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Blog Posts by Subject: English and American Literature

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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English Nature Writers: Richard Jefferies

"Why, we must have been blind all our lives; here were the most wonderful things possible going on under our very noses, but we saw them not." —Walther Besant.

Richard Jefferies (1848-1887), though a novelist, is more known as a nature writer. His childhood was spent on a farm in Wiltshire (now a museum), during which he began his observation and awareness of nature and people within it. At the age of 9, he was already an adept at tracking and hunting, and perhaps not surprisingly, left school at the 

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English Nature Writers: Gilbert White

I'm a literary Anglophile. There — I've confessed and we can move on. One of their really cool genres is nature writing. They do it in such a quiet and smooth style, as if they've lived in field and woods all their lives. (Dah!)

Perhaps the most famous, or at least the most referred to, is

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The Reader's Den: Edith Wharton's "Roman Fever"

Thank you for joining us for our final week of Edith Wharton short stories in The Reader's Den!

Like "The Other Two" and "Autres Temps," Wharton's 1934 story, "

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Clinging to Books: Reading List 2012

During my vacation from the library, between Christmas and New Year's Day, I learned a remarkable lesson. You can get along very well without NEWS. For a full week, I entered a blissfully news-free vacuum. No NPR; no relentless checking of Google News; no Sunday New York Times beyond Arts and Leisure and the Book Review. I didn't care if it was the twenty-first century or the fifteenth. Without that drumbeat of doom in my head all the time, I could focus on what was really important: family, friends, dining, museums, and music.

Since winter is my favorite time 

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The Reader's Den: Edith Wharton's "Autres Temps"

At the start of Autres Temps, Mrs. Lidcote is arriving in New York on a steamer ship from Italy, after a long, self-imposed exile. Having fled New York's society years ago, when she became an outcast following her divorce, she is returning only after receiving news of her daughter's divorce and remarriage.

As the shapes of the city's skyline begin to emerge from the fog, Mrs. Lidcote is full of worry and unable to stop mulling over her past, which she fears will become her daughter Leila's future. When she shares 

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The Reader's Den: Edith Wharton's "The Other Two"

As Edith Wharton's 1904 story, The Other Two, opens, Waythorn has just returned from his honeymoon with his new wife, Alice. This is his first marriage, but her third. Although it seems a bit scandalous, he has gone in to the marriage fully aware of, and fairly unconcerned with, how Alice is viewed in society: she is well liked, but with reservation.

She divorced her first husband, Mr. Haskett, with whom she has a daughter, before coming to New York on the arm of Gus Varick, whose social 

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Five Questions for… William Moeck, curator of NYPL's Charles Dickens: The Key to Character Exhibition

Charles Dickens: The Key to Character, on view through January 27, 2013, at the Schwarzman Building, explores the men, women, and children who populate the fictional universe of English author Charles Dickens (1812-1870). William Moeck, the exhibition's curator, teaches British literature at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. We spoke with him about what he learned while selecting items from NYPL's

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The Reader's Den: Edith Wharton's New York Stories

Happy New Year and welcome to 2013 in The Reader's Den!

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was born in Greenwich Village into the wealthy New York Society that she 

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Books I Read in 2012

It's amusing to keep track of the critters, and helps me read more non-fiction, novel-hound that I am. The Library has most of these books, but I've only linked a few, as not to clutter and overburden the post. At the end of the list I award prizes, or "the Barkies," for various categories. But just two things first: Re-reads (always a good idea) are in bold, and if you have a taste for rhetorical but highly passionate drama, do read some Thomas Otway (1652-85).

I'm lucky enough 

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Reader’s Den: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Week 4

This is the last week of our book discussion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. In my first post, I mentioned that it is a post-9/11 novel, published in 2005, but during the past month of discussion, I haven't focused on that aspect of the work. The book talks about Oskar's reaction to the 9/11 

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Reader’s Den: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Week 3

Now that you have read more of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (if not all of it), you may have noticed some of its quirky phrases (such as “heavy boots” and “feeling like a hundred dollars”). Part of my interest in reading new (for me) authors is noticing how they use language: what kind of sentence structure — long or short, simple or complex; what kind of words — familiar or out of the ordinary or a combination; lots of descriptive language or 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Season’s Greetings from William S. Burroughs

Timothy Leary first made acquaintance with William S. Burroughs in Tangier, Morocco in the summer of 1961.[1] During this heady time, Leary was reaching out to beat poets and artists for participation in his early drug experiments at Harvard University, and Burroughs made an obvious comrade. Despite Burrough's disappointment with Leary's scientific method, their friendship managed to survive 

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Reader’s Den: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Week 2

Now that you have had a chance to meet Oskar, what do you think of him? Many readers have compared him to Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Others think he’s far too precocious for a nine-year-old and have suggested the author used his own 

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Mixed Bag: Story Time for Grown-Ups Featuring Charles Dickens

Mixed Bag: Story Time for Grown-Ups is a short story read-aloud program that meets every two weeks on Wednesday at lunch time (1:00 p.m). Mixed Bag PM meets at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday every two weeks. In December we are reading Holiday Classics, including an excerpt from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and

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Smoking: A Love Story

I just quit smoking for the fifthJon Hamm in Mad Men time. For me, it's all or nothing. I could never be one of those people — dilettantes! — who are able to smoke socially and then go for indefinite periods of time without a cigarette. I suppose this has to do with physiology, personality, and the times in which I grew up.

In one of my earliest memories, I'm sitting on the living room floor, my dad is smoking a cigar, and sunlight is flooding through the picture window illuminating the variegated blue, gray, and purple layers of smoke. I was mesmerized! 

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Reader’s Den: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Week 1

Oskar Schell, a precocious nine-year-old who lives in New York City, is the protagonist In Jonathan Safran Foer’s popular post-9/11 novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Oskar's active mind keeps endlessly creating new inventions, most of them somehow related to saving lives and making connections with other 

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