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Since fiction writers can conjure up big chunks of a text by consulting only their imaginations, we often think of fiction as more personal than nonfiction. But when reading the most fact-based nonfiction, I and many readers still want to connect one-to-one, soul-to-soul, with the writer as well as with the characters.  Continue reading...

Some years ago, there was a series of stories in a magazine about dates that did not go well. In one of the stories, a woman met her date at a Mexican restaurant. When they ordered dinner, her companion asked for tortillas, but he pronounced the word "dor-dee-yas." Although he did not know it, the hapless gentleman's pronunciation proved to be a shibboleth that meant there would be no second date, and got me thinking about other encounters we may have with shibboleths in our personal experience.  Continue reading...

Life, Life, LIFE!

Whether the words, spaces, and punctuation marks appear in The Iliad or Don Quixote, a fluffy sportswear catalogue or a dense computer manual, the goal of all writing is to get some tiny bit of the gargantuan energy we call life onto the page so that other humans can read it and say, "Yes, that writing describes the life I know."  Continue reading...

There's no nice way to put it: as we reach the peak of temperature and humidity levels in much of the northern hemisphere, we all too often find ourselves confronted by things — and yes, people — who smell. And even if we'd like to turn up our nose, for once let's take a giant whiff. Or at least an etymological one.  Continue reading...

My 20-year-old son, who's studying to become an opera singer, last year gave me a complaint he'd written about one of his professors. He wanted to know if it was "too harsh." More importantly, because the complaint was to be anonymous, he wanted reassurance it couldn't be traced back to him.  Continue reading...

Jan Schreiber, a noted poet, critic, and translator, notes that traversing the border between American and British dialects of English can reveal unexpected complexities. "The challenge, if we choose to pose and accept it, is to translate one into the other," he writes.  Continue reading...

Years ago John Lennon declared the Beatles "more popular than Jesus"; he could have more accurately expressed their impact had he said they were more popular than Charles Dickens. Popularity on the Dickens/Beatles level means to be loved by virtually everyone in one's own and subsequent eras with heartfelt admiration and respect.  Continue reading...

2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 551 Articles