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T.S. Eliot

Socialite Wannabe in Amber Brock’s “Lady Be Good”

in Fiction by

In 1924, George and Ira Gershwin wrote one of their most famous songs: I am so awf’ly misunderstood So, lady be good to me. . . The heroine of Amber Brock’s Lady Be Good is indeed a misunderstood young woman, tormented by desires both frivolous and serious. Beautiful and wealthy, the only daughter of a hotelier whose money is unacceptably nouveau, Kitty Tessler devotes much of her time to figuring out how to be welcomed into New York City’s Knickerbocker crowd. Her friendship with a former schoolmate Henrietta (“Hen”) Bancroft, whose patrician family is listed in the social register, has not yielded the entrée she craves. It is 1953 and American culture and society have been upended in the postwar…

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Overwhelmed? Had a Busy Week? Slow Down with a Poem

in Potpourri by

When things get overwhelming and you feel knee deep in distractions, what do you do to slow things down? Some people turn to meditation. I use poetry as my remedy. As soon as I sense a whiff of spring, I dig up the first stanza of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and recite these words to whomever will listen: April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. I don’t know why I memorized this part of the poem in college, but through this exercise I realized that reading and experiencing a poem can be transformative.  It takes me away from what’s happening around me, an escape…

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The Black Writer’s Burden: Sins of Transracial Fiction

in Non-Fiction by

If you pay attention, you’ll notice how often we Americans mimic a version of Black dialect and persona. We shift our speech and demeanor, usually only momentarily and often with the intent to create momentary comic relief. These fleeting moments of burlesque evoke a stylized version of how Black people are thought to express themselves, or how they might do so in mythical worlds like “Dear Ole Dixie” or “The Ghetto.” I am not referring to anything like malicious ridicule meant to wound, offend, and provoke Black people. These are an almost-unconscious series of informal expressive gestures that most Americans can be expected to employ at one time or another without giving much thought to what they are doing. And…

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