Archive for September, 2011

A Life of Montaigne in One Question: HOW TO LIVE

978-1-59051-483-2Below is a note from Sarah Bakewell, author of  How to Live, on why she chose to write Montaigne’s new biography:

Why did I write about Montaigne? Mostly because I wanted to keep on reading him.

Ever since my early 20s, when I picked up his Essays by chance, wanting a good book for a long train journey, he never really left me. My first response to his work on that train was one of astonishment. How could someone who wrote in the 1500s sound so familiar, so conversational, so like me? It was like having a friend or a traveling companion sitting opposite me as we whizzed through the landscape. For years after that, Montaigne was never far from my side. And I discovered that practically everything else I read had the power of leading me back to him in some way—for Montaigne is the first truly modern author, the great hidden presence behind 400 years of literature, and indeed behind much of philosophy, politics, and social theory over those centuries.

This is mainly for one simple reason: No one before Montaigne had written so honestly and minutely about the inner world of a human being. He followed every twist and turn of his psyche, believing that every individual is worth writing about at such length, for “each man bears the entire form of the human condition.” But he also paid plenty of attention to the world outside. He was interested in everything; he traveled widely, held offices as magistrate and mayor, ran diplomatic missions for kings and princes, and tried his best to end the religious civil wars that tore apart the France of his day. These experiences led him to a deep fascination with human variety and difference. We share our essential humanity, he knew, but each of us has a radically different cultural, historical, and personal perspective, and that is just as fundamental. (more…)

September 22, 2011 at 7:43 pm Leave a comment

Raritan Valley Community College’s English Dept. Assigns The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

Two boys named Wes Moore were born in the same neighborhood of the same American city only a year apart. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and a top young business leader—the other is serving a life sentence in prison. Through an unlikely friendship, the two Wes’s discovered all of the similarities in their stories, and also the dramatic points of inflection—involving incidents of sudden violence, luck, uninformed choices, and powerful mentors—where their stories fatefully diverged. Here is their dramatic twinned story, set against the larger story of the persistent challenges— and new possibilities—facing young men in America.

“Moving and inspiring, The Other Wes Moore is a story for our times.”—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here (more…)

September 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment


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