Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Week in Reading April 13 - 19

What last week lacked, this week gives back to us in spades. There are authors of very heady stuff, (including, appropriately, even an author named Braine,) and no less than three Nobel prizewinners, Anatole France, Samuel Beckett, and, recently, Seamus Heaney. Then there are strong social thinkers like George Lukacs and Emile Durkheim, avant garde poets and writers of style, and literary greats Henry James, Eudora Welty, and Thornton Wilder.

This Week's Question: It's National Library Week and we've got Thomas Jefferson, who put the Declaration of Independence into great words and whose bequest of his personal library created the Library of Congress. Also appropriately, three very important dictionaries have anniversaries of note in this week: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, and the later definitive opus, the Oxford English Dictionary. One of the major arguments and frequent misunderstandings about dictionaries is whether or not they are proscriptive or descriptive. The same different understandings of purpose is often applied to public libraries. What is that argument?

Answer to Last Week's Question: The writer speaking of the follies of Shakespeare commentators included himself in his remarks. He was the obscure ninetenth century Shakespearan editor and literary critic, William Hazlitt, who apparently had a sense of humor.

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