Critical Reads September 21, 2012: The Rewriting History Edition
- Best of List
“Yesterday’s meadow morphs into today’s High Line, Keats’s Philomela into Lady Gaga.”
Rome wasn't built in a day, but it's history can be. That was the lesson learned this week, as Maria Konnikova uncovered HMH's "mums the word" approach to online sales of the recalled Jonah Lehrer book Imagine. Then, too, professors added hip-hop artists and under the radar works to the poetry ranks. Dictionaries have added words to their pages after they've already been circulated, and Rachel Darden Bennett reflected on her mother's life after memories were lost to Alzheimer's disease.
How to Make a Book Disappear (The Atlantic)
Following the media frenzy of Lehrergate 2012, when it was discovered that Jonah Lehrer had made up quotations and attributed them to Mr. Bob Dylan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt removed the offending Imagine from bookshelves. Yet evidently, they also removed the book from online bookshelves without much in the way of explanation. Here Maria Konnikova makes the case that the people need answers. Since the reasoning for HMH's removal of the book has already been widely disseminated through the media, I think there's a bigger question though, and it is this: who is the person who will buy the $249.95 first edition Imagine from Amazon seller Landlubber Books? And is this just the beginning of capitalizing on Lehrer's fall from grace?
Banished Words (The Smart Set)
Not so long ago, emoticon was not to be found in the dictionary. And some people preferred it that way. In this article from The Smart Set, Professor Jerry DeNuccio breaks down the language Luddite argument but ultimately tells the nostalgic whiners to get over it. Language changes. Just take the snappier "holiday," which once was more cumbersomely "Holy Day."
Poetry's Cross-Dressing Kingmaker (NY Times)
At the National Book Critics Circle Lit Crawl event last Saturday, one critic self-deprecatingly remarked that if no one reads poetry anymore, then being a critic of poetry is an even sadder state of affairs. Yet Stephen Burt has made a dream career for a poetry critic, successfully championing underrated poets and teaching Ivy Leaguers. In this profile, Mark Oppenheimer assesses Burt's abundant enthusiasm, taste for underdogs, and, the hook of the article, his cross-dressing.
The Professor of Hip-Hop: Adam Bradley's Poetic Mission (The Daily Beast)
It doesn't matter what LL Cool J and Eminem have to say about hip-hop. University of Colorado professor Adam Bradley is arguing for hip-hop's place in poetry, shocking some with his comparisons of hip-hop artists and more traditional poets. In one recent class, he compared Emily Dickinson and Lauryn Hill. I've got to say, Bradley makes me wish a little that I was an undergrad at U of C. For more reading on the subject, check out one of my favorite books, Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity by Adam Krims.
Beside Her (The Rumpus)
The other day I was watching a documentary about a film director who developed aphasia and had to stop making films. It scared me senseless, so it was only with much trepidation that I read this narrative essay by Rachel Darden Bennett about her relationship with her mother, who has developed a form of Alzheimer's that has left her unable to write. I'm happy I did. It's a wonderful portrait of the seesawing of nurturing that occurs as parents and children age.
Check back every Friday for the next installment of our Critical Reads series.
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