Cliche-Dar

Cliches get stuck to most people’s writing like butter on toast, or maybe like shit on a stick (an expression with surprising origins). I’ve heard the accusation time and again: editors, writers, and critics are all very quick to point…

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White Boy Shuffle – The Irony of Race

I recall my introduction to African-American literature as a child. A teacher asked my small-town classroom, full of eager young white children to memorize and report on a Langston Hughes poem. I chose “A Negro Speaks of Rivers.” The poem’s…

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America’s Orwellian Problem: Political Language and Democracy

Every undergrad in America today knows the term “Orwellian.” It’s pretty quickly inserted into the armory of would-be political scientists and armchair philosophers as a means of describing discourse that is designed to serve political ends and obfuscate truth. And…

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The Martian

Robinson Crusoe is not a novel that I think leaves a wholly pleasant aftertaste in the western cannon. I don’t mean to suggest that the book is badly written or historically unimportant, merely that it embraces various European fantasies and realities (slavery, white…

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Danubia: the Praise of Folly

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit central Europe a number of times in my life. But for my most recent adventure, I brought along a copy of Simon Winder’s Danubia, probably the finest companion one could have for such a journey….

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The Song of Achilles

Years ago, when I was very young, I remember sitting in a tree far out in the woods behind my home and reading The Illiad. For some three thousand years now, in a line that stretches back to the early…

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Cat’s Cradle

About seventy years ago, our species made an interesting decision. We tested the first nuclear weapon. These days, we’ve managed to forget a great deal about this choice. But Kurt Vonnegut was a close contemporary to these events, and was one…

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Capital for the Twenty-First Century

Capitalism and democracy have always had an uneasy history together, despite their seemingly complimentary natures. Democracy has always acted a bit like capitalism’s irritating little brother, and has picked countless fights over the years. Some of these it wins, but…

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As promised, Fifty Shades of Grey

Ugh. I read Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. I want to say that I did so that you don’t have to. Honestly though, part of me thinks you should. After all, this book birthed the mommy porn genre and…

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“F” by Daniel Kehlmann

I’d never heard of Daniel Kehlmann (Measuring the World, Fame) before the novel F was recommended to me. Though I’ll confess that it was the promise of a comic German novel that ultimately put the book in my hands. After…

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