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Blog Posts by Subject: English and American Literature

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Last month, while reading the ever-elegant obituaries in The Economist, I ran across RPJ's. I knew the name through the Merchant/Ivory movies, but she was a writer-writer as well as screen-writer. She wrote over a dozen novels, with a "heroine [who] was almost always herself: trapped in a cross-cultural marriage, tipping between the old world and the new, observing from the outside some bewildering place." As so often happens, 

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Flappers and Philosophers: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Their Contemporaries

The newest film version of The Great Gatsby is opening in theaters on May 10th. This is the fifth time this story has been filmed, I believe. This version boasts a modern soundtrack and promises to deliver on the fashion and visual excesses of the "Jazz Age," if director Baz 

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Book Discussion at Epiphany: "Home" by Toni Morrison

For the month of April, the Epiphany book discussion group discussed the novel Home by Toni Morrison. It is the story of Frank Money, a poor man from the South who goes to fight in the Korean War as a way of escaping his rural town. In the process he leaves behind his fragile sister Cee who has to learn to navigate her world without her big brother/protector. When Frank 

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Reader's Den: A Visit From the Goon Squad - Week 3

Welcome back to the Reader’s Den. In the early chapters of A Visit from the Goon Squad we meet Bennie Salazar. In his middle age Bennie is divorced, has a son and works as a record company executive. But Bennie fondly remembers his days playing bass in a punk rock band.

While Bennie and his bandmates are fictional, the bands they listened to made real music. You can borrow punk rock music CDs by 

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Ambrose Bierce: Civil War Stories

The April 2013 theme for Mixed Bag: Story Time for Grown-Ups is 'Ambrose Bierce: Civil War Stories.' One hundred fifty years ago the American Civil War (1861-1865) was in mid-course, and April was a significant month in its history. The Battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6-7, 1862 in southwestern Tennessee. The

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Shakespeare in the Rose Main Reading Room

Most of the collections at the Stephen A. Schwarzman building are closed-stacked, i.e., we bring them to you. But on the 3rd floor, the Rose Main Reading Room maintains open, very open stacks of about 30,000 volumes on every subject, not just the humanities and social sciences which is our collection strength.

Here is a picture of the Shakespeare section, on the short shelves at the north-east corner. In addition to the complete works, it holds critical editions, 

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Not Your Grandmother's Hamlet

That is, the kick-off to Shakespeare Week—April 15 to 20 here at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Schizophrenia, nomadism, Lacan (oh the joys of serendipity—I just ordered his Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Profession), Deleuze, all the quite-cut edge philosophers and concepts. 

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Shakespeare and Teens: "The Juliet Club"

Well, it's April and time for Shakespeare Week. And once again, to read a great novel—The Juliet Club, by Wertheim writer Suzanne Harper.  Here is the

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Reader's Den: A Visit From the Goon Squad - Week 1

Hello readers. This month the Reader's Den is reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Titles and cover images often give readers a clue as to what lies within a book but I admit I was baffled about this one. 

A guitar and a goon squad? It didn't make sense. On the other hand, A Visit 

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Back to Bradbury

"I wouldn't want the nursery locked up," said Peter coldly. "Ever."

"Matter of fact, we're thinking of turning the whole house off for about a month. Live sort of a carefree one-for-all existence."

"That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of letting the shoe tier do it? And brush my own teeth and comb my hair and give myself a bath?"

"It would be fun for a change, don't you think?"

"No, it would be horrid. . ."

Ray Bradbury, "The 

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Reader's Den: Leaving the Atocha Station, Week 3

Atocha Station, Madrid via Wikimedia CommonsWelcome to the third week of reading Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. As you are nearing the end of the novel and as we just passed the anniversary of the terrorist attack on Atocha Station (March 11, 2004), there are a few themes to ask questions about or consider further.

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Reader's Den: Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, Week 2

The author of Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner, is originally from Kansas and has a BA in political science and an MFA in creative writing from Brown University. He was a 2003-2004 Fulbright Scholar in Spain and he currently teaches in the English Department at Brooklyn College. Leaving the Atocha Station 

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Alex Awards 2013 = Adult Books for Teen Readers

Browsing the shelves for a good book to read can be intimidating. There’s thousands of new books published every year and how do you know if a book is good anyway? It’s cover? Haha! Every year the Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) publishes lists of books that have been certified by librarians and readers as excellent reads. One of those annual lists is the Alex Awards. The Alex Awards are given to books that have been written for adults but have special appeal for teen readers. 

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Reader's Den: Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, Week 1

Welcome to the Reader's Den for March. This month we will be discussing Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. It is a novel set in Spain, written by a New York author. The novel follows Adam Gordon to Madrid in 2004 on a fellowship to write poetry influenced by the Spanish Civil War. We learn about Adam's relationships as a poet-tourist-student and his process of writing and self-discovery through experiences outside of his 

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Bookstore Mystique: Martin Boyd, Joyce Cary, and Elizabeth Bowen

There was a time — in what has come to seem more and more a mythical past — when books were everywhere. Along the relatively short stretch of Fifth Avenue between the New York Public Library and Central Park were three magnificent bookstores: Doubleday, Brentano's, and the most architecturally stunning of them all, Scribner's. Around the corner on 47th Street was

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February Reader's Den: "Telegraph Avenue" Week 4

This is a view of Broadway, in Oakland, California from NYPL's Digital Gallery. Although it's not Telegraph Avenue where Oakland and Berkeley intersect, I think it still contributes to envisioning the setting of the novel. How do you envision the area where Telegraph Avenue takes place? Do you think that this picture fits with that idea? That time frame?

In the novel, Gibson Goode builds a mega 

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Playboy: A Seductive Periodical or Champion of Sexual Liberalism?

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is intended for mature readers onlyRecognize the icon above? Perhaps you may not realize this but Playboy the publication, historically speaking, has been a leading magazine devoted to freedom of expression and human rights (to a certain extent). Founded in 1953 in Chicago by Hugh Hefner, Playboy has often been perceived as a "taboo" 

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February Reader's Den: "Telegraph Avenue" Week 1

Welcome back to the Reader's Den! Today we take a slight detour from our focus on New York City to the sunny climes of Northern California. Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue is a fictional place that the NYT book 

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R.I.P. Ed Koch

I'll miss him, for he was such a quintessential New York, and a terrific ambassador for the City. I met my colleague MN in the hallway (no, not at the hydration station, formerly water cooler) and we chatted about him. She had seen a picture flash by of his tombstone, apparently all set up to go, and reported it was very simple and elegant. I asked if it had an

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English Nature Writers: Charles Waterton

Charles Waterton by Charles Willson Peale oil on canvas, 1824 ©National Portrait Gallery, London. Creative Commons BY-NC-NDMost recently discovered, just last week, is Charles Waterton (1782–1865). I've not read enough to evaluate him as a writer (of which all authors tremble in dread), but he certainly led an interesting life. Of a very ancient Catholic family including St. Thomas More and Margaret of Scotland among his ancestors, he became interested in nature in 1804 

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