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“The great thing about writing fiction is that you can dream while you’re awake.

-Haruki Murakami

Born to Be Eternal: Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf

At the dawn of the twentieth century, new technologies seemed to burst into existence like morning glories opening to the sun. The airplane and automobile shrank the globe while telephone and radio connected its inhabitants in unforeseen ways. Along with these innovations, fresh perspectives in the arts seemed to ripen on every intellectual tree andContinue reading “Born to Be Eternal: Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf

Teaching Stone Men to Walk: Farid Ud-Din Attar’s Conference of the Birds

Toward the end of The Conference of the Birds, the poet presents us with a striking image. A man in China has become a stone;He sits and mourns, and at each muffled groanWeeps melancholy tears, which then are foundAs pebbles scattered on the ground. 1 It’s an evocative passage that invites the reader to seekContinue reading “Teaching Stone Men to Walk: Farid Ud-Din Attar’s Conference of the Birds

Becoming Visible: Ralph Ellison’s Classic in the era of Black Lives Matter

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau. I used to believe that racism was a thing of the past, a relic of a bygone era. Like polio or child labor, it had vanished into the pages of history. I imaginedContinue reading “Becoming Visible: Ralph Ellison’s Classic in the era of Black Lives Matter”

How to Talk to Cats: Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

Searching for a way to describe a new style of painting in the 1920s, Franz Roh invented the term “magic realism.” However, like the fictions that would later bear this name, the designation showed little regard for neat distinctions between the various arts. With a wink, it quickly slipped away the frames of pictures andContinue reading “How to Talk to Cats: Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

The Uses of Ambiguity: The Good Soldier Schweik

Ever since the time of Juvenal, and probably before, satirists have been hard at work deflating the pretensions of their societies and speaking truth to power with a wink and an air of feigned sincerity. Some, like Swift and Voltaire, channel their “savage indignation” into creating a better world. Others, like Pope, gently mock theContinue reading “The Uses of Ambiguity: The Good Soldier Schweik

Amphion’s Lyre

Toward the end of Horace’s treatise Ars Poetica, the author dips into the myths surrounding the origins of poetry to sprinkle his subject with magic. “While men still roamed the forests, they were restrained from bloodshed and a bestial way of life by Orpheus, the sacred prophet and interpreter of the gods – that isContinue reading “Amphion’s Lyre”

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