The name Honolulu can conjure up frenzied activity: exploring the sea with electric scooters, high-altitude extreme parasailing, close encounters with sharks, 40-miles-per-hour motorboat rides that guarantee you’ll get wet. But Honolulu can also mean mellow: the fragrance of a custom-made orchid lei, the taste and texture of a perfect tuna sashimi slice, the elegance of a hula dancer, the deepening of the blues and greens of the sea as the sun sets. Even the steel-mesh netting to prevent falling rocks is partly hidden so as to blend with the landscape. Then there is the pace, the feeling that no one is ever too rushed to give you directions, take your dinner order or explain the history of a 100-year-old banyan tree.
Libraries are repositories of books, music and documents, but above all of nostalgia: the musty stacks, the unexpected finds, the safety and pleasure of a place that welcomes and shelters unconditionally.
John Palfrey shares these memories, but he is also wary of them. After all, fond recollections of pleasant reading rooms can cloud our judgment of what libraries offer us — and need from us — today. In an era when search engines, online retailers and social media are overtaking some of libraries’ essential tasks, “nostalgia can actually be dangerous,” Palfrey warns. “Thinking of libraries as they were ages ago and wanting them to remain the same is the last thing we should want for them.”
Thirty-nine minutes into his southbound ride from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., Joseph H. Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, begins to cry. We’re in the dining car of a train called the Silver Star, surrounded by people eating hamburgers. The Silver Star runs from New York City to Miami in 31 hours, or five more hours than the route took in 1958, which is when our dining car was built. Boardman and I have been discussing the unfortunate fact that 45 years since its inception, the company he oversees remains a poorly funded, largely neglected ward of the state, unable to fully control its own finances or make its own decisions. I ask him, “Is this a frustrating job?”
MH Abrams, an esteemed critic and teacher who helped shape the modern literary canon as founding editor of the Norton Anthology of English Literature and joined the elite himself by writing one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed works of criticism, has died. He was 102.
Abrams’ death was confirmed on Wednesday by the president of Cornell University, David J Skorton, who declined to give
details. According to the website of the Ithaca university, where he was a longtime member of the English department, Abrams died on Tuesday at the retirement community Kendal at Ithaca. No cause of death was given.