Whatever happened to poetry? Why don’t most of us read it anymore? Can you name three prominent poets? In his book, Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America, Mike Chasar chronicles a time not so very long ago (the first half of the 20th century) when average people consumed, created and cared about poetry. I asked Mr. Chasar for an interview and this is the result. Continue reading →
The question of what constitutes a classic work of literature is often restricted to primarily Western works. Ditto the matter of what constitutes a readership. In his book Text to Tradition: The Naisadhīyacarita and Literary Community in South Asia, Deven M. Patel addresses these fascinating questions. I asked him for an interview and this is the result. Continue reading →
“What a loser.” Ouch. Not something we would ever want said of ourselves. Americans do not look kindly on failure or failures. What role have they played in American literary history? Which characters in American classic novels would you categorize as failures? How many American writers thought of themselves as failures or thought long and hard about failure? These are the kinds of questions Gavin Jones addresses in his book, Failure and the American Writer: A Literary History. I was intrigued by the title and asked Mr. Jones for an interview. He graciously agreed, and this is the result. Continue reading →
Quick: what books pop into your head when you think of classics of world literature? Don Quixote? The Arabian Nights? Why do some books become part of the canon of world literature and not merely beloved of specific nations or cultures? In his new book, The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature, Michael Emmerich discusses a classic of Japanese literature that also became one of the books that cultured people at least know about. What does the tale of The Tale of Genji tell us about reading habits and questions of literary prestige worldwide over the centuries and about Japan’s role in the world? I wrote to ask Mr. Emmerich for an interview. He graciously agreed and this is the result.
Are American women slobs? That is the question at the heart of the new book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski. She takes fashion and style very seriously and thinks we should do, too. I wanted to know if elegance matters much anymore compared to the era Przybyszewski chronicles. I asked her for an interview. She graciously agreed and this is the result. Continue reading →
The first two words of the title caught my eye: Obscenity Rules. Did they suggest a roar of triumph, an occasion for fist-pumping and saying, “Yeah! Obscenity rules!” Or did they indicate that the book is a dispassionate guide to the legal landscape of free expression in the 21st century? And who was this “Roth” person? I wrote to the author of the new book, Obscenity Rules: Roth v. United States and the Long Struggle over Sexual Expression (Buy at Amazon or UP of Kansas), Whitney Strub, to ask him for an interview. He graciously agreed, and this is the result.
Race, law, and literature: they form part of who we are as Americans and readers. After I learned about Karla F.C. Holloway’s book, Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature (buy at Amazon or Duke UP), I wrote to ask her for an interview. She graciously agreed and this is the result.
What are we talking about when we talk about video? When we say we watched it on video, is that correct usage, and how long have we been doing that?
These are the kinds of questions addressed by Michael Z. Newman in his book, Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium (buy at Columbia UP and Amazon). Video already has a history? Intrigued, I wrote to Mr. Newman and asked for an interview. He graciously agreed. This is the result.
New stuff. New ideas. New concepts. New paradigms. Gotta love ‘em. I loved the idea of a history (so connected with the past) of the new. I wrote to Michael North to ask him for an interview about his book, Novelty: A History of the New (buy at U Chicago P or Amazon). He graciously agreed and this is the result.