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David Alm

Elaine’s and the New York I barely knew

I never had a chance to go to Elaine’s, the famous writers’ haven on the Upper East Side that closed in 2011. But I know its kitschy decor, its tightly packed dining rooms, and even its pay phone. Thanks to Woody Allen. He used Elaine’s in his films, from Manhattan (1979) to Celebrity (1998). It was the perfect [...]

To save the humanities, try a little tenderness

Did you know that only 8 percent of undergraduates major in a humanities discipline like English or philosophy? Or how about the fact that more than half of college professors today are adjunct, or so-called “contingency” faculty? Or what about the hard, cold reality that people who study English or philosophy enter their working lives [...]

If you have a story to tell, just tell it

A confession: I rarely write if I’m not getting paid for it. So I was humbled earlier this week to attend a reading by a woman I’d never heard of before, but who has built a following that any writer would covet. In the basement of a small independent bookstore in Brooklyn, at least 100 [...]

In defense of unpaid internships

In 1999, I published my very first article: a 400-word review of a book about Japanese art from 1615 to 1868. It was a catalogue for an exhibition that spring at Yale University, and I got the assignment not because I was an expert on Japanese art, or because I was a student at Yale, or [...]

Rage against the language

I once knew a guy who thought that when journalists are recognized for outstanding work, they receive a Pewlett Surprise. And who of us didn’t, at some point in life, utter the words “intensive purposes” when we should have said “intents and purposes” instead? Then there’s “should of known,” “supposably,” and the most cited example [...]

Life, works cited

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 [...]

Writing your way into college

Bard College announced this week that it was introducing a new admissions option for prospective students, one devoid of GPAs, test scores, and other stone-cold metrics that, some say, do little to represent a complete human being or how well they’ll actually do in college. Starting next year, smart high schoolers who might not look [...]

The problem with academia — in pictures

The problems facing academia today — a growing adjunct labor force, shrinking opportunities for tenure and secure employment, lack of benefits and below-poverty wages — are hardly breaking news. But it’s alarming to see the situation presented so clearly as in the infographic below. Take a moment to consider the facts. It’s a story playing [...]

You don’t need to study the arts. Or do you?

He was the last person you’d expect to say that people don’t need to study the humanities. He’s made an entire career out of them — as an educator, as an organizer of public programs, and as a widely published essayist and literary critic. But a little more than a week ago, over a couple [...]

I’ll cut to the chase: I’m looking for a job. Specifically, a writing job, or at the very least, one that involves words in one way or another. This could include editing, ghostwriting, or even social media. It’s a depressing process, and I’ll explain why in a moment. But before I do, let me just [...]

Becoming better writers via social media

Some people (i.e. me) often complain that social media is ruining our attention to detail and appreciation for the craft of good writing. You can just throw something up (double-entendre totally intended) and go back to whatever else you’re doing on those eight other windows you have open in your Web browser. Punctuation? No time! [...]

This week a package arrived in the mail: a set of bookends made from a pair of 31-year-old Etonic running shoes. They were my father’s first pair, purchased in 1982 for $32. He put nearly 500 miles on them, thus beginning a decade-long love affair with running that gave him something he didn’t get anywhere [...]

Why Joanie runs

You never know when someone will say something, however simple and off-hand, that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Yesterday afternoon I attended the pre-race luncheon for the elite field and sponsors of the 2013 Bix 7, a 39-year-old race in Davenport, Iowa that’s grown into one of the largest and [...]

It’s said that the politics in academia are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so low. But sometimes, the stakes are very, very high. To wit: When the New York Times reported in April that the former CIA director, David Petraeus, had been hired by CUNY to teach a single course in the university’s [...]