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What We've Been Reading—6.10.16

I'm going to break protocol and tell you about what I've been watching. But what I've been watching happens to be hyper-hypertextual: Rodney Ascher's Room 237 is a geeked-out documentary about a prestige horror film, reminding us how prestige can precipitate (or arise from? or consist of?) a fever of discourse. Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading—4.15.16

Mark BauerleinTwo nights ago, I found The Bonfire of the Vanities on the shelf and began reading. It was the blockbuster book of the 1980s, catching the spirit of the age in all its glittery egotism (“Masters of the Universe”) and cheap urban politics (the opening scene is an 80s version . . . . Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading—3.25.16

Mark BauerleinLife Magazine, September 6, 1948—It was on the coffee table at a friend's house, and I have just spent the last hour poring over it. There is Joe DiMaggio under the lights slamming a double to beat the Athletics. A few pages later there's an editorial entitled “How Red a . . . . Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading—3.11.16

Daniel Asia has edited the proceedings of a conference held in March 2014 at the University of Arizona, the book entitled, The Future of (High) Culture in America.

It's a lively volume with contributions by Terry Teachout (drama critic for the Wall Street Journal), Carol Iannone (editor of Academic Questions), and Asia himself (a distinguished composer and professor of composition at U of A), among others, and they all get to the heart of the problem of high culture at the present time in America. . . . Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading—2.26.16

Not enough has been said about how Pope Francis—a man of strong intuitions and vivid language—lives in and has been formed by literature. He regularly cites and recommends imaginative works like José Hernández’s Martín Fierro, Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World, and Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed. And he thinks by their patterns. Whereas Benedict strove for a concise, clear scholarly expression, Francis seeks the striking images and strong characterizations of the storyteller. Over here are the good guys, over there the bad. Continue Reading »

What We've Been Reading—1.29.16

Coco Chanel had no precedent in fashion. Her forerunners were the saints who denounced society and attacked the flesh. In her unrelenting seriousness, her allergy to frivolity, her “puritanical blacks” (as she called them), we recognize the Calvin who conquered Paris. The most precious relics this dubious saint left behind are handbags, dresses, and jewelry. More affordable—and only slightly less compelling—is Paul Morand’s The Allure of Chanel.

What We've Been Reading—12.8.16

There is something quaint about the little paperback on my desk, a 1964 printing from the Fawcett World Library—originally priced at 50 cents. In the bottom right corner is the announcement, “16 short stories by the most talked about young writer in America.”

What We've Been Reading—12.4.15

In a recent address in New York, Martin Mosebach, winner of the Georg Büchner Prize, Germany's most prestigious literary award, described the metaphysical outlook of his countrymen: “In Germany we like to distinguish between the glistening surface and the deeper values.

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