Judy Blume helped me, too

by David Alm June 18, 2014

A confession: As a child, while all of my friends were obsessed with the fantasy novels of Piers Anthony and science fiction, I was devouring whatever I could find by Judy Blume. I was an otherwise boyish kid — I rode bikes, played in the dirt, collected comic books. But even then, I preferred realism over fantasy, and […]

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How Gary Coleman taught me to read

by David Alm April 11, 2014

There’s an episode in the final season of Diff’rent Strokes in which Arnold (Gary Coleman) acts up in class and is challenged by his teacher, played by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to teach a lesson one day. His topic is to be A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and he doesn’t want to do it. But he forces […]

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Life, works cited

by David Alm October 8, 2013

In her book But Enough About Me, What Do You Think of my Memoir, Nancy K. Miller describes reading as an autobiographical act. The books we read help to define us, she writes, and, in turn, they say something about who we are. In other words, you are what you read. So on this 10th anniversary […]

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Bookshares and Travel: Take One Book, Read Many

by Theodosia Henney February 6, 2013

Books. Good old fashioned pages, ink, occasionally awkward cover designs, musty smell. Many of us love them, especially when paired with a hot beverage and damp weather. But forget the bookshelf you’ve carefully pruned for order, ease of access, and (admit it) to impress visitors with your intellect and taste- you’re about to go on […]

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Can we love fiction once we’re no longer seeking answers?

by David Alm December 26, 2012

I once asked my father, who had majored in English, gotten his master’s degree in English, and for years had dreams of being a full professor of English before he decided (wisely) to pursue a more stable career instead, why he no longer read novels. I was in college at the time, and just discovering […]

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Learning to love non-fiction

by David Alm November 30, 2012

Last week, the New York Times published a piece on its website about the seemingly insurmountable challenge of teaching students how to write. The author, an English teacher, concludes not that students need to read more non-fiction (the vast majority of their high school curricula is already non-fiction), but better non-fiction. She cites the example […]

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Philip Roth retires from fiction

by David Alm November 11, 2012

Last year, Philip Roth said he was done reading fiction. Now he says he’s done writing it, too. Roth’s literary output could be compared to Woody Allen’s with film. Since he published his first collection of short stories, in 1959, he has written 27 novels and two books of non-fiction, as well as several essays. […]

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The endless, perplexing, and ultimately essential question of whether writing can be taught

by David Alm October 8, 2012

In this month’s Atlantic, Peg Tyre writes about a school on Staten Island that has “revolutionized” writing pedagogy: by going back to basics. Judith Hochman, who originally developed the very old-fashioned approach to writing pedagogy that New Dorp High School is now using, told Tyre that “kids need a formula, at least at first, because what […]

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To re-read, or not to re-read

by David Alm July 20, 2012

Philip Roth once described his nightly routine as one involving dinner, a walk, and then reading. He said that he’d been re-reading authors he loved when he was young, and I admired him for it. But I also thought: Why would anyone want to re-read something? There’s so much one hasn’t read. Re-reading seemed not […]

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Smell like you read

by David Alm June 12, 2012

There are perfumes inspired by flowers, spring rain, and even sex. Well, maybe not sex, but you can buy pheromones in a bottle, to be spritzed on like Chanel No. 5 on a Saturday night. Add “freshly printed books” to the list of come-hither scents available for purchase at Macy’s. (Disclaimer: I haven’t confirmed that […]

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The book vs. the app — a tired, boring debate

by David Alm April 24, 2012

I’ve come around. No longer do I wish to disparage apps and technology in favor of books and reading by kerosene. To be fair, I’ve never done the latter, but I do own a lot of books and I don’t plan on getting rid of them. One thing I don’t own, still, is an iPad […]

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Rhythm Rides

by Dmitry Kiper April 24, 2012
Subway Reading

Reading poetry on the subway makes everything feel new and strange. It lifts me up when I’m down underground, it complements the rattle and shake, it rides above the cacophonous chatter, it embraces the dissonant free-jazz squeaks and howls of the train—and it’s wonderfully different every time. There are practical benefits to poetry on the […]

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Political poetry

by Rebecca Lehmann October 16, 2011

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about poems. My first book of poems is about to come out (obligatory self endorsement), I’ve been teaching poetry in all three of my classes (one a creative writing class, one a composition class, one a glorious class on contemporary poets in which I get to teach all my […]

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UT acquires Coetzee’s archives, giving this reader pause

by David Alm October 14, 2011

The University of Texas at Austin announced this week that its Ransom Center will acquire the archives of South African novelist J.M. Coetzee. Coetzee received his PhD in English, linguistics, and Germanic languages at Austin, where he wrote his dissertation on the early fiction of Samuel Beckett, in 1969. The 71-year-old author has lived in […]

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The Portrait of a Lady, Revisited

by Oline Eaton September 20, 2011
Portrait of a Lady

It’s fascinating, the difference in reading a novel as an adult that you loved at fifteen. There’s both a deepening and defrauding. In search of an easy reread, I recently took up Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady during an eight-hour international flight. I was shocked by how the novel had changed in my […]

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