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I Made My Friends Test the 19th Century’s Hottest Dating Tactic: Reading Aloud

There are perfectly good reasons to read aloud that don’t involve skirting Victorian restrictions on the stoking of passions, but I was somewhat amused by this assessment of the place of reading in today’s culture. It reminds me of the story of the local officials who, upon learning that the number of books in a family’s home is a good predictor of a student’s academic success, handed out free books…

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When Students Won’t Do the Reading

Reading this story from IHE recalled my undergraduate class with Austin Quigley (then the chair of the U.Va. English department), who had us write about the newly-published Stoppard play Hapgood. This was in about 1989 or 90, so it was not possible to Google for a plot summary. Even looking up contemporary reviews would have meant a trip to the library microfilm reader. On the day we were to discuss the play — the…

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Lotteries: America’s $70 Billion Shame

Can this be true? People spend more money buying lottery tickets than they spend on books, movies, music tickets, video games and sports tickets— combined! Lotteries set aside about 40 percent of their ticket sales as state revenue that often goes to schools. Then, winners of more than $600 are subject to 45 percent windfall taxes on their good fortune. “The house” is winning, even when it’s losing. But it’s…

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Books Wield a Dangerous Power

While we might point to violent video games or sexually explicit films as potentially dangerous and corrupting influences on tender or vulnerable minds, the novel is treated as uplifting and salutary, regardless of its content: a kale smoothie for the soul. When we do talk about books being ‘dangerous’, it is usually with a knowing nod and a wink: and the implication is that those of us in the know…

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Great moments from Pride and Prejudice

I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice in about 25 years. I always liked Mr. Bennett, though now that I have been married for more than 20 years, I can more fully appreciate his line from Chapter 1: “You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.” I love…