On the Books: Merriam-Webster's word of the year is 'culture' | EW.com

TV | Game of Thrones

On the Books: Philip Pullman's new short story revisits an old character

Philip Pullman

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A new short story by Philip Pullman returns readers to the world of the classic His Dark Materials trilogy for the first time in six years. Pullman wrote “The Collectors” for exclusive digital distribution by audiobook publisher Audible—available in the U.K. this week, and out in the U.S. in January. Set at his alternate version of Oxford, the story follows the early life of Pullman’s villain Mrs. Coulter. The author last visited the fictional world in his novella Once Upon a Time in the North.

Pullman may be using old characters, but writing “The Collectors” was a new experience for him. “I find it very difficult as a form,” the author said of short story writing. “With a novel you can sprawl out, go down blind alleys—it’s a much bigger, looser thing. With a short story, you have to be tight.” [The Guardian]

Merriam-Webster released its list of 2014’s top 10 words with ”culture” nabbing the top spot. Why “culture”? We use the ubiquitous term everyday, and according to Merriam-Webster, it has also become a fixture of  ”the conversation at large, appearing in headlines and analyses across a wide swath of topics.” The word has been used lately to talk about, for instance, rape culture or start-up culture. Futhermore, the dictionary publisher explains:

The term conveys a kind of academic attention to systematic behavior and allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group: we speak of a “culture of transparency” or “consumer culture.” Culture can be either very broad (as in “celebrity culture” or “winning culture”) or very specific (as in “test-prep culture” or “marching band culture”).

Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski has a simpler interpretation. “We’re simply using the word culture more frequently,” he told Mashable“It may be a fad. It may not. It may simply be evolution.” “Nostalgia” came in second, and ”insidious,” “legacy,” and ”feminism” rounded out the top five. ”Culture” joins 2014’s other words of the year, including “vape” (Oxford Dictionaries) and “exposure” (Dictionary.com).

- George R.R. Martin joins Amal Clooney, Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, and Oprah Winfrey on Barbara Walters’ list of the 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014. The Song of Ice and Fire fantasy scribe owes his fantastic year to ambitious readers and religious viewers of the HBO’s adaptation, Game of Thrones. “There are lots of ways to conquer the world—through beauty, with strength, or deceit,” said Walters, referring to the machiavellian characters of Westeros. “But George Martin has done it with a far more benign weapon: the power of his imagination.” You can watch the entire segment here.

Since Dec. 10, Martin has also been tweeting out some pretty funny 12 Days of Westeros memes—Game of Thrones-inspired puns on all things Christmas. A couple of the best so far: ”We’re dreaming of a Red Christmas”; “What is dead may never die, but may just need new batteries.”

- A new tech start-up, Magic Leap, recently raised $542 million to create augmented reality technology to project 3-D images. For example, its website suggests that its products could project three-dimensional animals into classrooms or the sky. Sound like a science-fiction book? Magic Leap might feel the same way—they’ve hired revered science fiction novelist Neal Stephenson as their “chief futurist.” Stephenson explained his role to the website io9:

“If you’re not actually doing practical things with the technology and engaging with the engineers and understanding the science, then it’s impossible to futurize. So I’ve been telling […] Magic Leap from the very beginning that I wanted to have direct involvement in actually using this hardware as a creative platform.” [L.A. Times]

- Amazon settled its feud with Hachette, but is still riling up authors. This week it pulled a book with an egregious-editing-error: too many hyphens. On Dec. 14, British author Graeme Reynolds received an email from Amazon notifying him of the removal of his novel High Moor 2: Moonstruck, due to excessive punctuation that ”significantly impacts the readability.” Reynolds wrote that Amazon said they “suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers,” and that he had 60 days to remove the book’s hyphens or it would be permanently pulled. In disbelief, Reynolds sarcastically asled, “Is J.K. Rowling going to have to take down Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until she sorts out the blatant hyphenation in the title? Is Cormac McCarthy going to have to go and put in punctuation to The Road?”

Reynolds later posted an update on his blog simply saying, “The book is now back on sale. Common sense seems to have prevailed :)B.” Amazon did not immediately return EW’s requests for comment. [The Telegraph]

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