Category Archives: Books


20 Funny: The August Version (Part 2)

11. “Have you ever wondered about the stupidity of the term ‘o’clock’?  Americans have happily incorporated into our everyday speech a term that makes us sound like leprechauns.” Gene Weingarten, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post, from The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death.

12. Voice-mail prompt: “After the tone please leave your I.Q. or your blood pressure, whichever is higher.” Lewis Frumkes, author of How To Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children.

13. On health f…


20 Funny: The August Version (Part 1)

George Carlin (HBO photo by Paul Schiraldi on New York Times site. Click to get to source page.)

1-3. “Regardless of what other people say, my tendency to overreact and lose all perspective makes me a theatrically interesting person”; “Because I unfairly demand too much of myself, today I will allow myself to act in distinctly untrustworthy and irresponsible ways”; “I take pride in the fact that my personal power comes from my innate sense of insecurity.”

–Ann Thornhill and Sarah Wells, from Tod…


6 Things Your Dissertation Director Wishes You Knew

(photo by Drew Coffman via Flickr/CC)

1. Only you can figure out how to manage your personal and emotional life; as advisers we can listen, challenge comfort, and offer guidance. The guidance we can offer most effectively is of the professional sort.

You must handle your domestic conflicts in the appropriate arena while keeping a check on how they affect your productivity.  Please don’t ask us to assist you with anything apart from your work too often, too regularly, or with too much of an empha…


My Husband on Emma Stone’s Bed in ‘Spider-Man’

Let me clarify that: my husband’s book–Poetry, An Introduction (fifth edition), published by Bedford/St. Martins–appears briefly but decidedly  in the scene where Spider-Man first shows up at her bedroom window. As the good high school student Stone plays, she has a couple of books displayed prominently on the bedspread and TA-DA! Michael’s is one of them.

I was delighted by the prospect of seeing this shot the moment a friend from marketing told us about it; I dragged us both to an early show. …


Top 20 Smart & Witty Lines for July 2012

1. “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” Mark Twain

2. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Mark Twain

3. “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner

4. . “Why are they called illegal immigrants? They’re undocumented workers. If someone broke into my house and vacuumed my rug, I might be puzzled. But mad?” Wanda Sykes

5. “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for …


MacFarlane’s ‘Ted,’ Waugh’s ‘Sebastian,’ and Betjeman’s ‘Archie’




Grown men with teddy bears? A new movie with Mark Wahlberg? The 1981 Granada series with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons? A heartbreaking poem about a teddy bear– mentioning Adler, Jung and Freud in its final stanza?

Okay, so my first thought, when faced with grown men and furry toys, is of the terribly well-groomed Aloysuis belonging to Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.”

Then I think immediately of Archie, a.k.a. Archibald Ormsby-Gore, the strict Baptist teddy bea…


When Did People Stop Whistling?

Remember Harris Mackim from Catcher in the Rye? You probably don’t remember his name. I didn’t either and I spent years of my adolescence reading and re-reading Salinger.

But if you read the book even once, you probably remember Mackim as ”very intelligent and all, but … one of the biggest bores I ever met. He had one of these very raspy voices, and he never stopped talking, practically. He never stopped talking, and what was awful was, he never said anything you wanted to hear in the first pla…


Last, First, Best, and Worst of Sins: Pride

Pride, say the sin scholars, led to our being expelled from Eden; Eve was flattered and ate.

Adam didn’t want to bother making his own meal and since there was no fast food in Paradise, he ate, too. It was downhill from there, leading to depravity, mortality, and Popeye’s-to-go.

Pride made Lucifer into the bad guy. Declaring in Milton’s version that he’d rather rule in hell than serve in heaven, Lucifer went from being merely head chef in paradise to owning the first barbecue franchise. As much …


Lust: A Dish Best Served Warm

(Photo by Leah Vanderbilt via Flickr/CC)

My students are prudes as well as innocents. Science has convinced them, against their better judgement, that they haven’t actually invented sex. But they continue to believe they are the only people to have ever experienced lust.

Isn’t that just adorable?

Every generation thinks it invents lust, but that’s as cute and as false as every generation’s thinking its elders sat around carving wheels out of stone as the earth’s crust cooled.

As long as people h…


Summer Reading 2012

Grades are in; graduation photographs are posted on Facebook. Amanda Tinder Smith, erstwhile graduate candidate, is now Amanda Tinder Smith, Ph.D.–and will be starting work as a faculty member at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in the fall. Sam Ferrigno, B.A., has an internship at Yale University Press, where he’ll get to know Niamh Cunningham, who not only works at YUP but has completed the first year of her M.A. program in English at Yale. Next fall Lisa D is starting her M.F.A. at Colu…


Loud Girl Talking

This is what one of my students wrote about me and I have decided that it’s how I want to be known for the rest of my life:

“You are the loudest teacher I have ever had. It’s not only your voice that’s loud, although nobody would ever call you a ‘low-talker,’ but everything about you is loud. The way you dress, the way you express your ideas about the books we’re reading, and the way you call on us to make sure we make our own ideas are heard is inescapable. We learned within the first two weeks…


So You’re Defending Your Dissertation Tomorrow!

Don't worry. I've got you. I promise: You'll wow everyone (and might even have fun). (Photo by Flickr/CC user suran2007)

Dearest ATS,

Congratulations: It’s a BOOK!

Your 273-page volume–the weighty, serious, mighty tome–is sitting in the center of my cluttered desk. Since it’s bigger than everything else around it (how small and slight those 20-page student papers look in comparison!), I can’t miss it. It’ll be there tomorrow when we all meet to perform the one-to-two-hour ritual during which you…


Celebration of Life, Loss of Innocence, and ‘Out of Africa’

In my upper-division literature classes, we always end up talking about those astonishing moments when characters understand that their fates are indeed in their own hands, and we also end up spending lots of time discussing those equally shattering moments when characters lose their innocence. Sometimes these moments coincide in a narrative–or in a life. Often they do not.

Greta Scheibel, who graduated from UConn a few years ago, joined the Peace Corps, and is now Executive Director of United P…


12 Things Tenure-Track Faculty Can Learn From ‘The Hunger Games’

"During my comprehensives, they barely touched on Trollope. You're screwed, Katniss." (Still from official "Hunger Games" movie site. Click on the pic to get there.)

I saw The Hunger Games and hated it. The film version of The Hunger Games was more sentimental than Titanic, more misleadingly tough-chick than Pretty Woman, and less well-written than Happy Feet.

But I do believe that there are lessons to be learned from the movie, important ones, and ones, most crucially, that will make the cinema…


A Dartmouth ’79 Discusses That ‘Rolling Stone’ Article About Hazing

When I wrote my book about what it was like to be a student at Dartmouth—Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy League—I wrote it from the perspective of someone who was an outsider: as a working class, Italian-French-Canadian kid whose parents had not graduated from high school and who had no idea what she was getting herself into when she signed up to start college in Hanover, NH. Recently out in paperback, Babes has done pretty well for a woman’s memoir, received surpr…


New Novelist, Great Book: Carole DeSanti

Yes, I know you’re busy and that already have plenty of books to read, but—trust me on this one—you must get a copy of Carole DeSanti’s new novel The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. All right, so don’t trust me: trust Publishers Weekly , Valerie Martin, Deborah Harkness, Sarah Blake, Mireille Guiliano, and Fay Weldon, all of whom love the book.

Weldon says DeSanti has written ” a book to you make you think,” calling it “a magnificent novel in scope and achievement” where “death does its worst, pas…


Spring Break: The Instructor’s Manual

1. You gave them exams and/or papers to complete right before spring break, didn’t you? Why? You know better. You do this every year, thinking that they’ll be especially motivated to do a good job right before they get some time off. You believe, too, that you’ll be able to read and assess their work in a thoughtful and meaningful manner, since you’ll have a week to yourself. You forget that they are motivated not to do a good job but to get their carry-ons as filled with sunscreen, cover-ups, s…


Screaming Mimi, the White House Intern

Here’s my new goal: I want to write a tell-all book and be widely celebrated for how well I keep secrets.

That’s a trick I’d really love to a master, like sawing the last thin remnants of a reputation in half and having it appear whole.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about Screaming Mimi, the JFK intern who decided to wait until everybody was dead (guess daughters don’t count, huh, Mimi?) and write a book with information nobody can prove but that fascinates us all. It doesn’t say much for he…


More on Dickens

One of the readers of my piece yesterday on Dickens has sent me a list of words that came from Dickens and are now in the English language. These are:

Wellerism, from Sam Weller, Mr. Pickwick’s servant (in Pickwick Papers), meaning making fun of clichés often by taking them literally. For example (when serving lunch): “Now, gen’l’m’n, ‘fall on, as the English said to the French when they fixed bagginets.”

Fagin, from the receiver of stolen goods (in Oliver Twist), meaning an adult who instructs…


Rereading Jane Eyre

Every year, I travel back to a time and place I’ve never been, but feel incredibly familiar with—the landscapes and relationships crafted by Charlotte Bronte, in Jane Eyre.  Right now, I’m finishing another reread.  Like many, my first brush with the novel occurred during childhood—my favorite passage was the exchange between Jane and Mr. Brocklehurst, the sanctimonious clergyman in charge of Lowood, a boarding school for indigent girls—where he asked, if she was to avoid going to hell w…