October 20, 2014
A cynic might suggest that one way to keep immigrants from wanting to come to the United States would be to show them a dystopian exposé like To the Bone, Lisa Ramirez’s affecting if wildly uneven new Off Broadway play about undocumented female poultry workers slaving away thanklessly in Sullivan County, N.Y. That is not entirely fair, though, since the tense, gnarly tale that unfolds among a quintet of Central American women and a few men in their...
August 4-11, 2014
My wife and I recently drove out to Sauk Centre for an overnight stay. It’s the kind of short trip we enjoy taking. The town, about 75 miles due west of the Twin Cities on Interstate 94, is the birthplace of Harry Sinclair Lewis and was immortalized by him as Gopher Prairie in his hugely successful fourth novel, Main Street.
October 28, 2013
I love horror movies because they show me the sublime. I love them for a lot of other reasons too, I admit, depending on my mood. I don’t believe in a grand, unified theory of horror, or of any other genre of film; most genres are a welter of traditions and counter-traditions. Sometimes you want to see evil defeated by the triumphant “final girl”; at other times, by contrast, you want to see that even the most competent and loving heroines can’t win. You...
October 14, 2013
The cries, it was recorded, could be heard on shore. The piteous shrieks of men “drowning like rattens.” They were the crew of Henry VIII’s beloved flagship, the Mary Rose, the pride of the English Navy Royal, which sank before his very eyes during the Battle of the Solent on July 19, 1545.
September 23, 2013
In the 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, women’s rights have risen, empire waists have fallen and many manners of the day have disappeared with the barouche and the bonnet. But a good love story is timeless, and Jane Austen’s novels still have a place in the hearts and on the bookshelves of readers worldwide.
March 4, 2013
Thirty years ago, I met Robert Frost’s close friend, Rabbi Victor Reichert, who lived only a mile down the hill from the poet in Ripton, Vt. Reichert told me about the time Frost came to his synagogue in Cincinnati. There Frost delivered a passionate sermon, explaining to the crowd that he had no time for “irreligion.” He considered Scripture a live, ongoing revelation, and he considered himself a mouthpiece for the word. In describing this, Reichert seized...
January 21-28, 2013
The thread of Jack Kerouac’s literary and personal life in the American imagination might be unwound succinctly in the following terms: ambitious and fun-loving young man leaves behind his small-town upbringing to chase heroes and dreams in the American West, finding along the way new paths to enlightenment while blazing a trail for generations of seekers to follow.
December 10, 2012
School children are touring the throne room of Buckingham Palace when a taxi enters its enclosure. The youngsters watch as a tuxedoed James Bond (Daniel Craig) steps from the cab. He confidently passes through palace corridors until an attendant, in medals and tails, ushers him into the queen’s chambers. Her Majesty continues to work for a moment.
“Good evening, Mr. Bond.”
“Good evening, Ma’am.”
October 29, 2012
Last fall I visited Zuccotti Park numerous times between its initial occupation on Sept. 17 and when it was violently emptied in the middle of the night by New York City police officers on Nov. 15. After that event I resolved to return two days later to walk with Occupy Wall Street as the movement attempted to close down, or at least delay, the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. Outnumbered and overpowered by the police, the attempt failed, of course, and over 300 people were...
September 10, 2012
It is not hard to come by images of the holy in Tijuana. But in a modest building there a group of Sisters in white saris with three blue stripes cherish a wonderful two-for-one: a newspaper photo of Mother Teresa of Calcutta beaming delightedly as she holds in her hands an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The photograph reminds us of Teresa’s history in Tijuana, and of her joyful relationship with Latin America as a whole.