Start the New Year Reading

By Joanne Kendall, Katie Weiblen, Victoria Tirrel
Originally published in the January 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

In December, nearly fifty of you took the time to complete a survey about what Book
Night has meant to you since it began more than twenty years ago. Overwhelmingly, you
said that Book Night conveners and presenters have gotten it right in two big ways. Through them your reading world has been enlarged and elucidated. And, just as
important, you’ve gotten to know them and your neighbors better.

Many of you wrote about the value to our Coffman community of intellectual
pursuits like Book Night. If we were creating a balance sheet, the events that contribute
to “the life of the mind” surely would be listed as a long-term asset. And from the
promotion angle, such an amenity can be a powerful draw for potential new residents. As
we move forward into the next era of Book Night, a great opportunity lies before us to
recommit to and possibly give a new look to this asset.

So what’s in store for our first Book Night of 2017? Our evening will open with
Joanne Kendall’s brief review of the history of Book Night, followed by an idea that
emerged from the survey—several minireviews in an evening. We’ll briefly hear from
three residents about books they’ve recently enjoyed.

Other terrific ideas emerged as part of the survey, and we didn’t want to end the
input there. Next, we’ll turn things over to Katie Weiblen, who’ll guide a discussion
among all attendees about more ideas for how Coffman residents can work together to
continue and build on the terrific heritage of Book Night.

For wrapup of the evening, Victoria Tirrel will bring together the ideas that
emerged in both the discussion and survey, then talk about next steps.

By the way, an overwhelming number of survey respondents (82%) asked that the
frequency of Book Night not change. So, at least through spring, we’ll continue to gather
on the third Wednesday evening of each month at 7:30 pm.

We invite you to invest your time on January 18 for a conversation about Book
Night. And bring your neighbor! Working together, we can be sure this shared asset is
there for each of us—and our future neighbors—well into the coming years.

Book Night
Wednesday, January 18  *  7:30 pm
Social Room

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2016 Annual Report

LIBRARY COMMITTEE, Carol Van Why-Chair

Members as of November 2016:  Mary Abbe Hintz, Joanne Kendall, Mary Lynn Kittelson, Gretchen Kreuter, Jenny Rajput, Victoria Tirrel, Helga Visscher, Huber Warner, Katie Weiblen, Catherine Wengler, and Barbara Woshinsky.

Committee members regret 2016 resignations of Agnes Tan, Robert Tapp and Co-Chair BJ Zander and thank them all for their service.

The Library Committee also recognizes Gretchen Kreuter’s 7 years of service as Book Night’s convener upon her resignation from that position in October.

The purpose of the committee is:

  • To manage the 1666 Coffman Library.
  • To add to the collection through purchases and gifts.
  • To promote the use of the library via a section of the Coffman website, blog posts, newsletter articles and bulletin board posters.

The Library Committee meets monthly.  Members contribute 1666 Coffman News articles on a rotating basis.  Bulletin board displays are refreshed to remind residents to stop in and browse the collection.

Books are added each year, either as gifts from residents or as purchases paid for from one of the library’s budgets. To keep the collection fresh, less popular books are regularly weeded from the collection.  These are offered for sale via our Book Cart sales.  This year just over $130 in proceeds were returned to the treasury to be used to purchase books and supplies.  Unsold books are offered to the AAUW and the St Paul Public Library for their book sales.  Others are used to support the Little Free Library in neighboring Grove Park.

Once again financial gifts from a number of residents boosted the total library budget by $500, helping the Committee purchase more new books than in any previous year.   For the third year Catherine Wengler coordinated an exhibit of new books in conjunction with August’s Book Night.  Residents were able to borrow books at the event and take home a copy of the 2016 companion booklist.  The library is on track to circulate nearly 700 books by year’s end – easily 65% more than were borrowed in 2013.

 Read Aloud made its second annual appearance in 2016.   Coordinated by BJ Zander, Read Aloud is an adult story hour for residents held in the library.   Over the course of three January Mondays, 8 readers read portions of Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson to assembled residents.

Gretchen Kreuter and Carol Van Why welcomed over 100 guests to the Library during 1666’s May 8, 2016 Open House.  Visitors were surprised and impressed with the space, proving once again that the Library is 1666’s Jewel in the Crown. 

After being on the back burner for some time, the problem of glare from the windows was solved.  Under BJ Zander’s leadership, with advice from the committee and special assistance from Jenny Rajput and Katie Weiblen, attractive shades were purchased and installed in early fall.  Members noticed an immediate improvement in the comfort of the room.  The Committee wishes to thank members of other Coffman committees for approving funds for this improvement.

With assistance from Mike O’Connor new committee member, Victoria Tirrel has begun updating the Library’s section of the 1666 Coffman website.  The website will re-emerge in early 2017 and residents will be able to subscribe to a blog to keep up with library news.

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Book Night – The Next Chapter

By Carol Van Why, Library Committee Chair
Originally published in the December 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

With a message in the January 1994, 1666 Coffman Newsletter, Thor Kommedahl invited
residents who were interested in starting a Coffman book club to gather in the social
room on January 19, 1994. A February article called Thor’s “trial balloon an unqualified
success.” Thus, Book Night was launched with Thor serving as convener for fifteen and a
half years.

In August 2009, Thor decided it was time to pass the Book Night gavel on to
someone else. For the next seven years, Gretchen Kreuter graciously filled the role of
convener, lining up reviewers with seeming ease. October 2016, was Gretchen’s last
Book Night event as convener.

So, what’s next for Book Night? One thing is certain: there will be no Book Night
this December. No reviewer had been scheduled, and a new convener(s) is not in place.
And seriously, aren’t you happy to free up one night on your calendar during that very
busy holiday week?

Book Night returns on January 18, 2017. The theme of the evening will be “Start
the New Year Reading!,” hosted by bibliophiles Joanne Kendall, Victoria Tirrel, and
Katie Weiblen. A feature of the event will be several residents presenting snappy four-minute reviews to help you jumpstart your own 2017 reading.

You can be a part of the evening’s planning. Soon you’ll receive a brief survey
from Victoria Tirrel. Whether you’re a regular Book Night attendee or not, I hope you’ll
complete the survey and return it by the deadline.

Plan to join your neighbors as we celebrate the importance of books and reading in our
lives along with Book Night’s twenty-three year run. Mark Book Night on your calendar
for Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 7:30 pm. Then watch for “Start the New Year
Reading!” updates and posters once the new year begins.

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Minnesota Novelist Faith Sullivan Talks Books/Writing

by Joanne Kendall
Originally published in the December 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

She came as an admired author of eight novels*; she left 1666 as a friend we thought we
had known for a long time. Those who saw Faith Sullivan at Book Night on November
16 may have wondered if she were a new resident at Coffman. Climbing comfortably
onto a stool that raised her to the podium microphone, she began chatting with her
audience as though she knew each of us well. “I just took the manuscript of my ninth
novel to the editor today,” she confided, seemingly as amazed as those in her audience.

We who heard her felt Faith draw us into her life with the self-deprecation familiar
to many mid-westerners. “When I was in my 40s, a life circumstance led my husband and
me to try writing a mystery play.” She was candid about how difficult that attempt had
been and expressed surprise that she kept on writing for several pages with intense
delight. When she finally stopped, she asked herself, “How did I get to be this old before
I knew what I was meant to do?” Then she acknowledged her writing was more
successful when she began to write a humorous novel, one that sold because she “was in
the right place and knew the right person at the right time.”

Audience members who had read Sullivan’s novel Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse
nodded their heads in recognition as she described Nell, the central character who finds
solace, support, escape, friendship, and even love in that British writer’s views of the
world, especially the humorous aspects. Faith affirmed for all who love reading the
amazing ways in which a book can do those things.

Several questions came quickly from her new friends in the audience, and Faith
answered each with easy, personal candor. For example, she can’t write more than three
hours a day (though she may extend workday time by editing her writing). Her themes
(e.g., bullying) appear, said one questioner, to be very contemporary despite her books
being set in the 1900s to 1950s. Faith took some credit for that possibility without giving
herself any accolades for addressing contemporary issues.

And she wrote a thank you note to this community! Faith Sullivan’s new-found
friends can read it on the bulletin board by the 1666 office.

*Look for four of Sullivan’s books in the fiction section of the Coffman Library.

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New Books for Children and Teens

by Katie Weiblen
Original published in the November 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

New books for children and teen readers have recently been added to the shelves in the
Coffman library. Ranging from picture books to teen novels, they have been selected to
appeal to very young readers, children learning to read, 3rd and 4th grade chapter book
readers, and teen readers. Coffman residents will enjoy browsing the children and teen
section to look for books to share with family and friends.

New books with brief descriptions

Cody Harmon, King of Pets by Claudia Mills
This is a chapter book about a third grade boy who does not enjoy school, but he loves
the pets on his family’s farm. His opportunity to shine comes when the school holds a pet
show fundraiser. The author has written many stories for 2nd to 4th graders.

When Andy Met Sally by Tomie dePaola
Andy is small. Sandy is tall. Andy is shy. Sandy is brave. This book for young readers
illustrates the power of friendship.

Duck for President by Betsy Lewin and Doreen Cronin
Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike will enjoy this colorful barnyard tale of
a duck’s attempt at a better job. For young children.

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
This beautiful picture book tells the story of the invention of the Ferris wheel. George
Ferris, a young civil engineer, entered a national contest for the 1893 Chicago World’s
Fair. It was his goal to build a structure that would outshine the Eiffel Tower. No one
believed his delicate looking structure would hold up until the Fair opened. This
nonfiction book will appeal to 8-to 10-year olds.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Minnesota’s most famous author for young people has published her latest novel,
recently nominated for the National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature
category. This is the second time Kate DiCamillo has been nominated for this honor. The
book is about three fatherless girls who form a unique friendship while competing in a
Little Miss Florida contest. Raymie hopes to win so her father, who ran away with a
dental hygienist, will see her picture in the paper and come home. Grades 4 to 7.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
This is a story about four very different sisters who go on a family vacation with their
doting father. Their favorite cottage on Cape Cod is no longer available, so their father
arranges to rent Arundel, a beautiful estate in the Berkshire Mountains of western
Massachusetts. The best part of the summer is the discovery of Jeffrey Tifton, the estate
owner’s son. He becomes the perfect companion for their summer adventures. Grades 4
to 6.

Keeping the Castle by Patricia Kindl
This humorous and sometimes dramatic novel will be enjoyed by future readers of Jane
Austen. Althea, age 17, has the task of supporting her widowed mother, young brother,
and two stepsisters. The situation is complicated by the fact that she must maintain the
tumbledown castle which their uncle left them. The novel takes place in the small town of
Lesser Hoo in Yorkshire, England. Althea must marry well, but suitors are few and
wealthy are even fewer. Teen readers.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
This novel won the John Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature. It will be
especially enjoyed by teenage boys. Jeffrey Lionel Magee became an orphan at age 3
when his parents were killed in a trolley crash. He was shipped off to live with Uncle Dan
and Aunt Dot in western Pennsylvania. Their home was not a happy one, so as soon as
Jeffrey became old enough, he left them and started running. He became known as
Maniac McGee. His character becomes half-hero and half-legend; however, his greatest
talent is bringing two neighborhoods of diverse teenagers together. For teen readers.

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1666: A 30-Year Voyage

by Barbara Woshinsky

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of 1666 Coffman, the archive sub-group of the Library Committee has gathered a rich collection of early records. The following short account is based on these materials.

How did 1666 Coffman come to be?  Our home did not spring full-blown from the Jovian heads of the Minnesota Board of Regents;  rather, it emerged from the wise, graying pates of the University of Minnesota Retiree Housing Board. These visionary profs had to travel a “long and tortuous pathway” of bureaucratic procedures and neighborhood hurdles before arriving at their destination.

How to build a $6,000,000 building with no money and no land?  Slowly and persistently. The idea of housing for senior U of M employees dates back to before the formation of the Retiree Housing Board in 1979, which became the U of M Retirees Housing Corporation in 1982.  After diligent searching, the Housing Corporation identified a neglected parcel of university land in Falcon Heights, containing a small student residence, a bee house and “a row of scruffy shade trees” facing Larpenteur Avenue.  In July, 1983, the Housing Corporation petitioned the Board of Regents to lease this 7 1/2-acre property.  This proposal sparked a Star-Tribune article entitled “U Employees seek free land.”  Actually, the  99-year lease agreed upon in 1984 called for a payment to the University of $3,250.91/month.  This amount, and other initial costs, were met by tax increment bonds issued by the town of Falcon Heights, which was eager to receive extra revenue from the 100 planned apartments.

NIMBY.  Before construction could begin, however, the Housing Corporation had to deal with objections from Faculty Grove residents, who were concerned about increased traffic from an “institutional” building  located in their “back yard”—no doubt associating retired professors with nursing homes rather than with their own future selves. At a public meeting, Grovites were assured that traffic would be restricted to Larpenteur and that residents would park underground.  Esthetic concerns were allayed by architect Milo Thompson, who described his vision of an elegant  “academic country house” inspired by Renaissance architecture.  The Corporation also ceded an acre of the original  parcel as a “buffer zone” between the neighborhood and the encroaching oldsters. This acre of land, added to a pre-existing hockey field, became the well-used Grove Park south of our property.

A vision realized.  In January, 1985, the Park Bugle announced a condominium would be built in Falcon Heights to “celebrate aging;”  Sales chair Leon Reisman preferred the phrase “to flower geriatrically.” Through shrewd and energetic marketing, over 60% of the units were already sold by the time of ground-breaking on May 2. The dedication of the building was celebrated on December 7, 1986 to the sound of a trumpet.

The continuing history of 1666 has brought triumphs and challenges. In Gertrude Esteros’s words, “A building which simply houses people is sterile. This building, planned to foster human growth and fulfillment, will become a living organism.”  In honor of another fabled voyage—the 50th anniversary of Star Trek—let’s raise our (metaphorical) glasses in a toast:  live long and prosper, 1666!

Submitted by Barbara Woshinsky, member, library committee and archive subgroup.

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Miami Heat – Episode 2: The Closet

By Barbara Woshinsky
Original published in the October 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

Read Episode 1

The next morning, I was sitting drinking café con leche in the tiny kitchen of my Coconut
Grove cottage. This old Miami neighborhood was once a haven for artists and hippies. Its
bohemian flavor has been largely submerged under shopping malls and high-rise condos,
but some of the old residential streets still keep their secluded charm: coral rock houses
nestle on large lots shaded by live oaks, and you sometimes come across a road with a
gumbo limbo tree growing right in the center. At night, it can feel like you’re driving into
a forest—a nice respite from a city mostly buried in asphalt.

Before the divorce, I lived in a neo-provençal mansionette in Pinecrest, a pricy but
characterless suburb south of Miami. Flat as a pancake, it boasts neither pines nor crests.
I call it “Piecrust” because it is the home of so many upper crust doctors and lawyers. My
ex-husband Jack is a successful gynecologist who took too close a look at one of his
patients. I never suspected anything even though, according to my friends, South Florida
is one of the cheating capitals of the US. If the men are honest when they arrive from
Missouri or Oklahoma, something in the water must change them. Before I knew it,
fluffy haired Vanessa was installed in my house enjoying the services of the Nicaraguan
maid and the undocumented yard men (don’t ask, don’t tell.)

Suddenly I needed both a job and a place to live. Desperate, I turned to my friend
Sherry, the director of Jasmine House, a refuge for abused women and their children
where I volunteer parttime. She took me in, as she had taken in women in need before the
refuge acquired its own building. She couldn’t offer me a paying job but pointed me
towards Experienced Eyes Detective Services because it is a women-run organization
that hires “mature” females. But my first job for them had ended in tragedy.

What would I do now?

As I sat looking out the window, the phone rang. It was my daughter Alexandra,
better known as Alex. She is studying at the University of Miami Law School to become
an immigration rights attorney.

“Hi, Mom. How are you doing? Have you heard from the Creep’s lawyer lately?”
We are still arguing over alimony.

“You shouldn’t call your father that, even if he is one; and no, I haven’t.”

“OK, the Slimeball. How’s your new job?”

“I quit.”

“After one day?”

“It was an interesting day. They say they support women, but they put them at risk.”

“Well, that’s too bad; but why not give it another try? Sorry, I’ve gotta go now; I
have a huge test Friday. Love you, Mom.”

“Love you, dear. Good luck.”

“You too, Mom.”

I went back to sipping my Bustelo and staring out the window at the sun-dappled
queen palm in the back yard. The old air conditioning unit groaned and dripped, trying to
cope with the humidity. I knew I should get up and start looking at job listings on the
internet, but I felt as limp as a towel left outside overnight in the rain.

The phone rang again. “Hello?” I said.

“Hi, Margaret. This is Rosa, from Experienced Eyes. I’m sorry about what
happened yesterday. It was really terrible. But you did a good job. I’d like you to come
back to work.”

“I don’t think so.”

“But I have a case that would interest you, helping out another woman. Please come
in, and let’s talk about it.”

I hesitated. I had nothing pressing on my schedule—nothing at all, in fact. “Yeah, I
guess so. I’ll be there in an hour.”

I walked through the beaded curtains into the small living room. The furniture
consisted of an old wicker couch and chair, a glass table, and a poster for the 1981 Grove
Art Show. In the bathroom, I stepped into the clawfoot tub and let the cool water wash
over me from the old round showerhead. Refreshed, I put on baby powder, deodorant,
and my favorite citrusy cologne. I slipped on a beige linen skirt, pink tee, and sandals,
and I was ready to go.

When I got to Rosa’s office, she was speaking to a young woman with deep honeycolored
skin and big dark eyes. She would have been pretty if she had been smiling.
“Margaret, meet Nella. She was just telling me her story.”

Nella pushed her thick hair away from her forehead. “I don’t know what to do,” she
said. “I think my husband is infidèl, but I’m not sure.”

“Why do you think so?”

“The other day, I came back from work—I’m a waitress at Denny’s—and there was
a strange red car parked in front of the building. My husband was already home. I asked
him if he had a guest, and he said no, but he looked really nervous. I started looking
around the apartment and heard a noise from the bedroom closet. I opened the door, and
there was a woman inside. I tried to grab her, but she got away and ran out the door.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked my husband. ‘She’s just a friend,’ he said. ‘We were talking
and heard you arrive, and she was afraid you’d get the wrong idea so she hid in the
closet.’”

“Oh yeah?” “Yes, querida; I love you.”

“What do you think?” asked Rosa.

“I’m really suspicious. Jorge isn’t working right now, so he’s home a lot. But this
morning I saw him go out, and the red car was there. So would your operative come with
me and try to surprise her?”

If there’s anything I hate more than boa constrictors, it’s cheating husbands, so I
agreed. We headed off in Nella’s car to an address off Bird Road (birro in Cuban speak).

Sure enough, the red car was still parked in front of the building. Nella quietly
unlocked the apartment and we entered. The bedroom closet door was shut. I opened it
quickly. There was no one inside, but on the floor I saw…a pink thong.

To be continued. ….

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“The Book of Symbols” – A Review

By Mary Lynn Kittelson
Original published in the September 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images is a big beautiful book, more
than half of which is colorful, lovely pictures. Its 792 pages contain five major sections:
Creation and Cosmos, Plant World, Animal World, and the two largest, the Human
World and Spirit World.

“Archetypal,” of course, indicates that an image or symbol is meaningful to the
heart and mind in all cultures and deeply into our past. It is the language of the human
experience of the world through the psyche.

The guiding principle of this book is stated in Meister Eckhart’s words: “When the
soul wants to experience something, she throws out an image in front of her and then
steps into it.” The editorial staff describes in detail how they decided to present an
archetypal image.

Together, the pictures and words (including fascinating poetry and quotations)
create “the numinous particular” (p.6), so that the invisible manifests and another world
shines through. Each entry hopes to “open up” perception of the symbol and not to
confine its vitality for it has mystery and unites opposites.

You do indeed have the chance to get a deep and inspiring sense of the 700 images
that the book includes. Take a look. It’s on the upper level of our library in the
anthropology section.

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Little Free Library in Grove Park

By Katie Weiblen
Originally published in the March 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

littlelibraryYou may have noticed the Little Free Library at the entrance to Grove Park. This colorful
addition to the park came by a very indirect route. A number of years ago, as a retired
librarian from the Minneapolis Public Library, I attended a luncheon meeting of the
Metropolitan Library Service Association. There was a drawing for one of the early
versions of the Little Free Libraries. Much to my surprise, I held the winning ticket! I had
a choice of designs and chose what I thought was the most beautiful and elaborate.
Fearing that my Little Free Library would not survive the weekend student revelry and
accompanying vandalism in our Minneapolis U of M neighborhood, I gave it to my
grandchildren in University Grove. After some consideration, the family decided that
rather than setting it out at their home, it would be of greater service to the community if
it were placed in a more public area. A letter of request was sent to the Falcon Heights
Parks and Gardens Committee. The committee suggested that the Little Free Library be
placed in the community park on Roselawn Avenue. This led to the circulation of a
petition for permission to place it in Grove Park, where it would serve visitors to the park.
Orignally published in the March 2016 issue of the 1666 Coffman Newsletter

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A Dispatch from the Library Front: Clashing Classics and Roaring Canons

By Barbara Woshinsky
Originally published in the February 2016 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter

Last year, in response to the Library Committee’s annual request for new acquisitions
suggestions, one resident asked whether we had a good selection of “classics.” Yes,
faithful reader, our library does contain works by Shakespeare, George Eliot,
Dostoevsky, Henry James, and others that many would consider classics. But this query
caused us to ponder further. What, in fact, is a classic? Is it just a book we were forced to
read in class, perhaps turning us off it forever? In reality, “classics” are not necessarily
dusty and fusty. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil were
censored for obscenity, and that American icon, Huckleberry Finn, remains one of the
most frequently banned books in U.S. libraries. When Mark Twain heard that a librarian
considered his works dangerous for children, he commented that they were written for
adults, and cautioned her not to leave them lying around near a Bible. Suppose children
should get hold of that!

Returning to our initial question: one common definition of a classic is a work that
has stood the test of time—that communicates universal values beyond the period when it
originated. It also possesses an artistic power that is hard to define but easy to recognize.
According to Italian writer and Nobel Prize recipient Italo Calvino, “a classic is a book
that people say they are rereading, or else that even when we read it for the first time
gives the sense of rereading.” What works give you that feeling of familiarity? Another
writer, the ninth century French critic Sainte-Beuve, sums it up in this way: a classic is
“an old author, canonized by admiration, and an authority in a particular style.” Given
that definition, can there be a “modern classic?” Will Lord of the Flies or Catch-22 retain
their classical status in 2216, or will they descend to the level of texts read only by
English professors and their graduate students?

Sainte-Beuve’s definition reveals a close connection between “classic” and
“canon.” Originating in biblical study, the term “canon” denotes works of great cultural or moral authority that every educated person should read. A twentieth century attempt to
define the canon was made by the famous “Great Books” program at the University of
Chicago. Its first edition of fifty-plus volumes was heavy on ancient Greek literature (the
original “classics”), philosophy, and English and American authors. It contained no
women writers. Since the 1960s, this traditional canon, with its focus on books by “dead
white males,” has been hotly contested. Works by African-American writers like Toni
Morrison, many of which we would now consider “classic,” have been added to the
canon. Other forgotten writers have been rediscovered.

So the answer to “what is a classic?” is not as simple as it may seem. Like so many
aspects of culture, the “classics” are not fixed by some immutable authority but evolve
through time and social change. What are some of your favorite classics? Let’s continue
the dialogue and fire our own canons!

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