Monthly Archives: August 2011

Advice to Freshmen – Negative Capability

Developing what John Keats described as negative capability can help students be more successful in college.

Posted in Keats (John) | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

It Sucks to Be Poor

Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” offers a response to those who want to blame the recession on the poor.

Posted in Alexie (Sherman) | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Teaching Integrity in High School English

Describing a high school English class that he teaches, Carl Rosin draws on the American Transcendentalists as he insists that his students live lives of integrity. His final assignment requires them to put what they have thought and read into action.

Posted in Whitman (Walt), Wolff (Tobias) | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Stretch Your Nets to Harvest the Fog

When one has been fasting for Ramadan, one becomes attuned to spiritual dimensions of the world that elude our full-bellied selves. Kazim Ali captures the experience in a number of his poems.

Posted in Ali (Kazim) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

High Strung, Ready to Explode

Abraham Verghese uses the tightly strung rackets of Swedish tennis great Bjorn Borg as a metaphor for the state of his marriage, pushed to the breaking point by his workaholism.

Posted in Verghese (Abraham) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Rise of the Planet of Anger

In the 1930’s, Americans’ rage over the Great Depression was reflected in the movies. In today’s economic meltdown, Hollywood is once again producing angry films.

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The President Is Reading Novels? Good!

Rightwing attacks on Obama for including novels in his summer reading are all wrong. We want our presidents to be balanced and grounded, and good fiction helps one remember what is really important in life.

Posted in Franzen (Jonathan), Huxley (Aldous), Verghese (Abraham) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Obama Passes the Beowulf Test

When subjected to the Beowulf test on good leadership, Obama scores surprisingly well.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Favorite Meals of Famous Authors

A playful passage in a recent New Yorker story by Julian Barnes (“Homage to Hemingway”) has me imagining author food preferences.

Posted in Barnes (Julian) | Tagged , , | Comments closed


  • 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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