The Mississippi University for Women is pondering a name change—in part because, well, it’s a co-ed school. Among the three proposed names on the table is Welty-Reneau University, named after cofounder Sally Reneau and author Eudora Welty, who attended the school for two years. “I think it should be Welty University. That name seems like it would attract more males here,” says one student. Huh?
A high-school district in Newman, Calif., in the state’s central valley, is discussing whether to ban Rudolfo Anaya‘s novel Bless Me, Ultima (recently selected for the NEA’s Big Read program), because of profanity. Relevant quote: “Trustee RoseLee Hurst said the foul language is tantamount to violence and she’s an advocate for removing violence from schools.”
Meanwhile, Washington teacher John Foley thinks it’s time to phase out To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, and Of Mice and Men from English curricula. At least he has some suggestions for replacements.
The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle awards were announced last night.
The winner of the Newbery Medal will be announced tomorrow.
The American Booksellers Association announced that 69 independent bookstores opened in 2008. No work on how many had to close its doors in that time, but things can’t be in complete crisis if Georgetown can handle a new shop dedicated to foreign literature and works in translation.
The Washington Monthly tapped a variety of authors and pundits to recommend books that President Obama should read. The list is stuffed, as you might expect, with a lot of policy tomes. But a few novels sneak in: Joel Garreau pitches Huck Finn (sorry, Mr. Foley!), Jeff Greenfield suggests a Washington novel I haven’t heard of, Garrett Epps‘ The Floating Island, David Ignatius recommends Graham Greene‘s The Quiet American. And George Pelecanos smartly submits that the new president get to know the best fiction writer living in D.C.:
I would recommend that President Obama read Lost in the City, by Edward P. Jones. It’s a short-story collection that brilliantly illuminates the humanity and struggles of everyday Washingtonians. Despite the phony Washington bashing during the campaign, D.C. is as Main Street as any place in America, and just as deserving of federal attention. The District could be a model for reform. A leader with Barack Obama’s intelligence and enthusiasm has the ability to make that happen.
The D.C.-Area Readings page is updated. Among the events coming up this week: Alex McLennan and James Matthews (whose collection of generally military-themed short stories, Last Known Position, I recommend) today at the Writer’s Center; Leonard Downie Jr. Monday at Politics & Prose (I recently reviewed his debut novel, The Rules of the Game, for Washington City Paper); the aforementioned George Pelecanos, also Monday at the Arlington Public Library; and former president Jimmy Carter, Wednesday at Borders Baileys Crossroads. Also, the Politics & Prose February schedule is now out, and anybody interested in getting tickets for Malcolm Gladwell’s Feb. 5 event at the Avalon Theatre should probably get on the horn to P&P ASAP: A former Postie who writes books that appeal to businesspeople and policy wonks, coming to a town that’s home to the Post and that’s full of businesspeople and policy wonks is bound to be a big deal.