Monthly Archives: April 2017

House of Spirits, Authoritarians on the Rise

Strong men (and occasionally women) the world over appear to be having a moment, leading to interest in authoritarianism. Isabel Allende’s description of brutal landowner Esteban Trueba in “House of Mirth” reveals some disturbing similarities to Donald Trump.

Posted in Allende (Isabel) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Handmaid’s Tale, More Relevant Than Ever

With Hulu set to release “Handmaid’s Tale” tomorrow, I gather together all my past posts on Atwood’s dystopian classic. The novel isn’t only important for liberals but has lessons for rightwing women as well.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

To Save Planet, Scientists Must Protest

Saturday’s March for Science is a sign that scientists are realizing they don’t have the luxury of remaining aloof from politics. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” explores the issue.

Posted in Fowles (John), Kingsolver (Barbara) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kosinski Foresaw Our Television President

Jerzy Kosinski’s 1970 novella “Being There” describes a man whose obsession with television helps him thrive and even ascend to the White House. Sound familiar?

Posted in Kosinski (Jerzy) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Little Flower, If I Could Understand

In celebration of Earth Day and as scientists protest anti-science measures in Washington, Tennyson’s “Flower in the Crannied Wall” is a good poem to revisit. Tennyson holds the tiny flower as a scientist might but then honors its immense complexity.

Posted in Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sports Injuries, Declining Magical Powers

My tennis performance, once decent, has declined since I suffered a foot injury and underwent cataract surgery. I therefore find myself identifying with Ged In LeGuin’s “Wizard of Earthsea” and Taran in “Black Cauldron” when they suddenly find themselves stripped of magical powers.

Posted in Alexander (Lloyd), LeGuin (Ursula K.) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling Out Trump’s War Enablers

Too many beltway insiders are singing the praises of Donald Trump’s foreign policy bellicosity, with Brian Williams unironically quoting Leonard Cohen’s “I am guided by the beauty of your weapons.” He should quote Dylan’s “Masters of War” instead.

Posted in Cohen (Leonard), Dylan (Bob) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Milton’s Jesus vs. Trump’s Bombs

Unfortunately centrists and liberals have been endorsing Trump’s bellicosity abroad. Milton’s Jesus in “Paradise Regained” would not approve.

Posted in Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Masters of Spite: Satan and Trump

Many wonder whether spite drives many of Donald Trump’s policy decisions. If so, he has good company in Milton’s Satan, who is defined by spite.

Posted in Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Trans Activist and a Poetic Judge

When forced to rule against transgender student Gavin Grimm because of a Trump administration directive, the sympathetic judge quoted a Naomi Shihab Nye poem. I examine the poem here and show why it is applicable to Gavin’s case.

Posted in Nye (Naomi Shihab) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Absent from This World, Alive in Another

As is traditional with this blog, we share a Mary Oliver poem about a magical encounter with a deer–which recalls Mary Magdalene’s magical encounter with Jesus in the garden.

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Poem in Favor of Taxation

Edward Guest’s poem in favor of taxes. Think of paying them as your patriotic duty.

Posted in Guest (Edgar) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

O Christ Who Drives the Furrow Straight

John Masefield’s poem “Everlasting Mercy” (1911) uses powerful fertility image to capture the spirit of Christian redemption in this Good Friday poem.

Posted in Masefield (John) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rakunks & Wolvogs & Pigoons, Oh My!

As gene splicing becomes more common, we need novels like Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” to point out the dangers. By making connections, good dystopian fiction serves to wakes us up.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sleeping Bears?! What Would Papa Say?

The GOP’s decision to allow the hunting of hibernating bears and denned wolf cubs raises issues of wannabe machismo that one can find in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

Posted in Hemingway (Ernest) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Toddlers, Terrorists, and Loaded Guns

Among the ways that Donald Trump is repaying the NRA for its support is reversing an Obama executive decision designed to keep guns out of the hands of mentally handicapped persons. Hilaire Belloc would have something to say about America’s casual acceptance of guns.

Posted in Belloc (Hilaire) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Literary History of the Insult “Cuck”

“Cuck” has become a favorite insult amongst alt-right types. In today’s post I trace literary references to cuckolds going back to Chaucer.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey), Marlowe (Christopher), Shakespeare (William), Wycherley (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Must I Dwell in Slavery’s Night?

In anticipation of Passover, I share a poem composed by the African American slave George Moses Horton.

Posted in Horton (George Moses) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling Out Trump’s Assault on Nature

Look to Euripides’s “The Bacchae” if you want to know how a divine seer would call out Donald Trump for his assault on the environment. Teiresias says that Pentheus is “possessed by madness so perverse, no drug can cure.”

Posted in Euripides | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Donald, Who Lied & Was Burned to Death

Donald Trump has taken political lying to new heights, bringing to mind Hilaire Belloc’s darkly comic poem, “Matilda, Who Told Lies and Was Burned to Death.”

Posted in Belloc (Hilaire) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mosley & Du Bois: Art as Propaganda

In a visit to our college, novelist Walter Mosley was asked to respond to a W. E. B. Du Bois passage about art as propaganda. Mosley said that, if his art is true, it will indeed function as propaganda in that it will overturn racial stereotypes.

Posted in Mosley (Walter) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fascist Novel & Immigration Policy

Raspail’s “Camp of Saints” is currently influencing White House policy in ways similar to how “Atlas Shrugged” has guided Speaker Paul Ryan. The novel needs to be taken seriously.

Posted in Raspail (Jean) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Led to Social Justice

The film “Loving” is a quiet but powerful film about the struggle against miscegenation laws. The Lovings’ battle helped the mixed race family of former poet laureate Natasha Trethewey, who talks about her parents and her own journey to find meaning.

Posted in Trethewey (Natasha) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Dear Friend Is Made One with Nature

My dear, dear friend Kate Chandler died yesterday. I am turning to Percy Shelley’s, a poem she loved, as I mourn her.

Posted in Shelley (Percy) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Swift’s April Fools Broomstick Joke

The all time master of the April Fools joke was Jonathan Swift. Here’s one of his lesser ones where he draws deep philosophical by meditating on a broomstick.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

  • AVAILABLE NOW!

  • 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.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete