Michael Maiello's picture

    Infinite Winter: Hamlet as Baseline

    One of David Foster Wallace’s goals (he said, sometimes) as a fiction writer was to help people combat loneliness.  Writing fiction allows the writer to reach out to an audience of strangers.  Reading it allows the audience to reach out to an author they will likely never meet.  Reading texts in common, like with Infinite Winter, gives us a chance to have a shared experience. I think a shared intellectual experience is why a lot of us have nostalgia for school (both high school and college).

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Infinite Winter: The Hurt of Smart and Talented

    A huge theme of Infinite Jest is that there are pains inherent with talent.  A big part of this is athletic talent, which David Foster Wallace could write about because he was an immensely talented tennis player, just shy of pro. Another part of it is intellectual talent, which he could also write about because, well, if you’ve read him, I don’t have to try and convince you.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    DFW Told You What About A Fish?

    We have reached the 20th anniversary of the publication of Infinite Jest and I have just finished reading Signifying Rappers, a short book of essays written by David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello, designed to ape the style of the late music critic Lester Bangs, but about the burgeoning commercial and underground rap artists of the late 1980s and early 1990s.  It was a bit of a shock to realize that DFW hated The Beastie Boys but then, those were the “Fight For Your Right To Party” Beasties.  We have all grown up so much these days and some of us have died.

    Ramona's picture

    The Donald Dilemma: Loves The Crowds, Hates The Presidency

    I've been watching Donald Trump pretty closely (How to avoid it? Dear God in Heaven, how to avoid it?) and I have a theory.  Bear with me now, because at first you're going to laugh.  I know I did.  But here it is:  The billionaire Trump would rather die than be president of the United States.  But then he'd rather die than give up the attention, the fabulous, almost surreal attention.  From the people, from the press, from the Big Guys in Washington, from the world!  It's all his!  Donald Trump's!  He can't give it up!  He just can't!  But, damn, he does not want to be president.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    I Don't Care About The Oscars

    In the last few days I've had friends and colleagues ask me about Oscar snubs, and the boycott some actors and activists are calling for. It's not that I don't care about black actors being slighted for their hard work, it just seems like our time could be better served worrying about the plight of African Americans outside of Hollywood. I could be wrong, but this fight seems like a small battle in the war for equality. I'm more concerned that too many graduates in the class of 2016 will be forced to work jobs instead of find careers.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    David Bowie Lived to 69 (Alan Rickman, Too)

    My social media feed, like yours, is full of mourning this week: not simply for the great and beloved David Bowie, but also for the brilliant Shakespearean actor Alan Rickman (likewise beloved from many films), the poet C. D.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year's Public Domain Report for 2016

    Happy New Year! It's Public Domain Day, the first day of the calendar year, on which people in other countries get new works of art and learning added to the public domain for everyone to use. And on the first day of the new year we in the United States get ...

    Zilch. Nada. Niente. Nothing.

    Again.

    Hal Ginsberg's picture

    Miss Universe no Misses Universes

    In case you missed it, the wrong woman was crowned Miss Universe last night. With the choice narrowed down to Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines, the always affable comedian Steve Harvey mistakenly announced Colombia had won. As is customary at these events, lovely Ariadna Gutierrez burst into tears while last year's champion Paulina Vega - also from Colombia - coronated her.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Brett Foster Goes Out Singing

    I was blogging today about art, especially about poetry and about grief, but that post was interrupted by the news of an old friend's death. My own thoughts about grief can wait. I will still be thinking them tomorrow. Today I give way to the beautiful, kind-hearted poet and scholar Brett Foster, who has passed out of this world. He was a better man than I have ever been, and I will miss him.

    Hal Ginsberg's picture

    Art is Inherently Personal and Political

    BarbaraAllenHelaine Smith is an English teacher at an elite K-12 girls school in New York City.  The Wall Street Journal recently published her essay on teaching literature without letting "politics" or "personal identity" intrude.  Here is my response to the Journal:

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Praise for the Foremothers

    This is how it works: men and women do things - write books, build institutions, start movements - that change your life forever, and the men get into the history books. The women mysteriously fall out of the story, over and over. How many times have you heard or read the words, "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to be free"? How many of you can name the writer off the top of your head? That's what I'm talking about.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield

    Marvel comics is soft-rebooting all of its titles.  Marvel is, along with Star Wars, Star Trek and pro wrestling, a huge part of my pop-cultural life.  I'd love to say, "my childhood," but we all know that's too kind.  

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    What Is a "Good" College? Two Tentative Answers

    Sometimes, because of my job, people ask me advice about choosing colleges. It's always nice to be helpful, but talking about college reputations can be a minefield. Obviously, you learn quickly that you should never put any college or university down, but that's not enough. People can also get very prickly when you don't praise a particular college enough.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Ask Me About Shakespeare, Round Two

    So, last year I had an Ask Me About Shakespeare thread that people seemed to enjoy. (Answers to the first round of questions are at the link.) Let's try it again.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Winnowing the GOP Field with Jane Austen

    Scott Walker has left the Republican presidential primaries: the first dropout who was once considered a major contender for the nomination. That, and the departure of Rick Perry, leaves us with only fourteen or fifteen candidates left. In fact, the real number is much smaller than that, because of an economic concept called the Pareto principle; there have never been sixteen choices, because the Pareto principle cuts the number down to a smaller number of practical options.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Loving Shakespeare's Language, Then and Now

    This Sunday's New York Times Magazine carries an elegantly written lament by Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard University, who has come to believe that his students don't love Shakespeare's poetry as poetry anymore:

    Ramona's picture

    In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow, The Man Who Looked Into GWB's Eyes And Saw Nothing.

    I heard the sad news yesterday that E.L. Doctorow has died.   I've read and loved several of his books, so of course I feel as if I know him personally.  I loved Ragtime and The Book of Daniel and Billy Bathgate.  I couldn't get into Loon Lake,but I'll accept that as my problem and not his.  World's Fair and Homer and Langley are both sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. 

    His writing is what I would call "luscious with an edge".  It's stylistic and mesmerizing but you know there is something dark lurking nearby.  There is no relaxing with a Doctorow novel, even in the midst of the quiet, beautiful parts.  He will grab you and hold you and take you to places unexpected and thrilling.  He will force you by sheer wordsmithing to accompany him.  He will make you stop and read over and over again the same brilliant, awesomely brilliant, passage. 

    He was, as everybody knows, quite a writer.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Michael Des Barres documentary travels from Live Aid to Alf

    The upcoming documentary "Michael Des Barres: Who Do You Want Me to Be?" began exactly 30 years ago. That's when a 14-year-old J. Elvis Weinstein watched Live Aid - the mega-concert created to raise funds for to help the Ethiopian famine. The Duran Duran off-shoot band Power Station helped kicked off the festivities, but without lead singer Robert Palmer.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Seveneves: A Short Review of a Long Book

    By sheer coincidence, I finished Neal Stephenson's Seveneves a couple of days before learning that two friends from college, including the former managing editor of The Daily Lobo, our independent school paper, were in town.  Back in the 1990s, the staff of our paper passed around copies of Stephenson's Snow Crash, a witty send-up of the cyber-punk genre.  We loved that book. 

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Age of Marvel

    I haven't seen Avengers: Age of Ultron yet, but there's no doubt that will happen.  I actually haven't seen the second Captain America either.  Parenthood will do that.  But I have seen most of the Marvel movies, I watch Agents of Shield and just finished Daredevil on Netflix.  I know what all the plans for the Marvel cinematic universe are and I know the term "Marvel cinematic universe."

    Pages

    Latest Comments