Monthly Archives: February 2019

My Brief Flirtation with Lyndon LaRouche

Wednesday Here’s a story that most people missed but that registered with me: Lyndon LaRouche died last week at 97. I was never a “LaRouchie,” but for a few months as a graduate student I took his ideas seriously. That’s until I discovered he was a fanatic. I learned about LaRouche from a friend who […]

Posted in Aristotle, Plato | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merlin’s Pagan Roots

Tuesday Continuing my thoughts about my “Wizards and Enchantresses” course, here’s a look at Merlin, who has had remarkable staying power in British literary history, both as Arthur’s counselor and in the various figures he’s inspired. Before tracking his progress through the ages, however, let’s look at his archetypal significance, as least according to Carl […]

Posted in Geoffrey of Monmouth, Malory (Sir Thomas), Robert de Boron | Leave a comment

The Uses of Fantasy

Monday This coming week I will be teaching a four-session lifelong learning course at Sewanee entitled “Literary Wizards and Enchantresses, from Merlin and Morgan Le Fay to Gandalf and Galadriel.” I’m using today’s blog post to sort out my ideas for the first class, which will focus on Merlin and his successors. Before turning to […]

Posted in Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Along the Flower Trail We Shall Go

Spiritual Sunday My mother lost her favorite cousin on Friday, a woman who somehow managed to remain upbeat for years despite a brain tumor. I’ve been reading Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry and found five short poems, all of them heartrendingly beautiful short poems, that I hope will bring comfort to […]

Posted in Crowfoot (Chief Isapwo Muksika), Ichikyo (Kozan), Issa (Kabayashi), Kigen (Dogen), Uncategorized, Wintu poet | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Bezos Loves “Remains of the Day”

Frida Since Jeff Bezos has grabbed headlines for turning the tables on the National Inquirer, it seems a good day to blog about his favorite novel. Why would the richest man in the world fall in love with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day? Unfortunately, there’s not much to go on so this will involve […]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open the Love Window and Kiss the Moon

Thursday – Valentine’s Day Kathy Hamman, a dear family friend, alerted my mother and me to this wonderful Rumi poem for Valentine’s Day. (My mother ran it in her Sewanee Messenger poetry column.) I have used other poems suggested by Kathy in the past, but this is particularly meaningful because Kathy is currently fighting late stage cancer. That her […]

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Are You in Business? Read Fiction

Wednesday Yesterday I wrote about how literature lovers, going back to the Greeks and the Romans, have felt the need to defend literature on practical grounds. To follow up, I report today on an article by one Stephanie Vozza of Fast Company that lists “Five Ways Reading Fiction Makes You Better at Your Job.” The […]

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Read to Increase Your Empathy

Tuesday My entrepreneur son alerted me to a Jessica Stillman article in The Cut about the latest scientific study proving that “Reading Fiction Really Will Make You Nicer and More Empathetic.” “We already knew this to be true, but here’s a business article to confirm it,” he remarked. Darien certainly knows. This is a man […]

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Do Endings Reveal Meaning of Life?

Monday My wife Julia alerted me to an intriguing although somewhat frustrating article in Atlantic about the end of time. Drawing on Frank Kermode’s 1967 The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, Megan Garber wrestles with an issue recently raised by The Washington Post: how do we live with constant reminders […]

Posted in Shakespeare (William), Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


  • 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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