All posts tagged: literature

Words, words, words

I often emphasize a book’s story as the primary feature of a given book. The story is the initial joy in a reading experience, especially when it draws the reader in and along for the ride. However, in deconstructing a book, it all comes down to words. A story is in essence one word after the other. In some stories, the words are simply the medium of communication, but in other stories, the words themselves are an art form. These stories beg to be read slowly with minute concentration or even read aloud. Many books that achieve that lyrical quality are written in bygone times, before the speedy writing on computer keyboards, before autocorrect, and without the competition of TV and the internet. The old-fashioned words and their voluptuousness are part of these books’ charm. The term ”slower times” is on my lips, and perhaps there is a modicum of truth to that term. There was no constant word count to strive for and perhaps more emphasis on finding that specific word with all the …

Joseph Brodsky

I studied Russian for a single year and I love the way the syllables round over the tongue. Take Brodsky’s full name for example: Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky. It tastes good. Brodsky defined himself as Jewish, a Russian poet, an English essayist, and an American citizen. Born in 1940 in Leningrad, Brodsky grew up in Soviet society with extreme poverty and totalitarianism. Brodsky began to write poetry early on, publishing in underground journals. He never really stuck with an appropriate career path. The Soviet government charged him with “social parasitism” in 1964, because he didn’t support the motherland. Brodsky’s poetry circulated in the West, and in his detention in 1964, he also became a symbol of artistic resistance. In 1972, he was strongly advised to emigrate. Brodsky wanted to stay in Russia, but was eventually “evicted” and flown to Austria. From there, he travelled to USA, where he found his future base, writing and lecturing at a number of prominent universities. Brodsky was award the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987. Brodsky died of a heart …

Manfred – Lord Byron

”Manfred” is one of my go-to-books – dramatic poem, as Lord Byron calls it. I love “Manfred” on so many levels. First of all, I recommend everyone to read “Manfred” aloud. The language and rhythm are beautiful. Reading aloud is an almost musical experience. Just as an example: “We are the fools of time and terror: Days Steal on us and steal from us; yet we live, Loathing our life, and dreading still to die.” (lines 258-260) I also recommend “Manfred” to those who lose their breath when they study a classical reading list and instantly get Intellectualitis. “Manfred” is short, dramatic, and still profound. Every time I’ve read “Manfred”, I get something different from it in terms of themes, but before I go there, let me tell you about Manfred. Manfred is a nobleman, living in a Bavarian castle high in the Alps. He is haunted by the death of his love, Astarte, and the reader gets the sense that their relationship and her death are somehow untoward. Manfred is the original Byronic hero, …

Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac was born in 1799. Balzac came from an up and coming family. His father was a self-made man who married for wealth. Balzac was privileged in many ways, but from what I have read, he did not seem content in his youth. After studying at Sorbonne, he was apprenticed in law, but gave it up as it was too much of a grindstone. He proclaimed he wanted to be a writer. On his way, he thought up and participated in a number of business ventures that left him in debt. The early works are of varied quality. Today he is revered as one of the founders of realism in European literature with his monumental La Comédie Humaine and is compared to Charles Dickens. Parts of his life do read like a novel. In February 1832, Balzac received a letter from a stranger in Odessa. He replied through a classified ad in Gazette de France – and that sparked a long, passionate correspondence between Balzac and Ewelina Hanska. After the death of her …

Is Anonymous Dead?

When ”The Book With No Name” was published in 2000 by Anonymous, it was quite the sensation. It was this wild, crazy story about the Bourbon Kid and before publication, the novel was an internet sensation, but to me, I relished the fact that this book was called “The Book With No Name” by Anonymous. The title suits the craziness of the book, even though many call it by its nickname “Bourbon Kid”. The idea of a completely anonymous book intrigues me. Some books or rather manuscripts was authorless, because they existed for generations as verbal storytelling before being put to paper or the author is just unknown. Through history, many authors have depended on being anonymous to write about controversial subjects. It could also denote as selfless author, who wishes to send the book out into the world without any strings attached. However, the frequency of books by Anonymous is low, which could hint at functioning civil liberties as freedom of thought and speech – and publication, but is there a downside to the …

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

I dare say that Chinua Achebe presented African literature to the world with the publication of “Things Fall Apart” in 1959. Sure missionaries, colonialists, and adventurers brought home accounts of Africa á la “How I Found Livingstone” by Stanley and the fictional “The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger” which concludes “Things Fall Apart”, but all of them have an external point of view. With “Things Fall Apart” Africa was introduced with an African voice. I stand by the paragraph above, and at the same time, I cannot help thinking, that it is aggrandizing hogwash. “Things Fall Apart” is but one book by one man and not the all-encompassing authority on all the people of an entire continent. However, when Africa is involved, many of us in the Western world tend to generalize. Achebe’s novel takes place in an Ibo village in present-day Nigeria. The main character is Okonkwo, a proud man, who has forged his own fortune and esteem. Nevertheless, Okonkwo’s story is not the most significant for me. He is …

Omnivorous Readers Anonymous

Hello, my name is Louise and I am an Omnivorous Reader. Often when I share my interest in books and reading, I am met with the question: “What do you read?” I am always at a loss as to an answer. What can I say? I read what I find interesting no matter the genre, nationality of the author, date of release, or popularity. I am an Omnivorous Reader. I read whatever I am in the mood to read. That fact usually ends the conversation. As if you are supposed to limit your reading experiences. I only read books, starting with the letter M or books by Welsh authors and published in 1963, or books in the top 3 of New York Times bestseller list. Sure, you can have favorite genre that you return to or read for comfort, and you can have books, authors, or genres that you haven’t found a taste for, but limiting the books you read, is the equivalent of only eating carrots. A carrot or two is fine, but all …

Bad Boys

What is it about bad boys? We know they are trouble and no good, but as literary heroes (and in real life, some would add) they are the most intriguing and thrilling. Byron was the master of bad boys so much so that they are defined as Byronic heroes. Lord Macauley, a contemporary of Byron, wrote that a Byronic hero was: “A man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.” Now that was nearly 200 years ago, but nothing has really changed. Manfred, Heathcliff, Frankenstein, Mr. Rochester, the Phantom from the Opera to Edward Cullen and even Christian Grey. They all have that heartthrob, *sigh* bad boy qualities that we love and adore – and simply cannot get enough of. In real life, we know that an encounter with a bad boy is more than likely to end in disaster, but in fiction we allow ourselves to hope and throw our hearts at them, …

John Green

John Green is awesome! I mean it! He is a bestselling author with novels such as “Looking for Alaska” and “The Fault of our Stars” and hopefully more to come AND he is a wacky, smart you-tuber. Green, who is born in 1977, is an amazing writing, who writes stories that resonate with young adults and adults alike. His books have staying power; they are original and the kind of books that in one way or another stay with you. Green has a great homepage and I recommend his FAQ section, wherefrom I “borrowed” the quotation below. “Q. Where do you get your ideas for your books? A. Well, my books don’t have capital-i Ideas, really. I don’t have ideas that hit like a ton of bricks out of nowhere, like BAM! Write a book about a wizard school! Or, Bam! Vampires in Suburbia! The ideas for my books come from lower case-i ideas. Looking for Alaska began, really, in thinking about whether there was meaning to suffering, and how one can reconcile one’s self …