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Translators and Alchemists

On the “Interpretive Style” in American Art


As a bookish child in the Pennsylvania suburbs, I won the school spelling bee without quite meaning to, startled and delighted to hear an adult with a microphone intoning aloud words I’d only read in books—it’s mis-led, not mizzled?—as though seeing in color for the first time. For my pains I was given a copy of Paideia, the workbook that formerly accompanied the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and told to start studying for regionals. (For the record, I never made it further than the state bee.) 

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