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Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price My rating: 5 of 5 stars We have all heard (and maybe preached) the refrain that "people are reading less" and with it, comes the deep dread of a zombie apocalypse worldwide, not of actual zombies but by people unable or unwilling to read or at the very least, humanity is made all the less for this great and tragic loss of reading. But Price largely shatters that perspective with an in insightful historical look at books and our fundamental misunderstanding about books and the poor public discourse we have around them. Her first focus is to dismantle the myth of people reading less coupled with a challenge that asks exactly when were people doing more reading and what did that consist of? She notes that reading is still happening in significant numbers but people are fixated on the idea that people aren't reading books. Of course, book sales tell a different story

Review: Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels

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Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels by David A. Beronä My rating: 4 of 5 stars Beronä explores the world of wordless books from the early and mid-20th century. These wood-cut novels (and other types of wordless visual stories) were a phenomenon within storytelling that seemed to operate in parallel to art movements and the development of comics.  Beronä's effort here is to provide a preliminary history of their emergence and the most well-know creators such as Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nuckel, Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde. The book does not necessarily have a critical through the line but sits more as an introductory exploration into the creators and the works. Besides the introduction and the conclusion, each chapter explores a particular creator and some of their works. The essays are brief biographies of the authors and some detail and complexity about the nature of the works being discussed.  Much of the book is dedicated to excerpts (individu

Poem #50: El Beso by Angelina Weld Grimké

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Estimated Reading Time:  2 minutes Title : El Besto Source:  Wikimedia Author : Angelina Weld Grimké Source :   Poets.org Poem Twilight—and you Quiet—the stars; Snare of the shine of your teeth, Your provocative laughter, The gloom of your hair; Lure of you, eye and lip; Yearning, yearning, Languor, surrender; Your mouth, And madness, madness, Tremulous, breathless, flaming, The space of a sigh; Then awakening—remembrance, Pain, regret—your sobbing; And again, quiet—the stars, Twilight—and you. Reflection In short tense lines, Grimke captures an essence of a passionate kiss and while I have never thought of it before, it is a beautiful description of what happens.  It both starts and ends with twilight and that makes me think about the moment when two people look at each other and exist in this limbo space of "yes or no"--it is a twilight, an in-between space.  The quiet is the moment where it seems it has been decided between both.  From there, each line reads like a pulling

Poem #49: The Want of You by Angelina Weld Grimké

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes Title : The Want of You Source: Wikimedia Author : Angelina Weld Grimké Source :   Poets.org Poem A hint of gold where the moon will be;  Through the flocking clouds just a star or two;  Leaf sounds, soft and wet and hushed,  And oh! the crying want of you.  Reflection Like the feeling Grimke evokes in this poem, this poem is short and fleeting.  It feels like the memory of a taste that she looks to evoke with this imagery of something there but almost imperceptible yet inevitable.  Tied to the title, "The Want of You", it seems that the imperceptible absence in each of the images (flecks of gold, stars through the clouds, and subdued leaves) are about how longing can be ever-present, no matter the sits before us. And maybe it hasn't been a desire for another person, but our minds when occupied about something or someone, can maintain these dual thinking lines of both the world in front of us and where our mind is pulled.   Beyond the poe

Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez My rating: 4 of 5 stars Everyone in the town knew that Vicario brothers planned to kill Santiago Nasar in the morning. They weren't hesitant to tell everyone and the word-of-mouth traveled across the town in the span of hours.  Yet, in Nasar's morning venture to the town center and to the dock to witness the cardinal give his blessing on the town (from the boat), people largely were incapable of telling and protecting Nasar from the brutal death that awaited him.  Marquez's story unravels through an unnamed narrator who has returned to the town twenty-seven years later to investigate and explain why it was that Nasar dies. The narrative shifts in non-chronological order with each chapter, taking the reader from the Nasar's final walk to the mission embraced by the Vicario brothers to kill him and their efforts to get someone to stop them from committing the act to how the town reacted in the short

Starting and Working Remotely in a Pandemic

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Estimated Reading Time: 8.5 minutes A colleague at work was recently leaving his job for a new one and in wishing him luck on his new venture, I emphasized that if there's anything I can do to help, to let me know.  He asked if I had any tips for starting a new job in the pandemic.  He asked because that's what I did b ack in April 2020 when I started up as the Educational Programs Manager at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, which I have been working at for nearly 10 months, entirely remotely.    Since my colleague asked and I wrote up some pointers, I might as well share them.   Obviously, I'm not the first to work remotely nor am I the first to start remotely in a pandemic.  So much of my advice can probably found elsewhere.  And, of course, we should always heed Baz Luhrmann's commentary on advice from " Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) ":  " Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing t

Poem #48: The Puppet-Player by Angelina Weld Grimké

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Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes Title : The Puppet-Player Source:  Wikimedia Author : Angelina Weld Grimké Source :   Poets.org Poem Sometimes it seems as though some puppet-player,    A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin Sits just beyond the border of our seeing,    Twitching the strings with slow, sardonic grin. Reflection In some ways, this feels like the opposite of Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask."  Instead, of people hiding behind masks and thus, being their own sort of puppeteers in control of what others see, Grimke suggests we're at the mercy of some puppet master.  This puppet-master does not seem to be the same as God or at least, not a god that Grimke sees in any good light.  Then we get that gorgeous line "A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin".  We get the alliteration of the first 4 c-words and even the fifth c-word produces a hard sound.  Between the sound and the description--nothing about that line suggests benevolence--we feel a menacing pup

Poem #47: The Banjo Player by Fenton Johnson

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Estimated Reading Time: 3.5 minutes Source:  Wikimedia Title : The Banjo Player Author : Fenton Johnson Source :   Poerty.org Poem  There is music in me, the music of a peasant people.   I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing my songs of the cabin and the field. At    the Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome as the violets in March; there is always food and    drink for me there, and the dimes of those who love honest music. Behind the railroad tracks    the little children clap their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle. But I fear that I am a failure. Last night a woman called me a troubadour. What is a troubadour? Reflection There's an interesting question at the center of this poem that I rather like given my own exploration into popular culture studies and thinking about the often arbitrary lines we draw between high, middle, and low-brow culture.  Johnson seems to be raising some of those questions I'm often pondering within this poem.  The speaker

Poem #46: The Minister by Fenton Johnson

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Estimated Reading Time: 3.5 minutes Source: Wikimedia Title : The Minister Author : Fenton Johnson Source :   Poerty.org Poem           I mastered pastoral theology, the Greek of the Apostles, and all the difficult subjects in a minister’s curriculum.           I was as learned as any in this country when the Bishop ordained me.           And I went to preside over Mount Moriah, largest flock in the Conference.           I preached the Word as I felt it, I visited the sick and dying and comforted the afflicted in spirit.           I loved my work because I loved my God.           But I lost my charge to Sam Jenkins, who has not been to school four years in his life.           I lost my charge because I could not make my congregation shout.              And my dollar money was small, very small.           Sam Jenkins can tear a Bible to tatters and his congregation destroys the pews with their shouting and stamping.           Sam Jenkins leads in the gift of raising dollar money.      

Poem #45: The Miracle by Fenton Johnson

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Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes Soure: Wikimedia Title : The Miracle Author : Fenton Johnson Source :  Poerty.org Poem Though I was dwelling in a prison house,  My soul was wandering by the carefree stream Through fields of green with gold eyed daisies strewn,  And daffodils and sunflower cavaliers.  And near me played a little browneyed child,  A winsome creature God alone conceived,  “Oh, little friend,” I begged. “Give me a flower That I might bear it to my lonely cell.”  He plucked a dandelion, an ugly bloom,  But tenderly he placed it in my hand,  And in his eyes I saw the sign of love.  ‘Twas then the dandelion became a rose.  Reflection This is one of those poems without a rhyming scheme and yet to read aloud, it is so very easy to derive the rhythm and flow of the words (or at least, it is for me).  The notion of this poem reminds me of how we celebrate beauty as a rarity and we see that with flowers.  The dandelion does have its own natural beauty but because of its abunda