In Plain Engel-ish

First But Not Least

Growing up, I loved comic books, but I let others revere Superman or Batman as their super-hero. My hero was anything but super yet so much more human and hilarious: the blustery, flustery, ever-outraged Donald Duck. I couldn’t get enough of him and girlfriend Daisy — and those nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. For some reason, though, I especially loved his rich Uncle Scrooge McDuck.  Maybe it was because I had a rich uncle, too. That was my Uncle Max. Actually, he was my mom’s first cousin by marriage, but I’m guessing many of you also had cousins who were a generation older...

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Trading Freshmen For Seniors

Now that I have been retired from university teaching for a few years , I have had to create my new “classroom” within CDs, DVDs, downloads, zooms, and live lectures, mostly to similarly retired adults. Thus, perhaps 80% of my audience today is over the age of 70. Conversely, another 15% is probably under the age of 18, since Darian and I now offer free online streaming of my literary lectures for teachers to use with their classes.   We decided to provide this service early last year when Covid forced on-line-only school instruction. We immediately understood what a nightmare it was going to be for already...

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My "Core" Curriculum

Before beginning public elementary school in Indianapolis, I attended Miss Cook’s Kindergarten. Given that this educational experience occurred nearly "fourscore and seven years ago" (well, 1953 to be exact), my memories of it are vague—except for one: nap-time.  We took about an hour’s sleep break each day, and we were responsible for fetching our own nap mats, which were stored on shelves along the back wall. Each mat was labeled with a fruit and number tag for easy identification. Mine, I remember, was Apple-4. With my love of ice cream sundaes, I also remember being jealous of my lucky classmate who had the joy of always napping...

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Who Would Ever Elope With James Joyce?

Now that the twentieth century is more than two decades behind us, more and more lists pop up on the internet with the alluring title "Top Ten Greatest ______s of the Twentieth Century." You can fill in that blank with everything from "recipes" to "rock tunes" to "Rorschach tests" (ok, I made that last one up just for the alliterative thrill). We Americans are suckers for always trying to discover "who's number one?". Since books have been both my lifetime occupation and preoccupation, let me remind you of a controversial ranking published by the Modern Library which listed its top...

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Hearts That Tell No Tales

It was a Tuesday morning in April over twenty years ago, and I had just given a literary assembly at Bear Creek High School. The specific date, time, and place will become relevant later in this essay. No looking ahead, please. As I drove from Bear Creek to my next assembly twenty miles away, I was thinking about the enthusiastic response that my topic had elicited from those students.   My topic had been Edgar Allan Poe. The English department at my university in North Carolina had granted me a sabbatical and then two consecutive leaves of absence to travel...

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