"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
About 30 miles west of Charleston, West Virginia is a little town called Milton, which was the home to the Plato Records label back in the 1960s. According to Al Collinsworth, vocalist and co-songwriter for The Outcasts, Plato was intended to be an African-American music (Afrilachian) label, but the only known Plato releases are a handful of garage rock and funk singles from predominantly white bands, like The Outcasts' Loving You Sometimes. That particular track has seen an uptick in interest, since it has appeared on some recent mixtapes, including Diplo's Chasing the Dragon (MP3, streaming on Grooveshark). For more on those few known Plato recordings, Garage Hangover has interviews, information and promo photos from members. [more inside]
"This volume stands alone as the only Sendak picture book—that is, a book he both wrote and illustrated—that isn’t designed for children. Not coincidentally, the Blake-inflected illustrations for a 1996 edition of Melville’s “Pierre,” which is certainly not kiddie stuff, bear a similarity to the look of “My Brother’s Book.” It seems that Sendak had an even more specific audience in mind for this one: Kushner told me that Sendak made this book for those adults who had grown up with his stories." Avi Steinberg on Maurice Sendak's My Brother's Book, in The New Yorker. [more inside]
"A talented writer such as John Jeremiah Sullivan might, fifty years ago, have tried to explore his complicated feelings about the South, and about race and class in America, by writing fiction, following in the footsteps of Walker Percy and Eudora Welty. Instead he produced a book of essays, called Pulphead, on the same themes; and the book was received with the kind of serious attention and critical acclaim that were once reserved for novels. But all is not as it seems. You do not have to read very far in the work of the new essayists to realize that the resurrection of the essay is in large measure a mirage." (via) [more inside]
Milton turns 400 today. The Morgan Library celebrates by exhibiting the last surviving pages of Paradise Lost manuscript. Just you wait for the movie! [more inside]
A new 'prose translation' of Milton's classic poem has been written by Prof Dennis Danielson in an effort to help make it available to a wider audience, if they find the original language too difficult. Apparently he wasn't the first to think of it, but considers his a translation rather than a retelling, and it is printed as a dual edition / parallel text. [more inside]
John Milton was born 400 years ago this year, and several excellent websites have been created to mark the anniversary. Two online exhibitions, Citizen Milton and Living At This Hour, celebrate Milton's achievement with a display of early editions and later artistic interpretations, while Darkness Visible offers an accessible introduction to Paradise Lost for readers encountering the poem for the first time, including an interesting discussion of Milton's influence on Philip Pullman (who responds here with his own tribute to Paradise Lost, 'the greatest poem by England's greatest public poet').
Virgin Mary lurks in Boston hospital. Or something.