I’m on the third floor porch of the Hagen Wensley guesthouse at the Chautauqua Institution. I’m sitting at a white wicker desk, on a white wicker chair (and on two brightly colored pillows, because the chair is old-fashioned and low-slung), and overlooking the lake. The guest house is where the invited speakers have the pleasure of staying while we’re on the property.
Conversations on the porch at 5 p.m. are famous for their range and depth; last night we had wine and cheese with men who used to…
I’m writing the introduction to the Signet edition of Little Women and having a far better time than I ever could have imagined. I’m now reading everything Alcott; I’ve joined the cult. I’ve even gone so far as to buy first editions of a number of her less-coveted works, just so I could handle them as I please, leaving them propped open behind a coffee cup on the kitchen table as I eat breakfast.
As a late-in-life convert to Louisa May Alcott, having met Little Women only in my own middle-age, …
(Photo by Jim Epler)
Tom Bartlett’s recent piece asked a question that Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and I addressed in our book I’m With Stupid: One Man, One Woman, and 10,ooo of Misunderstanding Between the Sexes Cleared Right Up.
A number of readers probably know Weingarten’s impressive journalism: he’s gone on to win two Pulitzer Prizes since we wrote our book together.
(This also explains why the book I published after I’m With Stupid was titled It’s Not That I’m Bitter.)
Matthew, attorney, musician, bon vivant, and stepson, gave me my first iPod three years ago. He loaded it up with stuff he knew I’d love—music (REM, Dylan, Parton, Piaf, and songs from South Park) and comedy (Carlin, Tenuta, Liebman, Williams, and scenes from “The Producers”).
“What are you listening to now?” Matthew asked me when he and his wife were up from Greenpoint a couple of weekends ago. “Um, it’s what you gave me. I’m listening to what you gave me.” Matthew and Rebecca exchanged glances…
I’m reading Nina Baym’s new book Women Writers of the American West, 1833-1927, just published by the University of Illinois Press, and having a rollicking, swaggering, yee-hawing good time.
Almost every one of the novels, narratives, poems, and stories Baym discusses is new to me, and I bet I’m not the only one who’ll find an excellent and generous guide in Baym. (I don’t travel in American literature circles all that often, but I suspect that even many who can go to the frontie…
I haven’t been writing enough.
There are always excuses not to write and, on occasion, there are also reasons.
Here are mine: The end of the semester hit me hard this year; I’ve had non-writerly obligations to fulfill; I’ve been coping with the behind-schedule manuscript/uncorrected-proof stage of my next book; I’ve been napping.
When I’m not writing, I get cranky. The better part of myself becomes eclipsed by the creepy stalker side. I start reading what other people write, not to learn what th…
You read Prof. Jackson’s post, right? About the world ending this weekend?
I always pay lots of attention when my colleagues at Brainstorm tell me stuff. Well, some of them, anyway. Let’s just say that, as a smart person, I pay lots of attention to Jackson and, as a Recovering Catholic, I pay lots of attention to threats of an apocalyptic nature.
My immediate response, as you might imagine, was to pitch a story to Another Publication about what books we should all read—and which ones we should…
Taylor during filming of "Jane Eyre"
Forget National Velvet; forget Cleopatra.
For me, Elizabeth Taylor, whose death yesterday was just announced in the New York Times this morning, will always be Helen Burns from the 1943 version of Jane Eyre, a role for which she received no screen credit.
She’s the tiny, sickly orphaned waif whom Jane Eyre befriends when they are at Lowood, the miserable school where poor, sweet-natured Helen Burns, who at least believes she is going to heaven when she dies, …
No! No, Tess! Don't eat that!
Today we’re lucky enough to be interviewing the three lucky—or are they? –young women who will be appearing in the next season of MTV’s wildly successful program Teen Mom. After all, the show’s second season finale was watched by more than 5.5 million viewers and its cast members appear on the covers of glossy as well as tabloid magazines on a regular basis. Rumors suggest that a whole generation of junior-high and high-school students are attempting pregnancy in …
Right now Charlie Sheen is the national Rorschach Test: Whether you’re staring in fascination for long periods of time or just catching a glimpse every now and then, you can learn something about yourself from your response.
In case you’ve been in the basement with your head in a book or a pillowcase for the last couple of days, here’s a recent version of the Sheen experience so that you can assess your own CSR (Charlie Sheen Rorschach).
What I just learned is this: Charlie Sheen wrote a book of…
Bristol Palin is doing a book with HarperCollins. The 20-year-old’s memoir (is there another word we can use?) is titled: Not Afraid of Life.
My creative writing student, Kerri, shouted “What do you mean not afraid of life? How dare she? You mean not afraid of life, as in we choose life, as in that cover where she’s posing with her mother on the cover of In Touch Magazine?”
Naturally, I think Kerri is making a joke and chuckle accordingly. Kerri isn’t amused. “I’m not kidding. The magazine…
Andre Dubus III (photo courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company)
You have to buy Townie, by Andre Dubus III.
I don’t usually tell people what books to buy—although you’ve noticed that I quite often go around telling them what they have to read—but in this case I’m making an exception.
You have to buy this book because once you read it, you’re going to want people you know to read it, and the easiest, most efficient way to make that happen is to lend them your own copy—at least briefly.
Because once the…
Wigglesworth Hall (photo by Bill Comstock)
The Wayward Women of Wigglesworth Hall
The First Novel in a Series by An Author Without Shame
Synopsis: Three women, X, Y and Z all entered Harvard College in 198X and lived, for their first year, in Wigglesworth hall using the entrance for an area lovingly described as “Little House on the Prairie.”
X, a Nordic beauty from a farm family in New Hampshire, entered on a DAR scholarship to study English literature.
Y, a WASP princess with a cynical sens…
I’m teaching Woolf’s Orlando tonight. It’s a riotously funny book …
(If you’re the kind of person who hates hearing about the conclusion of a novel you haven’t yet read, please stop reading here.)
… And it has a happy ending. That’s something you don’t get from every available text in Mod Brit Lit unless your definition of “happy” includes suicide, enucleation, apocalypse, death by vehicular manslaughter and / or alcohol-induced frenzy.
I look forward to teaching Orlando because it’s playful, …
I need your help, dear readers, in planning my course for next year. I’m doing my “Femmes Fatale” class and I need some new titles for my reading list.
Not all the women need to killers, but they all need to slay me.
I’ve only been able to come up with 25. That’s ridiculous. I’d like to know other titles you believe should be on the list and why.
Here are the books I’m choosing from (in no particular order, by the way, so don’t get excited) and I know there should be more—so please help me out.
What do you need in order to write?
Let’s say it better, make it more precise and accurate, make it a Real Question: What do you tell yourself you need in order to write?
Silence? Time? A contract? Two course reductions? An assistant? A grant from the NEA?
Because, folks—let’s not kid ourselves—all you really need in order to write is a scrap of paper and a pencil nub. You don’t need 500 pounds sterling or a room of one’s one (pace Virgina Woolf); you don’t need passionate kisses (pace …
By my count of positions discussed on the essential Academic Jobs Wiki: Seven of forty-three positions in French with “interviews scheduled” were interviewing by Skype and bypassing the MLA convention in Los Angeles this week. (More fools them: The rains are ending and the forecast is lovely.) Five of the seven were tenure track positions. In German three of 27 tenure track and three of 18 nontenurable positions are bypassing MLA. Traditional English literature fields aren’t Skyping much as yet …
Alex Kaplan, you teach high-school English? You are a hero.
I could never do your job. I’m serious: I student-taught for exactly one semester when I was in college. It devastated me. It absolutely wore me out. It was the only time in my entire life I ever missed a meal — how’s that for proof? (The proof is in missing the pudding.)
I would return from my stint at a local high school and collapse in my dorm room, too exhausted to drag myself to the dining hall. This had never happened under any ot…
I made a brave attempt, this afternoon, to place the work of the semester into folders, a gesture that was part of an even braver attempt to place the work of the term behind me.
I always have to do this in order to begin (or, more properly, finish) other projects. It’s a ritual. It’s what I do to mark the end of my classes. As usual, I’d taught two courses and continued to co-edit the journal LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory.
In addition, and as usual, I also directed three independent stu…
Riding on the train,
I look past my reflection to the landscape.
I see abandoned tenements
and I want to be a bulldozer.
I see acres of scrap metal and
I want to be a crusher.
They call themselves
Where do companies find their names,
the men who deal with what we refuse?
From the God Of Unlikely Nomenclature?
Further west there are farms;
further east there are mansions.
But here there is only life on the brink:
a nest in a brick wall.
Photo by Flickr user jesus…