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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…

Up the Hill and Over the Top With Berlioz, Jack Nicholson, and Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)

I had just never heard music like that. I never heard melodies that wafted away and came back to earth a long way off. —Colin Davis on first hearing Berlioz…

In the Month of His Birth, A Little Touch of Shakespeare in the Night

Shakespeare, he’s in the alley with his pointed shoes and his bells …. —Bob Dylan You read me Shakespeare on the rolling Thames, that old river poet who never, ever…

Waiting for the Glass Family: A J.D. Salinger Experience on His Double Anniversary Year

It’s the first day of March and I’m at the new hospital lying on a gurney, unsedated and edgy, nothing to do, no TV I can watch old movies on,…