In his review of Our Mutual Friend, John Thornton writes, "Are generations of high school students wrong in thinking that Charles Dickens is one of the most boring writers ever to write what in many cases amounts to soap operas for money? An answer to this depends on what we mean by 'boring'."
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Did you know? 1984 is suddenly on the bestseller list, catapulting the novel to as-yet, unheard-of heights almost overnight! (BTW, his other novels are also climbing in sales.) What could it mean? You might well ask, "Why?"
Well, the news about NSA snooping is making everyone second-think (or "double-think"?) those stories once considered so delusional, wrought with paranoia, or far-fetched. But, now we wonder: how mush truth can we now find in re-examining those famous dystopian novels? What about all those predictions (and all the examples of how those fictional musings have become realities of modern science and technology)?
If you're one of those who have jumped on George Orwell's 1984 (bestselling) bandwagon of Winston Smith and Big Brother, based on the work of Yevgeny Zamyatin, you will likely enjoy these other great novels. So, why are these dystopian novels so popular now? Perhaps we're all just a little nervous that George Orwell and all the other writers might have really had it right, all along. Or, maybe, we just need to read about the worst possible realities of the future, so we can work to protect our freedoms and prevent those dystopian fictions from becoming a reality.
Here's one famous quote from 1984, George Orwell wrote: "People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word."
Are dystopian novels still too, far-fetched for you? What are your fears? Your hopes?
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In his review of Jane Eyre, John Thornton writes: "There is something more going on in Jane Eyre than mere charm, true, something authentically powerful--if, as will be see, brief. But the power of Jane Eyre has less to do with the conflict of great forces that typifies great works of literature, and more to do with the subtle irritation of a delayed resolution to its most important episode."
In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte once wrote: "It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it."
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Today is June 16, the day on which James Joyce had his first date with Nora Barnacle, who would later become his wife. June 16th is also the day on which the infamous novel, Ulysses (buy direct), is set.
What are you doing this Bloomsday?!?
Sarah Kinson, for The Guardian, conducted an interview with Tim Lott. When asked whether he found writing "easy," his reply was: "I'm afraid I'm in agreement with Lionel Shriver--that writing is mainly dull, and if you've got any self-respect you'll throw most of it away. It never gets any easier, although it is less frightening."
Writing is hard... but I've always been fascinated by how the greatest writers come to terms with the writing experience. Richard Wright once wrote: "I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."
Words sometimes seem to be aching to come out: to live, to breathe, to grow... They fill the spare moments between the hours; and sometimes they really do reach out and touch others. Or, they just touch me. Perhaps that's enough.
It's all a process of discovery--whether you are writing, or reading, or struggling to understand.
The Bell Jar is the only novel by Sylvia Plath, and it is famous not only because it offers shocking insight into her mind and art, but also because it is a coming-of-age story--told in the first person by Esther Greenwood, who struggles with her mental illness. Her suicide attempts made the book a target for book censors. (The book has been repeatedly banned and challenged for its controversial content.)
In The Bell Jar, we read from Esther Greenwood's point of view: "The sickness rolled through me in great waves. After each wave it would fade away and leave me limp as a wet leaf and shivering all over and then I would feel it rising up in me again, and the glittering white torture chamber tiles under my feet and over my head and all four sides closed in and squeezed me to pieces."
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William Golding is probably best known for Lord of the Flies, the famous (and controversial) tale of a group of school boys stranded on a deserted island. For his books, Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and he also received the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage, the first book in his trilogy, To the Ends of the World. Other books in the trilogy include: Close Quarters and Fire Down Below.
In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, he said, "A novel ensures that we can look before and after, take action at whatever pace we choose, read again and again, skip and go back. The story in a book is humble and serviceable, available, friendly, is not switched on and off but taken up and put down, lasts a lifetime."
Here are a few quotes from Lord of the Flies.
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Dare to make a difference. Dare to read every day. Or, dare to expand your horizons: explore literature you never thought you'd read (or enjoy).
June 1st is Dare Day... A dare proves courage. It may require risk, or danger. It may prove one's worth, or prowess. So, what would you dare to do--just for today?
Tennessee Williams once told Carson McCullers, "How could you dare write that story, it's the most frightening work I have ever read." She'd written a story about a writer who couldn't write anymore. McCullers said, "This fear is one of the horrors of an author's life. Where does work come from? What chance, what small episode will start the chain of creation?"
What if there was the chance you couldn't read any more? What would you do? What would you miss? Would you dream of reading a novel, fantasize about holding a book, and hope for a time when you could read again?
What if reading was dangerous? What would you do if reading was illegal? Would you dare to seek out (and read) a book? Would you challenge others to do the same?
The act of devouring a book is not considered a heroic act--worthy of applause or recognition. Imagine how different the world would be if books were just that important. Imagine if we dared to read--if we dared to let books touch us. What meaning would you find? How would your perspective change?
I know, life gets in the way. Each day is busy-frenetic, filled with so much that needs to be done. And, most of us don't receive any pay or incentive for reading a book. Just for today, I dare you... Read a book!
Don Quixote is one of the greatest works in world literature. It's one of the basic must-reads that you should have on your to-read list (if you've not yet experienced the adventures). Even if you don't make it through the entire volume, you should know the basics of the Don Quixote story. Otherwise, you'll be missing many literary references throughout literary history!
John Thornton writes: "What can anyone say about Don Quixote that hasn't been said? The book's been around for four hundred years, has inspired virtually every literary movement from the eighteenth-century picaresque to the most obscure works of twenty-first century postmodernism, and has provided the impetus for critical works by everyone from Thackeray to Ortega y Gasset."
With summer now in full swing, I often read about (and dream of) the Don Quixote literary tours in Spain, which offers us all the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of that infamous madman/hero. As Charlotte Cory says in her Telegraph story, "Like our hero, we had set out across the plains of La Mancha determined to find what we were looking for - that we hadn't really found it, didn't particularly matter."
One tour company, Totally Spain, offers a 7-day trip of Paradores in Oropesa, Siguenza, Cuenca, Albacete, Almagro, and Manzanares!
What literary destination(s) do you dream about and/or plan to visit this summer?
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Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist and poet, famous as the leader of the transcendentalist movement. He presented his beliefs quite eloquently in his lectures, but also in his book, Nature (1836) among other works.
In "Self Reliance," he wrote: "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."