Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Hear, hear! I hate lists, as so much of what we get from literature is subjective and so any attempt to put them in some kind of objective order is kind of a waste of time... in my own subjective opinion. (Of course, some people would argue that this subjectivity is what gives English as a field of study a bad name, but the fact remains that there is no way to objectively list the "best" book ever.)"I think something to take away from the whole exercise is that it is silly to ascribe merit umerically. Number one, number three, number thirteen—these are basically meaningless distinctions (unless, I suppose, you are running a race). Consider the Modern Library 100, which creates a fairly arbitrary, often ridiculous, hierarchy between books, using basically the same process used for this list (which is, to reiterate, *not* a round-table consensus-type situation, but one based on tallies). Folks seem a little grumpy about The Corrections' number one spot. Of course it feels a odd to call The Corrections 'the best novel of the millennium.' But I don’t see how any of the novels we talked about this week would be less troublesome in that lauded position (unless, naturally, they happen to be your particular favorite)."
During the most recent period for which good figures are available (from 1972 to 2005), more young people entered the world of higher education than at any time in American history. Where did they go? Increasingly into public, not private, schools. In the space of that one generation, public colleges and universities wound up with more than 13 million students in their classrooms while private institutions enrolled about 4.5 million. Students in public schools tended toward majors in managerial, technical, and pre-professional fields while students in private schools pursued more traditional and less practical academic subjects.
Literature and Education
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Ed. Note: In fact, from now on, I wish to be called--not a blogger--but an "indie writer," as I have been published only outside of mainstream publishing.
Miranda Richardson plays an absolutely genius Queen Elizabeth I, and Stephen Fry also joins the cast this season. Watch it. Now. You'll be glad you did.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
- What is Twilight if not a gothic romance? Perhaps the gothic genre isn't quite the same as it was, but many romantic suspense novels written today still fit the bill for the most part.
- Walton also writes: "She may be abducted and rescued, she may scream, but she earns her reward and wedding and her house—the hero is her reward, she is not his." She seems to think that this is strange and noteworthy. Here's the thing we must about the gothics: they were one of the first genres written by women for women--of course they're woman-centric. Therefore, rather than focusing so explicity on the sexual repression of the characters, we should be grateful that there were female characters with any agency whatsoever.
- Finally, Walton spends a looong time talking about romance in gothics and completely ignores the fact that some gothics don't have romance as a main plot point. Frankenstein, anyone?
[Sigh.] I wish I could draw so I could make snarky little comics about famous dead writers.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
- Go out for coffee and a bagel (or two).
- Take a leisurely stroll, paying close attention to store signs with incorrectly punctuated words.
- Stop in those stores to correct the owners.
- If the owners are not there, leave notes.
In the past, I have always felt that both emoticons and acronyms are simply the lazy man's form of typing. My opinion of that hasn't changed, because it is the lazy man's form of typing, but I am slowly and surely becoming that lazy (wo)man.
However, in my defense, there is apparently a long and rich history of using emoticons, dating all the way back to the 19th Century. In fact, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, "Typographical emoticons were published in 1881 by the U.S. satirical magazine, Puck." Who can argue with a cultural expert such as that?
Anyway, my point is this: I hate the lolz but can appreciate the utility of the :).
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
First Clown: Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?
Second Clown: Mass, I cannot tell.
First Clown: Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when you are asked this question next, say 'a grave-maker': the houses that he makes last till doomsday.
(d) All of the above.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Oh, my God! Margaret Atwood isn't sure she's a feminist anymore!
Maybe it's because I've never read anything by Ms. Atwood, but I frankly don't care about what she thinks about today's feminists or global warming. Why would I? Shouldn't she be in a room somewhere working on her next work of genius dystopia?
Monday, September 21, 2009
Perhaps it is because Patchett is a novelist and ties her theories on life closely to the idea of crafting a novel. (The theme of "what next?" applies to both fields very neatly.) In addition, Patchett gives none of the platitudes that seem so prevalent in commencement speeches. She does not say, "You've done it!" or "You're finally ready to go out and change the world!" Instead, she tells the story of how she worked as a waitress after earning her MFA. (Those of you who have discovered that job satisfaction is a luxury may appreciate her final point of continuing to dream despite working in a field that is less than fulfilling.)
From a more media-based perspective, I would highly suggest listening to the audio version of the book as the reader has a beautiful voice and the entire recording is only about an hour long.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Her image was managed aggressively by Putnam, a scion of the publishing house G. P. Putnam’s Sons, and one of the first über-agents. He specialized in celebrity true-life adventure stories, and he had signed up Lindbergh to chronicle his flight to Paris for the Times (which paid him sixty thousand dollars), then turned the articles into a book that sold some six hundred thousand copies. Even before Putnam met Earhart, he had caught wind of the Guest project—and his next best-seller. [...] Her legend, to a large degree, was Putnam’s creation. He brokered her lecture tours, book contracts, columns, product endorsements, and media exposure, and he was so proprietary that a rival of Earhart’s described him as her Svengali.Relevant from a "literary" standpoint? Possibly not. Interesting? Definitely.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I had never previously read anything by Agatha Christie, but I slipped into Postern of Fate effortlessly--in part because I feel as though I've read her books even when I haven't. Miss Marple, Poirot--they've become cultural references if nothing else. Even Tommy and Tuppence (the main characters of Postern of Fate) seemed familiar though I'd never read anything featuring them before.
Monday, September 14, 2009
For my birthday this year, my mother gave a new spin to this idea--she sent me an MP3 player loaded with audio books she has listened to in the past and thought I would enjoy. She has given me hours and hours of entertainment/distraction, which will be very handy when the weather is bad and I'm trudging in snow for an hour a day.
Anyway, my point is this: there are numerous ways you can give a book as a gift.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Imagine my horror, then, when I learned the identities of the first two valiant members of the Female Force: J.K. Rowling and--wait for it--Stephanie Meyer. Sarah Palin is reportedly to join their league for some strange reason.
I concluded that it must be tongue-in-cheek--Rowling and Meyers might make a "Cash Cow Crew" or "Manipulating Teens Club," but Female Force? Oh, I get it. It's a joke, right? Good one, guys.
That was until I saw who else was being vetted for a slot in the Female Force, as explained by The Guardian: "The publisher is currently in the process of selecting two other prominent female authors for its comic book series, and said it was deliberating between Toni Morrison, Ayn Rand, Margaret Atwood, Ursula LeGuin, Harper Lee, Anne Rice, Beatrix Potter and Virginia Woolf."
I hate the world.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
In addition, Naughton neatly summarizes the possible ramifications of the settlement:
This is incredibly troubling, to put it lightly. If I could believe that Google had only the best intentions towards our cultural heritage, I might be able to rest easier. The fact that the company (by the very definition of the word 'company') is instead most interested in eventually turning a profit from its endeavor should be troubling to most of us.
"A single commercial company will control much of our cultural heritage. Because it's a settlement based on a class action suit, it will give Google a uniquely privileged position in relation to 'orphan' works - ie, those which are still in copyright but for which no owner can be located - which will not be enjoyed by anyone else. And thirdly, it will hand the power to determine access fees to a pair of unaccountable monopolies - Google and the digital rights registry. So it's deeply anti-competitive."
All that's left now is to wait and see, I suppose.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
(By the way, I doubt you can read Dean's textbox in the third panel--it says, "This girl's really gonna put a crimp in our homosocial male bonding time with her 'bathroom breaks.'" In the sixth panel, it says, "I got the car, you got Galatea's money for gas... nothing can stop us now!" I think from now on I'll leave off coloring in the text boxes. Live and learn, I guess.)
For example, he argues that "storyline" and "plot" were destroyed by Modern literature and are now only present in genre fiction. According to Grossman, "If there's a key to what the 21st-century novel is going to look like, this is it: the ongoing exoneration and rehabilitation of plot." My problem with this argument is that (a) I don't recall ever hearing before that Modern literature destroyed plot, and (b) Grossman provides no evidence to support this argument. Instead, he points out that Modern literature moved away from the Romantic period which generally consisted of happy endings and no loose ends. This does not mean, however, that the Modern era lacked plot altogether.
Grossman also argues that Modern literature made reading "difficult":
"The Modernists introduced us to the idea that reading could be work, and not common labor but the work of an intellectual elite, a highly trained coterie of professional aesthetic interpreters. The motto of Ezra Pound's 'Little Review,' which published the first chapters of Joyce's 'Ulysses,' was 'Making no compromise with the public taste.' Imagine what it felt like the first time somebody opened up 'The Waste Land' and saw that it came with footnotes. Amateur hour was over."
Grossman's final argument, then, is this:
"The novel is finally waking up from its 100-year carbonite nap. Old hierarchies of taste are collapsing. Genres are hybridizing. The balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place. Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century."Frankly, I can't help but hope he's correct--I've always found Eliot and Pound insufferable and don't generally enjoy "literary fiction." Unfortunately, I cannot judge the validity of his argument because I've never read any of the authors he provides as evidence: "Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt, Kelly Link, Audrey Niffenegger, Richard Price, Kate Atkinson, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke, to name just a few." Technically, I've read Neil Gaiman, but I didn't enjoy him enough to argue that he's one of the pioneers who are "busily grafting the sophisticated, intensely aware literary language of Modernism onto the sturdy narrative roots of genre fiction: fantasy, science fiction, detective fiction, romance."
One thing is for sure, however: the demand for literary fiction is waning. Thank God.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The graphic novel in question is Stitches, by David Small. It's an autobiography that explores how Small's parents virtually "stole" his voice from him when he was a young boy:
"Roughly a half century ago, when Mr. Small was 14, he underwent an operation his parents told him was to remove a cyst in his neck but which he discovered by chance had been throat cancer. The surgery left him without one of his vocal cords or his thyroid gland. And, for nearly a decade, he couldn’t speak above a hoarse whisper.
"The matter of young David’s cancer was not discussed in the Smalls’ Detroit house except for a brief occasion a year after the operation. His father, an aloof and withholding radiologist, attempted to unburden himself of the knowledge that the extensive radiation treatments he had performed on his son had caused the cancer. 'In those days we gave any kid born with breathing difficulty X-rays,' his father confesses in the book. 'Two to four hundred rads. I gave you cancer.'"
This gave me the chills the first time I read it. I'm going to pick it up as soon as I get the chance, if only for the novel experience of actually buying a graphic novel.
Monday, September 7, 2009
More touchingly, however, she also writes about the positive impact that escapist books (more specifically, romance novels) can have on the lives of readers:
I write romance because a young woman in Portugal named Lourdes Goulart was praying that my next book would come out before the cancer that was ravaging her body claimed her life. Even though chemotherapy had weakened her eyesight to the point of blindness, she sent me a beautiful and painstaking cross-stitch she’d done of a windmill she could see through the window from her bed. Six months ago, I received word from her sister, Rosa, that Lourdes had died. She started my new book the day before she entered the hospital for the last time, but didn’t want to read past the first page for fear of being interrupted.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Indeed, it can be argued that much of 18th- and 19th-century English literature was born afoot. Not only the Brontës, but Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen and Thomas Carlyle were all members in good standing of the walkers club. (In fact, previous Wayfarers walks have focused on Hardy, Wordsworth and Scott, and there are plans for an Austen walk.)
My point is that I would seriously love to go on one of these tours, even if I did end up like Elizabeth Bennet with mud to my knees.
(Anyway, you can read this book if you want to, but I'm not going to, no matter how funny the reader's discussion guide is. Exactly how desperate is the publishing industry, anyway?)
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
- Check out the New York Times article, "A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like." While I think that such a program in schools can definitely help children learn to love the act of reading, such a program runs the risk of neglecting to teach them anything them about actual "literature"--whatever that is.
- I picked up a book from the library called Nerds Like It Hot, just because this part of the back cover sounds hilarious: "He's rediscovered his inner nerd… Lex thought he had left behind his nerdy ways, but his suave demeanor has no chance against Gillian's bombshell image and the smart, sexy woman within." I haven't actually read it yet, but I have appropriately low/high standards, depending on how you look at it.