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On His 130th Birthday — A Little Touch of Kafka in the Night

While today, July 3, is Franz Kafka’s 130th birthday, the shadow of his name continues to spread, stretching on either side of his birth and death dates, 1883 and 1924.…

Don’t Stop Believing — James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano Lives On and On and On and On

The magnitude of the response to James Gandolfini’s death in Rome last Wednesday is clearly also a tribute to a fictional character and a television series created by David Chase…

Sneaking Through Baltimore With Lincoln, Pinkerton, and America’s First Female Private Eye

He reached the Capital as the poor, hunted fugitive slave reaches the North, in disguise, seeking concealment, evading pursuers … crawling and dodging under the sable wing of night. He…

Reading Brooklyn Without a Map, or Henry Miller Saves the Day

The largest and most unknown continent of all is Brooklyn. You can say that I’ve gone out into the wilderness five hundred times armed with a trusty map, now worn…

Light and Dark: Themes and Anthems for a European Tour

The first real summer vacation I ever had was two and a half months in Europe with a student tour called the Golden Bear. I picked that particular tour because…

Spenser in Life: Students and Teachers From Keats to Alpers

Minor miracles are literature’s stock in trade. Thus an English poet who died at 47 in 1599 can change the lives of a stableman’s son in London in 1813, a…

Whistling in the Dark on Wagner’s 200th Birthday

I’m looking at a photograph of my father when he was a graduate student at Indiana University. He’s wearing a sleeveless sweater and in his lap is a princely male…

Doing “Gatsby”: F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Man With the Beautiful Shirts

The Garden Theatre was filled to overflowing for the Friday evening showing of Baz Luhrman’s big, jazzy, flamboyantly picturesque improvisation on The Great Gatsby (see review in this issue). People…

Deanna Durbin’s Star Shone Brightest in the World’s Darkest Hour

It’s already old news now, as dated as its subject — the obituary notices announcing the death at 91 of Deanna Durbin, the “plucky child movie star” who saved Universal…

Hello Goodbye Alexandria: A Five-Day Whirlwind Tour of Cavafy’s City

In the loose living of my early years the impulses of my poetry were shaped, the boundaries of my art were plotted. —C.F. Cavafy, from “Understanding” (1915) Monday was a…