What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 6, 2009

Stephen Halliday is lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge. He is reading Attlee's Great Contemporaries, edited by Frank Field (Continuum, 2009). "Clement Attlee was celebrated for his careful use of words, a quality reflected in this edition of articles written in retirement. Thus Harold Wilson is complimented because he 'didn't talk too much'. An exception is made for Winston Churchill, whose main contribution to the war was to 'talk about it'. A charming evocation of the remarkable man that Attlee was."

Shelley King, associate professor, department of English, Queen's University, Canada, is reading Holger Hoock's The King's Artists: The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture 1760-1840 (Oxford University Press, 2005). "I am usually immersed in the literary politics of the 1790s, so stepping into the world of the visual arts offers an energising alternative perspective on the shaping of the national culture and the wider role of the creative arts in public life at this period."

Gabriel M. Paletz is principal lecturer in cinema studies, Prague Film School. He is reading Willa Cather's My Antonia (The Library of America, 1987) "Cather's supple and even deadpan prose ('The only thing very noticeable about Nebraska was that it was still, all day long, Nebraska') complements my present experience of Prague, with its unhurried unfolding of a boyhood among Czech and other immigrants in the Midwest in a novel that shapes the time of youth into the preciousness of a shared past."

Nigel Rodenhurst is lecturer in the English department, University of Wales, Lampeter. "I'm reading Booker T. Washington: Black Leadership in the Age of Jim Crow by Raymond Smock (Ivan R. Dee, 2009). As America has elected its first black president, and debate ensues about whether he is a strong leader for the African-American people, I expect to see and hear comparisons to Booker T. Washington, who has historically been cast as both 'compromiser' and 'challenger'. Smock has acknowledged this and seems to be providing a good overview."

Sara Schley is associate professor in the department of research, Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf. She is reading Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Jonathan Cape, 2006). "Who would have thought that novel-length comic books would be such good reads? It's an autobiography really - Bechdel's memoir of growing up - and of her trying to make sense of her upbringing. The layers of text and graphic imagery make it an intensely mindful read - I am enjoying the process of re-reading it, as slowing down to interpret the images that add to and extend the text deeply is quite a different process than reading non-graphic novels."

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