09.17.09 vol. xli, no. 3 The Indy dreams of distant lands.
independent THE HARVARD
President Diana Suen ‘11 Cover art by PATRICIA FLORESCU
News 3 News in Brief
Special 4-7 Travel Photo Feature
Sports 8 Kayaking on the Charles
Arts 9 The Final Destination The Boy Who Knew Too Much 10 Wine and Baudelaire 11 Teaching Modern Classics
For exclusive online content, visit www.harvardindependent.com.
Editor-in-Chief Sam Jack ‘11
Production Manager Faith Zhang ‘11 Publisher Brian Shen ‘11
News Editor Forum Editor Arts Editor Sports Editor Design Editor Graphics Editor Associate Forum Editor Associate Design Editor Associate Graphics Editor
Susan Zhu ‘11 Riva Riley ‘12 Pelin Kivrak ‘11 Hao Meng ‘11 Patricia Florescu ‘11 Candice Smith ‘11 Lynn Yi ‘12 Kyuwon Lee ‘12 Sonia Coman ‘11
Staff Writers Peter Bacon ‘11 John Beatty ‘11 Rachael Becker ‘11 Ezgi Bereketli ‘12 Andrew Coffman ‘12 Truc Doan ‘10 Levi Dudte ‘11 Ray Duer ‘11 Nick Nehamas ‘11 Jim Shirey ‘11 Steven Rizoli ‘11 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Eva Liou ‘11 Caitlin Marquis ‘10 Lidiya Petrova ‘11 Kristina Yee ‘10
As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact President Diana Suen (email@example.com). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Sam Jack (firstname.lastname@example.org). Yearly mail subscriptions are available for $30, and semester-long subscriptions are available for $15. To purchase a subscription, email email@example.com. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., P.O. Box 382204, Cambridge, MA 02238-2204. Copyright © 2008 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved.
09.17.09 s The Harvard Independent
Short & Sweet News that you could conceivably use. Compiled by SUSAN ZHU, FAITH ZHANG, and SAM JACK Kanye? You lie!
In a week of interesting events, two acts of rudeness stole the spotlight in national media. The first was by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who, when President Obama declared that his health plan would not cover illegal immigrants during a speech to Congress, couldn’t contain himself and yelled, quite audibly, “you lie!” A series of boos ensued throughout the chamber. Though Wilson has since apologized to the White House (apology accepted, according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs), the House still voted to formally admonish Wilson, who then said that he would not apologize again. Republicans cry foul at the Democrats’ rebuke, calling it a political ploy, a hypocrisy, and flung the usual mud, but Dems justified their action by maintaining that Wilson should not be allowed to “deligitimize” the president. The incident has also sparked new discussions (or at least one op/ed article by Maureen Dowd) on racism and have also filled the 2010 campaign coffers of both Joe Wilson and his Democratic opponent Rob Miller. In a less sober incident, Kanye, famed for having worse gaffes than Joe Biden, got himself in deep publicity doo-doo during MTV’s annual Video Music Awards (VMAs). Taylor Swift won for Best Female Video with “You Belong With Me” – her first ever VMA. Before she could cover more than two sentences of her acceptance speech, Kanye ran up on stage, grabbed the mic from always-adorable Taylor, and proceeded to declare that Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” which won Video of the Year at the VMAs, should have The Harvard Independent s 09.17.09
won instead. "Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!" said Kanye, as boos rang out. "One of the best videos of all time!" After the media frenzy (CNN had it on its front page), Kanye wrote an all-caps still-looks-drunk apology on his blog (see picture). OMG I LOVE THAT PART ABOUT BEING A CHEERLEADER AND THE BLEACHERS TOOOOOOO!!!! When Beyoncé won Video of the Year, she invited Taylor back up to the stage to have her moment and finish her acceptance speech. Now that’s sweet.
An eventful US Open.
Yale murder investigation continues.
Clijsters was the first unranked player ever to win a Grand Slam title. Many of the top-ranked women’s contenders exited the field early in the tournament, many in flurries of error and double-faults, leaving Clijsters to defeat Serena and Venus Williams on the way to an easy final against the young Caroline Wozniacki. Apart from the Williams sisters’ doubles title, the only really big positive news at the US Open from an American perspective was the break-out performance of Melanie Oudin. Oudin showed great tenacity, knocked out a series of big-hitting but error-plagued Russians on her way to a defeat in the quarter-finals at the hand of eventual runner-up, and fellow teen, Wozniacki.
Does seeing green make you see red (or vice versa) because you’re colorblind? A “cure” through gene therapy might be on the way.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The body of Annie Le, a doctoral student in pharmacology at Yale University who had been reported missing earlier this week, was discovered stuffed into a wall in the basement of her research lab on Sunday—the day on which she was to have been married. Though bloodstained clothing had been discovered earlier in the ceiling of the same building, the police also spent time searching a Hartford landfill for clues to her fate after early speculation that she was a “runaway bride” gave way to suspicion of foul play. Lab technician Raymond Clark has been identified as a “person of interest” in the case, but the police have thus far refused to name a suspect. Investigations continue.
The US Open tennis championship concluded on Monday, after rain delays washed out more than a day of play. The headline results--men’s and women’s singles--were both upsets of varying magnitude. On the men’s side, Juan Martin del Potro dug deep to come back from a set down and win in the final against Roger Federer, who was riding the wave of two consecutive Grand Slam victories, 3-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 6-2. Del Potro, only 20 years old, and with weapons including a powerful serve and penetrating forehand, is on the vanguard of the next generation of tennis players and has steadily ascended the rankings ever since he joined the pro tour as a teenager; he’s now ranked fifth in the world and still climbing. Federer looks to be playing as well as ever, though, and commentators expect him to continue to be among the top two or three favorites to win Grand Slam titles for years to come. Kim Clijsters came out of self-imposed retirement with an 18-month-old child in tow and showed excellent form and consistency to win the women’s title.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
A team of US scientists, led by Dr. Katherine Mancuso of the Medical College of Wisconsin, have cured colorblindness in adult squirrel monkeys. The two monkeys, Sam and Dalton, lacked a pigment that cones (color-detector cells in the eye) need to see red and green. To them, both colors were previously shades of grey, and other colors like brown, blue, and orange, appear to be washed-out. The scientists injected their eyes with millions of copies of a human gene needed to make the pigment, and four months later, the monkeys’ vision improved. Though they did not do as well on color tests as a female monkey who had normal color vision, they were able to detect the difference between and see red and green. The study was published in the journal Nature. firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANCE By SUSAN ZHU The Chambord Castle was constructed by Francois I (Francis I) as a hunting lodge and is probably the most famous of the Loire Valley castles. However, due to its sheer size and the coldness of the stones, nobody actually liked to live there. Today it attracts visitors from all over the world. The cashiers in the gift shop even ask you where you're from and record it for their statistics.
The monument, located in front of the flags at Omaha Beach, site of the American DDay invasion, was created and dedicated to the American soldiers who gave their lives to free France and Europe from Nazi rule. The people of Normandy genuinely still like Americans - a rarity in France, though the French love Obama a lot more than Bush.
The Arch was constructed by Napoleon himself, who envisioned his empire as a revival of the old Roman order. The Arch sits at Place Charles de Gaulle (Etoile) on the Champs-Elysees, the long boulevard that the military parade marches down for Bastille Day.
The line to go up to the top of Notre Dame took about an hour and a half. Once up there, you realize that there's really not a lot of space to move around. But the view is gorgeous. You can see all of Paris, from Sacre Coeur to the Eiffel Tower. The lower level is home to the stone gargoyles, made famous by Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Bastille Day is the equivalent of Independence Day to the French, and it happens just ten days after the American one, on July 14. It celebrates the day that Parisians rose up and stormed the Bastille, a jail, marking the 1789 French Revolution. I watched with my friends from the Champ de Mars, a long field/park in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was PACKED. The fireworks were accompanied by a montage displayed on the Eiffel Tower, showing the history of Paris and the Tower through its 120 year history.
The American flag flies over the American Cemetery in Normandy, where most of the soldiers who died in the European front of World War II are buried. Rows upon rows of white crosses and stars of David dot the fields. I've never been the flag-waving in-your-face patriot, but I have never felt more patriotic about being an American than when I was there at Normandy. The soldiers' sacrifice for a cause they believed in, for the idea of liberty and freedom, for people thousands of miles away whom they never met, is truly inspirational.
Nicosia is the last divided capital in the world. The Green Line, the somber wall which separates the Turkish occupied part from the de facto Republic of Cyprus, passes right through the old town. Dilapidated houses such as this one mark the buffer zone between the two sides of the wall.
Embroidery handicraft shop in Leftkara. This world famous traditional style of lace embroidery is called â€œLefkaritikaâ€?.
CYPRUS By PATRICIA FLORESCU
Cyprus is one of the first wine producing countries. There are more than 200 types and styles of wine you can try in Cyprus.
Cyprus is a great place for a lazy summer vacation or for intensive hunting for ancient ruins and mythological places.
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ROMANIA By PATRICIA FLORESCU
Man in a traditional costume playing the bucium, a type of horn used by mountain dwellers in Romania. Behind him, you can see samples of Romanian ceramic work.
The Clock Tower is the landmark of the Romanian city of Sighisoara, one of the best preserved mediaeval citadels in Europe. The clock is equipped with moving figurines that represent the days of the week or the times of the day.
Sighisoara hosts a week-long medieval festival every year. The town has preserved its medieval atmosphere so well that princesses wearing heavy brocade dresses and knights in shiny armours don't look anachonistic.
SPAIN By DIANA SUEN
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COSTA RICA By RIVA RILEY
Two rat snakes underwent an hours-long mating ritual right beside our dormitory. We snapped photos and took video, but they didn't seem to mind. It rained, and they weren't fazed.
The view after a lengthy hike up a steep, rocky trail to a mirador, or lookout point. The effort was well worth the payoff, especially at sunrise. There were crocodiles in the wetlands around the river, and we saw a baby skulking behind a tuft of aquatic grass.
A spider monkey lying low at Palo Verde National Park. These monkeys are quite bold, and people have been ambushed by groups of Capuchin monkeys. The monkey in this photo was part of a large group that surrounded me and my hiking buddy on our way down from the mirador, and we worried that they were going to turn on us. (A group of students from my course had things thrown at them and one monkey urinated on someone)
BRAZIL & THE NETHERLANDS ANTILLES
Mid-elevation tropical old-growth forest. It took twenty minutes to navigate twenty meters of offtrail hiking without damaging the undergrowth, and much of our work at this site involved plant identification well off the trail.
Motmot: a beautiful bird our professor mist-netted. It was released moments after this photo was taken.
By EMELYN RUDEL
Sunrise: Rosaria da Limeria, Minas Gerais. The glorious sight in the mountains of Minas at 5am.
Corcovado, the 700 meter statue of Christ the Redeemer, overlooking the beautiful and vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro.
This boy was one of the participants in the Diognostico Rural Participativo (Diagnostic Rural Participation) of Babilonia, Minas Gerais Brazil. These meetings served to map the important areas of the community to be submitted to the local government to be utilized in the creation of protected forested areas.
This obelisk marks one of the four cardinal points on the island of Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles. Just north of Venezuela, these islands are famous for their coral reef and some of the best diving in the world. 09.17.09 s The Harvard Independent
ARGENTINA By ALYSSA BLAIZE One Friday afternoon, a raucous socialist protest errupted in the street outside my building. Here is a view from the balcony of my apartment in Buenos Aires' neighbohood of Recoleta.
A view from the banks of Buenos Aires' Rio Plata. The river is known as one of the dirtiest rivers in the world.
UGANDA & RWANDA By DIANA SUEN
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Water, Water Everywhere Making the most of kayaking on the Charles.
By DIANA SUEN
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
HERE ’ S SOMETHING GLORIOUS AND
completely natural about being in water. It’s speculated that our affinity for water first started when we were floating around in our mothers’ embryonic sac. And in the Bible, water was so marvelous that it could turn into an arguably even more marvelous substance — wine. And in literature, countless authors have explored the theme of water; Mark Twain, to name just one, devoted entire books to chronicling the simple pleasures of being on the river. So what could be better than returning to our element and floating down the river, basking under the sun in the blissful serenity of your own thoughts? Or … returning to that element and battling it to (almost) certain death? I bet you’ve all seen the annoying tourist or two (or dozen!) kayaking on the Charles, ruining your almost perfect view of Boston. And I’ll also bet that every time you see them, you’ve thought to yourself, “Ugh, who are these people?” Well, I’m one of them! It was a beautiful sunny day, and a few of my friends and I decided it would be a shame not to enjoy the river.
Swimming in the river was a no-go; I wasn’t sure that I wanted to risk any weird disease from the now-less-toxicbut-still-potentially-unsafe river. And most of us had never been kayaking before, so we decided to give it a try. Sitting in that little two-seater kayak made me a little nervous in the beginning. When the guy pushed us off the dock, I could feel myself tilting from side-to-side, and I kept envisioning the boat flipping over and being trapped under it. (I blame this on the somewhat intense safety questionnaire they made us fill out before we started.) Of course, I was just being ridiculous. I doubt anyone’s ever flipped over on their own, and if they have, that’s what lifejackets are for. Kayaking was very simple and relaxing. I could go at my own pace, choosing to power-paddle, take it easy, or just not paddle at all whenever I wanted. And the Charles River was so calm that even when we saw the wind picking up a little, it hardly changed our tempo. Paddling on the water and occasionally accidentally splashing myself with water from that paddle, I thought to myself, “I really like this.” But then it started to get mundane. After the first ten minutes of just
enjoying the view, I started getting a little bored. “This is too simple, too relaxing, too calm,” I thought to myself. “We need to spice things up.” Luckily, my friend was more than willing to go along. We first tried a trick she learned in crew. One person would power-paddle while the other person took off their shoes and skimmed the top of the water with the bottom of their feet. There was nothing really to it — it just felt good. Next, inspired by our initial shaky launch, we decided we’d actually try shaking things up a bit, literally. We looked for the biggest motorboats on the river we could find and rowed towards them in hopes of riding some big waves. (I’m sure this is against Charles River Canoe and Kayak’s safety regulations, but whatever, we were confident we could handle them.) Sadly, most of the motorboats we saw would slow down when they saw us, probably out of courtesy. They had no idea how great a discourtesy that actually was! We did manage to catch a few large waves though, and when we did, we raised our paddles into the sky, tossed back our heads, and laughed in delight as our boat shook forcefully.
But still, that wasn’t enough to satisfy our adrenaline bug. We decided we would attempt the ultimate — standing in a kayak. Everyone’s seen movies where standing up equates to kayak capsizing. My friend stood up first. She’s of a smaller stature than I am and naturally has better balance, so while the boat wobbled a bit, it didn’t seem unsafe. I was inspired: I wanted to stand up too. I planted my feet evenly on the ground, and holding my arms out, slowly inched upwards. Next thing I knew, we were standing! I was so delighted I shouted and threw my hands up in the air … and lost my balance. The kayak tilted dangerously, and I plopped myself down immediately — just in time to prevent it from tilting over completely. I was satisfied though. As we rowed back towards the dock, we had huge grins on our faces. We had made the ordinary extraordinary. Tune in next week for my adventures white-water rafting (and almost dying!) on the Nile River. Diana Suen ‘11 ( dsuen@fas ) is rowing her boat gently down the stream. Merrily. Merrily. Merrily. 09.17.09 s The Harvard Independent
IMPOSSIBILITY, LIKE WINE An alternative approach to wine tasting. Impossibility, like Wine
By PELIN KIVRAK
YOU HAVE TO BE ALWAYS DRUNK,” SAYS BAUDELAIRE IN one of his famous writings. “That’s all there is to it--it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.” “But on what?” you may ask, and he gives you the answer: “Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.” Following my favorite poet’s straightforward advice, I got two tickets to a wine tasting event which took place last Friday evening at the Bulthaup Design Showroom in downtown Boston. My intention was to learn about some beautiful European and Latin American wines and take a bottle home. However, it didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought. Although there was already a charming young man who accompanied me during the evening, I felt like I was mildly flirting with each glass that I had, trying to understand its characteristics and figuring out whether I would like to spend the rest of the night or the next weekend with it. A two-minute wine tasting experience is like a simulation of a first date. First, you need to gather some information. You ask people about where it comes from and what it consists of. Then, you sort of develop an initial perspective of how your experience is going to be like. Third stage is when you actually hold it in your hands. Nervous and curious, you start to glance at it, aiming to guess its inner qualities by studying the way it looks, but you always have to keep in mind that the looks can be very deceiving. Fourth stage comes with the notion of delaying the pleasure i.e. you grab some food before you get somehow intimate with your glass of wine. Nothing fancy though; just a piece of bread, a slice of cheese or fruit. Then ‘the moment’ finally arrives. You slowly bring your glass closer to your mouth; close your eyes and make yourself enjoy every minute of it. When you open your eyes again nothing but your own unique experience leads the way. If you love it; you don’t care about the color, age or the price tag; because you just cannot imagine yourself without it. But if you don’t like it, you put a little “x” next to its name on your chart and move on to the next one without looking back. The event successfully highlighted local wine shops that were full of passion and had regional specialties in their inventories. Every presentation was unique and informative and every single guest was walking around with enthusiasm. However, it didn’t take too much time for me to figure out that it couldn’t be my preferred way of buying a bottle of wine because I knew that whatever I tasted there would not taste the same if I took it home. Besides, I would prefer someone to give me a single bottle, drink it slowly over the course of a day and evaluate my experience in the end. That must be the type of drunkenness that Baudelaire talks about. It has to come from a single source and has to spread itself through your veins slowly so that you don’t even realize it happening. Did I go home with a bottle of wine from the event? No. I was exhausted and equally frustrated with myself for not being able to be more decisive. Ignoring the heavy rain and the empty streets, my friend and I left The Harvard Independent s 09.17.09
Exhilarates the Man the place. We went to a restaurant, sat next to a huge window and started conversing about everything and anything. Ten minutes later, the waiter approached our table to take our order. “Can I have a glass of Argentine red wine?” I said, without hesitation. “Of course,” he replied and came back with a glass of the only red Argentine wine that was on their wine list. Was it the best Argentine wine in the world? Well, I’ll let the experts argue about it. But it was certainly the best glass of wine I’ve had that night because I was finally sure about what I really wanted. All those wines that I tasted in less than two hours were probably too much for me to handle but at least, as wine experts would say, “the aftertaste was sweet and smooth.” Pelin Kivrak ‘11 (pkivrak@fas) doesn’t have any truck with Merlot.
Who tastes it; Possibility Is flavorless - Combine A Chance’s faintest tincture And in the former Dram Enchantment makes ingredient As certainly as Doom –
By EMILY DICKINSON
The Boy Who Knew Too Much Is Mika "the boy who knew too much" – about how to prepare a unique album?
By EZGI BEREKETLI
BOY WHO KNEW TOO MUCH… IT almost sounds too philosophical and pensive to be chosen as the name of a pop album. It echoes the words of Oscar Wilde, who famously proclaimed: “I am not young enough to everything.” Neither is Mika, the 26-year-old singersongwriter, who rose to fame at the start of 2007. However, his new album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, which was released on September 21, has a coming of age theme and deals with his transition from childhood to the present. The same theme was the connecting element of Mika’s debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, in which, Mika said, most songs were autobiographical. Mika has a unique and impressive musical education background: he was trained by Alla Ardakov, a Russian opera singer, and later graduated from the Royal College of Music in London. Although he claims that his vocal range is close to three and a half octaves, he is rumored to be able to go up to five octaves. His first album, Life in Cartoon Motion, was a very successful debut: the single “Grace Kelly” stayed at #1 in the UK for five weeks, and it became the fifth best-selling album in HE
the world in 2007. Any album following this modern pop music phenomenon would be waited for with very high expectations. Maybe not everything, but Mika surely knows what to prepare for and present to his impatient fans. For his new album, Mika worked for with producer Greg Wells, who also produced his debut album. Mika described the new album as the “part two” of his first album, as he said that the new album’s themes were dealing with his teenage years. “We are Golden” is the first single from the album, one of the most youngspirited songs from the album. One listen of the album opener makes it clear that Mika will be dominating the commercial radio airwaves for some time to come. The choruses of some songs sounds like a mixture of children and adults, mirroring his own sprawling fan base. One of the main features that make this album a success is that there are almost as many different styles and sounds in various songs as the colors on the album’s multicolored artwork. Power-ballad “I See You,” the charming sing-along “Blue Eyes,” and “Touches You,” with more than a hint of George Michael, span a wide gamut of
musical styles. One thing that becomes obvious after listening to the album is that Mika has not changed the winning formula that he used in his debut album: his sound is still reminiscent of high school dramas and teenage dreams. The album came with very exciting news for all those who have been a fan of Mika ever since the first album, or who have just ventured into the world of the boy who knew too much: Mika will be giving a concert on October 15 in the Boston Orpheum Theatre. There is no doubt that this will be a great concert, so you are highly encouraged to get your tickets as soon as possible. Although Mika is not young enough to know everything, he seems to have a good idea about what makes a pop album unique. The Boy Who Knew Too Much is ready to be the soundtrack of our daydreams in which we travel back to the times when we thought we “were golden,” went to sleep hugging our “toy boys,” hated the days when it “rained,” and “blamed it all on the girls.” Ezgi Bereketli '12 (ebereket@fas) tried to be like Grace Kelly, but all her looks were too sad.
Death Comes Knocking The Final Destination formula still works. By BRIAN SHEN
HAT OTHER MOVIE COULD HAVE YOU
leaving the theater massively paranoid about, well, absolutely everything that could go wrong in the world and kill you gruesomely, but one of the Final Destination movies? Their latest installment, The Final Destination (what a creative title!) is supposed to wrap up what has become a four-film saga documenting the various Rube-Goldberg-esque ways unyielding Death can knock you off. Let us revisit what happened in film number one: Final Destination. A troubled teen, the rebel of the class, gets onto a plane for a field trip but — oh — he has a vision! And what does this vision show him? The plane is going to explode, and everyone is going to die. So he freaks, gets off the plane, and a group of enraged
students and the teacher chaperone get off the plane only to see it explode just after take-off. Soon thereafter, the invisible Death begins picking them off one by one in the order that they were supposed to die. Well, back in the day, as in sixth grade, when I first saw this it seemed like an innovative idea, and I have to admit that nearly 10 years later, I’m still quite entertained by the notion that we can die at anytime due to simple malfunctions of machinery, people not paying attention to what they are doing, or that we don’t have control over when we die. It is all rather terrifying don’t you think? This latest installment combines the usual camp and horror but plays on a bunch of childhood warnings that you
would get from your parents, like don’t mess around on an escalator or don’t go near the suction drain at the bottom of a pool because it can suck your guts out. The fact that this movie is in 3D also helps with the horror/gore action, making it even more terrifying for those with phobias of things poking your eyes out. To take the movie to another level, movie theaters, such as the Mann theaters in Orange County, CA have turned the movie into one of those simulated rides – except this is a full blown movie where all the thrills are accentuated by sudden seat movements as well. These screenings are available only in selected theaters in the US & Canada, but you can expect other movies to start designing their movies for such theaters in the future.
The Final Destination, though not the scariest of them all, definitely has qualities that redeem the rather flat acting. The first, is the definite eye-candy in the movie. You get your fair share of cute faces, and maybe one hot bod for all you jock-loving ladies out there. Second, this is a character driven thriller, which means they grow to love each other, have rivalries, and disagreements, and eventually grow to be wiser. Oh yeah and then there’s the unexpected, though cheap ending, which I won’t give away. But ask yourself after you watch it: “How does Death make this The Final Destination?” Maybe there’s room for another movie, after all. Brian Shen ‘11 ( bshen@fas ) is never afraid. 09.17.09 s The Harvard Independent
The Classics of Our Own Age Modern fiction deserves more of a place in schools. By RIVA RILEY
I COULD TALK ABOUT FOR hours is All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzerprize winning masterpiece, but I never get the chance because nobody else has read it. It is a magnificent work, with a style that is rich and gorgeous and propels the story deliberately. I am rereading it now for the umpteenth time; it has a mysterious pull on me. The descriptions will blow your mind if you have the patience for them, and the slow pace helps the reader, like Jack Burden, find a personal explanation for all of the events that unfold over the course of the complex narrative. In my opinion, All the King’s Men is literature at its finest, on par with the most conspicuous of classic works. I am an aspiring writer, and reading Robert Penn Warren’s prose has had a tremendous influence on my style in ways that traditional classics such as Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities never could have. I use those titles because they are featured on the list of traditional classics that I have read, and that list is not especially long. In fact, compared to many of my friends at Harvard, I have not read much at all. Having spent a significant portion of my childhood reading and having attended rigorous English classes throughout secondary school, this surprised me. My closest friends seemed beyond me in literary knowledge, discussing the Brontë sisters, Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, and other immortal titles while I looked on, often with the uncomfortable realization that I had no idea what they were talking about. I knew a little bit and had read some prominent literary authors, but my knowledge seemed different from that of my friends and peers. While I could provide insight on Anne Tyler’s Saint NE BOOK
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Maybe and had written papers on Life of Pi and The Kite Runner, none of these books seemed to carry the same weight as the leather-bound classics emanating that intangible aura of antiquity. Much of the time when I tried to throw out a title for discussion I was met with one or two people in a large group who had read the work, or a full group of completely blank stares. When I finally found out that a friend had also read Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved in high school, I exalted over the fact so much he probably thought I was a tad strange. For me, though, I felt like my literary repertoire had been validated a little. As time has passed, however, I have come to appreciate the books I read on my own and as a part of my high school education and have decided that they enhanced my education in unique ways.
All of them were revolutionary in their way, and all of them are considered modern classics because they are great. One day, I think, they will be read as a part of standard education alongside the “classic” classics that are already read as a matter of course in droves of classrooms around the country. They are the books that call to me when I should be working. They are the books that I have read and turned the pages until they are dog-eared because they make me think about things so hard that I hope to find new answers when I read it the second time around, or the third. These are the books that have the power to influence me, perhaps more than ancient tomes, because they speak from a time I can recognize in language that resonates; I can understand without a prolonged struggle.
They are the books that call to me when I should be working. They are the books that I have read and turned the pages until they are dogeared because they make me think about things so hard that I hope to find new answers when I read it the second time around, or the third.
In All The King’s Men I understood the narration but it meant a million different things, depending on how I looked at it and interpreted it, and I appreciated it all the more because it wasn’t cryptic or written in a dialect or style that has long since died. It also didn’t feature fusty, inbred British aristocracy, for which I was extremely grateful. When Elizabeth’s mother wanted her to marry her father’s cousin I actually did a double take and mental warnings flashed: their kids would be at risk for recessive genetic diseases! Luckily, she did not marry him, but the idea that their marriage would be a good idea to anybody was shocking. These concerns aside, I believe there is value in literature that is not yet widely given a membership to the exclusive classics club that dominate high school reading lists and college courses. There are wonderful books out there that, with enough time, will gain prominence and become famous for their literary mastery. If you read them now, you’ll be able to enjoy them as your own personal valets into wonderful worlds most people haven’t discovered yet. Riva Riley ‘12 (rjriley@fas) likes to read off the beaten path.
captured and shot