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College Guide

Required reading: A quick education on getting an education

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A


It's the 50th anniversary of "Blowin' in the Wind," and Dylan — like the Beatles and the Stones, Motown, etc. — is virtually an academic industry. Check your course guide and see if you can find Dylanology 101 making the lad from Hibbing part of the grand sweeps of literature or social history. In contrast, Media Web columnist Jon Freidman's take on what makes Dylan Dylan and Dylan a success reads almost like a self-help book. He wants to liberate your inner Dylan. And for all the advice and admonitions in Dylan's songs ("May you stay forever young … You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows … To stay outside the law, you must be honest …" etc.), Freidman takes cues from the poetry to turn Dylan into prosaic advice.

Sample:
This is one of the most difficult things any of us can do: take control of our lives and change our destinies. It seems so much easier to let someone else — a family member, a boss, a business manager, an agent, a financial planner — make the tough decisions for us. Dylan had done that for years but decided, as he later said in a 1974 interview with Rolling Stone, that the "leeches" in his life had played a part in creating a vicious circle of stress for him.

Several short sentences about writing
Verlyn Klinkenborg
Knopf, $22, 210 pp.

This wouldn't be our first recommendation for getting you through the hundreds of thousands of words you'll need to write to get through four-or-so undergrad years. More basic suggestions would include E.B. White's classic Elements of Style, Karen Elizabeth Gordon's The New Well-Tempered Sentence and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, Bruce Ross-Larson's Edit Yourself and (for those who feel a little muddle-headed, fess up, it's OK) Rudolf Flesch's How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively. But once you've got a sense of how to write for profs, you might start to think about whether there's more to writing. The New York Times' Verlyn Klinkenborg thinks there is, and that he can help you: "I had to overcome my academic training, which taught me to write in a way that was useless to me (and almost everyone else). Unlearning what I learned in college — teaching myself to write well — is the basis of what I know."

Sample:
You know how to theorize and summarize,
How to identify ideologies in the texts you read.
You do very well on the reading comprehension portion of the test.
But no one said a word about following a trail of common sense
Through the underbrush of the sentences themselves.
No one explained the whole life of the language
Lies in the solidity of the sentences and cannot be extracted.

F My Life World Tour: Life's Crappiest Moments from Around the Globe
by Maxime Valette, Gaullaume
Passaglia and Didier Guedj
Berkley Publishing Group, $15, 197 pp.

This successor to the earlier F My Life, which in turn was a spin-off from the website FmyLife.com, doesn't exactly teach or advise. It does help you put your woes — and there will be woes — in context.

Sample:
Today I went to a secluded mountain my boyfriend took me to for our first date. As I saw another couple hooking up in the bushes, I phoned my boyfriend to tell him someone found our secret spot. His Bob Marley ringtone started playing from the bush. FML.

Written by the staff at our sister publication up in Motor City, the Detroit Metro Times.

College Guide
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