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Homage to Poe

Michael Dirda offers a thoughtful assessment of Poe’s career. My initial puzzlement about Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) was hardly surprising. His fiction can seem too rhetorical, too thickly textured, too literary for most young people. Still, Basil Rathbone’s recording did persuade me to give the writer another try—sometime. The opportunity finally arose in high school when I opened my new English textbook and discovered the revenge story “The Cask of…

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Could We Just Lose the Adverb (Already)?

I can’t really get myself that worked up over prescriptive grammar issues, but I do enjoy reading the arguments. The adverb is an incoherent lexical category, a catchall. How are “there,” “yesterday,” “quite,” “assiduously,” and “indeed” all members of the same family? As we learn in school — in a definition that dates from Dionysius Thrax in the second century B.C. — adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, noun phrases,…

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Quebec teen discovers ancient Mayan ruins by studying the stars

This sounds like the plot of a Young Indiana Jones episode, or maybe Johnny Quest. William Gadoury is a 15-year-old student from Saint-Jean-de-Matha in Lanaudière, Quebec. The precocious teen has been fascinated by all things Mayan for several years, devouring any information he could find on the topic.  During his research, Gadoury examined 22 Mayan constellations and discovered that if he projected those constellations onto a map, the shapes corresponded…

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Education: Teaching teachers how to teach reading

I’m definitely seeing students in my freshman writing class and intro lit classes struggling with complex texts. I have more freedom to address the problem in my lit classes, where the focus is on reading. In the freshman writing class, where the goal is to produce a 10-page research paper by the end of term, students who do have the writing ability are struggling with academic texts (preferring instead to…

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Brilliant, Troubled Dorothy Parker by Robert Gottlieb

In 1915, Parker, aged twenty-two, went to work at Vogue (for ten dollars a week), writing captions, proofreading, fact-checking, etc., and after a while moved over to the very young Vanity Fair; her first poem to be published had recently appeared there. She happily functioned as a kind of scribe-of-all-work until three years later she was chosen to replace the departing P.G. Wodehouse as the magazine’s drama critic. She was…