Posts by: Dinah Fay

Mystery Maven Memoirs

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In the wake of the destruction of precious cultural artifacts during the unrest in Iran and Syria, a quiet memoir from the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie, remembers the landscape and archeological legacy. The autobiographical Come, Tell Me How You Live never technically went out of print, but HarperCollins will re-release the book in time for Ms.

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Dante for Days

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All of Italy, it seems, is gearing up for a serious, extended celebration in honor of the 750th birthday of the beloved poet Dante Alighieri. John Kleiner writes for the New Yorker about the festivities and the country’s intense relationship with Dante, and attempts to put it all in context for an American audience:

The obvious comparison is to Shakespeare, but this is like trying to make sense of Mozart by means of Coltrane: the number of centuries that divide Dante from Shakespeare is practically as large as the number that separates Shakespeare from us.

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The Feminine Mystique of Miss Marple

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Miss Marple’s strength as a mystery novel heroin was inseparable from her character: that of a nosy, small town spinster. Far from taking those identity markers as pejorative, Alice Bolin has written a stirring defense of Miss Marple (and her creator, Agatha Christie) as a champion of a particularly feminine brand of sleuthing: one that requires intimate knowledge of relationships and the domestic habits of her British village.

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Librarians and the Patriot Act

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Librarians have long been on the forefront of information management; in the digital age, they are more invested than ever in protecting the free flow of information to the public, and protecting it from the overreaches of government prying. In June, key provisions of the Patriot Act that justified the government’s massive data collection efforts will expire; among these provisions is Section 215, which allows the FBI to requisition library records.

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Revising ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

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Irony abounds in a story from The Chronicle of Higher Education about Jonathan Gottschall, the pioneering figure of Literary Darwinism, who has taken to MMA fighting since his career as an academic foundered. Gottschall made a splash in literary circles with a dogmatic assertion that the lens of evolutionary biology can and should supercede all other modes of literary analysis; the reaction was polarizing and the fallout, it seems, is ongoing.

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Amazon: The Root of Book Littering?

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The strange case of the “Literature Litterbug”—a mystery perp who’s been dumping used books along a Colorado highway for a year or more—has come to a close, bringing with it a pun-filled police report and plenty of finger-pointing. Glenn Plasden admits that the littering citation was “by the book,” and explains that he simply couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the huge stock he acquired when a Boulder bookstore went out of business eight years ago; he’d been dumping them a few at a time from his moving car, figuring nobody would notice.

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NYPL as Budget Hostage

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A scathing indictment from Jim Dwyer at the New York Times this week accuses city leaders of depriving funding from the library system, and its mayors of holding the NYPL hostage for leverage in budget negotiations. As Dwyer points out, city libraries draw more annual visitors than the museums, sports stadiums, and performing arts institutions combined—and the funding just doesn’t add up.

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Lear’s Metrical Madness

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As part as the Shakespeare on Tor series, Brian Stavely brings us on a quick tour of King Lear’s descent into madness, as evidenced by a careful metrical reading of five speeches. Following the aging monarch through his perfectly-pentametered Latinate invocations of stately power, all the way down to the chaotic exclamations of a man in shambles, Stavely makes quick work of Lear.

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Impending Death of a Dictionary

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Much like the parochial vocabulary it strives to catalogue, the Dictionary of American Regional English is in danger of extinction. A stopgap crowdfunding campaign is currently open to support the project in the short term, but the long-term forecast for the entity protecting such gems as “flumadiddle” (nonsense), “slippery jims” (pickles), and “rantum scooting” (going out with no definite destination) is grim.

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Nightwalking with Dickens

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Long walks are among the most common creative practices, we’re told, for writers from a certain era: Wordsworth, Thoreau, and Blake come quickly to mind. Matthew Beaumont’s new Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London from Verso is a treasure trove of stories about these ambulating authors, and Flavorwire has a piece about how walking after dark influenced the writing of Charles Dickens in particular.

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Shelters for Families, and Books

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Twenty homeless shelters serving NYC families will be getting their own libraries as part of a new initiative from the Departments of Education and Homeless Services. The project, supported by Scholastic and a number of literacy organizations, aims to address the needs of the city’s growing population of homeless children; last year there were over 76,000 homeless students in K-12 schools.

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In the Batcave with Robert Moses

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If you’ve been curious about Robert Moses but put off by the sheer heft of volumes like The Power Broker, a forthcoming comic book rendering of the master builder’s reign is a fun new option. The book, titled Robert Moses, comes from a long French tradition of giving traditionally serious subjects the comic treatment.

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Taylor Swift: Grammar Crusader?

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Proving that the quest for high scores on the SAT is as tragically unhip as ever, The Princeton Review is making headlines for setting off a grammar grudge match with pop sensation Taylor Swift. Swift’s lyrics are not only included in a section on pronoun agreement errors, they’re misquoted (although as Eugene Volokh points out at WaPo, this doesn’t seem to have changed the grammatical point in question). 

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How to Harlequin

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Over at Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth shares a fantastic long form piece on the rise of the Harlequin romance novel, and how the brand became synonymous with a wildly lucrative if critically dismissed genre. From the original formula for woman-centered, alpha-male page turners to Harlequin’s relentless advertising tactics to the question of exactly how much sex sells best, Faircloth presents a sociological study.

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Finally, a Seuss Museum

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The world’s first museum dedicated to the life and work of Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, is set to open in his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts as soon as 2016. The venture will be a welcome addition to the museum circuit of western Mass, already home to the Art Picture Book Museum, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Yiddish Book Center, and will be a lively center for education programs as well as cultural artifacts.

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