Culture Update: The Atlantic, Susan Choi, and “Shooting Stars”

Here are some cultural products I think you should check out ASAP:


Photo by Adam Voorhes

Photo by Adam Voorhes

The cover is provocative, as is the headline title: “Is College Doomed?” In this issue of the Atlantic, Graeme Wood examines whether traditional college will be usurped by online options which will cut the costs of an education, make it accessible to more people, and strip it down “to its essence: no lectures, no football games, no ivy” (article now online at The Atlantic site).

Paul Campos also addresses the “Law-School Scam,” while Sara Mosle discusses Elizabeth Green’s new book: Building Better Teachers.

Less compelling is the feature on “7 Ways to Look Smarter.” Wearing glasses, whether or not you need them? Using middle initials? Come on, now.


My Education, Susan ChoiI have been pressing Susan Choi’s latest book, My Education, on many friends, ever since it came out last year. When I spotted a copy in the Brookline Booksmith and leafed through the first few pages, I couldn’t wait until I had made a dent in my sizable pile of unread books waiting at home; I bought my copy in hardcover, took it home, and prayed it wouldn’t interfere with my grad school workload. Spoiler alert: it did.

Now it’s out in paperback, and you have no excuse to not partake in Choi’s delicious and intricate prose, style, and plot.

This has to be one of the most sensory, sensuous, and sensual books I’ve read in years. My Education is narrated by Regina Gottlieb, a graduate student with a penchant for making huge mistakes that affect the lives of everyone around her. At first glance, you think the novel will be about the misadventures that take place as she fools around with the mysterious and stereotypically brilliant, desirable, and young professor Nicholas Brodeur. But that’s only until you witness Regina’s encounter with Brodeur’s equally brilliant wife, Martha.

Some samples of Choi’s prose:

“That first time seeing him, even before being sure who he was, it was already clear that his attractiveness was mixed up with a great deal of ridiculousness. He wore a long duster coat, in the heat of September. His filthy blonde hair stuck up and out in thatchy spikes from heavy use of some kind of pomade, as if it were 1982, not ’92, and he wore Lennon shades with completely black lenses, as if he were outdoors, not in, and overall, in his resemblance to a Joy Division poster, he comported himself as if twenty and not, as I’d come to find out, almost forty.” (1)

“One summer day we had driven along the lakeshore to a town that was only a few little houses beside a deep creek that went down to the lake over massive square blocks like a giant’s staircase…” (282)

“…our mouths fed on each other, their sameness so shocking as to be somehow sweetly inevitable, and for all the urgent thunder in our veins I knew we stood there almost silently, gently entwined. Had it truly been spring in that chamber of glass a vine might have scaled our bodies and unfurled its pink trumpet-shaped blooms…[we looked like] lovers, of more than five minutes’ standing, gratefully closing our seams after long separation.” (57)


Pretty self explanatory. A cool song:

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