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150 Years Later — The President, The Poet, and the Master

Writing in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which occurred 150 years ago Tuesday, Walt Whitman refers to the fallen president as “the greatest, best, most characteristic,…

On The Centenary — A Jazz Pilgrim’s Progress Leads to Billie Holiday

The other day a high school friend wrote to say that in the course of selling off his record collection he’d found an old Stan Kenton LP of mine and…

Poetry’s Month Begins With “Mad Men,” Wallace Stevens, and Tomas Tranströmer

One of my favorite moments in Mad Men, maybe my all time favorite, is when the craven Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) thinks he has the goods on Don Draper (Jon…

Looking for Flannery O’Connor on Her 90th Birthday — “The Dreary Chair She Sat in Glowed.”

I have a large tumor and if they don’t make haste and get rid of it, they will have to remove me and leave it. —Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) The characteristic…

A Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale Discovery Illuminates the Literary Year

All in all the most useful volume I ever found at the Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale, which begins with a $25 preview Friday, March 20, at 10 a.m., is “a…

There’s Something About Mary — An Immodest Proposal for “Downton Abbey” 

Just for fun, I’m going to do a number on Downton Abbey. Devoted fans may see no reason for tampering with that fabulously popular tour de force of an ensemble…

“Where Do We Go From Here?” — Thoughts on Diaries, George Kennan, and the Demise of a Building 

Whenever I see the snow-covered ruins of the former medical center I’m reminded of the euphoria of the day I became a father and of the trauma of enduring an…

In the Month of Jazz and Black History — Clark Terry and Malcolm X

Clark Terry (1920-2015), whose horn could charm the birds off the trees, was adept at translating the lyric of a song into what he called the language of jazz, “how…

Reading Lincoln  — “In the Great Journal of Things Happening Under the Sun”

In Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus calls history “a shout in the street.” Too bad the classroom windows were closed as I sleepwalked through high school, no shouts, no streets, only a…

Men of Great Spirit and Fine Feeling: Mr. Ciccolini, Mr. Turner, Mr. Lennon, and Mr. McCartney

Have you heard the word is love — Lennon/McCartney, “The Word” With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, and the Oscars not far behind, I’ve been thinking about love scenes in film,…

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