The Letters that Presidents Leave to Each Other

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomIt is considered the toughest job on the planet: being President of the United States. Often, they come into office with decades of experience in politics, business, or both; however, after one or two terms, they leave far wiser than they arrived. In 1989, President Ronald Reagan began the tradition of leaving a handwritten letter to his successor. The letter was placed in a drawer of the Resolute Desk located in the Oval Office. The first letter was lighthearted and informal but over time, the letters grew more serious, offering encouragement and specific advice. So what sort of advice or insight does an outgoing President give to an incoming President? Fortunately, you don’t have to run for office, raise more than $2 billion, and attend hundreds of politic rallies to win a Presidential election to find out. Over the years, all of these private letters have been made public. Below are the personal letters that outgoing Presidents have left for their successors.

On January 20, 1989 President Ronald Reagan left the first personal letter for incoming President George H.W. Bush. Since President Reagan was known for his sense of humor and folksy style, he wanted his letter to be lighthearted. Accordingly, he chose stationery that featured the idiom “Don’t let the turkeys get you down” with an illustration of an elephant surrounded by turkeys. Reagan wrote:

“Dear George,
You’ll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well go to it.
George I treasure the memorys [sic] we share and wish you all the very best. You’ll be in my prayers. God Bless You & Barbara. I’ll miss our Thursday lunches.
Ron”

President Bush served only one term. So on January 20, 1993, President Bush wrote the following letter to incoming President Bill Clinton:

“Dear Bill,
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.
Good luck —
George”

Eight years later, on January 20, 2001, President Clinton wrote a letter to incoming President George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush’s son. Clinton wrote:

“Dear George,
Today you embark on the greatest venture, with the greatest honor, that can come to an American citizen.
Like me, you are especially fortunate to lead our country in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew.
You lead a proud, decent, good people. And from this day you are President of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.
The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible.
My prayers are with you and your family. Godspeed.
Sincerely,
Bill”

Another eight years passed. President Bush wrote the following letter to incoming President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009: 

Dear Barack,
Congratulations on becoming our President. You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life.
Very few have had the honor of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face.
There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.
God bless you.
Sincerely,
GW

On January 17, 2009, after a tumultuous and divisive election with a result that even surprised the winning candidate, President Obama left a handwritten letter for incoming President Donald Trump. Unlike the previous letters, the salutation was more formal and the length of the letter was substantially longer. In hindsight, one of the most notable lines is this one: “[It’s] up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.” Here is the complete letter that President Obama wrote:

“Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.
Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.
Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions – like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties – that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.
And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches.
Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.
Good luck and Godspeed,
BO”

On January 20, 2020, outgoing President Trump broke tradition by not attending President Joe Biden’s inauguration, but he decided to continue the tradition of the personal letter, probably because he truly treasured the letter that President Obama wrote to him four year ago. As of this writing, we don’t know what he wrote. When reporters asked President Biden about the contents of the letter, Biden graciously replied, “The president wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him, but it was generous.”

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts:
What was the Letter Read at the Trump Inauguration?
Einstein’s Touching Letter to a Grieving Father
John Steinbeck’s Letter to His Son About Love
Nixon’s Eloquent Apollo 11 Speech that America Never Heard
The Speech that JFK Never Gave

For further reading: http://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/01/20/presidential-notes-inauguration-trump-biden/


If There Are Any Angels in Heaven, They Are All Nurses

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPresident-Elect Biden stood somberly at the end of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool to present a beautiful and moving evening vigil to remember the 400,000 lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to his formal remarks he acknowledged that it was appropriate that a nurse, Lori Marie Key, sing the soaring hymn, “Amazing Grace,” to draw attention to the heroic work of nurses. Back in 2015, Biden’s son, Beau (age 46), lost his struggle against brain cancer. Although Biden has always carried the pain of that loss in his heart, he has never forgotten how his son’s nurses delivered such exceptional and compassionate care. On this solemn occasion, the night before his inauguration, Biden expressed his gratitude for the role of nurses, which he has done during many hospital tours: “If there are any angels in heaven, they are nurses.” And standing next to him was such an angel. In an interview with the New York Post, Key explained that she was singing for every nurse: “When I’m up there singing, I’m really singing on behalf of how every health care worker is feeling everywhere… this song is basically for everyone who went through something this year and still going through something now…. [The song] helps give you encouragement.”

Biden went on to deliver his formal remarks: “To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all who we have lost.” And slowly the 400 lanterns flanking the reflecting pool lit up in succession, while all across the country, iconic buildings were lit up to remember the victims of the pandemic. What makes their loss more poignant is that many died alone, away from family and loved ones. However, some of these patients were fortunate to be surrounded by the last human beings they would ever see before they “slipped the surly bonds of earth” — exhausted but compassionate earthly angels dressed in blue scrubs, their tears obscured by partially fogged protective face shields.

The founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), believed that nursing was the highest form of art. “Nursing is an art,” she wrote, “and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work. For what is having to do with dead canvas or cold marble compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said the finest of Fine Arts.” But according to a study, 70% of nurses believe that nursing is not just a profession but a calling — defined as a deep desire to devote oneself to serving people according to the high values established by the medical profession. The researchers found that “[Nurses] who were committed to their profession and experienced their job as a calling, had a good knowledge about the ill feeling and maladjustment of their patients and were also good sources of support for their patients. They understood the importance of family ties and offered support to their patients’ families. They were aware of the needs of dying patients and their concern with spiritual questions, and satisfied these needs well.” A tall order, unless you are an angel.

Let us close with one of the most eloquent tributes to nurses. We travel back to March 3, 2018, to the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City where Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, delivered an address to the members of the Italian Federation of the Boards of Nursing Professions: “This professionalism, however, manifests itself not only in the technical sphere, but also and perhaps even more so in the sphere of human relationships. Being in contact with physicians and family members, in addition to the sick, you become, in hospitals, in healthcare facilities and in homes, the crossroads of a thousand relationships, which require attention, competence and compassion. And it is precisely in this synthesis of technical abilities and human sensitivity that the value of your work is fully revealed. Taking care of women and men, of children and elderly, in every phase of their life, from birth to death, you are tasked with continuous listening, aimed at understanding what the needs of that patient are, in the phase that he or she is experiencing. Before the uniqueness of each situation, indeed, it is never enough to follow a protocol, but a constant — and tiresome! — effort of discernment and attention to the individual person is required. All this makes your profession a veritable mission, and makes you ‘experts in humanity,’ called to carry out an irreplaceable undertaking of humanization in a distracted society which too often leaves the weakest people at the margins, taking interest only in those who ‘count,’ or responding to criteria of efficiency or gain.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading: As Miss Nightingale said: Florence Nightingale Through Her Sayings: A Victorian Perspective, Florence Nightingale, edited by M. E. Baly, Scutari, 1991
http://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2016/03/Moonshot-QA-with-nurse-who-met-VP-Joe-Biden.html
nypost.com/2021/01/19/viral-amazing-grace-nurse-to-sing-at-covid-19-memorial/
https://exhibits.lib.byu.edu/nightingale/reading-list.html
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9181405/
http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2018/march/documents/papa-francesco_20180303_ipasvi.html


There’s A Word for That: Lychnobite

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you know someone who works in the medical profession or public safety (like a nurse, doctor, EMT, police officer, fireman, etc.) then you probably know a lychnobite. A what? Although it sounds like a pejorative term, a lychnobite is simply a person who works at night and sleeps during the day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 15 million Americans work the dreaded night shift.

The word is pronounced “LICK no bite” It is derived from the Ancient Greek word lukhnos (meaning “lamp”) and bios (meaning “life”). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word is considered obsolete; the first recorded use of the word was in 1727.

So if lychnobite is obsolete, what is the modern term for a person who works during the evening and sleeps during the day? Excellent question. The most common term is “night owl,” based on the fact that owls that are nocturnal creatures, sleeping by day and hunting for food at night. Although the night owl is perfectly adapted by evolution for nocturnal living, the human being is not. Numerous studies indicate that the night shift interferes with the human body’s circadian clock. This leads to fatigue, decreased attention (ADHD), decreased cognitive abilities, sleepiness on the job, crankiness, disruption with the body’s metabolic process, and increased vulnerability to disease (like heart disease and cancer). And if that isn’t enough, people who work night shifts are more likely than day-shift workers to get into car crashes and become victims of caffeine, alcohol, and smoke abuse.

Other options for lychnobite are: night worker, night-shift worker, night person. Urban Dictionary lists a related term, vampire hours: when a person is awake all night and sleeps all day.

What other synonyms can be added to this list?

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Dickens
What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/night-work
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=vampire%20hours


New Book: Serendipitous Discoveries From the Bookshelf

alex atkins book coverMy first book, Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf, is now available in paperback and on Kindle. It is the perfect gift for a booklover, literature aficionado, word lover, student, teacher, or writer. Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf was written and designed by a bibliophile for bibliophiles. It is a beautifully designed and eloquent homage to books, reading, and lifelong learning. The book presents over 100 thoughtful and witty essays filled with fascinating insights, inspiring passages and parables, eloquent quotes about books and reading, valuable life lessons, fascinating rare English words, and arcane literary facts. I take the reader on a captivating and inspiring guided tour — through the world of books, literature, words, phrases, wisdom, education, quotations, movies, music, and trivia — to share fascinating serendipitous discoveries from years of book collecting, reading, and research to inspire critical thinking and lifelong learningB. I hope you take a moment to browse the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon and consider purchasing it for yourself or as a gift for a book lover in your life. If you purchase it, please accept my deepest gratitude for choosing my book and supporting my labor of love. And please drop me a note and share your thoughts about the book. The book can be ordered here.


look inside serendipitous discoveries


Famous Misquotations: Education is Not the Filling of a Pail, but the Lighting of a Fire

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThis is one of the most overused quotations in the world of education: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” by William Butler Yeats. You find it on websites for schools and colleges as well as many books about education and teaching. And of course, it is found on all kinds of merchandise: posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and so forth. But like many quotes found on the internet, there is no evidence that the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats ever said or wrote this. Some websites attribute the quote to Socrates, Plato, or Plutarch. So which is correct? Let me welcome you into the classroom of Famous Misquotations 101, where we will seek enlightenment.

Garson O’Toole, commonly known as the Quote Investigator, does a deep dive into the origins of this quotation in his fascinating book, Hemingway Didn’t Say That (2017). He begins his investigation with the Greek philosopher and historian Plutarch’s essay “On Listening” found in Moralia (“Morals” c. 100): “For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth [Loeb Classical Library, 1927].” Almost 70 years later, Robin Waterfield translates the passage a little bit differently for the Penguin Classics edition (1992): “For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting — no more — and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth.”

As is common with misquotations, an author’s paraphrase of the ideas of a notable writer mistakenly becomes attributed to that writer. O’Toole presents Exhibit A in The Dialogues of Plato (1892) translated by Benjamin Jowett. In the introduction to “The Republic,” Jowett describes Plato’s concept of enlightenment: “Education is represented by [Plato], not as the filling of a vessel, but as the turning the eye of the soul towards the light.” Note that these are Jowett’s words and not Plato’s. Nevertheless, this quote is often mistakenly attributed to Plato or his famous teacher, Socrates.

By now you may be asking: “So how in the world does a quote attributed to Plutarch, Plato, or Socrates, jump a few centuries and get attributed to a 19th-century poet?” Excellent question, Padawan. O’Toole presents Exhibit B: the attribution of a quote transferred to another writer by proximity. Say what? O’Toole was able to find a book, Visions and Image: A Way of Seeing (1968) by James Sweeney. In the book, Sweeney places the Plutarch quote adjacent to a quote by William Butler Yeats. Here is the sentence: “William Butler Yeats has expressed the heart of this viewpoint in his statement, ‘Culture does not consist in acquiring opinions but in getting rid of them’ and Plutarch in ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.'” You can see what happens here if you do not read this sentence carefully. It only took one reader to read it this way and erroneously conflate the two quotes: “William Butler Yeats has expressed the heart of this viewpoint in his statement, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Alas, this careless reading is what ignited the wildfire of this ubiquitous misquotation. It doesn’t help matters when the future editor of a collection of quotations does not research it thoroughly and perpetuates the misquotation by putting it in print. Specifically, Robert Fitzhenry the editor (or perhaps his team) of the Barnes and Noble Book of Quotations (1987) mistakenly attributes the Plutarch quote to William Butler Yeats. Oops!

Interestingly, while researching another topic, I serendipitously came across a beautiful passage by the Italian scholar, Marsilio Ficino, who was a student of Plato and one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. In his letters, written between 1474 to 1494, Facino employs the same metaphor as Plutarch [Volume 4, Letter 7]: “As the sky is to the light of the sun, so is the mind to the light of truth and wisdom. Neither the sky nor the intellect every receive rays of light when they are clouded, but once they are pure and clear they both receive them immediately… the divine cannot be spoke or learned as other things are. However, from continued application and a matching of one’s life to the divine, suddenly, as if from a leaping spark, a light is kindled in the mind and thereafter nourishes itself.”

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading:
Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations, Garson O’Toole, Little A, 2017.

Barnes and Noble Book of Quotations, Robert Fitzhenry, Barnes and Noble, 1987
https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/28/mind-fire/


The Great Gatsby Steps into the Public Domain

alex atkins bookshelf booksAnd as Nick Carraway sat there brooding on the old, unknown world of publishing, he thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning — F. Scott Fitzgerald’s copyright for The Great Gatsby would expire… Say what? Applesauce, Old Sport!

On New Year’s Eve 2020, as revelers peeled back their face masks to take a sip of champagne and kiss their partners, a classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, without even a glimmer of an ostentatious roaring 20’s party stepped into the vast obscurity of the public domain. Gatsby had a great run. Since 1925, the book has sold over 30 million copies. But the reality is that every year, as literary works pass the 95-year term of their original copyrights, they pass into the public domain. So what does this mean? Readers can access for free the full text of the books on collaborative digital libraries like HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and Google Books. Moreover, those books can be freely quoted, copied, published, reimagined, or adapted as screenplays or stageplays. For example, on January 5, Michael Farris Smith published Nick, a prequel to The Great Gatsby. (The cover art is reminiscent of the painting “Celestial Eyes” featured on the cover of the first edition.) In this novel, Smith explores the life of Nick Carraway after serving in WWI and traveling through Europe, years before he meets Jay Gatsby. The publisher describes the novel this way: “Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s periphery, he was at the center of a very different story-one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed firsthand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance-doomed from the very beginning-to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavor of debauchery and violence. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know but few have pondered deeply.”

Here are some other notable works that are in the public domain as of January 1, 2021:
1984 by George Orwell
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
A Daughter of the Samurai by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs by Dorothy Scarborough
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
Those Barren Leaves by Aldous Huxley
The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill
The Trial (in German) by Franz Kafka
The Writing of Fiction by Edith Wharton

So we read on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the books of the past.

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts: What is a First Edition of The Great Gatsby Worth?
The Meaning of the Ending of The Great Gatsby
The Most Beautiful Cover Designs of The Great Gatsby
What Was the Greatest Year for Literature?
The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels

For further reading:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick by Michael Farris Smith
https://publishers.org/news/aap-statshot-annual-report-book-publishing-revenues-up-slightly-to-25-93-billion-in-2019/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books
https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2021/
 http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/public-domain-books.html


Where Does A Composer Find Ideas?

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“I carry my ideas about me for a long time, often a very long time, before I commit them to writing. My memory is so good that I never forget a theme that has once come to me, even if it is a matter of years. I alter much, reject, try again until I am satisfied. Then, in my head, the thing develops in all directions, and, since I know precisely what I want, the original idea never eludes me. It rises before me, grows, I hear it, see it in all its size and extension, standing before me like a cast, and it only remains for me to write it down, which is soon done when I can find the time, for some­times I take up other work, though I never confuse that with the other. You will ask where I find my ideas: I hardly know. They come uninvited, directly or indirectly. I can almost grasp them with my hands in the open air, in the woods, while walking, in the stillness of the night, early in the morning, called up by moods which the poet translates into words, I into musical tones. They ring and roar and swirl about me until I write them down in notes.”

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s explanation of how he composes. The question was posed by Louis Schlösser, a German violinist, composer, and conductor. Schlösser published his recollections of Beethoven in the article “Persönliche Erinnerungen an Beethoven” in Hallelujah (VI, 20-21, 1885). The quote is also found in The Major Pleasures of Life (1934) by Martin Armstrong.

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related post:
Great Men and Women of Culture Bring Forth the Best Ideas of Their Time


Word of the Year 2020

alex atkins bookshelf words“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,” wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, “and next year’s words await another voice.” To that observation, we can add: this past year’s words also define the language, the conversations, or more accurately, the zeitgeist of the year. And let’s be candid — it sucked. Big time. It even challenged the editors of major dictionaries who review the stats on their respective websites to spot dramatic spikes in word lookups to determine which words capture the interest of the public. Typically, they develop a list and then debate which one merits the distinction of “word of the year.” This year, the editors could not decide on a single word to capture the essence of an annus horribilis.

For 2020 the editors of Oxford Dictionaries could not settle on one word. So they came up with the “Words of an Unprecedented Year” report. In an interview with the BBC, Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries explained, “I’ve never witnessed a year in language like the one we’ve just had. The Oxford team was identifying hundreds of significant new words and usages as the year unfolded, dozens of which would have been a slam dunk for Word of the Year at any other time. It’s both unprecedented and a little ironic — in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other.” The editors selected the following words: bushfire, acquittal, Covid-19, coronavirus, lockdown, social distancing, keyworkers, furlough, reopening, Black Lives Matter, cancel culture, mail-in, Belarusian, moonshot, netzero, support bubbles, superspreader, and conspiracy theory. 

For 2020 Word of the Year, the editors of Merriam-Webster simply looked at the metrics, and the word that showed consistent spikes in dictionary lookups throughout the year was “pandemic.” The editors explained, “On March 11th, the World Health Organization officially declared ‘that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,’ and this is the day that pandemic saw the single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020… [and] it has remained high in our lookups ever since, staying near the top of our word list for the past ten months.” Runners up included: coronavirus, defund, Mamba, Kraken, quarantine, Antebellum, Schadenfreude, asymptomatic, irregardless, icon, and malarkey.

For 2020 Word of the Year, the editors of Macquarie Dictionary (the Webster’s Dictionary of Australia) selected “doomscrolling,” defined as “the practice of continuing to read news feeds online or on social media, despite the fact that the news is predominantly negative and often upsetting.” They also created a special category for pandemic related language. The word they chose in that context is “rona,” the Australian slang for coronavirus. The word rona, incidentally, is an example of a coronacoinage — a neologism related to Covid-19. Runners up included: covidiot, COVID normal, Karen, pyrocumulonimbus.

For 2020 Word of the Year, the editors of Dictionary.com selected “pandemic.” The editors elaborate: “the task of choosing a single word to sum up 2020 — a year roiled by a public health crisis, a crippling economic downturn, racial injustice, political polarization, virulent public discourse, rampant disinformation, corrosion of democracy, topped off with a climate crisis — was a challenging and humbling one. But at the same time, our choice was overwhelmingly clear. From our perspective as documenters of the English language, one word kept running through the profound and manifold ways our lives have been upended—and our language so rapidly transformed—in this unprecedented year.” The pandemic not only infected millions of people, but it also spawned its own unique vocabulary: asymptomatic, contact tracing, flatten the curve, fomites, frontliner, furlough, herd immunity, hydroxychloroquine, infodemic, lockdown, long-hauler, essential/nonessential, PPE, pod, quarantine, shelter in place, social distancing, superspreader, twindemic, and viral load. The list doubles when you add all the clever coronacoinages: anti-masker, bubble, the Before Times, cluttercore, coronababy, coronacation, coronacoaster, coronacut, coronasomnia, COVID-10, covidiot, drive-by birthday, drive-in rally, maskne, quarantini, quaranteam, Zoom-bombing, Zoom fatigue, Zoom mom, and Zoom town.

For 2020 Word of the Year, Atkins Bookshelf has selected “unprecedented,” defined as has never been known or done before. If you watched news clips from just about any week from 2020, you very likely heard an anchor add to the description of an event, “This is unprecedented.” You don’t say? Everything we witnessed — from the Covid-19 crisis, climate crisis, raging brushfires, racial injustice, protests and riots, national quarantine, rampant Trumpism — was freaking unprecedented. It was exhausting, demoralizing, and depressing to watch. No wonder sales of alcohol increased dramatically over the past year. Another reason that unprecedented is the perfect word for 2020 is because it sounds like “unpresidented,” defined as “not having a president.” And that sums up the Trump presidency pretty well: a narcissistic leader who consistently rejected the truth, scientific and medical data, intelligence data, political norms, rule of law, the democratic process, and the Constitution that led to one crisis quickly followed by another. But his most irresponsible action was ignoring the advice of medical experts back in February, as reported by Bob Woodward, that led to a lethal pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans to date, and caused a crippling recession that permanently wiped out over 100,000 businesses and pushed more than 115 million people into poverty. And that is unpresidented and unprecedented in modern history.

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts:
Word of the Year 2019
Word of the Year 2018
Word of the Year 2017
Word of the Year 2016

How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words Related to Trump

For further reading:
http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-
http://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year/
http://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/resources/view/word/of/the/year/
http://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-year/
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/19/unpresidented-trump-word-definition

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/10/07/covid-19-to-add-as-many-as-150-million-extreme-poor-by-2021
https://fortune.com/2020/09/28/covid-buisnesses-shut-down-closed/
http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-told-bob-woodward-he-knew-february-covid-19-was-n1239658


What Is the Origin of “Hindsight is 20/20”?

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesEveryone is familiar with the adage “Hindsight is 20/20” which means having a clearer understanding of an event or situation after it has occurred. The question is, however, just how clear is your understanding of the year 2020? You would be kind if you described 2020 as a series of shit shows pulverized by a mind-numbing succession of escalating train wrecks exploding into a spectacular sequence of cascading cluster f*cks drowned by wave after wave of destructive tsunamis. In short, if you wanted to know what the apocalypse will be like — just look back at 2020. You just lived through it! And, if you are like most people, you really don’t want to see it with 20/20 vision. It’s just too painful.

So let’s turn our view from the catastrophe that was 2020 — annus horribilis, to borrow the words of Queen Elizabeth — and focus on the phrase mentioned earlier. Where did it originate? Let us travel back more than 150 years to Utrecht, Netherlands to the office of ophthalmologist Herman Snellen (1834-1908) at the Netherlands Hospital for Eye Patients. In 1862, Snellen introduced the Snellen chart to study visual acuity. You know the one — you’ve seen it dozens of times over the years. It is either printed as a tall rectangular poster or projected on a wall in the ophthalmologist’s office. It consists of 11 lines of optotypes, specially designed capital letters, that gradually decrease in size. An individual with normal vision can read all those letters from 20 feet away. Thus normal vision is 20/20. “But why 20 feet?” you ask. Excellent question. Although that number appears to be random, it is not. At 20 feet the eye is relaxed in its normal shape and doesn’t require bending light rays to focus an image on the retina. Ah, I see. So if you wear glasses, you are in good company: more than 75% of Americans do not have 20/20 vision. And if you wear glasses or contacts, it is likely that they were designed and manufactured by EssilorLuxottica, a behemoth in the eyewear business. The company has a market capitalization of $70 billion and annual revenue of about $7.8 billion. While you may see competitors in the marketplace (e.g., Glasses.com, LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, and Target Optical) it is only an illusion. All those stores and the brands they carry are all owned by EssilorLuxottica. But we digress…

So years later, the introduction of the Snellen chart in America influenced the phrase. The earliest usage of the “hindsight is 20/20” appears in an article in the California newspaper, The Van Nuys News (February 17, 1949), written by humorist Richard Armour. He wrote, “Most people’s hindsight is 20/20.” Nothing could be clearer.

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts:
What is the Pinocchio Effect?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
What is the Borgesian Conundrum?
What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Origins of Talk Turkey
What is the Meaning of Six Ways From Sunday?

For further reading:
The Yale Book of Quotations, Fred Shapiro
https://www.pressreader.com


The Most Memorable Quotes from 2020

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Quotations are the backbone of much of literature, and of the transmission of art and thought more generally,” writes Fred Shapiro in the introduction to the Yale Book of Quotations. “Text refer to other texts. Today the [Internet] links documents… but such connections have always been pivotal to human discourse… The delight is our natural response to the monuments of creativity and wisdom, kept alive by quotations, a communal bond uniting us with past culture and with other lovers of words and ideas in our own time.”

Indeed, collections of quotations support this concept of communal bonds. But what happens when these collections are not updated frequently. For example, the Yale Book of Quotations (1,068 pages long and containing more than 12,000 quotations) was published in 2006 and has not been updated since. To address that gap in the quotation collection, in 2013 Shapiro (the associate librarian and lecturer at the Yale Law School) began compiling a list of the top 10 notable quotations for each year.

When you read each quotation, it immediately evokes the feelings and thoughts you had about that particular moment in time. In past years, you may have experienced or learned about an event while you were in different locations; however, during the pandemic everyone was pretty much sheltering-in-place. Taken as a whole, it portrays a nation drowning in lies, insults, suffering, and sadness. Isn’t any wonder everyone is eagerly counting down the days of 2020?

Below are Shapiro’s most memorable quotes from 2020:

“Wear a mask.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd

“One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
President Donald Trump

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”
President Donald Trump

“I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.”
Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a statement dictated to her granddaughter Clara Spera.

“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
Joseph Biden Jr.

“The science should not stand in the way of this.”
Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary

“You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier.”
Joseph Biden Jr., former Vice President, then Presidential candidate

“We are all Lakers today.”
Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers Coach

What other quotes should be considered for this list?

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading:
https://news.yale.edu/2012/12/17/can-i-quote-you-yale-librarian-s-annual-list-year-s-best


The Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index: 2020

alex atkins bookshelf books

Back in 1984, the PNC Bank (a bank based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania) developed the Christmas Price Index that totals the cost of all the gifts mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a flippant economic indicator. In 1984, the Christmas Price Index was $12,623.10; more than three decades later, in 2019, it reached $38,993.59, but due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-10 crisis, the amount tumbled down a dramatic 58.5% to $16,168.14. The team that calculates the index attributes the significant decrease to the cancellations of live performances.

Despite their symbolism, the twelve gifts of Christmas are not only extremely random, they are more of a nuisance than carefully-selected gifts that you would actually cherish. As if the holidays are not stressful enough, imagine all those animals running and flying about helter-skelter, defecating all over your clean carpets — not to mention the nonstop, grating sound of drummers drumming and pipers piping pushing you toward the brink of a mental breakdown. Truly, no book lover would be happy with these gifts. Bah humbug! Therefore, I introduced the Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index in 2014 that would be far more interesting and appreciated by bibliophiles. The Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index replaces all those unwanted mess-making animals and clamorous performers with first editions of cherished classic Christmas books. The cost of current first editions are determined by the latest data available from Abe Books, the leading online antiquarian bookseller.

For 2020, the Atkins Bookshelf Christmas Price Index is $112,145 (shipping and tax are not included), an impressive increase of about 24% from last year ($88,263) — something that would surely bring a smile to that old greedy curmudgeon Scrooge. The biggest hit to your wallet remains — by a very large margin — Charles Dickens’ very coveted and valuable first edition of one of the most well-known literary classics — A Christmas Carol ($75,000, an increase of $30,000 from last year!). The second most expensive Christmas book, coming in at $15,000 (price unchanged from last year), is Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (more commonly known at “The Night Before Christmas”) that has largely influenced how Santa Claus is depicted. The poem was included in a collection of Moore’s poems in 1844, a year after the publication of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Below are the individual costs of the books that make up the Atkins Bookshelf Christmas Price Index.

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens: $75,000
A Visit from St. Nicholas (included in Poems, 1844) by Clement C. Moore: $15,000
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) by Dr. Seuss: $5,500
A Christmas Memory (1966) by Truman Capote: $3,500
The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg: $2,250
The Nutcracker (1984 edition) by E. T. A. Hoffman: $950
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) by Valentine Davies: $1,500
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) by L. Frank Baum: $5,495
The Greatest Gift (1944) by Philip Van Doren Stern: $2,450
Christmas at Thompson Hall (included in Novellas, 1883) by Anthony Trollope: $150
Old Christmas from the Sketchbook of Washington Irving (1886) by Washington Irving: $125
The Gift of the Magi (included in The Four Million, 1905) by O. Henry: $225

Total $112,145

SHARE THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

Words invented by Dickens
Why Read Dickens?
Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index: 2019

For further reading: https://www.pnc.com/en/about-pnc/topics/pnc-christmas-price-index.html


There Should Be A Word for That: Bibleuphoria

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you are a bibliophile you know the feeling: that wave of euphoria that washes over you when you serendipitously find that elusive book you have been hunting for years, perhaps decades. Or perhaps you stumble on a special book that you never even knew existed (bibliophiles call this the “unknown unknown.” You think to yourself: “How is it possible this book escaped my attention? This book should have been on my wish list!” Over decades of hunting books, I have experienced this countless times — with books that have been on my wish list for more than 35 years. So I pose this question: shouldn’t there be a word for this profound feeling of elation, a truly Eureka moment, when you finally find that Holy Grail or unknown unknown?

To that end, I present the word bibleuphoria, defined as: “the euphoric feeling experienced when you finally find a book that has been on your wish list for years or a special book that you didn’t even know existed.” The word bibleuphoria, pronounced “bi blyoo FAW ree uh,” formed from the Greek word-forming elements biblio- (meaning “related to books”) and euphoria (meaning “power of enduring easily,” but more generally, “a sense of elation”). There are several other word-element combinations to consider for this neologism, like biblexulatation or bibliolation, however none are as euphonious as bibleuphoria. So the next time you are a bookstore and find a special book, you can yell out “bibleuphoria.” Be sure to cherish the knowing smiles, from nearby book lovers, that will greet you. They may not know the word — but they definitely know the feeling.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry


Famous Misquotations: Literature Adds to Reality, It Does Not Simply Describe It…

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsJust about everywhere you see this quotation, it is attributed to C.S. Lewis: “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” The only problem is, Lewis never wrote this. Thanks to the great detective work of C.S. Lewis expert William O’Flaherty, author of The Misquotable C.S. Lewis, we know that these sentences were actually written by Paul Homer who is discussing literature and not quoting Lewis directly. The quote can be found on page 28 of Homer’s book C. S. Lewis: The Shape of His Faith and Thought published in 1976.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading: The Misquotable C.S. Lewis, William O’Flaherty, Wipf and Stock, 2018.


What is a Tautonym?

atkins bookshelf wordsWords like wishy-washy or mumbo-jumbo, or any words that contain two identical or similar parts (a segment, syllable, or morpheme), are called tautonyms. In linguistics another term for these is rhyming compounds, a subclass of a larger class of words known as reduplicatives. A reduplicative is a word created by reduplication, defined as the process in which the entire word or the stem or root of the word is repeated exactly or with a small change. There are three classes of reduplicatives: (1) Full reduplication of the base word (e.g., “bye-bye,” “goody-goody,” and “bunny-wunny”; with respect to the last word, linguists refer nonsensical words as “motherese,” “caregiver speech,” “child talk,” or “child-directed speech”).  (2) Partial reduplication of the base word, with only a change in the first consonant (e.g., “boogie-woogie” and “fuddy-duddy”). (3) Partial reduplication of the base word, with only a change in the root vowel (e.g., “ding-dong” and “flip-flop”). 

In many cases, the first word of a tautonym or rhyming compound is a real word while the second part (often nonsensical) is invented to create a rhyme and to create emphasis. Most tautonyms begin as hyphenated words and through common usage eventually drop the hyphen to become single words. Regardless of their hyphenation, they underscore the playfulness of the English language. Below are some common tautonyms (many function as nouns and verbs). If you enjoy writing challenges, try writing a single sentence that uses many or all of these words; however, it cannot turn out to be mumbo-jumbo.

argle-bargle: nonsense; heated argument

argy-bargy: heated argument

arsy-varsy: head over heels

boob-tube: television

boogie-woogie: blues-style music with a strong, fast beat; a dance to pop or rock music

chick flick: a movie primary for women

chiller-killer: a refrigerated heat exchange system

crisscross: intersecting straight paths or lines

dilly-dally: to waste time through indecision or loitering

ding-dong: the noise made by a bell; in the UK, slang for a woman’s breast; a noisy argument; an idiot

ding-a-ling: a foolish person

fancy-schmancy: elaborately decorated to impress

fiddle-faddle: a trademarked name for popcorn

flimflam: nonsense; to swindle

flip-flop: a light sandal; backward handspring; abrupt reversal of a position or policy

fuddy-duddy: a fussy or old-fashioned person

gewgaw: cheap, showy jewelry or thing

hanky-panky: improper behavior, typically sexual in nature

harum-scarum: impetuous

heebie-jeebies: a state of nervous fear, anxiety

helter-skelter: disorder or confusion; in disorderly haste

higgledy-piggledy: in a disorderly manner

hobnob: to mix socially, particularly with those of high social status

hocus-pocus: meaningless activity or talk, often to draw attention away from something

hodgepodge: a motley assortment of things

hoity-toity: snobbish

hokey-pokey: trickery; a song that describes the movements of a dance performed in a circle

hotchpotch: a motley assortment of things; a mutton stew with vegetables

hubba hubba: a phrase to express enthusiasm or approval

hubble-bubble: a hookah, an oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water

hubbub: chaotic noise created by a crowd of people; a busy, noisy situation

hugger-mugger: disorderly; secret

hullabaloo: a commotion

hurdy-gurdy: a musical instrument that makes music by rotation of a cylinder that is studded with pegs

hurly burly: busy or noisy activity

itty-bitty: very small

jingle-jangle: the sound that metallic items make

knickknack: a small object, often a household ornament, of little or no value

lovey-dovey: extremely affectionate or romantic

mishmash: a random assortment of things

mumbo jumbo: language or ritual causing, or intending to cause, confusion

namby-pamby: weak in willpower, courage or vitality

niminy-piminy: very dainty or refined

nitty-gritty: the most important details about something

okey-dokey: OK

pall-mall: a 16th century game in which a wooden ball was drive through an iron ring suspended at the end of an alley

pell-mell: in a rushed or reckless manner

ping-pong: table tennis

pitter-patter: the sound of quick light steps; to move or make the sound of quick light steps

prime-time: the time period when most people watch television

razzle-dazzle: showy, noisy activity designed to impress

riffraff: undesirable people

roly-poly: plump

shilly-shally: failing to act decisively

singsong: the repeated rising and falling of a person’s voice as they speak

skimple-skamble: senseless, gibberish

so-so: neither very good nor very bad

super-duper: very good

teeny-weeny: very small, tiny 

teeter-totter: a seesaw

tick-tock: the sound of a clock ticking; making a ticking sound

tighty-whities: snug white briefs worn by males (variant: tight-whiteys)

tittle-tattle: light informal conversation for social occasions

tohubohu: utter confusion, chaos

tootsie-wootsie (also toots-wootsy): a term of endearment

topsy-turvy: upside down; in a state of confusion

voodoo: followers of a religion that involves witchcraft and animistic deities

walkie-talkie: portable two-way radio

wigwag: to move to and fro

willy-nilly: whether one likes it or not; haphazardly

wishy-washy: weak, feeble, lacking character

yada yada (or yadda yadda): used as a substitute for a longer predictable story; boring language

zigzag: a line or course with abrupt right and left turns; veering alternatively to right and left

Are there any other tautonyms missing from this list?

Read related posts: What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?

For further reading:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254220098_Just_a_Load_of_Hibber-Gibber_Making_Sense_of_English_Rhyming_Compounds


Remarkable Bookstores: Libreria Acqua Alta

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you are in Venice and cross the Ponte Tetta, walking south on the Calle Tetta, and turn right turn (opposite the direction of the Ponte Cavagnis) you will come across a small cul-de-sac on your right. When you get to the end of the cul-de-sac you will be rewarded with the sight of the Liberia Aqua Alta (translated from the Italian it means the “high water bookstore”; visitors often refer to it as the Bookshop Aqua Alta.) At the entrance is a sign that reads “The most beautiful bookstore in the world.” But of course, as everyone knows, beauty is in the eye of beholder. Let’s take a look inside.

What makes the Liberia Aqua Alta truly remarkable is that the owner has had to find a way to protect the books from Venice’s constant flooding. So naturally, the best solution is to place books in water-proof vessels. And since this is Venice, you will find a large colorful gondola filled with stacks of books. Books are also stored in smaller canoes, stacked crates, bathtubs, and barrels. There are traditional shelves that began several inches up from the floor. The store is filled with thousands of books, both in English and Italian, many of them vintage. Customers are guided through the sections of the store, punctuated with colorfully-dressed mannequins, by its gregarious owner. And like many used bookstores, this one is inhabited by a black cat.

The front door is flanked by tables and racked that are filled with magazines, comics, maps and ephemera. At the back of the store is an exit (labelled as a fire escape) that leads to a small courtyard lined with books and a staircase made out of books (which have been damaged by water) that leads to a small canal. On the rock wall adjacent to the steps is hand-drawn lettering that reads “Follow the books / steps / climb” to lead customers to the store from the canal.

You can take a virtual tour at the bottom of this webpage: https://veneziaautentica.com/venice-bookshop-libreria-acqua-alta/

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
Words for Book Lovers
Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone
Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
The Sections of a Bookstore

Profile of a Book Lover: Rebecca Goldstein

ost 


What Book Has the Most Disappointing Ending?

alex atkins bookshelf literatureEver watched a movie or miniseries and make it the end only to watch a completely disappointing ending: perhaps it is unnecessarily ambiguous, inscrutable, nonsensical, or the worse: it seems to end rushed or randomly. WTF?! You know the ones (remember the ending of The Sopranos?) — where you instinctively reach for the remote while in a state of bewilderment and anger: “There is no way the director just did this! There has to be more. Let me fast forward — maybe there’s a short clip buried in the end credits…” But nothing reveals itself.

Dedicated readers know too well that movies do not have a monopoly on disappointing endings. Novels or plays can be terribly disappointing. William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet comes to mind (I know — it’s a tragedy, but still…) To arrive at a list, we turn to a number of websites that have asked their readers to weigh in on this fascinating topic. A review of the rationale for nomination of novel with worst ending, one thing becomes quite clear: some readers are very passionate about their positions. Some discontented readers have professed to hurling the book across the room. Makes a great image, doesn’t it, especially when uttering something Shakespearean, like “Fly o curséd book, thou hast offended thee! Crash into a heap of wretchedness, for thou is not worth another word!”

From no single reader community, and in no particular order, below are some novels, by famous authors, that readers found to have disappointing endings. So as not to reveal any spoilers, the reason why readers found a particular novel disappointing will not be revealed — for that you have to read the entire novel, and be disappointed on your own. Happy reading.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

The Magus by John Fowles

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

What book did you feel had a disappointing ending?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels
Famous Epic Novels by the Numbers

Famous Books with Numbers in Their Titles

For further reading:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/worst-book-endings/2020/10/17/e9d8635a-0ee3-11eb-b1e8-16b59b92b36d_story.html
http://www.bustle.com/p/11-incredible-books-with-deeply-disappointing-endings-39267
https://www.businessinsider.com/the-10-worst-endings-in-all-of-literature-2016-8
http://forreadingaddicts.co.uk/polls-and-discussion/the-20-books-voted-the-worst-ever-ending/1119


The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2020

catkins-bookshelf-literatureThe Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC or affectionately known as the “Lytonniad”), established in 1982 by English Professor Scott Rice at San Jose State University, recognizes the worst opening sentence (also known as an “incipit”) for a novel. The name of the quasi-literary contest honors Edward George Bulwer Lytton, author of a very obscure 1830 Victorian novel, Paul Clifford, with a very famous opening sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” 

Each year, contest receives more than 10,000 entries from all over the world — proving that there is no shortage of wretched writers vying for acclaim. The contest now has several subcategories, including adventure, crime, romance, and detective fiction. The winner gets bragging rights for writing the worst sentence of the year and a modest financial award of $150 — presumably for writing lessons.

The winner of the 2020 BLFC was Lisa Kluber of San Francisco, California:
Her Dear John missive flapped unambiguously in the windy breeze, hanging like a pizza menu on the doorknob of my mind.

The runner up was submitted by Lisa Hanks or Euless, Texas:
As hard-nosed P.I. Dan McKinnon stepped out into the gray gritty dawn, a bone chilling gust of filth-strewn wind wrapped the loose ends of his open trench coat around him like a day-old flour tortilla around a breakfast burrito with hash browns, sausage, and scrambled eggs, hold the pico.

The winner in the category of Crime/Detective was Yale Abrams of Santa Rosa, California:
When she walked into my office on that bleak December day, she was like a breath of fresh air in a coal mine; she made my canary sing.

The winner in the category of Vile Puns was Aaron Cabe of Hillsboro, Oregon:
As the passing of Keith Richards was announced on the evening news, just as had been done with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood before him, Jorge gazed at the television in his Tijuana home and felt a sickening knot form in his stomach, for he realized that finally, after all the albums, concert tours, and era-defining cultural impact, the Rolling Stones would gather no más.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Worst Sentence Ever Written
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2014
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2015
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2016
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2017
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2018
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2019
The Best Sentences in English Literature

Best Books for Word Lovers
Best Books for Writers
Most Famous Quotations in British Literature

For futher reading: https://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2020
Dark and Stormy Rides Again by Scott Rice, Penguin Books (1996)


What to Bookmark in Moby Dick

alex atkins bookshelf literatureFine books are often bound with a ribbon bookmark. Bookmarks in books were introduced as early as 1 A.D., bound into some of the earliest codices found in libraries and monasteries of that period. The primary function of the bookmark, of course, is to the mark the reader’s place in the book as he or she reads it. However, once the book is read, the bookmark has a secondary and very important function: it can be placed in the location of a favorite or beautiful passage that you want to return to again and again.

Herman Melville’s magnum opus, Moby Dick,  is considered “The Great American Novel” however its themes and meaning transcend the shores of America. The novel is literally teeming with meaning and brilliant insights. One wishes the book were bound with two dozen ribbon bookmarks. If you have read and studied the novel you know what I mean. Recently I reached for one of my copies of Moby Dick, a beautiful deluxe leather-bound edition with gilded fore-edges published by Easton Press. The silk ribbon marks a passage in the book from Chapter 114, The Gilder. In this chapter, mesmerized by the calmness of the sea, Captain Ahab reflects on life’s journey:

“There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause: — through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more?”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related post: Why Read Moby
The Books That Shaped America
The Books that Influence Us
What to Read Next
30 Books Everyone Should Read
50 Books That Will Change Your Life
The Most Assigned Books in College Classrooms

For further reading: Moby-Dick or The Whale by Herman Melville
Melville: His World and Work by Andrew Delbanco


Famous Books with Numbers in Their Titles

atkins-bookshelf-literature

There are numbers, that heard on their own, are simply prosaic digits. But in the context of literature, certain numbers immediately evoke a famous play or novel, especially when the number is central to the novel (for example, 1984, Catch-22, and Fahrenheit 451). Below are some of the most famous literary works with numbers in their titles.

1984 by George Orwell

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Henry IV (Parts I-II) by William Shakespeare

Henry V by William Shakespeare

Henry VI (Parts I-III) by William Shakespeare

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Richard II by William Shakespeare

Richard III by William Shakespeare

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels
Famous Epic Novels by the Numbers

Who Are the Greatest Shakespeare Characters?
The Most Influential People Who Never Lived
The Power of Literature
The Most Influential Authors
The Most Influential Characters in Literature


Movies About Famous Writers

atkins-bookshelf-moviesFrom time to time, Hollywood gets either bored or tired of producing movies of comic book heroes. So why not movies about the fascinating lives of writers, whose colorful lives can sometimes be stranger than fiction? Although most of these films were not blockbusters, they did attract a rather loyal and well-read audience. Below are films about famous writers (writer, name of film, year of release):

Jane Austen: Becoming Jane (2007)

Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Bronte: To Walk Invisible (2016)

Truman Capote: Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006)

Charles Dickens: The Invisible Woman (2013); The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

Emily Dickenson: A Quiet Passion (2016)

T. S. Eliot: Tom and Viv (1994)

John Keats: Bright Star (2009)

C. S. Lewis: Shadowlands (1993)

Henry Miller: Henry & June (1990)

Lost Generation (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein): Midnight in Paris (2011)

Iris Murdoch: Iris (2001)

Maxwell Perkins: Genius (2015)

Sylvia Plath: Sylvia (2003)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven (2012)

William Shakespeare: Shakespeare in Love (1998)

J. R. R. Tolkien: Tolkien (2019)

Leo Tolstoy: The Last Station (2009)

Oscar Wilde: Wilde (1998)

David Foster Wallace: The End of the Tour (2015)

Thomas Wolfe and Max Perkins: Genius (2016)

Virginia Woolf: The Hours (2002)

Are there any other films that can be added?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Famous Love Quotes from the Movies
Most Famous Movie Quotations
The Best Love Stories
Best Academy Award Quotes
Best Books for Movie Lovers


My Most Cherished Book: Rebecca Goldstein

alex atkins bookshelf books“We read over the shoulder of giants,” writes Leah Price in her introduction to Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, “books place us in dialogue not just with an author but with other readers. Six months from now, this book may be supplanted by a Facebook site. What seems unlikely to change is our curiosity about what friends and strangers read — or about what others will make of our own reading.” Price interviewed several writers and their spouses about what is on their bookshelves. One of the couples was Rebecca Goldstein and her husband, Steven Pinker. Goldstein is a philosopher and novelist; she is also a MacArthur Fellow. She has written ten books, including Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (2014), Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction (2010), and The Mind-Body Problem (1983). When asked which were her most cherished book, Goldstein did not hesitate even for a moment, and responded:

“My copies of both Spinoza’s Ethics and David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature are the same ones I had in college. I’ve used them so much­— taught from them, consulted them — that they are crumbling. And my translation of the Ethics is not the one that most scholars use now. There’s a supe­rior one. So when I write scholarly articles and quote from my translation, the editors often object. But I can’t give it up. It’s those words, of that trans­lation, whether inferior or not, that are, for me, Spinoza’s words. Those are the ones I’ve memo­rized. And both those books, the Spinoza and the Hume, are filled with my marginalia, going all the way back to college. There are passages that I’d marked with questions, and then, sometimes years later, there’s the answer I came to. I’ve never kept a diary. These books, with their marginalia, are the closest thing I have to a diary.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words for Book Lovers
Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone
Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
Words Invented by Book Lovers

The Sections of a Bookstore

For further reading: Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price


Best Thanksgiving Movies 2

alex atkins bookshelf moviesIn the world of cinema, Thanksgiving is the stepchild to Christmas. According the faithful VideoHound Golden Movie Retriever, there are more than 250 movies about Christmas, while there is only 20 about Thanksgiving. Ask anyone to name some Christmas classics and you will hear films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Carol, to name just a few. Certainly, Thanksgiving deserves its own classics  — films that families can enjoy each year after they have stuffed themselves with turkey and pumpkin pie:

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Prolific director and writer John Hughes gave Christmas the Home Alone films, but he didn’t forget Thanksgiving. This film, starring John Candy and Steve Martin, is very similar to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — it is very funny (plenty of slapstick, silly humor) with an underlying sweetness and sentimentality. And just like many of the favorite Christmas movies, it seems to get better with age. Sadly, John Candy passed away seven years after making this film, but he left us with a cherished, truly lovable character, Del Griffith, that had a lot of heart.

Home for the Holidays (1995)
While Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is aimed at a younger audience, this is a smart, witty, yet sensitive and serious, dramedy for adults. Directed by Jodie Foster, the film stars Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr. Charles Durning, Anne Bancroft, and Charles Durning. This movie is relatable on many levels — focusing on the parent-children relationships, the sibling rivalry, the memorable Thanksgiving dinner, and so forth. Charles Durning and Robert Downey have terrific fun with their roles.

Recent Movies:
Friendsgiving (2020)
The Oath (2018)
Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade (2012)
A Family Thanksgiving (2010)
An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (2008)
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower (2006)
What’s Cooking (2000)
The House of Yes (1997)


Synonyms for Book Lover

atkins bookshelf wordsMany book lovers are also word lovers. Or expressed another way, most bibliolaters are also epeolatrists. Naturally, the largest share of synonyms for book lovers are based on the Ancient Greek root word biblos, meaning “book,” and biblion, meaning “paper” or “scroll.” Below are some delicious words that bibliophilists and logolepts can savor:

abibliophobia: the fear of running out of things to read

biblet: a book or library

bibliobibuli: someone who reads too much

biblioklept: a person who steals books; a book thief

bibliolater: a person who loves books

bibliolatry: the love of books; book worship

bibliomane: a person who loves books and reading

bibliomaniac: a person who is obsessed with collecting books

bibliophagist: a voracious reader

bibliophile: a person who loves books or collects books (or both)

bibliophilist: a book lover

bibliopole: a person who buys and sells rare books

bibliosmia: the aroma of a book; the act of smelling books

bibliotaph: a person who hoards books (often unread); books are stored, keeping them from use

bibliotecha: a list of books in a catalog

book-bosomed: a person who always carries a book

bookman: a person who loves books or reading

booktrovert: a person who prefers the company of fictional characters to people in real life

bookworm: a person devoted to reading and study

epeolater: a person who loves words

epeolatry: worship of words

fascicle: a volume; one of a number of books forming a set or series

finifugal: dislikes endings; someone who avoids reading the end of a novel

incunabulum: a book printed before the year 1500

introuvable: a holy grail book; a book that cannot be found

librocubicultarist: a person who reads in bed

logolept: a person who is very interested in words; person obsessed with words

logolepsy: a fascination or obsession with words

omnilegent: having read everything; characterized by encyclopedic reading

philobiblist: a lover of books

princeps: a first edition of a book

rarissima: an extremely rare book or manuscript

scripturient: an author; a person who has a passion for writing

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry


Famous Misquotations: People Were Created to Be Loved. Things Were Created to Be Used…

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIf you search “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. Most of our troubles come from the fact that we love things, and use people.” you will find it on dozens of websites that feature inspirational or wisdom quotes. You will also encounter a common variant of this quotation is: “Variant: People were created to be loved Things were created to be used. The world is in chaos because things are being loved and people are being used.” It’s a great observation, isn’t it? But who said it? Well, that depends on what website you visit. Most attribute it to the Dalai Lama, others attribute Martin Luther King, John Green (from his novel Looking for Alaska). Problem is, they never said or wrote this.

The earliest use of this quotation appears in the book, Our Christian Vocation (1955) written by John Heuss (1908-1966), an Episcopal priest who promoted Christian education. On page 196, Heuss writes: “Martin Buber said, in effect, ‘People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. Most of our troubles come from the fact that we love things, and use people.’ This is being blind to the first fact of a satisfying life.”

Based on the wording “in effect” in seems that Heuss is paraphrasing something that Buber has said or wrote. It certainly make sense, since Buber — who was a philosopher, author, religious scholar, and political activist — developed the philosophy of dialogue, a form of existentialism that distinguishes between two modes of existence: I-Thou and I-It. In his influential work, I and Thou (1923), Buber explains that man is defined by his relations between other human beings and things. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides this introduction to this nuanced concept:

The “I-Thou” relation is the pure encounter of one whole unique entity with another in such a way that the other is known without being subsumed under a universal. Not yet subject to classification or limitation, the “Thou” is not reducible to spatial or temporal characteristics. In contrast to this the “I-It” relation is driven by categories of “same” and “different” and focuses on universal definition. An “I-It” relation experiences a detached thing, fixed in space and time, while an “I-Thou” relation participates in the dynamic, living process of an “other.” Buber characterizes “I-Thou” relations as “dialogical” and “I-It” relations as “monological.” 

Buber was a prolific writer, nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature (10 times) and the Nobel Peace Prize (7 times). So although the specific quotation attributed to him by Heuss does not appear in his writings, it is very consistent with his philosophy.

Note: If there is a Buber scholar who can identify a similar passage to this quotation, please let me know.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading: I and Thou by Martin Buber
https://iep.utm.edu/buber/#SH2b


What Will Your Contribution Be? How Will History Remember You?

alex atkins bookshelf educationIt is the beginning of the semester at St. Benedict’s, a classic boys prep school. Professor William Hundert places the textbook Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean in the center of each of the neatly lined desks. The classroom resembles a museum, filled with historical artifacts that reflect Greek and Roman culture, as well as busts and drawings of the great thinkers of that era, like Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and Augustus. Behind the teacher’s time-worn wooden desk is a scale reproduction of “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David. As former students can attest, Hundert is very fond of quoting Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” “It is not living that is important but living rightly.”

Twenty young students enthusiastically pour into the classroom and take their place at the desks. Hundert asks them to introduce themselves. He then selects one to read a plaque that hangs above the door. Martin Blythe stands up and turns to face the plaque and reads nervously: “I am Shutruk-Nahhunte, King of Ansham and Susa, sovereign of the land of Elam. By the command of Inshunshinak, I destroyed Sippar and took the stele of Naram-Sin, and brought it back to Elam, where I erected it as an offering to my god, Inshunshinak.  Shutruk-Nahhunte, 1158 B.C.”

The professor begins his lesson: “Shutruk-Nahhunte. Is anyone familiar with this fellow? Texts are permissible.” The students frantically open their textbooks, scanning the pages and the index — but to no avail. A sea of baffled faces look up at the teacher in unison. He takes a moment to register their bewilderment and exclaims, “Shutruk-Nahhunte! King! Sovereign of the land of Elam! Destroyer of Sipper! Behold, his accomplishments cannot be found in any history book. Why? Because great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?

He lets this lesson sink in. After a moment’s pause, he continues: “Shutruk-Nahhunte is utterly forgotten — and he is not alone — vanished from history. Unlike the men around you — Aristotle, Caesar, Augustus, Socrates, Plato, Cicero, Horace, Virgil, Ovid. Giants of history. Men of profound character. Men whose contributions surpassed their own lifetimes, and survive into our own. ‘De nobis fabula narratur.’ Their story is our story.”

A few days later, Hundert explains to a cynical, corrupt senator why he teaches what he teaches: “Well, Senator, the Greeks and Romans provided a model of democracy, which, I don’t need to tell you, the framers of our own Constitution used as their inspiration. But more to the point, I think when the boys read Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Julius Caesar even, they’re put in direct contact with men who, in their own age, exemplified the highest standards of statesmanship, of civic virtue, of character, conviction.

Class dismissed.

Now let’s imagine for a moment, what our government would be like, if the people who govern America had the benefit of William Hubert’s lessons?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Ever Again?
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

Excerpts from the film, The Emperor’s Club (2002) written by Neil Tolkin (based on short story The Palace Thief  by Ethan Canin) and directed by Michael Hoffman.

 


%d bloggers like this: