Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
“I have learned to consume them in secret, in my own home, reading them the way you would eat a bag of M&M’s that you keep stashed behind the kale chips.” Jake Tobin Garrett for Electric Literature about the allure of self-help books. See also:“Unleashing the Essence of Self-Help Books in Three Simple Steps.”
For whatever reason, the Zippo lighter has earned a place as an icon of Americana, a symbol of everything simple and reliable in the country. At the Ploughshares blog, Nancy McCabein pays a visit to the Zippo Museum, punctuating her account with quotes from works of literature that feature the lighter.
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.