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Congratulations everyone in 2H06 who wrote the exam on the ninth. I hope the holidays are within view, that you have few or no more exams left to write, and that the holidays find you lounging with loved ones, eating good food, and celebrating traditions that make you feel good to be alive.

If you’re looking for something to do over the break, David Fincher’s much-anticipated adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be released on December 20th. I’m a Fincher fan, in general. Though, over the years, Fight Club has fallen from my favour. But The Game (1997) and Zodiac (2007) remain some of the best films I’ve ever seen.


In his recent review of Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, New Yorker magazine film critic David Denby likens the film to Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of ratiocination – “The Purloined Letter” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Comparing Zodiac and Dragon Tattoo, Denby says, “in ‘Zodiac,’ every time a piece of evidence trembles into view, it quickly recedes again. That movie is an expression of philosophical despair: the truth can never be known. ‘Dragon Tattoo’ says the opposite: it celebrates deduction, high-end detective work—what Edgar Allan Poe called “ratiocination.” Everything can be known if you look long and hard enough, especially if you have no scruples about hacking into people’s bank accounts, e-mails, and business records” (http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2011/12/12/111212crci_cinema_denby).

Certainly, the character of Lisbeth Salander bears an uncanny likeness to Poe’s Dupin in her appearance as well as her methods – a thin, pale, and nocturnal gothic outsider of preternatural intelligence, who is generally incompatible with mainstream society, abused and cast out if only because she is somehow far superior.

So if you catch Dragon Tattoo over the holidays, turn to the person your with as the credits role, act all stuffy – maybe pull on that Harvard sweatshirt you’ve been saving for a special occasion – and say, “Reminds one of E. A. Poe’s detective fiction. The Dupin stories to be precise. Ratiocination and all that pip. A fair enough renewal of the genre, if I do say.” Now that’s good book learnin’.

(“The Adoration of the Magi” by Rambrandt)

Another worthwhile American literature-related holiday activity is to read a classic short story by the American writer William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), better known by the penname O. Henry. Clocking in at just six pages, “The Gift of the Magi” is an American classic about selflessness during the holidays. It has been reincarnated time and again, but it is nowhere as succinct, charming, and full of emotional punch as in its original, which I’ve attached to this post as a PDF: The Gift of the Magi _ O Henry

And if you find yourself killing time online, check out these fantastic literature blogs by the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and more:

New Yorker’s Book Bench: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books

The Paris Review Daily Blog: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/

Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/tendency

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Arts & Letters Daily: http://www.aldaily.com/

The New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/

The New York Daily News brand new books blog: http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews

The Library of America “Story of the Week” Project (Yep – a story a week!): http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/

Have a great holiday. See you in the new year.

–          Joe