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April 14th, 2006

American literature

Scott Johnson at Power Line links to an essay on American literature in the Claremont Review of Books by Professor Jeffrey Hart. The essay deals mostly with F.O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman and Denis Donoghue's The American Classics: A Personal Essay. Donoghue's book and Hart's essay both dwell on Matthiessen's analysis of 19th century classics such as The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, and Huckleberry Finn. The essay is worth reading, although at times it descends into academic "inside baseball" chatter about politics which tells us more about Donoghue's shortcomings as a critic than anything else.

In any event...are these books as influential (as books) as they once were? I myself have read none of them, though I have taken repeated stabs at Moby Dick; nonetheless, they are such iconic works that on seeing a movie such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan I and millions of other fans immediately recognized its identity with Moby Dick as Khan quotes that novel's Captain Ahab at length. Likewise, the picaresque adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer have been replicated in a host of modern movies and TV shows. Still, we are raising a generation that knows Luke Skywalker, Trinity, and the Master Chief better than Ishmael, Hester Prynne and Huck, a generation to whom the societies of colonial Boston, whaling ships, and antebellum Missouri are as strange and alien as any science fiction. What meaning do the classics of American literature have for today's children? Are they truly classic, as Shakespeare is classic, or merely period pieces, valuable only for the insights they give us on vanished times? Would we be better off raising them on Lewis, Tolkien, Heinlein and Norton instead?

About damn time

Treasury mulls end of phone excise tax, the article in the Wall Street Journal said, pointing out that the law had originally been enacted to help pay for the Spanish-American War in 1898. Jesus, I don't think any of those veterans are still alive, are they? Apparently Congress tried to repeal the tax in 1990 but couldn't override a Clinton veto. The black cloud around this silver lining is that the paperwork required to get the refund of the 3% tax is so onerous that the average phone user, who's entitled to a refund worth $50, probably won't bother, according to this article from USA TODAY. You'd think it'd just be simpler to give everyone an additional $50 refund on their income taxes.

"Still Too Catholic"

Kate at Small Dead Animals reacts to the meditations on the Stations of the Cross posted at the Vatican Website.

Yeah. I guess some people don't get the "in the world but not of it" thing.

As for me, well, it's been another odd Lenten season. 4 out of 5 on the Law of the Fish (I suppose that technically I have an out for the Friday during Detour since I did spend some of it instructing the ignorant and feeding the hungry, but that's not really what those particular acts of mercy are all about. I also don't think I'm sick enough to be excused on that pretext either.) Still not happy with the local parishes, and still undecided about where I should go today for Good Friday services. The 5:15 at St. Olaf's has the contemporary choir (shudder) and the Tenebrae at the Basilica isn't until 8. I'll think of something, I'm sure.

John Dewey = Alfred Sloan?

Ed Driscoll quotes extensively from a review by Professor M.D. Aeschliman in this month's dead-tree edition of National Review; the good professor is looking at Henry T. Edmondson's John Dewey and the Decline of American Education and laying the smackdown generously on Dewey in the process. I may have to go buy this issue just to read the rest of the review, and am definitely going to look up the book once I get by library card out of hock again.

Ed also connects Alvin Toffler and Glenn Reynolds with a critique of the public school system that will be familiar to long-time readers of this LJ: the public school as factory, and one producing a product increasingly found unsuitable by most Americans. Hmmm...the public schools as the General Motors of education?

In other news, phoenixalpha is moving in this weekend and the apartment is thus being rearranged. Huzzah. I better get laundry done tonight, since I'll have curst few opportunies otherwise this weekend.




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October 2020


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    Thank you! I certainly hope the times are less interesting this year, at least on a personal level.
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    Happy birthday, and I hope your next year is less "interesting" than this one!
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    Thank you. I knew I left the comments open for a reason.
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    The position with the election board is temporary, through the end of the election, and working for Block is seasonal as well. I am semi-retired on disability, so employment security is not a major…
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    10 Oct 2020, 22:37
    It seems to me those are governmental jobs you are doing part time. If you can have one of those, you ought to have better employment security.
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