Yes, it's a blog about reading.

Monday, December 12, 2005

12/5/05 New Yorker

The December 5 issue (Bush and Cheney as the odd couple on the cover) has a great article on the Pennsylvania trial on teaching intelligent design in high school biology classes. The author, Margaret Talbot, skillfully evokes the courtroom scenes and the personality of the judge and lawyers. She says the trial was like “the biology class you wish you could had taken.” She also draws a funny parallel about the way “creationists have adapted (evolved if you will!) to new environmental conditions.” They went from trying to ban the teaching of evolution to calling for a balanced approach to insisting that evolution is just a theory. And, Talbot predicts, they will doubtless come up with more subtle methods for promoting their agenda. She quotes a line from the play “Inherit the Wind” (which opened in a local theatre near the courthouse on the last day of the trial) where the Clarence Darrow character says, “You don’t suppose this kind of thing is ever finished do you?”

Elsewhere in the issue are some stunning poems by Franz Wright (Pulitzer Prize winner in 2004), a depressing article about Iraq (no big surprise there!) by Seymour Hersh. There is also a great book review by Adam Kirsch about William Wordsworth (reviewing Juliet Barker’s new biography). Between his idealistic phase when he was influenced by the thrilling ideas of the French revolution and his didactic phase where he “handed down moral instruction from on high,” he wrote some truly great poems. As Kirsch says, he explored his own inner life and shared his findings, which “continues to define the highest aspirations of modern poetry.” This reminds me of the saying of Yeats, “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.”

I’m not a person who notices different typefaces typically; although I do love this font, Comic Sans Ms, so I wasn’t that eager to read the story about a typeface designer (“Man of Letter” by Alec Wilkinson). That said, it was actually quite interesting, especially the biographical details. He describes his father as “austere.” Apparently the father did not entirely approve of his son’s choice of career, but his only comment was “he thought that the conversation at the dinner table might have been more interesting if Carter (his son) had chosen another field.”


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