Monthly Archives: August 2019

Trump vs. Obama, Hook vs. Pan

Thursday I was digging around in James Barrie’s Peter Pan the other day and came across something that caught me by surprise. Captain Hook’s relationship to Peter is a lot like Donald Trump’s relationship to Barack Obama. Both Hook and Trump feel outclassed. As many commentators have pointed out, Trump’s hatred of Obama seems deeply […]

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The Dreadful Sound of Trump (not that one)

Wednesday On Monday I hosted what proved to be a lovely luncheon (an onion tart, ratatouille, and a trifle) for Vanderbilt University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss, who was in Sewanee to discuss a presentation I will be giving at the university on the card game Speculation. Jane Austen fans will recognize it as the game played […]

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Go High When Trump Goes Low?

Tuesday Given that a recession would doom Donald Trump’s already shaky reelection chances, how will he behave if the economy suddenly tanks? On Nicole Wallace’s NBC program last week, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that Democrats must be prepared to deal with a man who has no boundaries and will do anything to win. Of […]

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Fantasy Adventure, an Aid to Hiking

Monday Literary Hub has alerted me to an article on the importance of Lord of the Rings to long-distance hikers. According to a Rebecca Booroojian Outsider essay, many people have Lord of the Rings trail names (especially Gandalf), and inscriptions from the trilogy can be found in abundance. For instance, one will find everywhere Bilbo’s […]

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Dig into Yourself for a Deep Answer

Spiritual Sunday Former Sewanee chaplain Tom Ward has given me permission to share a wonderful sermon that he delivered recently at Otey Parish. A former English major, Tom compared the disciples asking Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1-13) to the young aspiring poet who asked Rainer Maria Rilke for advice. The resultant letters, published as […]

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Reluctance to Go to School

Friday School has already opened in some states (Tennessee) and has yet to open in others (Maryland) so I’ve split the difference by choosing today to honor the occasion. Jonathan Swift’s mention of a laggard schoolbody in “A Description of the Morning” has always fascinated me. “Description of the Morning” gives an account of the […]

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Yes, Liberty Statue Means What We Think

Friday Because the Trump administration periodically attempts to redefine the Statue of Liberty and reframe Emma Lazarus’s accompanying lyric, I am reposting a very smart essay that a former colleague wrote about the statue and the poem. Donna Richardson establishes that the two together create a special synergy that has defined us as a nation. […]

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The World Is a Dead Thing for Them

Wednesday In recent years, conservatives have at least paid lip service to protecting the environment—after all, isn’t conservatism about conserving?—and Richard Nixon even signed the Endangered Species Act. Now, however, it appears that the Trump administration is unashamedly bent on squeezing every red cent it can out of the earth, consequences for future generations be […]

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Haunted by Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday I walked away from Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Museum yesterday thoroughly depressed and had to spend some time figuring out why. I think it’s because, while Lincoln ultimately prevailed in an impossible situation, I don’t see any Lincolns today. Our current polarization, while not as severe as in slave times, often appears beyond the help […]

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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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