Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pageturners 6.25

"The Decline and Fall of the English Major" The New York Times
The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times...Undergraduates will tell you they are under pressure--from their parents, from the burden of the debt they incur, from society at large--to choose majors they believe will lead directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities. In other words, there is a new and narrowing vocational emphasis in the way students and parents think about what to study in college....What many undergraduates do not know...is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing...Maybe it takes some living to find out this truth. 

"The World Arranged: A Profile of Claire Messud" Poets & Writers
'Ten years ago wasn't so good for women...but now its unquestionably not good for women. Just simple, practical things. I was speaking to a woman who is a dorm mother in a boarding school, and she says the girls get up at a quarter to six in the morning so that they can do their hair. When I was a student in the 1980s, nobody was doing that. Those girls are getting an hour less sleep a night than the boys in the class. That's ridiculous, and its not even questioned. Nobody's asking. I feel like we're living in a time where there's a whole set of assumptions about what's expected superficially, but those things matter.' Such things do matter and those considerations are artfully woven through The Woman Upstairs. The book may rant but like the best rants, the novel relies on a virtuosic synthesis of anger, social awareness, and aesthetic performance. .."I love a ranter," she says. "And the girls have not been ranting." 

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
I just started this novel today. I've been eyeballing it at the bookstore for several weeks, picking it up and reading the first few pages. But somehow I always end up walking away without buying it. Finally I caved. (Isn't it crazy how prices have changed? I used to go into the bookstore with twenty bucks and buy five books. Now, that gets you one paperback.) If you're interested, here's a review by the NY Times on the novel; otherwise, I'll return soon with some thoughts of my own.

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