On The Books: Orson Welles reading Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself' will root you to your chair

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Walt Whitman’s poetry flares up a lot in Americana. Breaking Bad‘s meth kingpin Walter White had an inscribed copy of Leaves of Grass (which sold at an auction for $65,500). In the show, the book was the catalyst for his undoing. Bill Clinton infamously presented Monica Lewinsky with a copy of Leaves of Grass. (Lesson: never gift Leaves of Grass. It’s the Hades pomegranate of modern times.) Apple’s recent iPad commercial makes striking (and shameless) use of Robin Williams’ speech from Dead Poets Society in which he quotes Whitman’s “Oh Me! Oh Life!” Today Open Culture featured an interesting article about this phenomenon, but the real treat is the download of Orson Welles’ BBC recording of “Song of Myself.” Welles’ resonant voice and expressive reading is absolutely riveting. He gives the poem the gravity that Whitman intended. It makes you miss old time radio readings. [Open Culture]

If you feel like gobbling up more radio after Orson Welles, head over to N+1. The associate editor Richard Beck and author Sheila Heti discuss political and literary topics like friendship, feminism and the child-care sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980s. You know, casual Thursday thoughts. [N+1]

Lotte Fields was a regular visitor to the New York Public Library until the day she died at 89-years-old. She loved to read and she donated the occasional small sum to the institution. So imagine the everyone’s surprise when it was discovered on Wednesday that she bequeathed the 119-year-old library $6 million in her will. That sounds like something written by E.L. Konigsburg. [New York Times]

The Hugo Awards periodically recognize books that were written 50-75 years prior to the current award ceremony. This year the Hugo committee asked members to pick a science fiction book written in 1938 for an honorary Retro-Hugo award. Notables include: Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis; the Doc Savage novels; and The Sword in the Stone, by T.H. White. [Guardian]

Another sweet poetry story, Afaa Michael Weaver just won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his poetry collection The Government of Nature. Chief Judge Chase Twichell said of Weaver, “His father was a sharecropper. After serving for two years in the Army, he toiled for 15 years in factories, writing poems all the while. When he learned that he’d won a National Endowment Fellowship, he quit his job and attended Brown University on a full scholarship. He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet. It’s truly remarkable.” So second lesson today: it’s never too late to seize your dream job. [NPR]

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