I have, as they say, a lot of balls in the air. Hence the lack of content of late. To assuage my guilt I offer a few interesting links:
– In the midst of a review of Stacy Schiff’s A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America Slate reviewer Rachel Cohen praises the author with this though provoking paragraph:
The avid reader of biographies has of late plunged into so many studies that begin, like certain realist novels, with the subject’s grandparents and their immigration, followed inevitably by chapters on “initial obstacles” and “first successes,” and then by wearying passages on “maturity” and “flaws,” that Schiff’s choice to present her biography not as if it were a novel, but with a sense of theater, comes as a welcome change. Schiff has thought through the form carefully and creatively, deciding on a version of the Aristotelian dramatic principle that there should be a unity of time and place in the unfolding of her story. The setting, then, is Paris in the years between 1776 and 1785, and each chapter of the book traces a year or 18 months of that period.
Are biographies too much like realist novels and not enough like theater?
– Thought provoking article on Biblical literacy by David Gelernter in the Weekly Standard. He raises a couple of issues: 1) What do students know about the Bible, 2) what impact does that have? and 3) what can we do about it? Along the way he raises some “tricky questions.” Here is a taste:
Evidently young Americans don’t know much about the Bible (or anything else, come to think of it; that’s another story). But let’s not kid ourselves–this problem will be hard to attack. It’s clear that any public school that teaches about America must teach about the Bible, from outside. But teaching the Bible from inside (reading Scripture, not just about Scripture) is trickier. You don’t have to believe in the mythical “wall of separation” between church and state–which the Bill of Rights never mentions and had no intention of erecting–to understand that Americans don’t want their public schools teaching Christianity or Judaism.
But can you teach the Bible as mere “literature” without flattening and misrepresenting it? How will you address the differences (which go right down to the ground) between Jews and Christians respecting the Bible? (The question is not so much how to spare Jewish sensibilities–minorities have rights, but so do majorities; the question is how to tell the truth.) What kind of parents leave their children’s Bible education to the public schools, anyway? How do we go beyond public schools in attacking a nationwide problem of Bible illiteracy?
– Christopher Orlet discusses a problem with urban libraries in the American Spectator. After describing the St. Louis’ Public Library (designed in 1912 by Cass Gilbert, architect of the U.S. Supreme Court Building and New York’s celebrated Woolworth Building) and its problems with men from a nearby homeless shelter, Orlet argues that the crisis is national:
AMERICA’S URBAN biblioteques long ago lost their cachet as havens for scholarly research. Once “the delivery room for the birth of ideas — a place where history comes to life,” they are now little more than a place to flop, surf the Net, or a source of free rock CDs and DVDs one can take home and copy. Once cultural Meccas, urban libraries are now more akin to homeless shelters, lunatic asylums, and public baths. The problem is not unique to St. Louis. Libraries across the country are experiencing similar troubles.
Food for thought . . .