was the best movie ever. But Shakespeare in Love was soppy romantic dreck. And it had GoopyFace, who I find almost unwatchable when she's not being funny. I do like her in comedies though.

I know that's the prevailing wisdom. I just thought it was so clever. No one ever gives credit for how difficult it is to write smart and funny.

So what do you think of the insufferable Erik Larson, who can tell a good tale but peppers his paragraphs with sentences like 'he was the janissary of a dead vernacular'?

Eh. I read both the Chicago serial killer book and the Nazi book, but wasn't bowled over enough go back and make sure I've correctly remembered the names.

If so, sorry world.

Oh my word. Four years of this chat have suddenly became completely worth it in every way if this moment has caused you to have this epiphany. Yes. Yes, when you correct people's grammar, this is exactly what you sound like.

Yeah, but reading all the posted analysis makes me feel intelligent.

It's like the Matrix that way.

totally has taken me years and I'm halfway through. i get SO bored. totally not written well (why use two words when you can use a hundred? My husband says she learned english as a second language and wanted to use every single word she had ever learned). So I don't know if it is 'good' - it is interesting so far, 1/2 way through. but man, her writing style sucks.

I'm torn between telling you to give up because it is atrocious, and being proud at you for continuing to plug away so dutifully.

Off the top of my head: Laura Hillenbrand Frank McCourt Tom Robbins


"and books I won't read because everyone else tells me I have to read them." Yes- this totally. I do this with books as well as movies.

Oh, you are all making me SAD today. (Sad and elated. It's a complicated chat).

As the Web Hostess, I'm guessing someone along the line spoke of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice." Well, the creators have started this week with an adaptation of Austen's unfinished novel "Sanditon," and they've done it in a way that gets the fans involved in the creation, as well. Since it just started, there's only 2 videos to catch up on!

Thank you!


(Ooh, look -- we're at 90 questions. Should we keep going? I think we've only had one other 100 question chat in the history of the chat).

Think of it as a sneer-book, which you keep reading to see how much worse it can get. It helps to be reading it along with someone else.

It's true. Your reading can basically be fueled by hate.

But you earlier described it as a novel. Anyway, I can't even imagine suggesting a book to my mother. Even when I tell her about interesting books I have read, I am sure she would never actually go read it herself. She reads books about theology and world betterment. I'm sure any book she would read would never be considered popular.

Oh, I called it a "historic true crime novel." I was thinking "nonfiction novel," a la Truman Capote.

So this is why I haven't won the lottery ever? I had no idea.

We like to teach people things at this here chat.

How can I get a grammar law changed? The above example is is actually correct grammar that drives me crazy. The Heat here refers to the basketball team. It makes more sense for the team to be referred to as singular - as they do in British English. But our rules are dictated by whether the team's name is singular or plural. So when the Heat win the playoffs, it sounds like the weather did it, not the team. This needs to change.

I do not know whether I agree with you. I also do not know how to get a grammar law to change, except that if enough people belligerently use it incorrectly, then eventually language will migrate along. Beat on, Friend, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Whatever Weingarten's record is, you should try to break it!

He has a record? What is it? Why doesn't anyone know this off the top of their heads? Why weren't we prepared?

I never understood why people do this? Or stay in a movie they don't like. If you're eating a meal and it's disgusting and making you feel ill, would you finish it?

Maybe. If I felt like the experience of finishing it was something new and strange and might be good for me.

I just remembered I have been dying to ask this: I have only been able to read the first quarter of Moby Dick. But I've done so about 4 times now. Can I just count this as having read the book?

No. It must be read in totale. You must experience the whole of the whale.

Helpful Tip: The best way to shut down somebody who goes on and on about how they won't read something because it's popular and they are an INTELLECTUAL is to suddenly take on the accent of an uneducated Elizabethan-era Londoner and scream, "COR! DID'YE SEE THAT FOINE PLAY BY MISTER SHAKESPEARE? BLOODY 'ELL! LOTTA KILLIN' AND WITCHES AND ALL THAT SPOOKY BUS'NESS. RIGHT GOOD AUTHOR, 'EE IS."

This post wins the chat today.

I review a lot of docs for legal review, but make a lot of grammar edits in them along w/ legal ones. is that insufferable?

You can correct the grammar you are being paid to correct during business hours. You cannot allow the sun to rise and fall because of other people's grammar during your off hours. You especially cannot waste precious hours of your day sending me emails saying that you do not trust a single word in one of my 2,000 word articles because you believe I used "she" when it should have been "her."

What are you supposed to be doing that you're not doing because you're prolonging this chat?

I think I'm supposed to be finding an article to write. But, you know, this is work too.

No. You must not experience the whale. That whale chapter defeats millions every day. Just skip Chapter 32 and you'll be fine.


If I don't normally read fantasy, why should I start just because it's popular? If I read enough wikipedia and "news" articles and Buzzfeed about it, isn't that enough to understand the culture without torturing my realistic fiction brain with crud?

I really don't think so. Just read a few chapters. Pretend you have heard nothing about the books. Pretend that you don't have to be smart. Pretend that no one will know you are reading them. Pretend you are 16. Just try it. You might still hate them. But we should force ourselves into thought experiments sometimes, no?

That is pretty bad though.

My go-to source is Father Cupcake. If my dad, who has a PhD in English and rhetoric, who runs a writing department, who has published handbooks on writing, who has been the president of national writing organizations -- if he says that my grammar usage was okay, then I assume the writer just has unfortunately bunched panties on that day.

... about struggling and suffering to read Moby Dick without ever finishing it.

This is true. A poetic mirroring of the plot in your own life. The book has become our white whale.

No reader of this chat is unaware of the Cupcake's flippancy.

But all of you are aware of chat dedication, apparently, because together we made it to 100 questions today. And in fact, I think we probably made it to about 150, because they're just coming in too fast for me to answer. Thanks to all who helped us reach this wholly arbitrary number.


Next week, let's make a different goal that has nothing to do with numbers. Please Tweet me with absurd goals that we may institute. @MonicaHesse.

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Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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