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Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Recent
Reading Pandemics

Parallels of HIV/AIDS in Tony Kushner's 'Angels in America' and COVID-19 in Trump's America

Tony Kushner's Angels in America foreshadows our current state of sick politics and bodies and, in particular, the presence of Trump in a time of plague.

Books

Unorthodox Storytelling

Deborah Feldman's memoir, Unorthodox, is more than a depiction, or even indictment, of the Satmar. It's an indictment of any patriarchal social system that shrinks young women's dreams to the size of a kitchen, and then blames them for it.

Books

'Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier'

The comics format of Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks' Astronauts is ideally suited for telling the story of how women fought and overcame sexism in the US Space Program, given the US government and military's ridiculous resistance to female astronauts.

By the Book

The Art of Advertising (excerpt)

The Art of Advertising invites us to consider both the intended and unintended messages of the advertisements of the past.

Julie Anne Lambert
Reading Pandemics

Cookbooks and Contagion: Recipes for Caring from Fannie Farmer

Cookbooks are rarely read as political or even narrative texts. However, alongside the recipes and lists of ingredients is often rich information about the ideologies and social structures that the foods are consumed within.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Life Isn't Binary and Neither Is the Coronavirus Pandemic

Non-binary thinking offers new routes for adapting to life with COVID-19.

Books

Looking for the Next Best Version of America? Abrams Wrote the Book on How to Achieve It

"Try this at home": With her latest work, Our Time Is Now, Plotter-in-Chief Stacey Abrams offers a timely playbook for how to ensure free and fair elections in America.

Books

Music and Mind-Bending in David Mitchell's 'Utopia Avenue'

Woven into Utopia Avenue David Mitchell stitches a subtle critique of the impacts of the pot-heavy, lysergic-immersed, and heady music's ambitions on pop culture, moral choices, and even tripping itself.

Books

Lerone Bennett, Jr. Wrote Black History into Modern America at Ebony Magazine

E. James West's new book explores Lerone Bennett, Jr.'s impact as a popular Black historian. It's a gateway to a body of work that still speaks to Black rage, struggle and hope, yesterday and today.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic from the Janitor's Point of View

Timothy Sheard's murder mystery One Foot in the Grave explores pandemic in a hospital from the point of view of the lowliest, aka "essential", staff.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Books

'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Reading Pandemics

Taking a Page About Community and Responsibility from Albert Camus' 'The Plague'

Initially, the city of Oran does not take care of its most vulnerable populations in Camus' The Plague, and as a result, the city suffers for it. This parallels today's COVID-19 world.

Books

The Young and the Superpowered in Isolation: Revisiting Anne Dyson's 'Writing Superheroes'

Dyson's seminal Writing Superheroes, and how children process violence and power, is considered in a new light as children consume media in this time of social isolation.

Reading Pandemics

What's Love Got To Do with It? Shakespeare's 'Venus & Adonis'

The worn trope—Time Devours All Things (tempus edax rerum)—is true for human beings, says Shakespeare: if you're a mortal, death lurks at the heart of the very thing you most want. During a plague, or a pandemic, it's wanting that endangers us.

Books

Next Day. Same Time. Same Place:  How Waiting Out the Pandemic Is Like Waiting for Godot

Even though these times of self-isolating feel absurd, the Theater of the Absurd has a lot to teach us about waiting, time, isolation, and feeling like we exist.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemics and Trumpian Echoes in Miller’s 'Blackfish City'

When we can't turn to the federal government for the truth, sometimes we need to turn to fiction. Sam J. Miller's Blackfish City maps a pandemic in a post-United States future.

Books

Class, Craft, and the Cost of Ambition: An Interview with 'Lake City' Author Thomas Kohnstamm

While Lake City masquerades as a social climber satire that is really something else, author Thomas Kohnstamm is an open book about his intentions in his work and his hopes for his city.

Reading Pandemics

Why Boccaccio's 'The Decameron' Can Help Guide Us Through COVID-19

Rather than write about death and the world unfolding in the throes of the Black Plague, Giovanni Boccaccio instead wrote about the utopian potential of storytelling.

Books

Short Stories: Solitude and Loneliness

Five short stories—by Anton Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Bharati Mukherjee, Anthony Doerr, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—explore various isolation, solitude, and loneliness pathologies from the perspectives of different lives and cultures.

Books

'Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar' (excerpt)

Ravi Shankar was bemused by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and other bands using the sitar in rock music. Enjoy this excerpt from biography Indian Sun, by Oliver Craske (who worked with Shankar on his 1997 autobiography), courtesy of Hachette Books.

Oliver Craske
Books

'Represented': Black Buying Power and the American Dream

The unheralded and underappreciated PR exec. Moss Kendrix is the de facto hero in Brenna Wynn Greer's enlightening history of Black marketers and the evolving depiction of Black people in mass media.

Books

Harold Bloom's 'The American Literary Canon'

The authors included in Harold Bloom's The American Literary Canon conform to a singular American aesthetic that, in Bloom's world, makes them superior to the spectrum of the American experience.

Books

On 'Blueschild Baby', George Cain's Searing Novel of Addiction: An Interview

George Cain's 1970 semi-autobiographical novel Blueschild Baby, recently republished by Ecco, is a difficult and unapologetic work about the life of a functioning drug addict. In this interview Imran Khan discusses Cain's work and life with his ex-wife, Jo Lynne, and son, Malik.

Books

Short Stories: Beginnings and Endings

These five short stories—by Naguib Mahfouz, Carmen Maria Machado, Niven Govinden, Margaret Atwood, and Wole Talabi—are about new beginnings. They're also about those unsettling endings that aren't really endings.

Books

'Switched on Pop' Schools the Academy

The first book from Switched on Pop hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan leans into the podcast's academic tendencies, as it makes the case for music fans to take all music a bit more seriously.

Books

To the Vector the Spoils: On McKenzie Wark's 'Capital Is Dead'

In a brave new world dominated by platforms such as Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb, and marked by anxiety in the Age of the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark's Capital Is Dead eschews digital utopianism for a sense of urgency that recognizes things have gotten serious.

Books

Canada Has an Anti-Blackness Problem

From national origin myths to austerity policies, racism permeates the fabric of the world's 'friendliest' nation, argues Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi in their work, BlackLife.

Books

Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design (By the Book)

In this gorgeously illustrated collection of airline route maps, Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design, Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts look to the skies and transport readers to another time. Enjoy this excerpt, courtesy of Penguin Books.

Mark Ovenden and Maxwell J. Roberts
Books

Music History, the Conspiracy Theory: On Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History

Although enjoyable in that sweeping big picture kind of way, there is nothing subversive to be found in Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History.

Books

The Book Every American Needs to Read: 'Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People'

Award-winning lawyer Ben Crump's Open Season irrefutably documents how America's treatment of Black Americans and other minorities is indistinguishable from genocide.

Books

Walking the Tightrope Between History and Memory in Japan: On Harootunian's 'Uneven Moments'

Harry Harootunian's essays on modern Japanese history, collected in Uneven Moments from Columbia University Press, reflect a lifetime of intellectual contributions and span a wide range of topics in Japanese history. The tension between the historical and the everyday is a recurrent and vital theme in his work.

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