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Posts tagged ‘literature’

Revisiting “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”

Today’s kind of a lazy post, but it’s relevant.

Many critics, and even A.S. Byatt herself, have acknowledged Possession is a response to John Fowles’ 1969 novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

So before we jump into Possession, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the story that provoked A.S. Byatt to write her novel in the first place.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman currently sits at #27 in my rankings of the first 68 books I’ve read from the Time list. Before I read the novel, I thought I wouldn’t like it—thinking of it as a Victorian romance. And it is partly that, but to dismiss it that easily does a great disservice to John Fowles. The man was excellent at his craft.

So instead of me babbling on and on about a book I read nearly three years ago, I thought I’d just repost that review here today. It’s been awhile, so just reading this review again reminded me of why I enjoyed The French Lieutenant’s Woman so much.

And, hopefully, Possession will prove to be as interesting.

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Repost: Book #15: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

I’m taking my annual week-long summer hiatus this week, which means this is a “Best of 101 Books” week.  I’ll return live on Monday July 8.

Today’s post originally appeared on the blog on April 4, 2011.

Unspeakable things happen in a labor and delivery room. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. With my eyes.

June 16, 2010 was the day my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world, a little boy. On that day, I was certain, absolutely certain, that I would never again–or at least until we have a second child–experience what it means to be a woman like that.  Lights. Voices. Blood. Fluids. Apparatuses. God only knows what else.

This whole giving birth thing is pretty intense, I thought.  I could never do that. Thank God for women.

So I thought I had pretty much experienced the essence of womanhood. But, oh no. Dear Lord, no. Thanks to Judy Blume’s epic tale, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I learned that there’s much more to being a woman than childbirth.

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Can Literature “Cross The Line?”

I hear this a lot: “I didn’t like [insert book] because it glorified [insert topic: extramarital sex, violence, drugs, etc].”

We all have different levels of comfort. That’s something we’ve talked about before. What happens, though, when we project our own discomfort about a certain topic onto the book we’re reading? So, when we read a novel that deals with a serious subject, we suddenly label said novel as “glorifying” that subject.

What does that even mean? And where’s the line? How does an author talk about a difficult topic, even in a graphic way, without being perceived as glorifying that subject?

I’m still not really sure what it means to “glorify” a topic, like violence. But, for what it’s worth, I would put movies more into the “glorifying” camp than literature. Some movies feel like they are violent just for the sake of being violent–and I guess that’s part of what people mean when they talk about this idea of glorifying. The rampant violence, in some cases, does nothing to advance the plot. It’s just kind of there–in order to get in the requisite number of decapitations and camera shots of splattering brains.

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Why Literature Might Disappear From Our Schools

If you skip today’s post because the title sounds boring or you just don’t care about today’s subject, then I want you to take away one thing before you go: School administrators are stupid.

Well, not all of them of course. That would be a generalization. But the administrators who make decisions on literature? Yes, stupid.

This, recently reported by The Telegraph, is the basis for my opinion:

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The Daily Show On Literature

It’s Monday, which means you might be a little grumpy, which means you might need a good laugh to start off your day.

With that in mind, I present to you a compilation of clips about literature from The Daily Show.

And who doesn’t love The Daily Show? You’ve got to be able to laugh about politics and news or you’ll go insane from stress and anxiety.

I’ve spent an hour trying to embed this Comedy Central video into my blog. Nothing seems to work. Help WordPress!

So, because I love this video so much, I’m going to link to it, which means you’ll have to go offsite to watch it. You should.

Then, come back here and comment! Happy Monday.

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Repost: Book #13: Mrs. Dalloway

It’s rerun week at 101 Books! Today’s post originally appeared on March 21, 2011101 Books will return live on Monday July 9. 

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Get your pitchforks ready. Find a stake you can set fire to. Get ready to riot and burn an effigy of me.

Because I’m about to be honest: I didn’t like Mrs. Dalloway. There, I said it. I’ve probably committed some kind of literary heresy by admitting this, but I’ve got to keep it real, as the kids say.

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Repost: 101 Books Guide To Carrying An Embarrassing Book In Public

It’s rerun week at 101 Books! Today’s post originally appeared on August 1, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday July 9. 

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Here’s the situation: You’ve got a book with a questionable cover—nothing dirty. You’re just a little self-conscious about this book’s cover when you carry it in public.

Maybe you’re a guy who likes Danielle Steel novels. Or maybe you’re a girl who enjoys the occasional foray into Fabio-inspired grocery store romance novels. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

But if you want to take the book out on your lunch break, you might be a little leery of letting fellow diners know about your Fabio obsession.

If you’ll remember from earlier this year, I encountered this whole carrying an “embarrassing”-book-in-public issue while reading a Judy Blume book. Now, I’m facing it to a slighter degree with The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

So, using The French Lieutenant’s Woman as an example, I’ve come up with a few book carrying techniques that may or may not help you work around this problem.

The Confident Carry

With this approach, you are taking on the world. You’re saying, “I know you see the barechested woman with flowing hair on this cover, and I don’t care.” If you’re bold enough and confident enough in your reading selections to use this technique, then pat yourself on the back. You’ll go far in life.

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Revisiting 2011: Book #15: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

This week, I’m revisiting some of my favorite posts from 2011 while I take a one-week break from writing and simply focus on reading and spending time with my family. This post was originally published on April 4, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday January 2. See you then!

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Unspeakable things happen in a labor and delivery room. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. With my eyes.

June 16, 2010 was the day my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world, a little boy. On that day, I was certain, absolutely certain, that I would never again–or at least until we have a second child–experience what it means to be a woman like that.  Lights. Voices. Blood. Fluids. Apparatuses. God only knows what else.

This whole giving birth thing is pretty intense, I thought.  I could never do that. Thank God for women.

So I thought I had pretty much experienced the essence of womanhood. But, oh no. Dear Lord, no. Thanks to Judy Blume’s epic tale, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I learned that there’s much more to being a woman than childbirth.

Read more

Revisiting 2011: Book #16: Infinite Jest, Part 1

This week, I’m revisiting some of my favorite posts from 2011 while I take a one-week break from writing and simply focus on reading and spending time with my family. This post was originally published on May 11, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday January 2. See you then!

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What just happened?

That’s the first question I asked myself after reading the final word of Infinite Jest. And while that might seem like a bad question to be asking oneself at the end of a 1,000 page book, it wasn’t unexpected.

I’m not sure I could count how many times I asked myself “What just happened?” while reading David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece over the last six weeks. It happened, like, a bunch of times–enough to be qualified as a recurring theme in my head.

It happened enough for me to say Infinite Jest is supremely frustrating at times–the loose, non-linear plot, the $10 words, the pure effort that the book takes to read.

But is that the point? Is that what David Foster Wallace was after? Did he want to make you work your butt off to read this book?

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Revisiting 2011: Dear Pretentious Reader: This One’s For You

This week, I’m revisiting some of my favorite posts from 2011 while I take a one-week break from writing and simply focus on reading and spending time with my family. This post was originally published on April 14, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday January 2, 2012. See you then!

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You know the person. He or she professes to have read everything you ever mention. Everything. Even the obscure out-of-print German romance novel from the 1960s–you know, the one with the protagonist named Bjorn.

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