Tom McNamara

Philip Roth: Unmasked

Photo Essay: In Newark They Read Philip Roth

Take a ride on the Philip Roth Tour Bus and see the sights of Roth’s Newark, New Jersey — his hometown and setting of several of his books, like Goodbye Columbus, Portnoy’s Complaint and I Married a Communist.

Mel Brooks: Make A Noise

Spaceballs: The Art of the Trope (or, making the cliché absurd)

What came first: the Mel Brooks movie or the cliché?

The classic Hollywood Sci-Fi spaceship always gets gratuitous screentime from every camera angle. Mel Brooks’s Hollywood spaceship appears in a continuous one minute and 40 second scene detailing its ridiculous length.

Mel Brooks: Make A Noise

Young Frankenstein: The Art of the Homage

For Mel Brooks the spoofing is in the details.

The classic Hollywood Horror film is always black-and-white and includes scene transitions like iris outs, wipes and fades to black. Mel Brooks’s Hollywood Horror is no different. He even tracks down the original equipment from the mad doctor’s lab first used in the 1931 Frankenstein film.

Mel Brooks: Make A Noise

Blazing Saddles: The Art of the Stereotype

Mel Brooks never met a stereotype he couldn’t upend.

The classic Hollywood cowboy is always white. Mel Brooks’s Hollywood cowboy is black. And his Indian chief speaks Yiddish.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Posters: How Carl Sandburg Saw Chicago

CHICAGO POEMS, published by Carl Sandburg in 1916, is an ode to a city. It’s a clear eyed and unapologetic love letter: where you tell your true-love you love them not in spite of their imperfections but because of them. This was Sandburg’s first volume of poetry, written in the years just after 1912 when he moved to Chicago.

In some ways, Sandburg’s writing was before its time–more like the social realism you associate with the later 1920s and 1930s–think Grant Wood’s American Gothic, think Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother. This was a time when industry, agriculture, and the worker were the heros of popular art.

Sandburg starts Chicago Poems with “Chicago.” Read it here and see its opening stanza visualized in poster art.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Playlist: Carl Sandburg Sings America!

Carl Sandburg’s The American Songbag: songs he collected traveling a country that was as pretty as it was hard.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Carl Sandburg: A Tall Man

Carl Sandburg was a tall tale. Yes, he was only a man. But, his words were Paul Bunyan; his words were John Henry: impossibly real. The way Sandburg wrote, he gave life to anything and everything around him: from mountains to oceans, from prairies to rows of corn or cotton. Skyscrapers, too.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Gallery: The Carl Sandburg Archive

An exploration of the Carl Sandburg Archive from the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

The American Songbag: I Ride an Old Paint

Hear Carl Sandburg sing, ‘I Ride an Old Paint,’ recorded sometime in the 1930s or 40s, and published as a part of his The American Songbag. Sandburg: ‘The song smells of saddle leather, sketches ponies and landscapes, and varies in theme from a realistic presentation of the drab Bill Jones and his violent wife to an ethereal prayer and cry of phantom tone.’