Television. For lovers of middlebrow costume drama, May brings the event of the season in the form of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford on Masterpiece Theater, beginning this Sunday, May 4, at 8:00 pm on channel 2. Cranford chronicles the daily lives of women in a small English village in the nineteenth century—not much happens except marvelous writing, small incidents, and great acting by the likes of Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton. By all accounts, this is how television period drama should be done. Between 8:00 and 10:00 pm on May 4, 11, and 18, I'll be glued to the tube.
Books. Two very different book catalogues arrived in the mail this week. The first was the ISI Books catalogue. ISI is a conservative publishing company. One of their missions seems to be to publish books critical of American public education and the "liberal bias" in higher education. Hence titles like Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age (co-authored by Victor Davis Hanson) and John Dewey and the Decline of American Education: How the Patron Saint of Schools Has Corrupted Teaching and Learning. There are also resources for homeschoolers like The Latin-Centered Curriculum: A Homeschooler's Guide to a Classical Education, and one-stop shopping for books by Russell Kirk and Rick Santorum (It Takes a Family). Why do I even receive this catalogue? The scariest item in the catalogue is a series of children's books: The National Review Treasury of Classic Bedtime Stories and The National Review Treasury of Classic Children's Literature (edited by William F. Buckley). What bedtime stories do conservatives read to their children? Imagine William F. Buckley at your child's bedside. Brendon, can you do anything with this? Interesting footnote: Among the stories collected by Buckley are Brownie stories by Palmer Cox, a not-too-distant ancestor of Northfield's former Republican state representative, Ray Cox.
The other catalogue isn't really a catalogue at all; it's the wonderful Persephone Biannually from Persephone Books in London. Persephone publishes about six books a year, and announces them in this biannual glossy 28-page magazinelet, along with essay about the authors, short fiction, and other features. Persephone reprints books by neglected (or outright forgotten) women authors of the mid-20th century. The books for spring and summer 2008 are Winifred Holtby's The Crowded Street, Penelope Mortimer's Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, and Nicola Beauman's A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel 1914-39. Beauman is Persephone's publisher, and her book provides much of the rationale behind her program of rescuing these marvelous books. The paperback books, beautifully produced, are expensive in the U.S.A.; one book, with surface postage from the shop in London, costs a total of £13.50, or about $27.00. Fortunately, "Persephone Classics" are becoming available here; the first, Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, is now available. It was the basis for the current film starring Frances MacDormand.
Film. Two words: Indiana Jones. May 22.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
The frontispiece from Countee Cullen's The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929). Illustration by Charles Cullen. Click to enlarge. On...
Here's the poem I wrote and read for the student-organized International Day of Peace gathering in Bridge Square on Wednesday, Septembe...
In early August, the director of the Northfield Public Library, Teresa Jensen, asked me to write a poem to be displayed prominently in the...