Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This Week in Reading September 21 - 27

Ancient Greek playwright Euripides, fantasists H. G. Wells and Stephen King, literary lights F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner, and poet T. S. Eliot, (the last two Nobel prizewinners) make this week a strong one for well known authors. It is also the week of the birth of the American Bill of Rights that were put into the first ten amendments to our country's constitution.

As always there are notable writers of literary fiction and other genres, among them Louis Auchincloss, Fay Weldon, and Jane Smiley along with fantasy writer Will Self and romance novelist Rosamunde Pilcher. The current United States Poet Laureate, California's Kay Ryan was also born this week.

This Week's Question: There are many parallels to the economic thoughtlessness of the Roaring Twenties that Fitzgerald described in his most well known work, The Great Gatsby, and the financial market crisis that the country is facing this week. At about the same time H.G. Wells was continuing to work on the economics of his book A Modern Utopia in which he somewhat naively assumed "whether indeed usury, that is to say the lending of money, at fixed rates of interest, will be permitted at all in Utopia, one may venture to doubt." If we are to face a new and greater Great Depression are we also likely to face a new and greater New Deal of a sustainable kind later on in the process? What political cartoon would Thomas Nast draw about all this?

Which author, alive at that same time, would not seek perfect happiness of either kind, and said this? "People need trouble— a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don't mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy."

Answer to Last Week's Question: Humorist Robert Benchley said, "The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him. That remark in itself wouldn’t make any sense if quoted as it stands. " We may disagree, however. Try him on Wikiquote. Benchley has said a lot worth repeating. For example, the reason this post never appears on Monday anymore: "Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment. " We should call this the librarian's lament. What was that other question again?

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