Pop Quiz / Reading List: January-February 2003

January 31, 2003

Pop Quiz

The conflict with Iraq is the topic of the day, but grades are students' perennial concern.
We asked: War or grades? Which weighs heavier on your mind?

Grace Kwon, a senior economics major, says she's "more worried about the war, because I think it's going to have a huge effect on the economy, especially since I'm about to graduate. I'm going to need a job pretty soon."

Tolu Falaiye, a senior, isn't as concerned. "I'm more worried about my grades," says the biology major. "My mind tends to just be like, 'No, [the U.S.] can't be serious.' I realize people are being sent over there and that kind of brings it home, but right now it seems removed. It seems there is always war in that part of the world, which is really unfortunate, but the possibility of another one doesn't seem shocking."

For Chris Bryan, a freshman, "I'd say war in Iraq. Why the war? Well, that's people's lives. Nobody's going to die if you get an F." Conversely, chemistry major and sophomore Nikhil Jariwala says: "I don't see this war as a huge concern at this time. I mean I understand that tensions are escalating, but I haven't really kept up with the situation enough to know if it'll happen."

Junior and history major John Stone echoed the feeling of removal. "My grades are going to affect how I live my life. The war isn't." Two freshmen, Denise Napoli and Melissa Hagburg, at The Marketplace on East Campus, agreed. Napoli: "Are you kidding? War definitely." Hagburg: "They're equal, and then I'm worried about the war this much more." She held her fingers apart two inches.

For another freshman, Thomas Stratton, it was all about grades. "I can't do anything about the war in Iraq--

I think we'll attack. But I can have an impact on my grades." Says freshman Sedar Selamet, "I'm more concerned about how I do in school. I'm from Turkey. It's going to affect my country, that's why I'm very interested in it, but it won't affect people here."

--compiled by Patrick Adams


Reading List

This magazine's staff decided to make public a short list of the literature responsible, in part, for molding--or freeing--its collective mind.

Back from his latest European adventure, editor Robert Bliwise began with themes tied to travel. Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel is a lyrical look at going places. "If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness," writes de Botton, "then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest--in all its ardor and paradoxes--than our travels." He goes on to ruminate on thoughtful travelers, among them, William Wordsworth, who believed travel through landscapes was therapy for the soul; John Ruskin, who faulted travel photography as a distraction from active seeing; and Xavier de Maistre, who documented a "nocturnal expedition around my bedroom."

The other Bliwise pick is In Ruins, by Christopher Woodward. The fascination with ruins points to an enduring "dialogue between incompleteness and the imagination," a dialogue furthered by figures ranging from Edgar Allan Poe, who crafted a poetic tribute to the Coliseum, to John Constable, in his bleak painting Hadleigh Castle. When in 1462 Pope Pius II introduced the first law to protect classical monuments, he praised ruins (almost in human terms) for their "exemplary frailty."

Sam Hull, associate editor, revealed that he read and enjoyed a coming-of-age, coming-out novel, The World of Normal Boys: "1978: It's a really bad year for high-school freshman Robin MacKenzie dealing with the damage around him: his hospitalized, vegetating brother; a neighbor, the source of taunts and furtive affection; and a battered teen, whom he feels he must rescue." Completely authentic, Hull says, "historically and emotionally."

Hull also read The Crimson Petal and the White, a "thick and thorough" historical novel of contemporary sensibility: "Sugar is a prostitute, with talents and intelligence that lift her from the brothel her mother runs to an exclusive status as mistress to wealthy perfumer William Rackham. Eventually, she comes into his household as governess to his neglected daughter, and the unexpected guardian angel for her lover's delusional wife, Agnes. Charles Dickens meets Erica Jong."

While Patrick Adams, the magazine's Felker Fellow was in Dublin for a few days in September, he read James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. "It's a fictional narrative of his growing up and adolescence, and it's amazing to me," he says, "how Joyce can describe an emotion or a feeling as though it had a shape and a color: lust and cowardice, the kindness and cruelty of people, his frailty and his anger."

Adams also read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. "It's a farcical tale of Humbert Humbert, a lone drifter and convicted murderer who falls in love with a nymphet of twelve, marries her mother, and 'raises' the girl-child. Everything is teetering on the edge of discovery and disaster and only through Humbert's confession do we learn what happened: shocking, poignant, and hysterical."