Aspiring writers must navigate the legions of advice from the legends who came before — not a simple task in a world that idolizes both Faulkner and Hemmingway. Read about teachers who advise their students against the use of the word “said,” and graduate programs that reject the use of anything but. (The Wall Street Journal, The Smart Set)

Romanticism, though hard to define, aims to transcend medium, create pure feeling, and remain subject to the whims of chance, sometimes resulting in art that takes the form of blank canvases and bathroom fixtures. Read about unusual copyright claims to John Cage’s romanticist piece “4’33” and Duchamp’s lifelong struggle to find the paradoxical non-medium. (Pigeons and Planes, The Smart Set)

They bite at night and are the scourge of humanity. Read about the math of mutually-assured vampire-human destruction and the existential dilemma of bedbugs. (Atlas Obscura, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.


I once spent a year living in a quaint, drafty first-floor apartment. Moving in and out was a breeze, and 2 AM dog walks were slightly more bearable without having to schlep up and down flights of stairs half-asleep in my slippers. One of the prices you pay for a first floor abode, however, is and always will be bugs, which are (usually) most unwelcome roommates. Centipedes, ants, gnats, silverfish – I’ve seen them all. Many a lazy Sunday afternoon was ruined by the discovery of translucent-black creatures poised on an armrest reading over my shoulder. As if they could even begin to grasp the depth of Haruki Murakami’s prose. 

Alyssa Shaw is an English major and graduate education student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

The day K. came in and said, “I don’t care anymore,” was a revelation. By then, the communal living space/art collective housing 17 artists and hangers-on that was my home had been battling bedbugs for three months. Only four of the 17 rooms (mine not included) were actually infested, but communal living as it is, we all had to share in the initial bedbug cleansing procedures familiar to anyone who has had or read about bedbugs — the thorough packing all personal items in plastic, the taping of holes and cracks in walls and furniture, the wrapping of each bed in a plastic sack not unlike those used to wrap corpses at homicide scenes. We tried not to let hysteria get the best of us as we emptied our rooms of every doodad, every picture, and watched the mountain of 17 people’s-worth of belongings mushroom in the gallery space. We… More…

It may have seemed like an obvious question at first: How does prey recognize a predator? Joel Berger once performed an interesting experiment to discover just that. When, say, monkeys sound the alert for a nearby raptor, is that a cultural response? Perhaps they had seen it before, or were taught the response by their elders. To test this theory, Berger, a scientist with Wildlife Conservation Society, and his colleagues visited various herds of American bison with recordings of the sounds of predators that the bison would probably have had contact with in the past (wolves) and predators they likely would not have (lions). The American bison as it currently exists lives with very few natural predators, and their only real link to lions is the fact that their genetic ancestors once coexisted with, and were frequently the meals of, the now faraway felines. The sound of the wolves did… More…