Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading Suggestions 07

My recommendations for reading in July.
Make your own research and enjoy reading!


Poetry: Gertrude Stein's unique style

Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946)
From Four Saints in Three Acts

Pigeons on the grass alas.
Pigeons on the grass alas.
Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons
large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the
If they were not pigeons what were they.
If they were not pigeons on the grass alas what were they. He had
heard of a third and he asked about if it was a magpie in the sky.
If a magpie in the sky on the sky can not cry if the pigeon on the
grass alas can alas and to pass the pigeon on the grass alas and the
magpie in the sky on the sky and to try and to try alas on the
grass alas the pigeon on the grass the pigeon on the grass and alas.
They might be very well they might be very well very well they might
Let Lucy Lily Lily Lucy Lucy let Lucy Lucy Lily Lily Lily Lily
Lily let Lily Lucy Lucy let Lily. Let Lucy Lily.

Experimental writer Gertrude Stein has had her share of mockery for her loos and rambling writing style, and no more so than from her editor, AJ Fifield, who sent her a following rejection in 1912:

'Dear Madam,
I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
Many thanks. I'm returning the MS by registered post. Only one MS by one post.
Sincerely yours...' 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poetry: Phillis Wheatley, the First African-American published author

Given the hardships of life in early America, it is ironic that some of the best poetry of the period was written by an exceptional slave woman. The first African-American author of importance in the USA, Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784) was born in Africa (Gambia or Senegal) and brought to Boston when she was about 7, where she was purchased by the pious and wealthy tailor John Wheatley to be a companion to his wife Susannah.The Wheatleys recognized Phillis's remarkable intelligence and, with the help of their daughter, Mary, Phillis learned to read and write. At the age of twelve she was reading the Greek and Latin classics, and passages from the Bible. At thirteen she wrote her first poem.

Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Penguin Books Anniversary

Penguin Books logo
When the first Penguin paperbacks appeared they cost just sixpence – the price of a packet of cigarettes – and were hardly intended to be enduring items.

But as the publisher celebrates its 75th birthday, Penguin titles are not only among the most recognisable in literature but also a magnet for collectors.

Penguin was launched on 30 July 1935 after publisher Allen Lane, travelling home from a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, was appalled by the lack of cheap but good quality contemporary fiction available at Exeter station. He came up with the concept of the Penguin paperback, bringing out a host of the colour-coded titles that summer (orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime), with works by Ernest Hemingway, AndrĂ© Maurois and Christie herself part of the launch list.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Personal Library Kit - A perfect gift

A perfect gift for everyone who love books! And who love to share them with friends! Half the fun of reading is sharing the love.

The Personal Library Kit provides everything you need to keep track of all the titles you lend. It comes with checkout cards, date stamps, an inkpad and a mini pencil. It’s a cute way to get organized and it makes a great gift for bibliophiles friends.

With the Personal Library Kit you’ll always have a record of who borrowed your favourite classic novel or a brand new book of your favourite author that you just read, and just how long they’ve had it in their hands.

For a bibliophile, there’s no greater pleasure than share beloved books, but no crueler pain than losing them for good—until the Personal Library Kit! Revive old-fashioned library circulation techniques for fun and book retention with our classic bestseller—now with a sleek new redesign!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thriller: Gaudy Night (1935)

The secluded, almost convent-like, environment of a women's college in 1930s Oxford provides the claustrophobic setting for Gaudy Night. Harriet Vane,  a one-time murder suspect (the story of her acquittal owing to the detective work of Lord Peter Wimsey is told in Strong Poison) and a successful author of detective stories herself, returns to Shrewsbury College for the first time since graduating. A spiteful and vicious drawing is planted on one of the female graduates during the Gaudy weekend and this prefaces a spate of further poison-pen incidents a room-ransackings which the College Faculty ask Harriet to investigate.

The Dorothy L. Sayers' novel is tautly-plotted as well as tense in atmosphere. While the criminal action of the novel never actually descends to murder, Sayers makes much of the tensions which can arise among groups of women living in close proximity. The contemporary cultural conflict between the dependent, feminine housewife and mother, and the independent, academic celibate is played out here in Gaudy Night.

However, as the spitefulness and violence escalates, it becomes clear that Harriet herself is caught up in the crossfire as her own academic objectivity is compromised by her relationship with Lord Peter Wimsey, to the extent that he has to step in to assist her in her detective task. More than a mere puzzle-solving problem, Sayers concerns herself with character development and psychological study, thereby introducing a more realistic element into her version of Golden Age detective fiction.

Ekers and gushers

Gustave Flaubert was an 'eker'. Intent on finding the right word ('le mot juste'), he rarely sqeezed out more than a paragraph a day.

Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880)

Samuel Johnson wrote Rasselas in one week to raise money to pay for his mother's funeral. He sold it to a publisher for a 100 pounds without even reading it over once.

Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia

Funny shelves for fun of reading!

Here are a pictures of unusual bookshelf designs, that could bring your book collection in a center of attention.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Excerpts: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.

How did I know you were American? No, not by the color of your skin; we have a range of complexions in this country, and yours occurs often among the people of our northwest frontier. Nor was it your dress that gave you away; a European tourist could as easily have purchased in Des Moines your suit, with its single vent, and your button-down shirt. True, your hair, short-cropped, and your expansive chest -- the chest, I would say, of a man who bench-presses regularly, and maxes out well above two-twenty-five -- are typical of a certain type of American; but then again, sportsmen and soldiers of all nationalities tend to look alike. Instead, it was your bearing that allowed me to identify you, and I do not mean that as an insult, for I see your face has hardened, but merely as an observation.

Come, tell me, what were you looking for? Surely, at this time of day, only one thing could have brought you to the district of Old Anarkali -- named, as you may be aware, after a courtesan immured for loving a prince -- and that is the quest for the perfect cup of tea. Have I guessed correctly? Then allow me, sir, to suggest my favorite among these many establishments. Yes, this is the one. Its metal chairs are no better upholstered, its wooden tables are equally rough, and it is, like the others, open to the sky. But the quality of its tea, I assure you, is unparalleled.

You prefer that seat, with your back so close to the wall? Very well, although you will benefit less from the intermittent breeze, which, when it does blow, makes these warm afternoons more pleasant. And will you not remove your jacket? So formal! Now that is not typical of Americans, at least not in my experience. And my experience is substantial: I spent four and a half years in your country. Where? I worked in New York, and before that attended college in New Jersey. Yes, you are right: it was Princeton! Quite a guess, I must say.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modern fiction: The Man Who Loved Children (1940)

Set in the late 1930s, The Man Who Loved Children is the story of a dysfunctional family. This novel by Christina Stead analyzes family dynamics and their impact on family members with insight and compassion.

Said to be semi-autobiographical, it is set in the US, rather than Stead's native Australia. The book is wonderfully full of comic irony starting with its title. The Pollit family consist of dad, Sam, and the uncaring misogynist mother Henny (stepmother to Louisa). They have six children, with at the top of the heap Louisa, 11 years of age, and ending with Charles Franklin, the baby. Sam sees himself as one of life's champions, but is in reality portrayed as a bully who abuses the very ones he should be takeing care of. Henny sees herself as impoverished gentlefolk, but is 'no better than she should be', filching money, verbally berating Sam and having an affair. Sam Pollit is essentially a comic figure; life swirls around him but has no effect upon him: No matter what happens, he stays the same. Henny, his wife, is his tragic opposite, whose downward course spurs the novel's action. Sam and Henny are opposites in every way, of which his being a man and her being a woman are the most obvious and most important. He comes from the striving working class; she is a spoiled heiress who has married beneath her. He is the fun parent, constantly summoning "his" womenfolk to bring treats and clean up the messes he has made and totally oblivious to the daily round of chores that keep the household going; she does all the actual work, bitterly hating every bit of it. The children are placed in the centre of all this hate and despair.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Most Controversial Fiction Books: From Denial to Glorification

There are some books that have been challenged so many times that they have actually been banned from certain libraries. Each year, the ALA's (American Library Association) Office for Intellectual Freedom records hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have books removed from libraries shelves and from classrooms.
Some books attract a lot of controversy and even calls for banning the book from members of the public or those in religious or political organizations. Some qualities common in the most controversial books include religious degradation or slurs, foul language, violence, racism, extreme political views, and vivid or graphic sexual descriptions.

Here are some of the most controversial books that have fueled the flames of controversy ever since they were published.

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

This propagandist tale of cruelty against African-American slaves is legendary for not only stirring up abolitionist sentiment, but also really ticking off the slaveholding South.
In response to its incredible popularity – and what they claimed to be misinformation – slavery supporters began their own literary campaign, which included titles like Aunt Phillis’s Cabin; or, Southern Life As It Is and Uncle Robin in His Cabin in Virginia, and Tom Without One in Boston.
Despite the criticism that it helped cement stock characters like the mammy, the pickaninny, and the tragic mulatto into American consciousness, Stowe’s novel has had massive staying power.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How to make our children enjoy reading?

Judging from the look on my 10 and 11 year old children’s faces, I would have guessed it was Christmas.  To the contrary, their delight was the result of a long overdue trip to our local public library.  I had procrastinated and postponed for quite some time due to the anticipated resentment it would induce, but seized an opportune moment to create a few hours of quality time between grandparents, children and I before the former boarded a plane to return home after a wonderful two week visit.   As I registered for our library cards, the kids could scarcely contain their excitement.  And as soon as they put their John Hancock’s on the contract, they ran full speed towards the children’s section.  Evidently, I’ll need to revisit the finer points of library etiquette before our next visit.  

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