“The concept that being American means, by definition, having an ideal that you’ve failed to live up to—that’s another crucial thing I learned from [James Alan] McPherson. It is not a rejection of America for Michelle Obama to note that her daughters are growing up in a house built by slaves. Or a rejection of a white writer to point out that Fitzgerald was a racist. Instead, it is American to admit those facts and to find in that admission a way forward.” On American values, Barack Obama, and the legacy of James Alan McPherson over at The Literary Hub.
“If you want to be grateful for something today, be grateful for that: Ebola doesn’t fly,” according to a 2012 NYT op-ed. (Ok, so that’s not true, but you’re still probably safe.) If you (like me) have been obsessively re-watching that infected American patient walk into his hospital in Atlanta, I’d like to suggest you (I) first relax, and then indulge your (my) Ebolapocalypse fears elsewhere, e.g., a roundup of the 14 best pandemic novels according to Slate, 11 from io9, 22 from Bookshop, or all 1,000+ at Goodreads.
Joe Kubert died this week at the age of 85. Perhaps best known as the DC comics legend responsible for such characters as Sgt. Rock, Hawkman, Enemy Ace, and Tor, Kubert was also the founder of The Kubert School, the only accredited trade school for comic book artists in the country. You can check out a video of Kubert talking about digital comics over here.
Jonathan Dent offers a fascinating look at one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most challenging assignments for the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently as a young philologist, Tolkien was tasked with tracing the etymology of “walrus” – a tricky word “of disputed origin that had all but entirely replaced the earlier English name morse since its first appearance in English in the late 1600s.”
Beginning with the same premise—one can only read so many books in a given lifetime—two authors write very different articles: Maria Bustillos lists the recommendations of George Orwell, Henry Miller, and John Waters that she’s followed in an effort to maximize her short reading life. Marc Wortman wonders if authors are being paid by the page and, given our short lives, whether we should even bother with the behemoth volumes coming out recently.