The Atlantic interviews Erin Gruwell, a teacher whose methods for teaching her students about prejudice became the basis of a book (and subsequent movie) called The Freedom Writers. Named after a group of bus-riding civil rights activists, the students in her classes wrote lengthy journal entries — many of them relating to their own personal traumas — in order to compare them with diaries by historical figures. Writing journals, Gruwell says, helped her students learn to like schoolwork.
The recent opening of the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art has occasioned a number of rave reviews. They’re so good, in fact, that they’ve inspired Los Angeles Times writer Carolina A. Miranda to comb the write-ups for “evocative turn[s] of phrase, political metaphor[s], and references to lady parts” in order to assemble a standalone poem. Or, rather, it was standalone until artist William Powhida made a drawing out of it. (Full size drawing here.)
Online used book marketplace AbeBooks has released its list of the top ten most expensive sales on the site in 2010. A rare and very old Arabic manuscript is in the top slot. Herman Melville also makes a couple of appearances.
Out this week: The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin; Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler; The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson; This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets; Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe; and Smoke by Dan Vyleta. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”