May 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
Today in literary history, Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925. It’s one of my favorite books–the plot is simple, but the writing is so gorgeous. I love how Woolf imbues the everyday with so much meaning. And it makes me feel a deep connection with other people. For example, one part that sticks with me is when Lady Bruton imagines her connection with Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread after they leave her home:
“And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider’s thread is blotted with rain-drops, and, burdened, sags down.”
I love that image so much and I totally feel that when I part from friends. Even though the thread may sag, I love the fact that it’s there at all. We’re deeply and invisibly connected with the people we love.
Buy yourself some flowers today and celebrate Mrs. Dalloway!
(image: Rubin Starset)
May 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy Friday, everyone! It’s almost Mother’s Day, so let’s celebrate early with a few mother-themed fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Mrs. Weasley wins Mom of the Year for her line “Not my daughter, you bitch!”
3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag
Idgie and Ruth combat racism, serve barbecue in Depression-era Alabama. Read it, immediately started rereading.
4.Matilda by Roald Dahl
Clever Matilda has a heinous family, so she forms a new family with Miss Honey.
5. Grandma Gets Grumpy by Anna Grossnickle Hines
Grandmas get upset sometimes–they were moms once, after all.
April 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy Friday, everyone! What better way to end the week than with some fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Just as cute and fun as everyone said. Can I study abroad in Paris?
3. Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten
The ones I’ve tried turned out well. Apparently Ina likes her Bolognese spicy—woohoo!
4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The most depressing Steinbeck book. And he wrote about dead puppies.
5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Not my favorite, but I like how Fanny holds it together amidst so much crazy.
April 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
Last week my dad mentioned William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I’d read it before, but it feels particularly meaningful now. My favorite part:
“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Bold/italics are mine. Writers, we’ve got a job to do. Let’s help humanity prevail.
Make sure to click through to see the whole speech; you can even listen to Faulkner read it!
April 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Let’s kick Friday off with this week’s fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
The ultimate novel about academia. Which says it all for me.
3. Felicity Saves the Day (American Girls: Felicity #3) by Valerie Tripp
No, Ben, you can’t fight in the Revolutionary War because you already have a job!
4. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Sci-fi YA takes on Frankenstein. Really dug it, but felt complete; why’s there a sequel?
5. The Bad Beginning (The Series of Unfortunate Events #1) by Lemony Snicket
I liked that the Baudelaires never solved problems easily. Lots of literary fun sprinkled throughout.
April 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This week is the national Days of Remembrance, which commemorates Holocaust victims and survivors. I remember learning about the Holocaust in school, primarily with two main books. The first was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, which my class read in third or fourth grade. I knew about WWII in general, but this was the first time I remembered hearing about the significant threat to Jewish people during that time. The book provided a safe way to learn about a very scary part of history; the threat to Ellen’s family is very real but Lowry is careful not to go into too much detail about what could have faced the Rosens if they’d been caught.
Night by Elie Wiesel was another significant book in my learning about the Holocaust. By the time I read it, I was in eighth grade and knew millions of innocent people had been tortured and killed. I didn’t expect Night to affect me so, but I read it in one evening and spent the entire time crying. For me, it was an opportunity to understand the Holocaust in a very personal way. Somehow it’s easy to gloss over statistics about how many people died; it’s far harder to ignore real stories about the horrors that individual people experienced.
Which is why the Days of Remembrance and honoring all the specific victims and survivors are essential. We need to hear their stories and remember that these were/are specific people with specific lives. They were mothers and singers and readers and kids who liked silly jokes and lawyers and on and on. All of their stories are valuable and need to be shared.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has resources for taking part in the Days of Remembrance, including a webcast of the national ceremony on Thursday, April 11 at 11:00am. In case you can’t take part in an organized event, you can also share the stories of victims and listen to the stories of survivors, as documented on the museum website. Make sure their voices are heard.
April 2, 2013 § 3 Comments
April is National Poetry Month, so it makes sense that one of English literature’s oldest poems opens with a reference to this very month. Check out this opening to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
Um…what does that mean? Don’t worry, I’m not exactly fluent in Middle English myself. Fortunately there’s a translation:
When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.
Whether April’s inspired you to make a pilgrimage to Canterbury or not, you can check out the rest of The Canterbury Tales here. I didn’t have the best experience with Chaucer in college, which of course makes me think I should go back and investigate this Chaucer guy. I mean, dude did popularize the English language. We need to give him props for that.
May your April showers be sweet with fruit!
March 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy Friday, everyone! Let’s kick off the weekend with some good ol’ fashioned fifteen-word book reviews.
2. Ming Lo Moves the Mountain by Arnold Lobel
Fun folktale about changing perspectives. I used to pull this out all the time.
3. Happy Birthday, Molly! (American Girls: Molly #4) by Valerie Tripp
I learned about the Blitz during WWII from this book.
4. Speaking With the Angel ed. Nick Hornby
Short story collection with some great writers. Features my favorite work by Dave Eggers.
5. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Didn’t connect with me like I wanted. Probably read too close to quirky Weetzie Bat.
March 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
I’ve confessed before that I’m not a Hemingway fan. But I was intrigued by his Nobel Prize speech and the circumstances surrounding it. He talks a little about the loneliness of writing, which I don’t tend to agree with, but I liked this part quite a bit:
“For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment…It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.”
I like this idea of being driven out beyond help, beyond what you can conceive of for yourself. Because if you’re writing, it should be because this is a story that needs to be told and hasn’t been told before. This is your challenge and we’re always pushed further than before.
Make sure to check out the whole speech.