A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors



Thomas Frank on higher education:

Grant to an industry control over access to the good things in life; insist that it transform itself into a throat-cutting, market-minded mercenary; get thought leaders to declare it to be the answer to every problem; mute any reservations the nation might have about it—and, lastly, send it your unsuspecting kids, armed with a blank check drawn on their own futures.

Was it not inevitable? Put these four pieces together, and of course attendance costs will ascend at a head-swimming clip, reaching $60,000 a year now at some private schools. Of course young people will be saddled with life-crushing amounts of debt; of course the university will use its knowledge of them—their list of college choices, their campus visits, their hopes for the future—to extract every last possible dollar from the teenage mark and her family. It is lambs trotting blithely to the slaughter.

William Carlos Williams on Wallace Stevens:

Stevens is a troubled man who sings well, somewhat covertly, somewhat overfussily at times, a little stiffly but well. If he were satisfied with that!

Helen Rittelmeyer on the perils of "slow reading":

Certainly we can all stand to be a little more thoughtful about why we read what we read. Am I reading David Brooks just so I can get riled up about what a moderate he is? Am I reading celebrity gossip because I think it will give me a hit of moral superiority? Have I convinced myself of the delusion that it will have the slightest effect on our “national conversation” if I develop what feels like a really well-informed position on the day’s headline controversy, and the next day’s, and the next’s? Those aren’t great reasons to read anything, at least they’re not good enough for me.

But after six months of sticking with only the most unimpeachable reason—I’m reading this because it makes me happy for reasons I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit—I have gained a new appreciation for some of the stupid reasons. Viral articles give you something to talk with strangers about. Blog posts give you an excuse to email your friends. The news cycle helps mark the passage of time, differentiating one week from the next and one’s own century from those gone by (not an unalloyed good by any means, but nevertheless indispensable to sanity).

About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

"Sings well?"  Sounds  to me as if Dr. Williams is a bit envious of Mr. Stevens abilities.

Williams and Stevens were both great poets.  Since part of this post is about the cost of higher education, it is interesting to note that neither one of them earned his living as an academic.  Williams was a family physician and Stevens was an insurance executive. They and their contemporaries (Eliot, Frost, Yeats and Pound) were part of an incredibly rich period in English language poetry.  If you are unfamiliar with their work, I recommend Williams' The Widow's Lament in Springtime or To Elsie.  For Stevens, I suggest The Idea of Order at Key West.  

The Thomas Frank article is well worth reading, and a great read besides.  

Frank G. --

I love Stevens.  Williams not so much.  (Not at all, to tell the truth.)  Stevens apparently enjoyed his work as a lawyer for a very large insurance company.  He was offered a job teaching at Harvard, but turned it down.

Williams' critique of Stevens was certainly gentler than Hemingway's.

Yeah, Hemingway laid a beating on Stevens down in Key West.  Stevens managed to land a punch to Hemingway's jaw, but only got a broken hand out of it. 


I understand -- a lot of people don't warm to Williams. While I love a lot of his poems, I think his epic length poem Patterson doesn't quite work.  Still, poets like Gary Snyder and Alan Ginsberg preferred him to Eliot. Personally, I love Eliot.  

Frank --

I haven't read enough Williams to have an opinion, but to me what I've read isn't just simple, it's dishwater plain.  Guess he's too subtle for me.  Actually, I've gotten to love contemporary poetry only in my old age. so I really should express my opinions.  But I KNOW WHAT AI LIKE.  

Love Eliot.  I find he wears very well indeed. 

Oops -- that should be:  I should NOT express my opinion.  IBut I do know what I like :-:  

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment