Talking About Books . . .


Have you ever wondered what books famous people – including but not only other writers – had in their personal libraries? The Millions offers us a peek at some notable examples.

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 What are Ivy League students reading as part of their educations? According to an article in the Washington Post, the list is long and quite diverse.

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The Best American Magazine Writing

There used to be a joke that went like this:

A:  That’s life.

B:  What’s life?

A:  Life’s a magazine.

B:  How much does it cost?

A:  25 cents.

B:  But I only have 15 cents.

A:  That’s life.

At this point B once again asks “What’s life?” and the cycle begins again. Many of you won’t get the joke because Life magazine, a weekly magazine that contained gorgeous photographs and timely articles that were very appealing, ceased publication long ago.

Many other magazines have also come and gone, so can we say that the magazine is dead? Not hardly. In a very informative article Evan Ratliff, editor of The Atavist, explores the life and death and life of magazines.

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Empire of Sin

Mardi Gras is over here in south Louisiana, but I’ve found a list of books about New Orleans and Mardi Gras that you might want to read before you make that long-planned trip to the big easy and the surrounding area next year. You will be here next year, won’t you?

By the way, you must read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole before you come, and you must eat a Lucky Dog while you’re in the French Quarter.

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Harper Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, will be adapted for the 2017-2018 Broadway season by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The Newsroom, and The West Wing). This will be Mockingbird’s second trip to Broadway.

Also, we will learn more about the adult life of Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a play co-written by J. K. Rowling that will debut in London this summer. A book version of the play will also be published this summer. Digital editions of the play will be published at the same time as the book – something that was not done with the other Harry Potter books.

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 Nancy Drew, the strawberry blonde, blue-eyed teenage detective, will soon be featured in a new CBS series. She will be a 30-something NYPD detective, but that’s not the only twist in the series: the other is that she won’t be white. An article in The Atlantic delves into the mystery of what race or ethnicity Nancy’s character will be in the series.

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Lit Up

“When they were very young, teens may have read Harry Potter, and later they may read dystopian and science-fiction novels, vampire romance, graphic novels (some very good), young adult fiction (ditto), convulsively exciting street lit. By the time they are fifteen or sixteen, however, reading anything more demanding and time-consuming threatens to cut off their smartphone sense of being in touch with everyone and everything at once. Suddenly they are not everywhere, they are there, on that page, in that time, moored, limited, and many are glum about it. Talk to them, and you will find out: being unconnected makes them anxious.”

The above quote is by film critic and author David Denby. More on the quote and its source in a minute.

I first learned about Denby through Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World. In it, Denby wrote about returning to Columbia University many years after his graduation to attend some literature classes. He talks about the books he and the other students read, related things that were going on in his life simultaneously, and – perhaps most importantly – about his fellow students and their reactions to the works they were reading. His thoughts about the students gave him (and me) hope that college students could still tackle difficult reading and in-depth thinking when they wanted to.

He has recently released a new book, Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives, about his current thoughts concerning students, reading, and literature. The above quotes is part of the book’s introduction. Obviously, Denby is still very interested (and worried) about the future of our young people. The title of the above essay, “We Are at Risk of Losing Serious Readers,” unmistakably send us a pessimistic message.

Pessimism about the younger generation isn’t new, you can find it in Greek writings from 2,500 years ago. Still, he is an intelligent, keen observer, so we should take time to consider his thoughts.

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Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent death reminded me that I did a post last year that, in part, concerned his proclivity for using unusual words. You can read the post here.


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