Generally, McEwan, once a prince of darkness and artist of the danse macabre, is sanguine, optimistic and robust in his faithlessness, a convinced atheist. Lately, however, life and art have begun to elide. Mortality has reverberated through his life, as Auden says, like “the sound of distant thunder at a picnic”. He concedes that now he finds “death does press in on the writing, and it does become the subject, even if it’s not foregrounded”.
~ Robert McCrum, Ian McEwan: ‘I’m only 66 – my notebook is still full of ideas’
“There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t seen, too many memories I haven’t kept long enough.”
The world of grad students two decades later is a lot different. Nearly all the students have smartphones, which they bring to class. Nearly all of them spend more time staring at screens than at books.
And the students I encounter seem to value reading less and less. I remember one especially galling workshop that I taught a few years ago, in which I asked the participants to read a single story, “Guests of the Nation” by Frank O’Connor. Hardly any of them bothered. They didn’t seem to understand—they were too entitled to understand—that the production of great literature requires a deep engagement with great literature. In fact, they were more likely to talk about a movie or TV show, or what they just posted on Facebook, than the last great book they read.
~ Steve Almond, The Problem of Entitlement - The Question of Respect
Jim Harrison & Ted Kooser, Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (Copper Canyon Press)