Nancy Schnog, writing in the Washington Post, figures that books like Julia Alvarez‘s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents threaten to alienate teens from reading, and that high-school reading lists need a rethink. Commentaries on books have been done to death, she writes, and “Asking our students for yet another written commentary has a certain absurd ring to it, no?” Well, I didn’t think the goal of asking high-schoolers to write about a book was to extract shiny new insights about The Great Gatsby—just to test their comprehension and analytical skills. I also don’t see how it helps to further coddle an everybody-gets-a-trophy generation by wringing one’s hands over a 14-year-old boy who doesn’t like the book about Latinas because he himself isn’t Latina. But Schnog’s the teacher….
John McCain got through his ordeal in a POW camp by lecturing on the history of American literature. His cellmate Orson Swindle says McCain’s command of the facts wasn’t especially solid, though. “We only had the facts half right, but John said nobody knew the difference,” Swindle tells the Associated Press.
The Guardian‘s review of Philip Hoare‘s Leviathan makes the critical study of all things whale-related sound fantastic. (Naturally, there’s plenty of ruminating on Moby-Dick.) Alas, it’s not yet available in the United States.
The London Times interviews Paul Auster about Man in the Dark, a book I’m clanging on about more than usual because it’s one of my favorite novels of the year. Spoiler alert: the piece discloses a late-breaking plot point in the novel.
And again in the Post, crime novelist and blogger Sara Paretsky ponders the kind of bare-knuckle Chicago politics that she and Barack Obama grew to know:
[M]y real political baptism came in 1971, on a cold November election day. The city’s elections were notoriously corrupt, and I agreed to be a poll watcher in my South Side precinct. I watched the Democratic precinct captain repeatedly enter the booth with voters while the two election judges (one Republican, one Democrat) and a cop stood idly by. When I protested to the judges, the cop frog-marched me to the alley behind the polling place, slammed me against the wall and said, “Girlie, we’ve been running elections here since before you were born. You go home.”