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Annoyed and Bored by Anachronisms in The Great Gatsby Movie

I just watched the recent Great Gatsby movie. I didn’t care for the use of modern hip-hop music, though I can accept it as a director’s choice to appeal to modern audiences — like the added narration about the stock market and prohibition. But with all the money they put into the costumes and the CGI camera effects (swooping across the bay between Gatsby’s pier and Daisy’s green light, like…

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The Boat (Graphic Novel)

My mother had a cousin who served in Viet Nam. In the late 70s, he brought dozens of Vietnamese refugees to America, and one summer there were 30-40 Vietnamese men and boys living in my house, sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor of our rec room, as Cousin Jim worked out places for them to stay, and eventually started up a furniture business to help them earn a living. As a…

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“Shakespeare in Love” with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra and Stage Right!

When I teach Shakespeare, I will from time to time deliver a short speech for my students, but this was my first time performing Shakespeare before a paying audience. As Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I got to share the stage again with my daughter Carolyn as Puck. (She also had a separate speech as Puck.) In Henry V’s famous St. Crispin’s Day “band of brothers” speech, it was…

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When Robert Pinsky Wrote a Video Game

[F]or a brief time in the mid-nineteen-eighties major literary publishers, including Simon & Schuster and Random House, opened software divisions, and major bookstores stocked works of “interactive fiction.” Popular writers, including Douglas Adams and Thomas M. Disch, turned their capable hands to the burgeoning form. It was in the midst of this excited moment that the future three-term U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky wrote a video game called “Mindwheel,” which,…

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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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What Jane [Austen] Saw: 1796 Shakespeare Gallery

You are invited to time travel to two art exhibitions witnessed by Jane Austen: the Sir Joshua Reynolds retrospective in 1813 or the Shakespeare Gallery as it looked in 1796. These two Georgian blockbusters took place, years apart, in the same London exhibition space at 52 Pall Mall (it no longer exists). When Austen visited in 1813, the building housed the British Institution, an organization promoting native artists. On her…