Anne Bradstreet: America’s First Poet, A Great Books Podcast

Over the summer, I was privileged to be a guest as part of National Review‘s wonderful Great Books podcast series on The Chronicles of Narnia. I was honored to be asked to join the brilliant host John Miller again a few weeks ago to discuss one of my other favorite authors, the incomparable Anne Bradstreet, America’s first published poet. As many Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, this is a wonderful time to reflect on the work of Bradstreet, a Puritan wife and mother who was also a phenomenal poet whose influence continues today. I hope you will enjoy listening to our conversation about Bradstreet as much as I enjoyed having it! On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the many authors whose work has been a powerful influence in my life. Sixty years ago today, C.S. Lewis left this earth. Hardly anyone noticed (Aldous Huxley died then, too) because President Kennedy was assassinated the same day. Anne Bradstreet lived four hundred years ago, and yet, her voice remains powerful. May you be blessed this Thanksgiving with great reading!


Hollywood Gamemakers and Some Lovely Tunes: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Comes to the Big Screen

Over ten years ago, I shared my thoughts  on the first Hunger Games  film, which was largely filmed just down the road from where I live and included some of my friends and students as extras. Despite the fact that the movie gave a nice tourism bump to my region and was a fun viewing experience since I had my English classes reading the novel, I am not particularly fond of it as an adaptation, and I saw the subsequent films as mixed bags that frequently failed to match my expectations compared to Suzanne Collins’s wonderful trilogy. Thus, when the film adaptation of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was announced, I was not particularly hopeful. The prequel to the original Hunger Games Trilogy is a brilliant novel, and I was not optimistic about what the Hollywood Gamemakers would do to it. I donned my T-shirt that says “The book was better,” and off I went to be underwhelmed, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Although there are certainly some aspects of the film I found lacking, there were others that hit some very nice notes, just like a song. Join me after the jump for some thoughts on sets, Snow, symbols, songs, and much more from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Be warned, spoilers and venomous reptiles lie ahead.

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The Redemption of Loki: Observations on the Series Finale

Despite the fact that comic books and their readers sometimes have to be defended against charges of being less sophisticated than “real” literature, the stories and characters that we know from the world of comics and their adaptations can carry serious literary weight. Such has sometimes been the case with the films and series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The latest of the original series to premiere on Disney + is Loki, and the conclusion to the second season (and apparently to the series) reveals both literary and mythic depths that are both surprising and satisfying. Warning: If you have not yet experienced all 12 episodes of the series, major spoilers lie ahead, so beware!

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First Thoughts on a First Read of The Running Grave

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy Reviews Strike7

I confess, I do not have the enviable levels of self-control exhibited by our Headmaster in his careful part-by-part reading, so I am now sharing my thoughts after my first fairly fast read. Although I did post my thoughts on Troubled Blood as I finished each section, I was still reading at a breakneck pace to find out what had happened to Margot Bamborough and to see how the brilliant Faerie Queene template matched up with our Denmark Street team. I must also confess, that though Nick and Evan both rank The Running Grave as their favorite installment so far, I do not share that reaction. Troubled Blood, for me, remains the best of the field, by a large margin. That being said, I have some thoughts on The Running Grave, although I am not yet ready to decide where it belongs in my ranking (I feel it will certainly be above The Silkworm and Career of Evil. I like each installment, and really like some elements, but I do play favorites). These are my thoughts based on a first, fast read (with a head start courtesy of those leaked chapters a few weeks back). Be warned, spoilers abound, as I hope most of our readers will have already finished the novel before reading my post. If not, come back and join me once you have made it all the way to page 960.  

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Michael Gambon, 1940-2023: RIP

Elizabeth Baird Hardy wrote up a short piece about the death of British actor Michael Gambon yesterday.

Michael Gambon, Cinema’s Dumbledore, Passes away at Age 82.

For readers of the Hogwarts adventures, characters in our heads rarely appear the same as they do in film adaptations, but most movie-goers probably think of Sir Michael Gambon the most of the three men who have played Professor Dumbledore on screen. He certainly played the headmaster more times than Richard Harris, who passed away after portraying Albus Dumbledore in the first two film adaptations. Gambon took up the role for the subsequent six films. Jude Law has appeared as a younger Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts films.

Gambon, who passed away today at the age of 82, had a long and celebrated dramatic career on both stage and screen, even before coming to the role that has made him familiar to most movie-goers. He also appeared in the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel The Casual Vacancy. His Potter co-stars,  Rowling, and other celebrities have paid tribute to his legacy and personality.

As new adaptations are on the horizon and theories abound about casting choices, doubtless many film fans will continue to recall Gambon as Dumbledore, just as his colleagues fondly recall his work and life.

What are your favorite Gambon-as-Dumbledore moments? Mine is the Time-Turner heist sequence in Prisoner of Azkaban.