Monthly Archives: August 2012

Empty Chair Makes Clint’s Day

Clint Eastwood’s argument with an invisible Obama sums up the Romney campaign.

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Paul Ryan as Mac the Knife

Paul Ryan, like Mac the Knife, lies with style.

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Thackeray Explains GOP Ingratitude

Thackeray would attribute GOP anti-government fervor to the perverse logic of ingratitude.

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Lit Titles as Cocktails (“The Wasteland”)

NPR’s Studio 360 sponsored a “literary cocktail” contest. We share here some of the highlights.

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Ellison and Obama’s Racial Tightrope Walk

Ellison’s “Invisible Man” helps us understand Obama’s and America’s, intricate dance with race issues.

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School Begins with Internment Camp Novel

Otsuka’s “When the Emperor Was Divine” excited our incoming students upon the upcoming school year.

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More Frightening than Arrest, Freedom

Levertov’s poem about Peter escaping prison confronts existential issues of freedom

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A New York Tennis Poem

Caleb Gardner’s subtle but poignant tennis poem is about more than tennis.

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The Triumph of Hollywood’s Liberalism

Liberals appear to have won the media wars–or have they?

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Medicare Politics and Gullible Oysters

Like the oysters in “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” Americans are being lied to about GOP plans for Medicare.

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Ritually Enacting “Adultery”

Ritually enacting a piece of fiction, such as Andre Dubus’ “Adultery,” can lead to special insights.

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Summertime and the Living Is Easy

An afternoon spent in a friend’s boat brought to mind Huck and Jim watching the Mississippi River.

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Romney and Ryan’s Gently Smiling Jaws

Romney’s call for us to trust him on his taxes and policy specifics reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s “little crocodile.”

Posted in Carroll (Lewis) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Overrichness Is a Subtle Disease

Rumi talks about the need to move beyond the lassitude caused by wealth and to turn towards teachers of the spirit.

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A Golf Poem about Liberated Children

In protest against laboring children, Scott Bates imagines the letter “L” going on strike.

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Sex and the Single Pretty Woman

“Pretty Woman” captures the ideas and the spirit of Helen Gurley Brown, who died Monday.

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Ode Softens Blow of Friend’s Departure

The departure of a friend put me in mind of a John Dryden ode–which led in turn to recalling an intense moment of connection.

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Ryan, Abortion, and Hardy’s Angel Clare

Paul Ryan may resemble Angel Claire in Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” but there’s a vicar who shows us a better way of dealing with a “fallen” woman.

Posted in Hardy (Thomas) | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Summer Moment of Perfect Being

Li Po’s poem captures the joys of a summer hike in the mountains.

Posted in Po (Li), White (E. B.) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

With Ryan as VP, Rand Seizes the GOP

With Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential choice, Ayn Rand’s novels have taken over the GOP.

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Tess Reveals the Real Meaning of Baptism

The unorthodox baptism in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” gives us special insight into the power of the ritual.

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Usain Bolt as Shakespeare’s Puck

Like Shakespeare’s Puck, Usain Bolt toys with his opponents.

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Sight and Sound’s “Greatest Films” Poll

“Sight and Sound’s: once-every-ten-years poll is out, and “Citizen Kane” is no longer #1.

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Beauty vs. Violence – Who Wins?

Yesterday I posted on the first part of an Elaine Scarry article where she discusses how the novel, by fostering empathy, has helped lessen violence–or so Steven Pinker claims in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Today I look at two other ways, according to Scarry, that literature contributes to a more humane world: […]

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Lit’s Role in the Decline of Violence

The empathy fostered by novel reading may have played a role in the decline of violence.

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Murakami’s Emotional Blandness as Shield

Haruki Murakami’s protagonists have a distinctive form of emotional blandness that helps them cope with the world.

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Lit Sightings in Political Op-Eds

Pundits have recently been turning to literature to comment on the 2012 elections.

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Bread, the Universal Language

Poet Linda Pastan, like Jesus, sees in bread a metaphor for spiritual transcendence.

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Beowulf, an Early Olympic Swimmer

Beowulf engages in a swimming contest of Olympian dimensions.

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The Dark Knight and Adolescent Gloom

“Dark Knight Rises” confirms the younger generation’s pessimism.

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World War II Internment Still Resonates

American students of color respond in powerful ways to “When the Emperor Was Divine,” Julie Otsuka’s novel about Japanese Americans’ experience in World War II internment camps.

Posted in Otsuka (Julie) | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments


  • 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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