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  • The Humanity of Huck Finn

    The Humanity of Huck Finn0

    Huckleberry Finn is no hero, though he is clearly a child on the cusp of adulthood. That perhaps is one reason I enjoy reading and teaching Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn every year. Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck and Tom’s imaginary childhood adventures quickly become real. From pranking the ever-suspicious Jim at night to

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  • Alfred Tennyson, Male Friendship, and the Gay Appropriation of History

    Alfred Tennyson, Male Friendship, and the Gay Appropriation of History8

    It has become fashionable in academia and pop culture to claim that historical figures previously assumed to be heterosexual were actually homosexual. The trend has taken root to such a degree that the cases crop up with a dull predictability, and great authors seem particularly vulnerable to having their sexual identities rewritten by modern scholars.

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  • The Sort of Men We Need

    The Sort of Men We Need6

    A new book by Mark Helprin is like a surprise gift from St. Nick, so when I spotted The Oceans and the Stars: A Sea Story, a War Story, a Love Story on the “New Book” shelf of my public library, I snagged that gift, headed for the checkout desk, and opened it as soon

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  • Dostoevsky and American Despair: The Penalty of Nihilism

    Dostoevsky and American Despair: The Penalty of Nihilism3

    These chilling words, ringing with despair, come from one of the most striking characters in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1866 novel Crime and Punishment, Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov: We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it’s one little room, like a

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  • Poetry in Prose: The Genius of J.R.R. Tolkien

    Poetry in Prose: The Genius of J.R.R. Tolkien1

    Young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien curled up with his favorite book, reading the tale of Sigurd who slew the dragon Fafnir. Schooled at home, Tolkien’s widowed mother taught him Latin and French and grammar, explaining that “green great dragon” was incorrect—it should be “great green dragon.” Tolkien wanted to know why. Language fascinated him. After

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  • How Quitting a Book Can Be Great for Reading

    How Quitting a Book Can Be Great for Reading9

    I’ve written extensively about the value of reading good books, especially old ones, but I’ve never written about the need to quit books. Yet while there are many good reasons to read books that have stood the test of time, there’s also something to be said for putting a book down. As paradoxical as it

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