Category Archives: Books and Arts

Princeton Books Quiz: Opening Lines

In July, we asked PAW readers to test their literary knowledge by identifying the Princetonians who wrote the four opening lines below. Six entrants scored a perfect four-for-four, and three prize-winners were selected at random. Congratulations to our winners, Sandy Kramer ’67, Ilana Lucas ’07, and Julie Melby.

Readers also shared their favorite opening lines, including the selection below:

“Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin, and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new.”
— Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, submitted by Maria Riasanovsky *01.

“Joe Gould was an odd and penniless and unemployable little man who came to the city in 1916 and ducked and dodged and held on as hard as he could for over thirty-five years.”
— Joseph Mitchell, Joe Gould’s Secret, submitted by Julie Melby.

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents – except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
— Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford, submitted by Sandy Kramer ’67.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
— George Orwell, 1984, submitted by Brooks Schleifer-McGill.


Take the quiz: Test your literary knowledge by identifying the Princetonians who wrote these opening lines.

1. “The first thing they always did was run you.”

A. Paradise, by professor emerita Toni Morrison

B. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis ’82

C. Uncommon Carriers, by journalism professor John McPhee ’53

2. “I’m told that even decorated soldiers’ last words are often calling for ‘Mommy.’ ”

A. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult ’87

B. Up in the Air, by Walter Kirn ’83

C. There Was a Little Girl, by Brooke Shields ’87

3. “The day my wife left she gave me a list of who I was.”

A. Native Speaker, by creative writing professor Chang-rae Lee

B. The Mind-Body Problem, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein *77

C. The Marriage Plot, by creative writing professor Jeffrey Eugenides

4. “Cheyenne Mountain sits on the eastern slope of Colorado’s Front Range, rising steeply from the prairie and overlooking the city of Colorado Springs.”

A. Seizing Destiny, by Richard Kluger ’56

B. Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser ’81

C. Told You So, by Ralph Nader ’55

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Kruse Examines How America Became ‘One Nation Under God’

Kruse, Kevin (Etta Recke)

History professor Kevin Kruse

It is a widely held notion that the United States is and always has been a Christian country. Most Americans assume we have been a deeply religious nation since the days of the Founding Fathers. But in his new book, Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse argues that is not the case.

In One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Kruse says that the notion of a Christian America is mainly an invention of the modern era. Kruse traces the birth of this idea to the 1930s, when corporate businessmen enlisted conservative clergymen to help fight President Roosevelt’s New Deal. They encouraged Christians of all denominations to view FDR’s expansive policies as a desecration of the holiness and salvation of the individual, Kruse writes. Their campaign for “freedom under God” ultimately resulted in the election of their ally Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Continue reading

Singer ’97 Conjures World War III in the Novel Ghost Fleet

P.W. Singer ’97

P.W. Singer ’97

As a consultant for both the Pentagon and the best-selling video game Call of Duty, P.W. Singer ’97 runs simulations that imagine some of the most threatening situations that could face the American military. Now, he has written about an especially harrowing scenario in Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.

Written with journalist August Cole, the novel imagines World War III as a battle in which Russia and China are fighting against the United States. When China launches a devastating round of cyber-attacks against the U.S. military, the Americans are forced to fall back on a low-tech option known as the “ghost fleet:” older Navy ships that are less susceptible to hacking. Jamie Simmons, who takes command of one such ship, must work to defend the United States while encountering technological challenges that present strategic and ethical dilemmas. World War III involves Silicon Valley billionaires mobilizing for a cyberwar while fighter pilots duel with stealth drones. Continue reading

Paris, Mon Amour: Kate Betts ’86 Remembers Her Years in the City of Lights

Kate Betts ’86

Kate Betts ’86

As her senior year at Princeton came to a close, Kate Betts ’86 found herself without a plan for her future. “So many people around me seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do, and I had no idea,” she recalls. An aspiring journalist, she decided she would move to Paris.

In My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine, Betts — a former editor at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar — recalls her five years in Paris absorbing everything she could about how the French cook, dance, and dress. When she first arrives, she hunts fruitlessly for work, eventually landing a short-term newspaper internship and then freelancing until she gets a job at industry bible Women’s Wear Daily, which was run by John Fairchild ’49. She becomes a top fashion reporter, visiting Yves Saint Laurent’s studio, befriending Christian Louboutin when he is an unknown shoe designer, and learning to follow fashion’s commercial calendar, which means orchestrating photo shoots for winter clothes in the summer heat. Along the way she tries mightily to fit in with her French friends and colleagues, though she often felt “self-consciously American,” and hones her reporting skills and industry knowledge until she is recruited to work at American Vogue by Anna Wintour. Continue reading

Scull *74 Delves into the History of Madness

Andrew Scull *74

Andrew Scull *74

Society’s understanding of what constitutes madness has shifted and morphed throughout history, but the concept itself has been a constant in civilization. Humans often look for the abnormal and inexplicable in one another’s psychology, but our ability to diagnose, treat, and empathize with those suffering from madness has been far less consistent. In Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine, Andrew Scull *74, a historian of psychiatry, examines madness’ various manifestations and treatments by drawing on medical records, scientific advances, and cultural expressions of madness.

Scull uses more than a hundred paintings, engravings, and sculptures to illustrate the manifestations of insanity. His narrative ranges from explaining Shakespeare’s use of madness for dramatic purposes — “Love is merely a madness and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do” (As You Like It) — to introducing readers to psychiatrists such as Walter Freeman, who “made no secret of his willingness to lobotomize patients who resisted psychosurgery — because they were mad, their preferences could be disregarded,” Scull writes. He also explores the work of Silas Weir Mitchell, a wealthy psychiatrist whose famous “resting cure” was forced upon the likes of Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, inspiring Gilman’s famous short story The Yellow Wallpaper.
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Helping Readers Understand the Labyrinth of Social Security Benefits

Philip Moeller ’68

Philip Moeller ’68

A guide to navigating your Social Security benefits may not sound like scintillating reading, but Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller ’68, and Paul Solman rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list a few weeks after its publication.

The book helps people figure out if they are taking advantage of all the benefits to which they are entitled. “You have been forking over payroll taxes your entire working life; you deserve to get what you paid for; and it’s the law,” the authors write. Continue reading