Monthly Archives: November 2011

Lapham’s Quarterly

Harper’s editor Lewis H. Lapham has created a new quarterly magazine, which focuses a theme like war or money and then gathers brief essays by writers from all periods of history.

This spring the quarterly features writings on money by the likes of Jane Austen, Juvenal, Satre, Karl Marx, Aristophanes, Lord Byron, Ralph Ellison, Ruskin, Ayn Rand, Chaucer, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Wolfe, de Tocqueville, W. E. B. Du Bois, Thorstein Veblen, George Orwell and other great thinkers. It’s basically a collection of concise Great Books readings.

For a taste, check out On Chinese Beggars: 1930

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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


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My Responses to the Citizen Reader 2011 Survey

1. What is your age (ranges okay) and gender?

45-54, F

2. Please estimate the percentage of both fiction and nonfiction you read, totalling 100% (e.g., “10% fiction and 90% nonfiction,” or “100% fiction, 0% nonfiction”). If the only nonfiction books you read are purely reference works like cookbooks and how-tos, please indicate 100% fiction, but add “and reference NF.”

25% Nonfiction, 75% Fiction

3. How many books do you read per month?

Used to be a few, 4 perhaps, now it’s one play and a fragment. It’s so chaotic here, I have a kind of ADHD thing going on.

4. Name three formats in which you read, from greatest to least (e.g. “print books, audio books, e-books,” where the format you read most often is print books).

print books, print books, print books

5. Name the three primary ways, in any order, in which you find reading materials. You may speak broadly (“blogs” or “personal recommendations”) or specifically (“Bookslut blog” or “my sister’s suggestions”).

General list of classics that resides in my head, my book club, NPR

6. Please list three words that most describe why you read (e.g. “comfort, education, escapism”).

Inspiration, knowledge, stimulation

7. Do you buy or borrow most of your reading material?


8. Would you say you have less time, more time, or about the same amount of time to read as you have had in the past? If less or more, why (briefly)?

A lot less. As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve moved to a very hectic, ADHD inducing culture. There’s a frantic pace and a constant noise from the construction. I just can’t concentrate.

9. Please list your five favorite “genres,” (nonfiction included) using whatever names you call them by. Please also list your favorite title in each genre.

Classic fiction – Pride and Prejudice tied with The Adventures of Augie March, philosophy – The Enchiridion, humor – Anne Lamott‘s work, travel writing – anthologies, spiritual – currently Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

10. What was the best book you read in 2011? The worst? (READ in 2011; not necessarily published in 2011.)

Worst – Peer Gynt, I generally put down a book I really don’t like
Best – Hmmm, Brideshead Revisited

And I think we’ll stop there. There’s so much more I want to ask but I’ll wait until next year.

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in American Lit, British Lit, Children's Lit, classic, contemporary, drama


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What a difference

From the ethernet archives:

Well, I think I’m in love. I have been impressed with Barack Obama since he ran for Senator of Illinois. Reading “Audacity of Hope” convinced me of his character, intelligence, perspicacity, eloquence and his ability to look at several sides of a problem. His background living in the US and Indonesia, working in grassroots community development, attending law school, and balancing a family are described in a reflective, intelligent, occasionally witty manner. He owns up to shortcomings, personal and national. He seems to be able to address the concerns of some conservative citizens, such as the breakdown of the family, and to debate with respect and intelligence. I think he can win in 2008. At least that’s my hope.

By the way, my cousin Meaghan quit her job at the DCCC to work for him in Chicago. I’ll have to track her down and find out what she’s doing.

Now I feel the biggest change was to my opinion of Obama. I still see him as an eloquent, intelligent man, but I also see him as a tepid leader. I’m disappointed because he has prioritized politics over leadership. I hoped for more, for better.

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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in memoir, non-fiction


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Still need to Read This

In December 2006, I wrote:

I’ve just finished listening to MIT World’s Reporters’ Notebook on Iraq. Well things are worse than I thought. Much worse and have been for a long time. I found myself taking notes. Another book at the top of my book list. This list looks more like a plateau than a peak every day.

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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in contemporary, non-fiction


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Son of a Witch

It took me two readings to really appreciate the charms of Wicked.

On the first reading, Son of a Witch does not match the mastery of Wicked.

Son of a Witch picks up the story of Elphaba’s son, Liir, although Maguire expends an annoying amount of energy and verbiage trying to convince the reader that this fact is in question.

The novel picks up approximately 10 years after the death (?) of Elphaba and fills in the intervening years through flashback. A recurring theme throughout the book is the question of whether “Elphaba Lives.” Given that I had just seen Wicked – The Musical, I was amenable to the idea that Elphaba was in fact alive.

The book was uneven and choppy. It held my interest in spite of itself, mostly due to my curiosity as opposed to any intrinsic artistry. Maguire’s imagination still impresses but his storytelling disappoints.

I finished the book with a feeling of inconclusiveness. I suspected yet another sequel and was not surprised to learn that in October of 2006, Maguire announced that he was working on a third book based in Oz.

Written by Bridget


Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Children's Lit


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Canterbury Tales

My online book club read The Canterbury Tales. (original-spelling Middle English edition) I got started late due to inertia, grading, and packing, but I did get started. I was daunted by the bulk of my edition – over 800 pages.

But once I discovered that this edition by Barnes & Noble had the Middle English on the left and a modern version on the right, I became more enthused.

I had read the Canterbury Tales in high school and in college (twice) and I do appreciate the humor and how groundbreaking it was to write in English rather than French, the language of the court. Yet this time around I wasn’t in the mood. I read the Prologue and thought, “Yes, these characters are funny and Chaucer is poking fun at them, but they’re all rather one dimensional. Shakespeare would give them more complexity.” Perhaps that’s not fair, but it’s what I thought.

I did enjoy listening to BBC 4’s In Our Time: Chaucer, which is my new find on unlocking philosophy and culture, etc.

As I got into the Knight’s Tale my mind drifted often. I did remind myself that there is an alternative interpretation of the staid, good guy knight but Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. When in college, I read his Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary which contends that we just don’t get the allusions and satire directed at this character. If one’s more familiar with the history and culture of the day, you’d view it as a portrait and tale of a hypocrite. Warning: when I mentioned this book in my survey of English literature class the professor got incensed. He would not consider this thesis and immediately deemed me a trouble maker, rather than a student with a curious mind who went the extra mile. My grade suffered as a result. I vividly remember that class when I shared this alternative view and got eviscerated for it.

In the end, I learned to shut up. I did write to Jones and got a rather encouraging letter about how it takes a long time for new ideas to percolated throughout the halls of the academy. That was a thrill.

Anyway our discussions’ come and gone. I chimed in with some thoughts, but no one else in the online group read it, so I will but it aside till the fall. One thing that is cool about the book, or maybe just distracting is the language. For example, Chaucer doesn’t use “go” he uses “wend” as they did in that day. Doesn’t wend make more sense since “went” is the past tense? For some reason we pretty much abandoned “wend” (seems only rivers “wend” now) for “go” which had no past tense. Makes no sense to me.

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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in British Lit, classic



Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Unbelievably epic and rich in detail.
I first read Wicked a few years ago and having just seen Wicked – The Musical, decided to re-read it.

I’m amazed at how much I had forgotten.

I remembered my surprise upon reading it the first time at how political Elphaba’s life was but so much had escaped me.

As is his wont, Gregory Maguire takes a key but hardly central character from the Wizard of Oz and fleshes out her backstory with stunning imagination. He hones in on and explores the question of the Wicked Witch of the West’s essential wickedness.

It’s significant that the subtitle of the book is The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and the subtitle of the musical is The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz. The fundamental theme of the musical is friendship and the musical really does not even touch the issue of evil. The fundamental question in the book is the question of the nature of evil and time and again, throughout the book, Maguire returns to this theme.

In the Grimmerie, the keepsake companion book to the musical, Maguire notes that he came away from the Wizard of Oz wondering why the Wicked Witch of the West was wicked and why it was necessary for Dorothy to kill her. Wanting to write a book exploring the nature of evil, Maguire saw Elphaba as an ideal vehicle.

Oftentimes, when I’m reading a book for the first time, I’m reading for plot and much of the detail gets lost. Because Wicked is so rich and so deep, it’s amazing to read it a second time and realize how much is really there.

Written by Bridget

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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in Children's Lit, contemporary


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