Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 9:10 am
H.W. Brands is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace.
Every year, I have my graduate students read the great works of history, from classical times to the present. They gamely tackle Tacitus, ponder Plutarch, plow through Gibbon. Then they get to Thomas Carlyle and feel like Dorothy when she touched down in Technicolor Oz.
Sixty years ago, the book Charlotte's Web first appeared in print. This children's classic is often seen as a story of a spider and a pig. But when E.B. White recorded a narration of the book, he said something different: "This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself."
Whaam! Varoom! R-rrring-g! The canvases of painter Roy Lichtenstein look as if they're lifted from the pages of comic books. Comics were a big inspiration for this pop artist, who was rich and famous when died in 1997 at age 73. But at a major Lichtenstein retrospective at Washington's National Gallery of Art, you can see that the artist found inspiration beyond comic books; he also paid his respects to the masters — Picasso, Monet and more.
Journalist Chrystia Freeland has spent years reporting on the people who've reached the pinnacle of the business world. For her new book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, she traveled the world, interviewing the multimillionaires — and billionaires — who make up the world's elite super-rich. Freeland says that many of today's richest individuals gained their fortunes not from inheritance, but from actual work.