Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Right Answer, And Other Nonexistent Things

THE LAST TOWN ON EARTH by Thomas Mullen

by Thomas Mullen, author of  Last Town on Earth (Random House, 2007).

When reading works of fiction, students often think that there’s a right answer for how they’re supposed to respond to the book.  Surely (as they’re sometimes taught in high school) there’s a specific meaning F. Scott Fitzgerald had in mind with The Great Gatsby’s “green light,” and therefore there’s a right way to read the book and a wrong way.  A novel is a riddle, just a more creative version of a math problem, and students need to figure out the right answer, explain it in a paper, and then they’ll earn their A.  At which point they’re free to put the book away and never think about it again.

But English isn’t Algebra, and sometimes there are lots of right answers.  Or maybe—gasp—there’s no right answer.  Or perhaps it isn’t the answer that’s so important as the journey the reader takes to get there.  The travels with the characters, the experience of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes, the various lessons this act imparts—these will all lead different readers to different opinions, emotions, revelations.  This is true not only with our interpretations about whether a literary symbol has a certain meaning but also our determination as to whether characters did the “right” thing or not. Continue reading

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Kristof’s NYT piece, “Divorced Before Puberty”

I AM NUJOOD, AGED 10 AND DIVORCED

This week, in New York Times Op-Ed piece, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof, who is also co-author of Half of the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Knopf, 2009), talks about an amazing new book, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (Three Rivers Press, 2010).

In the book, the now 12-year old Nujood from Yemen recounts her life story, which involved being married off at the age of 10 to a man in his 30’s, and then courageously seeking to escaping this marriage by getting a divorce.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced is already a bestseller in several countries, and is now available in the States in a paperback format. 

To have a free copy of this book sent to you, simply read the NYT article and book excerpt , then add your reactions and comments to this post to this and email us with your request.  Please be sure to include your full school mailing address.

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Why Jane Austen is THE Best Novelist of Our Time

A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED Edited by Susannah Carson

by Susannah Carson, author of  A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen (Random House, 2009).

“Can Jane Austen’s novels be considered the best novels of our time?”

“Why yes,” I responded, with the bewildered expression of someone who’s just been asked if she breathes air, “of course.”

But ever since that snippet of conversation I’ve been turning the topic over and over. Is it simply a devout preference? Or is it also a fact of literary history?

If we want to make the move from personal belief to universal truth, we’ll have to define our terms… Continue reading

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