Monthly Archives: September 2011

Lighten Up, Germany, and Save the Euro

The German film “Mostly Martha” may help explain why the German Parliament has just extended the bailout to Greece and other indebted southern European nations.

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Finding a Place Where Hate Won’t Grow

In charged Israeli-Palestinian and Christian-Muslim relations, Naomi Shihab Nye is looking at how to move past the suffering and hate.

Posted in Nye (Naomi Shihab) | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Teaching Kids to Stand Up to Bullies

Michael Gerson writes that “Lord of the Flies” gives kids a picture of the bullying they experience and “To Kill a Mockingbird” the courage to stand up to it.

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Pakistan’s Secret Service as Minderbinder

The crazy logic of Milo Minderbinder in Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” shows up in Pakistan’s Secret Service using funds donated by the U.S. to hire terrorists to attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

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The Vital Importance of Rereading

Literature makes us smarter–intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually–but the effects also fade. When we teach a work, therefore, it is always necessary that we reread it.

Posted in Allen (Woody) | 3 Comments

Blowing for Hope in the Face of Darkness

In honor of the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days, here is a 1945 poem by Yiddish poet Kadya Molodowsky in which “The Shofar Blower” faithfully sounds the traditional horn even in the face of utter darkness.

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Life Is So Short, Fall in Love, Dear Maiden

Akira Kurosaw’s magnificent film “Ikiru” reminds us, among other things, that when we give our lives to the betterment of our communities, we redeem our lives.

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American Politics as Lord of the Flies

Recent Republican political tactics against Barack Obama have me thinking of the battle in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.”

Posted in Golding (William) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Here Comes Autumn, Her Skirts A-Twirl

Autumn kicks off this week–Friday by some calculations–so here’s a poem by Scott Bates to celebrate her coming.

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The Cost of Poverty: “Unnatural Cruelties”

As the Census Bureau reports the highest number of poor people since it has been publishing figures, it’s worth turning to George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara,” which reveals the true cost of poverty.

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Fed, Rafa, Djoker–A Sibling Drama

Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are like the brothers in a Dostoevsky novel or a Grimm Brothers fairy tale: the two older brothers focus on each other and then the unassuming younger brother comes in and takes over.

Posted in Aristotle, Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Ellison (Ralph), Grimm Brothers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Temple Built of Compassionate Action

In “The Far Mosque,” Rumi reminds us that we are princes in waiting who will step into our spiritual kingdom through compassionate action.

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The Horror of Sex without Love

Sex without love, the subject of several sex comedies this past summer, was also an issue explored by poets and playwrights in the British Restoration.

Posted in Olds (Sharon), Wilmot (John), Wycherley (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beans and Rice, the Taste of Home

Inspired by “foodie novels” such as “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Fried Green Tomatoes,” student Julia Rocha discovered that beans and rice brought back a sense of home and her Brazilian heritage.

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Shine On, Harvest Moon

Philip Larkin has written a fine poem about harvest moons, one of which we experienced last night.

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Lit the Indecipherable Text of a Magic Spell

The Haruki Murakami short story “Town of Cats” has a passage that speaks to literature’s ability to provide solutions to life’s problems==only the solution may be conveyed as “the indecipherable text of a magic spell.”

Posted in Murakami (Haruki) | Tagged , | 2 Comments

I Walk among the Rubbled Tales

To commemorate 9-11, I post Derek Walcott’s “A City’s Death by Fire,” written about another disaster. Walcott finds the hope of baptismal renewal amongst the destruction.

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“Sports Saturday” Suspended

I have dropped “Sports Saturday” in order to open up more writing time for myself and from here on out will blog only six days a week.  I will continue to write occasional posts about sports and literature, however.

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Obama’s Locker Room Speech

President Obama’s jobs speech last night resembled a coach’s half time speech to a team that feels on the ropes. The Al Pacino speech in Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” comes to mind.

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Après Peyton, le Déluge

News that Peyton Manning may be out for part or all of the upcoming football season puts me in mind of the future of the Geats after Beowulf’s death.

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Reading for Fun, the Best Education

In “Northanger Abbey,” Jane Austen advocates the ideal way to raise one’s kids: encourage them to read good literature and they will learn the life lessons that they need.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Carroll (Lewis), Gay (John), Gray (Thomas), Pope (Alexander), Shakespeare (William), Thompson (James) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

The Gothic Drama of Tabloid Celebrities

In a New York Times article, Carina Chocano writes that tormented celebrities like Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton are living lives that resemble classic gothics

Posted in Radcliffe (Ann) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Dirty Work = Heart of Darkness

In “Heart of Darkness,” Joseph Conrad indirectly teaches us that doing work that contributes to human misery will take a toll, however much we try to focus just on the work.

Posted in Conrad (Joseph) | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Shimmering of Wind in the Blue Leaves

In her poem “Of Being,” Denise Levertov believes that mystery of creation outweighs the “looming presences” of great suffering and fear.

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Transfixed by the Batted Blocked Clubbed Kicked and Clobbered Ball

This poem by Scott Bates is about the dream of sports as it contrasts with its often bloated reality.

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Can Art Change Big Brother?

The Oscar-winning German film “The Lives of Others” speaks to the ability of art to change people’s lives.

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Reading and Eating – Interchangeable

There are many similarities between the act of reading and the act of eating. In literature about food, words are dishes to be savored

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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