Doctors, Lytton & More

British practitioners are tired of writing doctor’s notes. Apparently, there’s a rampant epidemic of comparative note shopping. This collection of notes, however, suggests that the aspiring malingerer might be better off forging their own. One note reads: “Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.” Indeed. Unfortunately, doctor’s notes don’t make for compelling drama. That didn’t stop these guys from trying.

Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians has been a hoot, filled with some great reductio ad absurdum arguments: “Now, two propositions were accepted by both parties — that all infants are born in original sin, and their original sin is washed away by baptism. But how could both these propositions be true, argued Mr. Gorham, if it was also true that faith and repentance were necessary before baptism could come into operation at all? How could an infant in arms be said to be in a state of faith and repentance? How, therefore, could its original sin be washed away by baptism? And yet, as everyone agreed, washed away it was. The only solution of the difficulty lay in the doctrine of prevenient grace, and Mr. Gorham maintained that unless God performed an act of prevenient grace by which the infant was endowed with faith and repentance, no act of baptism could be effectual; though to whom, and under what conditions, prevenient grace was given, Mr. Gorham confessed himself unable to decide.”

What’s interesting is that a sizable chunk of Strachey’s papers can be found at the University of Texas at Austin. Who knew that such a pioneering iconoclast would end up where Bush II once presided as governor?

The Guardian has a list of 2003’s overlooked books. Plus, Crimson Petal author Michael Faber isn’t smitten with Motherless Brooklyn and Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry is given a second look.

And, in a Maryland elementary school, comics are being used to get kids reading. Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (excerpts can be found here), is cited in the article as one of the inspirations. Among some of Trelease’s conclusions: He attributes the popularity of Harry Potter to a desire for plot-driven page turners. He sees human beings as pleasure-centric and believes that because of the greater likelihood of finding rare words in children’s books, reading narrows the word gap from the 10,000 words or so we use in conversation and the broader vocabulary that we don’t.

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