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“Why Read the Classics?” – Italo Calvino

“Why Read the Classics?”, an essay by Italo Calvino, in which he provides 14 reasons why classic literature matters.  In this excerpt he explains why old books are still relevant “overwhelmed as we are by the avalanche of current events”: At this point I can no longer put off the vital problem of how to relate the […]

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The New Yorker / Running Novelist

About a week ago, The New Yorker started opening its archives for free reading over the summer. This Slate guide gives a quick list of some of the top stories over the past several years. After this ‘grace period’ these articles will only be available with a paid subscription. Here is an excerpt from one of […]

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“Cookies” – Douglas Adams

This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person is me. I had gone to catch a train, This was April 1976, in Cambridge, U.K. I was about twenty minutes early. I’d got the time of the train wrong. I suppose it is at least equally possible,” he added after a moment’s reflection, “that British Rail […]

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Steinbeck’s BDay

For John Steinbeck’s 112th birthday, here are nine Steinbeck quotes about writing, living, and individualism: 1. In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly […]

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Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley – David Foster Wallace

Part of the collection “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again“, I recently read David Wallace’s essay “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley”. The essay was a perfect complement to my trip back to the midwest: When I left my boxed township of Illinois farmland to attend my dad’s alma mater in the lurid jutting […]

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A Liberal Decalogue – Bertrand Russell

“Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything. Do not think […]

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Yan Nascimbene and Italo Calvino

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“In a word, all was somehow desolate and splendid, as it is given to neither nature nor art to devise” – Dead Souls

Chapter 6 of Gogol’s Dead Souls, description of Plyushkin’s garden: In places green, sun struck thickets parted to reveal a hollow between them, untouched by light and gaping like a dark maw, it was cast all in shadow, and its black depths afforded but the faintest glimpse of a coursing narrow path, the ruins of […]

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A Calm Place to Think: On Reading the Classics

Essay by Guy Patrick Cunningham at The Millions on active reading, and Twitter: The key is to take both together — to avoid getting trapped only reading classics, like Macdonald’s “catch-up” reader, or only reading fragments or bits of text online. The point is not to set up a dichotomy between old and new — and […]