Tag Archive for The New York Times

Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ is Reviewed

Lucky Us

Amy Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ is reviewed

Lucky Us, a new novel by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, received a positive review in The New York Times. “Ms. Bloom does not write deep-dish, straightforward yarns for readers who enjoy conventional drama. She writes sharp, sparsely beautiful scenes that excitingly defy expectation, and part of the pleasure of reading her is simply keeping up with her,” begins the review. “You won’t know where ‘Lucky Us’ is headed until, suddenly, it’s there.”

Set in the 1930s and ’40s, the story follows Eva Logan, a girl who finds herself living with her father after discovering he has another secret, much wealthier family. With her new-found family, Eva criss-crosses the country, experiencing glamorous parties in Hollywood and more humble life in Long Island. The review calls Lucky Us a “short, vibrant book about all kinds of people creating all kinds of serial, improvisatory lives. Changes occur because characters fall in and out of love, trouble and, yes, luck.”

Lucky Us was also reviewed on NPR, and in Entertainment Weekly and Popmatters.

Why Liberal Education Matters

Beyond the UniversityIn connection with the release of his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education MattersWesleyan President Michael S. Roth has new op-eds and interviews published about the value of a pragmatic liberal education.

Writing in The New York TimesRoth warns against education that overemphasizes critical deconstruction of literature, art or other material. He writes:

Of course critical reflection is fundamental to teaching and scholarship, but fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence has contributed to depleting our cultural resources. Creative work, in whatever field, depends upon commitment, the energy of participation and the ability to become absorbed in works of literature, art and science. That type of absorption is becoming an endangered species of cultural life, as our nonstop, increasingly fractured technological existence wears down our receptive capacities.

Roth calls upon students to allow themselves to be absorbed in compelling work, and consider how they might find inspiration, meaning or direction through it.

Roth also had an op-ed published in The Boston Globe on “The Case for a Liberal Education.” In an age when pundits continually question whether the cost of a college education is “worth it,” and undergraduates behave like consumers, Roth argues against notions that non-monetized learning is wasted or worthless. He writes, “The bartender with a chemistry degree is the contemporary version of the Jeffersonian ideal of a farmer who reads the classics with pleasure and insight, or John Dewey’s image of the industrial worker who can quote Shakespeare. For generations of Americans, these have been signs of a healthy republic.”

And Roth concludes:

The willingness today by some to limit higher education to only certain students or to constrict the college curriculum to a neat, instrumental itinerary is a critical mistake, one that neglects a deep American tradition of humanistic learning. This tradition has been integral to our nation’s success and has enriched the lives of generations of students by enhancing their capacities for shaping themselves and reinventing the world they will inhabit. Since the founding of this country, education has been closely tied to individual freedom, and to the ability to think for oneself and to contribute to society by unleashing one’s creative potential.

The pace of change in American higher education has never been faster, and the ability to shape change and seek opportunity has never been more valuable. Our rapid search engines can only do so much: If we want to push back against inequality and enhance the vitality of our culture and economy, we need pragmatic liberal education.

Roth also was interviewed recently in The Atlantic  about his book in an article titled “There’s Nothing Liberal about Specializing in Philosophy.” He muses on what Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would think about the state of higher education today; economic inequality and access to a college education; liberal versus vocational learning; and the power of a liberal arts education to expand horizons and transform world views.

Asimov ’79 Invites Readers to Join ‘Wine School’

Eric Asimov ’79, The New York Times’ wine critic, invites readers to “get out your corkscrew” in a new monthly “Wine School” column. In each installment, Asimov chooses a type of wine for readers to try at home, and asks them to share thoughts, comments and questions on The New York Times’ website.

“You don’t have to know much about wine to enjoy it. But if you become interested in wine and want to examine it more closely, your pleasure will deepen. What was merely satisfying becomes rewarding and, occasionally, even profound. This is the goal of the Wine School, which begins today: to help create an atmosphere of pleasure, attentiveness and curiosity about wine that will lead to knowing what you like, what you do not and why. I hope you will join me in the coming months to drink some wine together.”

Read the first Wine School column here.

“Save Us From the SAT”

Boylan   In the wake of the College Board’s big changes to the SAT, Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80 recalls a difficult experience with the exam while she was applying to Wesleyan. A mordantly funny op-ed in The New York Times details her confusion, frustration and fear during her first SAT attempt.

” I was in trouble,” she writes. “The first few analogies were pretty straightforward — along the lines of ‘leopard is to spotted as zebra is to striped’ — but now I was in the tall weeds of nuance.” Getting past the analogy questions was one thing. Boylan details what happened next:

“This was the moment I saw the terrible thing I had done, the SAT equivalent of the Hindenburg disaster. I’d accidentally skipped a line on my answer sheet, early in that section of the test. Every answer I’d chosen, each of those lines of graphite-filled bubbles, was off by one. I looked at the clock. Time was running out. I could see the Wesleyan campus fading before my eyes.

“I began moving all my bubbles up one line, erasing the wrong answers. The eraser on my No. 2 pencil hadn’t been at full strength when I’d started, and now I was nearly down to the metal.

“Then there was a ripping sound.

“I picked up the answer sheet. Through the gaping hole in the middle of it, I could see the hair of the girl in front of me.”

Boylan says the problem isn’t the way the Scholastic Aptitude Test is structured – it’s the test itself. She calls for its abolition.

 “The SAT is a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture,” she writes. “The College Board can change the test all it likes, but no single exam, given on a single day, should determine anyone’s fate. The fact that we have been using this test to perform exactly this function for generations now is a national scandal.” Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College and the author of several memoirs. She is a contributing op-ed writer at The New York Times.

Odede ’12 Calls for ‘New Systems of Urban Promise’

In the lead op-ed in The New York Times Jan. 9, Kennedy Odede’12 described the despair and desperation of growing up in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. He writes movingly of his childhood friends succumbing to lives of crime and terror as they sought a way out of crushing poverty.

“These are more than singular tragedies; they contribute to the psyche of being poor,” Kennedy writes. “This psyche inculcates hopelessness, dispels a belief in the possibility of tomorrow’s being better than today, compels a resignation to the fact that you may suffer the same tragic fate as your peers, and fuels anger because there is no escape and you did not choose this — you simply drew life’s short straw.   This, perhaps, is terrorism’s fertile ground. Because if you grew up as I did, self-protection requires coming to terms with violence and terror. Violence becomes a vehicle of survival. ”

Terrorism is bred  in places like Kibera, he argues, calling for “new systems of urban promise” in Nairobi and elsewhere.

Odede is the founder of Shining Hope for Communities, and was a 2013 New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Work Based on Wesleyan Class to Premiere

The New York Times previews “Spill,” a drama that grew out of a class taught at Wesleyan by Leigh Fondakowski on the work behind “The Laramie Project.” Fondakowski co-taught the course with Barry Chernoff, director of the College of the Environment, as part of the Creative Campus Initiative.

Why Teach?

Writing for The New York TimesPresident Michael S. Roth reviews a new book by University of Virginia Professor Mark Edmundson, called, Why Teach? In Defense of a Real Education. Edumundson is a champion of great teaching, which he says has the power to “make students rethink who they are and whom they might become.” But he bemoan the state of higher education today: “the consumer mentality of students and their families, the efforts of administrators to provide a full spa experience and the rush of faculty to escape from the classroom into esoteric research.”

Roth writes: “Mr. Edmundson worries that too many professors have lost the courage of their own passions, depriving their students of the fire of inspiration. Why teach? Because great professors can ‘crack the shell of convention,’ shining a light on a life’s different prospects. They never aim at conversion, only at what Emerson called ‘aversion’ — bucking conformity so as to discover possibility.”

Kogan ’98 Creates a “Happier” Social Network

The New York Times featured Nataly Kogan ’98 and her Boston-based start-up “Happier” on its Bits technology blog. On the Happier social network, “No happy moment is too small, and no negativity is allowed.” Kogan told the Times that unlike on Facebook and Twitter, which are so broad that users feel like they have to make a big impression with each post, Happier users can celebrate small moments of joy–a cup of coffee they enjoyed that day, but not necessarily the best latte of their life. Happier’s iPhone app came out in February, and it’s also available through the Web.

Krishnan’s NYC Dance Performance Reviewed

Assistant Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan’s performance at The LaMama Moves! Dance Festival 2013 in New York City was called “memorable,” “arresting and absurd” in a review in The New York TimesThe review states:

Dancing his own solo, “The Frog Princess,” in the southern Indian classical dance style of Bharatanatyam, Mr. Krishnan showed real accomplishment, charm and liveliness. The most obviously striking feature is that he does not perform with the traditional costume, makeup or ankle bells of Indian dance. Barefoot, he wears a simple two-piece black costume that would fit right in at plenty of modern-dance performances.

He’s a communicator. He has the speaking eyes, the flourishing gesture, the cascading and pounding rhythm to make Bharatanatyam compelling. You feel him seizing the audience with his glances, complex meters, fully three-dimensional phrases — even with an isolated finger.

Basinger on “Fill the Void”

The New York Times called upon Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger, who recently published a book on marriage movies, to comment on a new film called, “Fill the Void.” Set in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, the film “weaves the intimate particulars of Hasidic life into the more conventional marriage plot, a Hollywood staple,” according to the article.

“The Orthodox community is maintaining the form of the marriage film because it is maintaining a former form of social intercourse,” said Basinger.

“It comes down to issues that are recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship,” Basinger said. The challenge, she added, is to “find the little action that explains the bigger meaning.”

‘I Do and I Don’t’ in the Sunday Book Review

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger’s new book, I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies was reviewed in The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review section. The book entertainingly explains how “moviemakers create excitement and drama out of that most quotidian of institutions,” marriage.

“Romance movies may demand chemistry, but movies about marriage demand something more difficult to create — a sense that a couple are simpatico, that however much they may bicker and snipe, their deep understanding and feeling for each other will ultimately keep them together.”