The bomb exploded in the very center of American capitalism on a weekday afternoon, just steps away from the New York Stock Exchange and the famed statue of George Washington at Federal Hall. Thirty-eight people died and hundreds were injured, several losing limbs to the explosive power of an estimated 100 sticks of dynamite.
As in Boston this week, the bomber had rigged the device to not only kill but maim through the spread of shrapnel packed into the bomb.
Despite its horrific toll, the Wall Street bombing of 1920 is largely forgotten today. New York City instantly cleaned up the scene and moved on. No one was ever charged with the crime, and no memorial was ever built. Only the pockmarked stone of the former Morgan Bank building remains as a grim if subtle reminder.
The bombing is worth remembering. It reminds us of an era when terrorists horrified the world but had yet – until that September day – to make a point of targeting ordinary Americans in public. And it shows how the US refused to take the wrong path in the wake of tragedy.
Beverly Gage, a history professor at Yale University, wrote the definitive book about the attack, 2009's "The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror." I asked her to reflect on the similarities between the bombings in New York and Boston, the evolution of terrorism in the US, and the legacy of that distant but familiar day of horror.
Q: What struck you as you learned about this week's bombing in Boston?
A: We think of these kinds of mass bombings as being symptomatic of the terrible things about our own contemporary world, at least since Oklahoma City. But this kind of event has been going on as long as technology has existed to set off bombs in crowded places.
Q: Was this fact of history the reason you wrote the book?
A: I set out to write that book because I came across a mention of the 1920 bombing, which killed 38 people and injured hundreds more people, many of them quite seriously. I was shocked that I had never heard of this. What's going on that allowed this big event to be lost to history?
The other thing that surprised me was how many people at that time were saying "Ah ha! Of course. We all knew this would come."
I thought, "What? How did they assume that?"
I began to look not only into anti-Wall Street history but also the long history of anti-capitalist bombings that had been going on for 30 to 40 years, going back to the Haymarket bombing in 1866 [in Chicago], the most famous of them all, all the way up to the bombing of the Los Angeles Times in 1910, the bombing at a Preparedness Day parade in 1916 in San Francisco, and a series of coordinated bomb attacks in a number of different American cities, including the bombing of the US attorney general's home in Washington D.C.
Q: What made this bombing stand out as unusual?
A: A lot of the previous bombings had been much more targeted, very deliberate acts of assassination aimed at particular people. This one hit messengers, tourists, and several veterans of the first World War who had gotten jobs on Wall Street and were killed at home instead of on the fields of France.
This was one of the reasons people thought this really might be an accident. Even those few political revolutionaries who embraced terrorism most often were talking about deliberate acts of assassination or political violence. This level of mass violence was unusual and tragic.
Q: Had terrorism evolved from targeting specific types of people to the public at large?
A: Terrorism revolves around using targeted forms of theatrical violence to foster social instability. In modern form, it goes back to about the mid-19th century, when you began to get technologies like dynamite. You could plant a bomb and leave and wait for it to go off. As anarchists of the 19th century would have said, it allowed people to strike anonymously from afar.
But much of the discussion tended to be about targeting business and political leaders. One of the questions is: How did we get from that vision to where we are today?
Part of the story is that there's a certain kind of escalation built into terrorism itself to maintain the ability to shock and public attention.
Terrorism is fundamentally about capturing people's attention. One of the reasons 9/11 was so shocking is that we hadn't seen anything quite like it before.
Q: Who was behind the bombing?
A: The main suspects were either anarchists, who are the most likely culprits by the judgement of history, or communists.
The country had been through a whole series of crackdowns on political radicals already. The most famous was the Palmer Raids, a series of deportations that had been aimed at anarchists and communists. By the time the Wall Street bombing happened, there had been a pretty public backlash because those efforts had been poorly handled.
You got an elaborate effort to go beyond the Palmer Laws, to crack down, have elaborate arrests, and even outlaw criticizing capitalism. A lot of that doesn't come to much because they don't solve the bombing, and there's never a lot of certainty about what actually happened. Things end up remaining in this uneasy state, and people move on.
Q: Why isn't the bombing remembered today?
A: The generation of people who lived through this bombing all remembered it. The day after it happened, the first 17 pages of the New York Times were devoted to that event in particular.
But there was never a memorial, and the leaders of Wall Street were pretty serious about not wanting to bring it up or reference it. They had a pretty deliberate strategy of letting the event recede into the past.
There isn't really anybody, except the families of the victims, who had a lot of interested in maintaining the memory of the bombing. The radical left didn't want to remind anyone of this, as it was a hugely discrediting event. People on Wall Street didn't want to preserve that memory. And the police investigators who utterly failed to solve the Crime of the Century had very little interest in keeping this going.
Q: Is there something positive we can take from this story?
A: In many ways, it's a story about political restraint.
Even in the face of a really serious tragedy, great mourning and very heated discussion and suspicion, people for the most part avoided jumping to conclusions and engaging in the kind of most draconian reaction that was being suggested at that moment.
However, had the police actually arrested a genuine suspect and had a big show trial, the story of the consequences would have been very different.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Do e-readers hamper reading comprehension?
As e-readers and tablets become increasingly popular, that question is the crux of a new article by Scientific American that examines the brain’s response to reading on paper versus reading electronically. When we move from one medium to another, for example, do we retain the same level of information? Do we absorb the message as completely? Do we enjoy the same quality of concentration in reading?
Though research – and indeed, our own adaptation to electronic reading – is ongoing and changing, the SA article suggests reading on electronic devices can inhibit reading comprehension by hindering readers’ ability to fully absorb and process content. But that may be changing.
“[E]vidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way,” writes Ferris Jabr for the Scientific American. “In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension.”
One reason for this is that screens are visually taxing to look at, causing eye fatigue, especially after reading for long periods of time.
“Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done,” Jabr writes.
But here’s the interesting part: We may actually be adapting to reading on screens.
You see, researchers have been studying reading comprehension on screens as opposed to paper since at least the 1980s. According to the SA, “Before 1992, most studies concluded that people read slower, less accurately and less comprehensively on screens than on paper."
Curiously, however, studies published since then have shown a slow change, namely in that more recent studies have found few significant differences between comprehension of screens versus paper.
“Attitudes are changing as tablets and e-reading technology improve and reading digital books for facts and fun becomes more common,” reports the article, positing that future generations may “grow up without the subtle bias against screens that seems to lurk in the minds of older generations.”
That, to us, is the most fascinating facet of this latest study.
Are e-readers changing the way we read, even changing the way our brains absorb information? Are our brains, unbeknownst to us, in the midst of a literary-cerebral evolution, adapting to new digital formats, e-ink, and screen reading?
While the majority of readers still report a preference for paper books, something tells us the next generation may embrace e-reading as wholeheartedly as our forefathers did the printing press.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The trailer for the “Hunger Games” sequel, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” shows the world of heroine Katniss Everdeen in increasing turmoil after her victory in the deadly competition called the Hunger Games.
(Warning: spoilers for “The Hunger Games” follow…)
The end of the first movie in the "Hunger Game" series, based on the bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins, finds Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and her neighbor (and love interest) Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) dual victors of the Games. But a joint victory is technically forbidden by the government, so Katniss and Peeta are urged to fight each other to the death. The two insist, however, that they will instead kill themselves and leave the government without a victor.
This defiance means President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is now wary of the power Katniss holds over the people – well aware that she has become a symbol of rebellion.
The trailer opens with Katniss and Peeta being showed off throughout the nation of Panem as the Games victors. Over the triumphant scene, the president says that Katniss has “become a beacon of hope” for the people and that “she has to be eliminated.”
Snow is seen chatting with Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a new character in the film.
During Katniss and Peeta’s presentation to the people, a man is taken from the crowd and beaten for flashing Katniss a gesture of support. Katniss screams as the man is taken by soldiers and presumably beaten or killed.
Also seen in the trailer is Woody Harrelson returning as Katniss’s mentor Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks as peppy Capital staffer Effie Trinket, and Katniss’s little sister Prim (Willow Shields).
The trailer juxtaposes images of Katniss and Peeta in full expensive regalia as the common people fight Capital soldiers.
“We don’t have to destroy her, just her image,” Plutarch tells the president. “Show them that she’s one of us now… they’re going to hate her so much, they might kill her for you.”
Upcoming conflict is also hinted at as President Snow declares that all the victors of the Hunger Games need to be destroyed.
At the end of the trailer, Katniss attempts to stop Gale, a boy who lives in her district, from being beaten, and a soldier aims a gun at her.
“Go ahead,” she tells him.
Check out the full trailer.
“Lennon at Sea” by Thom Donovan, which is a graphic novel, contains pictures taken in 1980, according to Donovan, and the photos seem to be the main objection from Ono. The book details a sailing trip that Lennon took to Bermuda that year.
“Many have not been seen by the general public,” Donovan said of the photos in an interview with the Examiner. “[They] helped tell my story of John's sailing trip and life in Bermuda. Most people have never heard about John's trip.”
The letter from Ono’s lawyers referred to “'rare and unpublished material' provided to you by Fred Seaman,” whom the letter said was barred by the courts from using them. Donovan says he got the photos off the Internet, not from Seaman.
“I am aware that those photos of John belong to Yoko, and I agree to remove them from the book in the next edition, which I am working on now,” the author said.
Donovan said sales of “Lennon at Sea” will be halted for now and that the new edition of the book should be ready by this summer. He estimated the new book will most likely be longer than the original version, which was a slender 60 pages.
There were 464 challenges in total in 2012, according to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, an increase from 2011 when 326 were reported.
The “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey are the No. 1 most challenged books for the year, with those who challenged the series claiming that these books are inappropriate for their target audience and have “offensive language.” The "Captain Underpants" books (the first of which was published in 1997) didn't appear in the Top 10 of last year's list and, in fact, have not appeared on any such list since 2005.
The No. 2 most-challenged title on the 2012 list is “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, which was the fifth-most challenged title in 2011 and the second-most in 2010. Those who filed complaints against the book called it inappropriate for its age group and said that it had “offensive language, racism, [and was] sexually explicit.”
Behind Alexie's novel at No. 3 is “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. The novel was released in 2011 and follows a boy named Clay who is left a series of tapes by his classmate, Hannah, who had committed suicide weeks earlier. In addition to complaints that this book is inappropriate for its age group, “Thirteen Reasons Why” is also said to have content discussing “drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide.”
Another newcomer to the list is the notoriously raunchy “Fifty Shades of Grey” series by EL James. (Because the ALA includes any "formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school” in its criteria for compiling this list, the presence of “Fifty Shades of Grey” in the No. 4 slot does not necessarily mean that the book is being stocked in school libraries. Complaints may well have come from readers who object to seeing the book their local library.)
Long-time "most-challenged book" list staple “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson – a picture book about two male penguins who adopt a baby – reappeared this year in fifth place after being completely absent from the list in 2011.
No. 6 on the 2012 list is “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, which had been missing from the list since 2008, when it ranked ninth. No. 8 is “Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schmidt, which reappeared on the 2012 list after last coming in at No. 4 in 2008
Meanwhile, the books that ranked No. 7 (“Looking for Alaska” by John Green) and No. 9 (“The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls) were both first-timers on the list. “Looking for Alaska” follows a boy named Miles who goes to boarding school and falls in love with a girl named Alaska. “Looking for Alaska” contains “offensive language, sexually explicit [content]” in addition to being unsuitable for its target audience, according to complaints. “The Glass Castle,” a bestselling memoir that describes the early lives of Walls and her brother, was charged with “sexually explicit” and “offensive" language.
No. 10, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, last appeared on the list in 2006, when it came in ninth.
Titles missing from the list this year included the No. 1 most-challenged series for 2011, the “ttyl” books by Lauren Myracle. The “Color of Earth” series by Kim Dong Hwa, which ranked second last year, also fell off the list, as did last year's No. 3, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and last year's No. 4, “My Mom’s Having A Baby!”
Over a career that spans 57 years, John Ashbery has picked up many literary prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award. Although the majority of critics have duly recognized the fruits of his talent, many have also pointed to the fact that his poems don’t have – in the traditional sense – a specific subject matter.
Inspired by the chaos of the French Surrealist art movement, as well as the unpredictable music of classical 19th-century Russian composers, Ashbery’s poems are experiments in language, which refuse to tie themselves to a specific location or meaning.
While Ashbery shares a number of characteristics with another American poet, Wallace Stevens, his style is undoubtedly original.
His idiosyncrasies include a fondness for making connections between high and low culture, as well as an ability to leap into several worlds, through the use of multiple voices in the space of a single poem and the enormous capabilities of his Surrealist imagination.
In a telephone call that lasted nearly two hours, I talked to Ashbery primarily about poetry. Browsing through some of his earliest, and recent work, Ashbery, very patiently read me some of his poems, giving me the background to their subject matter in the process. But as he explained over the course of our long chat, trying to put ordered sense into a chaotic world through language is not an easy task.
Could you talk about the poem ‘What is Poetry’ from your collection "Houseboat Days"?
Like most poets, I’m constantly being asked the question: What is poetry? And of course there’s no real answer. Like the famous definition of pornography, you know it when you see it. Trivia from daily life may or may not be part of it. The first line of that poem is one possible answer: ‘The medieval town/ with frieze/ of boy scouts from Nagoya?’ That is actually a conflation of two remote memories, the first being when I was visiting the city of Chester once with a friend. We were between trains and actually running around the ramparts, and collided with a troop of Italian boy scouts. And then another time in the elevator of the Empire State Building there was a bunch of Japanese boy scouts, who had the name Nagoya on their uniforms. For some reason I began to think of these things when I thought of the question: What is poetry? It’s perhaps meant to imply that poetry can be just about anything the poet happens upon when trying to write.
The poem ‘More Reluctant’ from your latest collection, begins ‘It’s time for a little chamber music/ of Arensky or Borodin, something minor and enduring.’ Could you speak about the importance that you place in the music of your poems?
I have a great love of 19th-century Russian composers, such as Arensky and Glazunov. (In my first book there’s a poem called ‘Glazunoviana.’) These minor figures I find very moving. I’ve always been envious of composers because they have the ability that poets will never have of expressing themselves without being pinned down to one particular meaning as language is. After listening to a piece of music we often feel a sense of satisfaction and understanding. Poetry aims for this as well, but it’s limited by what the words mean, whereas in music, the message is exact and intelligible but without being paraphrasable like language. Music is also something that has to be experienced over a period of time, unlike a painting. Poetry requires time but somehow you look at it, as you can with a work of art, and kind of get it, before you finish reading it.
Has there ever been a point when you thought the reader is not going to understand this? I’m thinking of your second —and challenging – collection "The Tennis Court Oath." When you were writing this, did you imagine yourself in the readers’ shoes?
Since my first book went nowhere, I was really disappointed and decided to write in a different, experimental way. But what could that be? Did I expect people to read those poems? Well, I didn’t because I thought nobody would publish them. On the one hand I have always felt the most important thing that a writer should do is to write something that people will understand. But I also want to write poetry that expresses my usually tangled thoughts without condescending to a reader. How is it possible to have both of these things happen? I sort of hope they somehow will. But I can’t be the judge of whether they do or not.
You once wrote that "I want to stretch the bond between language and communication but not to sever it." Could you explain what you meant by this?
The bond between language and communication – which some would say is non-existent because they are the same thing – is something that preoccupies me. Language has its own meaning, which is separate from meaning as communication, or so it seems to me.
For example, the language that we hear in dreams is very important to me. I wake up with these words that have just been spoken, and they somehow have a meaning beyond what is possible, even beyond expression. So what is that? It’s almost like the meaning of music. It’s a sort of super meaning that I don’t know much about except that it constantly attracts me and makes me want to include it in my poems.
Could you speak about the use of clichés in your poetry?
I’m attracted to well-worn clichéd language that has been used for ages, when people are trying to express something that is really important to them, and thus it ends up sounding banal, which for me is somehow holy because this speech has served so many times for so many people at important moments in their lives.
Can you tell me about when you first began to become interested in Surrealism and how it changed your perception of the world, or how you related ideas to language, or aesthetics to language?
Yes, when I was nine years old, Life magazine in one of their first issues had an article on a big show of Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art. I had never seen anything like those paintings. I immediately fell in love with them and thought that when I grew up I would be a Surrealist. Of course I hadn’t read any Surrealist literature at that time, but I was ready for it when I encountered it. With a few exceptions though the actual literature of Surrealism has been less meaningful to me than the films and paintings it inspired.
What do you take from the Surrealists?
The idea is that you can use the material of dreams and the unconscious: it’s something that has stayed with me ever since. But I should point out that I don’t believe in completely abandoning the conscious, as, say, Breton would have insisted on. Since we do actually use our conscious minds – quite consciously – all the time, why not give them a voice in what we are creating.
Could you speak about the movement that you became known in as ‘The New York School of poets’? Friends of yours like Frank O’ Hara, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, and others.
Well, Kenneth was the first one of us to go to France, on a Fulbright fellowship. He spread the word when he came back about writers we had never read, and couldn’t read as yet in French, people like Raymond Roussel. But we never saw ourselves as being a movement, just a group of miscellaneous poets who happened to know one another. Our poetry was obviously not what was considered poetry in those days, so we read each other’s work and got together and discussed it. The art dealer who published our first pamphlets decided on the term "New York school of poets," thinking that the prestige of the New York school of painters would somehow rub off on us. If someone wanted to call us that, fine, but it becomes restrictive after a while, and people begin to construe it as sort of French, frivolous, involved with word play and so on. And so it gets left at that.
Aesthetics and art has always been a huge influence on your work, particularly on a collection like "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror." Could you speak about the differences you see between painting and poetry?
You look at a painting and say, oh there it is: I see it and I get it. But in poetry you have to follow, and really pay close attention. I’ve just remembered that you asked me earlier about the Wallace Stevens line "The poem must resist the intelligence/ almost successfully". What Stevens was saying, actually, was that the poem must not resist the intelligence. But he throws the reader off with this one word, almost.
The reader thinks, oh, he’s saying the poem must not be understandable, it must resist the intelligence, what kind of [bs] is that? It’s because they are not paying attention. Poetry, especially for somebody like Wallace Stevens, deals in very fine degrees of meaning and shading, which are there if you look for them and absorb them.
Much has been made by many critics and readers alike of the term "you" or "we" in your poetry. Your poems never seem to really give away who that "you" or "we" is that you are writing about is. Could you speak specifically about this shifting between voices or pronouns, in the narratives of your poems?
Yes, those have caused a great deal of trouble from day one. It must be that I "hear voices" when I’m writing, but also I think because I’ve never had a very strong sense of my own self, and therefore to have other voices cropping up and speaking their mind in my poetry always seemed perfectly natural. I remember when I was writing plays the idea of writing dialogue attracted me very much because I could imagine what other people would say more easily than what I myself might say.
One thing that seems to get under people’s skin is my frequent use of the word “it”, without any particular attribution, and that again was something that I guess came naturally to me, maybe from seeing so much abstract art. “It” is something that’s both vague and specific, and it doesn’t need to be called anything other than it, which is what it is.
When you began writing poetry would you agree that you were very skeptical of what had traditionally been the function of the lyric poem: capturing a moment in time?
When I first wrote poetry in my teens, I imitated 19th-century poems, with rhyme and meter and all those wonderful things, and those poems were probably attempts to capture a moment in time. But I guess as I grew older the idea of flux supplanted that of static reflection.
When you finish a poem do you believe you have put order into that chaotic world of random language without a form?
Well, I wish. I’m not sure poetry can do that. I think I’ve always proceeded on the assumption that it can, but it’s asking a lot from it to make ordered sense of the world, especially the one that we happen to be living in at the moment. I suppose that might actually have been the original impetus: to put some sort of order into the chaos that random language is, but without sacrificing the randomness, because that itself is essential to communication.
- JP O Malley is a Monitor Contributor.
When I asked each student in my freshman-level college writing class to name a favorite writer, the responses proved diverse, including everyone from J.K. Rowling to Bill O’Reilly. I also got quite a few votes for Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, which raised my eyebrows.
(Either there’s a wave of transcendentalism among members of Generation Y, or some of my students had drawn a blank from my question and decided to pencil in a placeholder from their “Norton Anthology of American Literature.”)
I’ve seen writing students shrug when asked about their reading habits, presumably because they do little or no reading that isn’t assigned. But as I like to explain to any aspiring writer, writing without reading is a little like trying to excel at baseball but knowing nothing of Babe Ruth, or aiming for a life in the NFL without watching professional football. Just as athletes can improve their skills by watching sports heroes, writers can learn by finding a writing hero and following his work.
I make this analogy with some hesitation, since writers are not, in the ideal sense, supposed to be hero-worshipers. The best writing is driven by critical thinking, which is based on intellectual discipline, not giddy adulation.
But writing can be a lonely, dispiriting business, and it helps to have a role model or two who can hold your hand and remind you of what words can do when used by a true artist. This doesn’t mean that the literary great at the top of your favorites list should be embraced as an infallible icon. In fact, one of the great benefits of following a gifted writer is learning from his mistakes and limitations, too.
Life would be much easier if I could simply pair each of my students with an appropriate writing hero and send them on their way. But finding a hero, like finding a spouse or a best friend, is a mysterious process that seems more governed by luck than design. Perhaps all one can do is be open to opportunity when it strikes.
My own writing life changed dramatically in high school, when I came across an H.L. Mencken anthology at a neighborhood rummage sale. My classroom teachers had told me that writing was important and useful and potentially elevating, but in reading Mencken, the irascible journalist and critic who held sway in the 1920s, I discovered that writing could also be a great deal of fun. I quickly sought out his other books, delighting in sentences that popped like firecrackers. Mencken’s bombast – “It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull” – seemed the perfect companion for a young writer feeling his oats.
In college, I found a strikingly different hero in E.B. White, whose essays fell into my hands during a stray hour in a bookshop before an afternoon matinee. White, whose prose was self-effacing and beautifully understated, was just the right complement to Mencken’s pyrotechnics, teaching me that a writer doesn’t always have to shout to be heard. A shelf of White’s books now sits next to Mencken’s in my library.
A couple of years later, an equally chance encounter with Eudora Welty’s memoir, “One Writer’s Beginnings,” yielded another lesson that’s deeply informed my writing life. Before Welty, I had thought of a writing career as a kind of extended road trip, with inspiration invariably tied to changes in locale. Welty, writing stories and essays of exquisite insight and grace from her native Jackson, Miss., affirmed the value of standing still. The conclusion of her memoir still rings in my ears: “As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.”
I don’t know how I could have pursued a life in writing without my writing heroes, and I hope my students find a few for themselves. The trick, though, is to open a book, and read.
Quidditch, the game all young "Harry Potter" fans wished was real (older ones secretly did too) is now an intercollegiate sport. And they have tournaments. This year, more than 80 college quidditch teams will meet in Kissimmee, Fla., for Quidditch World Cup VI.
In the "Harry Potter" books and movies, Quidditch was a mix of baseball, handball, soccer, rugby and basketball (and tag) played on enchanted broomsticks. Muggles, instead, have to make the best of dealing with four different balls while keeping an earth-bound broomstick between their legs at all times while in play.
Settling seems to be the standard for Muggle Quidditch: Quaffles become "slightly deflated volleyballs" and the golden snitch becomes a 15th player (each team has seven on its side) dressed in yellow with a ball inside of a golden sock sticking out of the back of his pants, says Bleacher Report.
Still, Muggle quidditch at the collegiate level looks like fun and its appeal is spreading rapidly. Begun just seven years ago at Middlebury College in Vermont, the International Quidditch Association now has more than 1,000 teams registered globally. This year, teams from Canada, Mexico, and France will all be playing in the tournament, as well as teams from US schools including Johns Hopkins, NYU, and UCLA.
In addition to the action on the quidditch field, there should also be plenty of entertainment on the sidelines. Described in press reports as "a cross between the superbowl and the medieval festival," the Quidditch Cup has been known to attract all sorts of family-oriented activities, including live bands, fans in costumes, improv comedian commentators, and a "kidditch pitch" to teach kids of all ages how to play the sport.
After months of tight-lipped secrecy, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” a 370-page novel about loss and isolation, arrived to long lines, applause, and instant bestseller status in the island nation.
According to the UK’s Guardian, “Hundreds of Huraki Murakami devotees queu[ed] at midnight outside Tokyo bookshops…. Newspapers and broadcasters rushed to post reviews of the book … [and] fans and journalists stayed up all night to get to grips with Murakami’s first major novel in three years.” (The UK’s Telegraph notes that one bookshop even temporarily renamed itself after Murakami to mark the novel’s release.)
According to a review by Japanese paper Aashi Shimbun, the book tells “the tale of a man who tries to overcome his sense of loss and isolation, which has accumulated in the dark part of his heart.” In it, protagonist Tazaki reflects on his past. Rejected by his friends due to his family’s lack of status, Tazaki is lonely, emotionally scarred, and constantly reflects on death. When he meets a woman, he is inspired to explore his past and his feelings of rejection.
“Tazaki feels as if he is an empty person who lacks color or personality – living as a fugitive from his own life,” writes Aashi Shimbun. That is emphasized by the fact that his four closest friends in school each had names that represented colors while Tazaki’s name was “colorless,” lending the book its title.
Besides its stark departure from his previous book, the biggest surprise in “Colorless” is the way it came about.
“One day I just felt like it, and I sat at my desk and started to write the first few lines of this story," Murakami said in quotations printed on the cover of the book. "Then for about half a year, I continued to write this story without knowing anything like what would happen, what type of people would appear and how long the story would be.”
According to Reuters, the book is already a bestseller in Japan, with an initial release of 600,000 copies.
For now, Murakami fans in the US will have to wait – or learn Japanese. Plans have not yet been released regarding English translations.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The extremely rare manuscript, measuring a scant three square inches, sold at Bonhams Auction House for about £100,000 (about $140,000 USD) – more than twice its estimated worth, reported the Guardian.
Titled "I've Been Wandering in the Greenwoods," signed "C. Brontë," and dated December 14, 1829, the poem is one of about four of Charlotte Brontë's 200 poems in private hands. The rest have been collected by institutions. All the Brontë siblings (including Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell) wrote with small, cramped letters to get the most out of their limited, expensive supply of paper. The poem is difficult to read unaided.
"Greenwoods" appeared in "The Young Man's Intelligencer," the Brontë sibling's literary magazine that they wrote and edited themselves. Charlotte took over editing the magazine from Branwell in 1829, the year the poem was published.
Here's the text of the poem:
"I've Been Wandering in the Greenwoods"
I've been wandering in the greenwoods
And mid flowery smiling plains
I've been listening to the dark floods
To the thrushes thrilling strains
I have gathered the pale primrose
And the purple violet sweet
I've been where the Asphodel grows
And where lives the red deer fleet.
I've been to the distant mountain,
To the silver singing rill
By the crystal murmering fountain,
And the shady verdant hill.
I've been where the poplar is springing
From the fair Inamelled ground
Where the nightingale is singing
With a solemn plaintive sound.
-C. Brontë, December 14, 1829
Ben Frederick is a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor