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"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary," is the line many remember from middle or high school, or a Simpsons episode. It's the opening of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" which flutters not only though America's collective unconscious but is celebrated in Europe, Latin America and Asia as one of the great achievements of A…
 
Something different today: I was lucky to speak with writer Doon Arbus about her debut novel, The Caretaker, published September 2020 by New Directions books. It's a spell-binding, intricate and haunting tale of a world-renowned philosopher's house museum filled with his collection of objects, and the mysterious man who becomes the museum's caretak…
 
Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel Jane Eyre is one of the great love stories of all time, but it's also the story of a woman who speaks her truth even when this means risking everything she wants. Jane, an orphan raised in a cruel family and struggling to survive in a world where poor women have few chances, falls in love with dashing and mysterious Mr…
 
Marx has never left us. In our era of populism, political polarization, and the pandemic, concerns central to Marx such as economic inequality, the consolidation of power in the hands of the few, and the fate of workers - whether officially designated as essential yet treated, exactly, how? - are urgently discussed. How should we think about Marx t…
 
Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was the novel that scandalized, challenged, and inspired Victorian England with its tale of a beautiful young man who trades his soul, captured in a portrait, for eternal youth. Dorian wants to experience life fully, and the book became evidence in the trial where Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard lab…
 
“The fantasy of isolation, the fantasy of intervention: they create recluses and activists, sometimes both, in us all.” This is Brenda Wineapple on the friendship of Emily Dickinson, in my view America's greatest poet, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, editor, writer, abolitionist, activist, and soldier. During this time of a global lockdown, let's l…
 
Why is everyone talking about Michel Foucault these days? How can Foucault's work have so many resonances in our contemporary world? What were his insights and discoveries that have influenced disciplines as diverse as cultural studies, gender and queer studies, or post-colonial studies? There is no doubt that Michel Foucault was one of the greates…
 
"It is impossible it should be the plague, everyone knows it has vanished from the West. -- Yes, everyone knew that, except the dead." Albert Camus's world-famous 1947 novel The Plague is about the human response to extreme circumstances. For a long time the book was read as an allegory of people resisting fascism, but the plague never quite stays …
 
Why read books in dark times? Daniel Defoe, known to most as the author of Robinson Crusoe, published A Journal of the Plague Year in 1722, about the plague that decimated London's population in 1665. The gripping account is presented as a survivor's story who confronts his world being ravaged by an invisible and extremely contagious disease. But D…
 
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