Friday, February 20, 2015

Movies for Austen Lovers

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Jane Austen has inspired millions of writers around the world, and those include screen writers. In addition to all the Austen-prequels and sequels, not to mention the whole "Regency" genre, there are some remarkably entertaining movie spin-offs. Here are some of the best:

1. Bride and Prejudice
Austen goes Bollywood! This seems a perfect match, considering most Bollywood movies are centered around family life and marriage. Mr. Collins becomes Mr. Kohli, the Americanized business man, and while Elizabeth/Lalita (played by Aishwarya Rai) has one less sister, the details are quite true to the novel.

2. The Jane Austen Book Club
For each of the women in the Jane Austen Book Club, there is a parallel in one of Austen's books. The fun part is figuring out which character is which. And for a film dealing with the modern problems of relationships, it has a true Austenesque happy ending, so stick with it! Also the screenplay contains numerous pieces of Austen trivia which fans will enjoy. Based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler

3. Scents and Sensibility
The Dashwood sisters must survive after their father is arrested and they lose their family money. Flowers are the answer!

4. Bridget Jones's Diary
Misunderstandings abound in this hilarious version of Pride and Prejudice. Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is a modern-day Elizabeth Bennett with both silly parents and friends, and while she desperately seeks female empowerment in her life, she still manages to fall for a her Wickham-like boss, Hugh Grant. Meanwhile, her Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth, in a hat-tip to his role in the BBC version of P&P) is left wondering why she doesn't like him. A treat for all Austen-lovers. Based on the book by Helen Fielding.

5. Austenland
A woman obsessed with all-things Austen visits and English resort where she can immerse herself in her fantasy world while longing for her Mr. Darcy.

6. You've Got Mail
Writer Norah Ephron penned the script as an homage to Pride and Prejudice, as well as honoring previous movies dealing with the theme, such as "The Shop Around the Corner" and the remake "In the Good Old Summertime" (see below). Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks and a great cast of character actors bring the story to life, as well as the literary life of New York City. And while the movie is already dated - AOL's "you've got mail" with cyber-honking is a thing of the past, and ebooks are replacing actual bookstores - we are still in the digital age of online matchmaking, where misunderstandings (or understandings) abound.

7-8. In the Good Old Summertime is the 1949 musical version of the earlier black-and-white 1940 movie The Shop Around the Corner. And while not specific adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, they both have the same theme of bad first impressions being resolved through growth and love letters.

Harper Lee Announces Mockingbird Prequel "Go Set a Watchman"

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The publisher of Harper Lee has announced that they will publish an earlier version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Called Go Set a Watchman: A Novel the book was written from the viewpoint of an older and wiser Scout Finch looking back at her childhood experiences in Alabama. Lee's editor decided to change the focus of the novel to highlight just the childhood memories, and thus the original premise was set aside. While the move to publish the original manuscript was controversial, and many question whether the elderly author actually approved the publication, there is no doubt the announcement caused a major stir in publishing circles and among readers.

"Go Set a Watchman," a novel the Pulitzer Prize-winning author completed in the 1950s and put aside, will be released July 14. Rediscovered last fall, "Go Set a Watchman" is essentially a sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird," although it was finished earlier. The 304-page book will be Lee's second, and the first new work in more than 50 years.
The publisher plans a first printing of 2 million copies.
"In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called 'Go Set a Watchman,'" the 88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by Harper. "It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became 'To Kill a Mockingbird') from the point of view of the young Scout.
"I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years."

On the meaning of the Biblical Title:

The phrase in the title comes from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in the King James Bible:

"For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth." - Isaiah 21:6

It makes sense that Lee's choice of a title for her novel was a King James biblical quote.

"That's what she loved - the elegance of the language of the King James Version," said historian Wayne Flynt, a longtime friend of Lee and also a Baptist minister. "She grew up in a Bible-reading family. She was imprinted with it as a child."

Isaiah was a prophet in the Kingdom of Judah, probably between about 740 B.C. and 698 B.C. In this verse, he is prophesying about the fall of Babylon. "Nelle (Harper Lee) probably likened Monroeville to Babylon," Flynt said. "The Babylon of immoral voices, the hypocrisy. Somebody needs to be set as the watchman to identify what we need to do to get out of the mess."

NYU Local
... In a rare interview, the author told Oprah that, while some assume Scout is based on a young Lee, “I am really Boo Radley.” Her behavior in the public has mimicked this. Best childhood friends with fame-hungry Truman Capote (the inspiration for Dill in Mockingbird), Lee conducted herself with as much discretion as he did extravagance. This is not a woman who wanted fame, and she has maintained her convictions throughout her life.
Until recently, Lee lived with her older sister Alice, who handled her public affairs. Shortly after Alice died, HarperCollins announced the publication of Go Set A Watchman. They have not had contact with Lee, instead communicating through her lawyer, Tonja Carter.
Though many are quick to suggest that Lee is being swindled, it is important to remember that last July, she vehemently protected her own privacy. Her statement was direct and clear. Can someone with such conviction be so seriously exploited?
Perhaps Alice was overprotective and did not want her sister to publish another book. If that sounds ludicrous, it could be because there are no facts to back it up.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

In the Library of Jorge Luis Borges

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An excerpt from The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas by Paul Theroux, upon visiting the famous South American writer Jorge Luis Borges in his library in Venezuela.

The brass plaque on the landing of the sixth floor said Borges. I rang the bell and was admitted by a child of about seven. When he saw me he sucked his finger in embarrassment. He was the maid's child. The maid was Paraguayan, a well-fleshed Indian, who invited me in, then left me in the foyer with a large white cat. There was one dim light burning in the foyer, but the rest of the apartment was dark. The darkness reminded me that Borges was blind.

Curiosity and unease led me into a small parlor. Though the curtains were drawn and the shutters closed, I could make out a candelabra, the family silver Borges mentions in one of his stories, some paintings, old photographs, and books. There was little furniture--a sofa and two chairs by the window, a dining table pushed against one wall, and a wall and a half of bookcases. Something brushed my legs. I switched on a lamp: the cat had followed me here.

There was no carpet on the floor to trip the blind man, no intrusive furniture he could barge into. The parquet floor gleamed; there was not a speck of dust anywhere. The paintings were amorphous, but the three steel engravings were precise. I recognized them as Piranesi's Views of Rome. The most Borges-like one was The Pyramid of Cestius and could have been an illustration from Borges's own Ficciones. Piranesi's biographer, Bianconi, called him "the Rembrandt of the ruins." "I need to produce great ideas," said Piranesi. "I believe that were I given the planning of a new universe I would be mad enough to undertake it." It was something Borges himself might have said.

The books were a mixed lot. One corner was mostly Everyman editions, the classics in English translation--Homer, Dante, Virgil. There were shelves of poetry in no particular order--Tennyson and e.e. cummings, Byron, Poe, Wordsworth, Hardy. There were reference books, Harvey's English Literature, The Oxford Book of Quotations, various dictionaries--including Doctor Johnson's--and an old leatherbound encyclopedia. They were not fine editions; the spines were worn, the cloth had faded; but they had the look of having been read. They were well-thumbed, they sprouted paper page markers. Reading alters the appearance of a book. Once it has been read, it never looks the same again, and people leave their individual imprint on a book they have read. One of the pleasures of reading is seeing this alteration on the pages, and the way, by reading it, you have made the book yours.

There was a sound of scuffing in the corridor, and a distinct grunt. Borges emerged from the dimly lighted foyer, feeling his way along the wall. He was dressed formally, in a dark blue suit and dark tie; his black shoes were loosely tied, and a watch chain depended from his pocket. He was taller than I had expected, and there was an English cast to his face, a pale seriousness in his jaw and forehead. His eyes were swollen, staring, and sightless. But for his faltering, and the slight tremble in his hands, he was in excellent health. He had the fussy precision of a chemist. His skin was clear--there were no age blotches on his hands--and there was a firmness in his face. People had told me he was "about eighty." He was then in his seventy-ninth year, but he looked ten years younger. "When you get to my age," he tells his double in the story "The Other," "you will have lost your eyesight almost completely. You'll still make out the color yellow and lights and shadows. Don't worry. Gradual blindness is not a tragedy. It's like a slow summer dusk."

"Yes, " he said, groping for my hand. Squeezing it, he guided me to a chair. "Please sit down. There's a chair here somewhere. Please make yourself at home."

He spoke so rapidly that I was not aware of an accent until he had finished speaking. He seemed breathless. He spoke in bursts, but without hesitation, except when starting a new subject. Then, stuttering, he raised his trembling hands and seemed to claw the subject out of the air and shake ideas from it as he went on.

"You're from New England," he said. "That's wonderful. That's the best place to be from. It all began there--Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Longfellow. They started it. If it weren't for them there would be nothing. I was there--it was beautiful."

"I've read your poem about it," I said. Borges's "New England 1967" begins, They have changed the shapes of my dream. . . .

"Yes, yes," he said. He moved his hands impatiently, like a man shaking dice. He would not talk about his work; he was almost dismissive. "I was lecturing at Harvard. I hate lecturing--I love teaching. I enjoyed the states--New England. And Texas is something special. I was there with my mother. She was old, over eighty. We went to see the Alamo." Borges's mother had died not long before, at the great age of ninety-nine. Her room is as she left it in death. "Do you know Austin?"

I said I had taken the train from Boston to Fort Worth and that I had not thought much of Fort Worth.

"You should have gone to Austin," said Borges. "The rest of it is nothing to me--the Midwest, Ohio, Chicago. Sandburg is the poet of Chicago, but what is he?" He's just noisy--he got it all from Whitman. Whitman was great, Sandburg is nothing. And the rest of it," he said, shaking his fingers at an imaginary map of North America. "Canada? Tell me, what has Canada produced? Nothing. But the South is interesting. What a pity they lost the Civil War--don't you think it is a pity, eh?"

. . . "I much prefer the English. After I lost my sight in 1955 I decided to do something altogether new. So I learned Anglo-Saxon. Listen. . ."

He recited the entire Lord's Prayer in Anglo-Saxon.

"That was the Lord's Player. Now this--do you know this?"

He recited the opening lines of The Seafarer.

"The Seafarer," he said. Isn't it beautiful? I am partly English. My grandmother came from Northumberland, and there are other relatives from Staffordshire. 'Saxon and Celt and Dane'--isn't that how it goes? We always spoke English at home. My father spoke to me in English. Perhaps I'm party Norwegian--the Vikings were from Northumberland. And York--York is a beautiful city, eh? My ancestors were there, too."

"Robinson Crusoe was from York," I said.

"Was he?"

"'I was born in the year something-something, in the city of York, of a good family. . .'"

"Yes, yes, I had forgotten that."

I said there were Norse names all over the north of England, and gave as an example the name Thorpe. It was a place name and a surname.

Borges said, "Like the German Dorf."

"Or Dutch dorp."

"This is strange. I will tell you something. I am writing a story in which the main character's name is Thorpe."

"That's your Northumberland ancestry stirring."

"Perhaps. The English are wonderful people. But timid. They didn't want an empire. It was forced upon them by the French and the Spanish. And so they had their empire. It was a great thing, eh? They left so much behind. Look what they gave India--Kipling! One of the greatest writers."

I said that sometimes a Kipling story was only a plot, or an exercise in Irish dialect, or a howling gaffe, like the climax of "At the End of the Passage," where a man photographs the bogeyman on a dead man's retina and then burns the pictures because they are so frightening. But how did the bogeyman get there?

"It doesn't matter--he's always good. My favorite is "The Church That Was at Antioch.' What a marvelous story that is. And what a great poet. I know you agree with me--I read your piece in The New York Times. What I want you to do is read me some of Kipling's poems. Come with me," he said, getting to his feet and leading me to a bookshelf. "On that shelf--you see all the Kipling books? Now on the left is the The Collected Poems. It's a big book."

He was conjuring with his hands as I ran my eye across the Elephant Head Edition of Kipling. I found the book and carried it back to the sofa.

Borges said, "Read me 'The Harp Song of the Dane Women.'"

I did as I was told.

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

"'The old grey Widow-maker,'" he said. "That is so good. You can't say things like that in Spanish. But I'm interrupting go on."

I began again, but at the third stanza he stopped me. "'. . .the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you'--how beautiful!" I went on reading this reproach to a traveler--just the reading of it made me feel homesick--and every few stanzas Borges exclaimed how perfect a particular phrase was. He was quite in awe of these English compounds. Such locutions were impossible in Spanish. A simple poetic phrase such as "world-weary flesh" must be rendered in Spanish as "this flesh made weary by the world." The ambiguity and delicacy is lost in Spanish, and Borges was infuriated that he could not attempt lines like Kipling's.

Borges said, "Now for my next favorite, 'The Ballad of East and West.'"

There proved to be even more interruption fodder in this ballad than there had been in "The Harp Song," but though it had never been one of my favorites, Borges drew my attention to the good lines, chimed in on several couplets, and continued to say, "You can't do that in Spanish."

"Read me another one," he said.

"How about 'The Way Through the Woods'?" I said, and read it and got goose pimples.

Borges said, "It's like Hardy. Hardy was a great poet, but I can't read his novels. He should have stuck to poetry."

"He did, in the end. He gave up writing novels."

"He should never have started," said Borges. "Want to see something interesting?" He took me back to the shelves and showed me his Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the rare eleventh edition, not a book of facts but a work of literature. He told me to look at "India" and to examine the signature on the illustrated plates. It was that of Lockwood Kipling. "Rudyard Kipling's father--you see?"

We went on a tour through his bookshelves. He was especially proud of his copy of Johnson's Dictionary ("It was sent to me from Sing-Sing Prison, by an anonymous person"), his Moby Dick, his translation by Sir Richard Burton of The Thousand and One Nights. He scrabbled at the shelves and pulled out more books; he led me to his study and showed me his set of Thomas DeQuincey, his Beowulf--touching it, he began to quote--his Icelandic sagas.

"This is the best collection of Anglo-Saxon books in Buenos Aires," he said.

"If not in South America."

"Yes, I suppose so."

We went back to the parlor library. He had forgotten to show me his edition of Poe. I said that I recently read The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

"I was talking about Pym just last night to Bioy Casares," said Borges. Bioy Casares had been a collaborator on a sequence of stories. "The ending of that book is so strange--the dark and the light."

"And the ship with the corpses on it."

"Yes," said Borges a bit uncertainly. "I read it so long ago, before I lost my sight. It is Poe's greatest book."

"I'd be glad to read it to you."

"Come tomorrow night," said Borges. "Come at seven-thirty. You can read me some chapters of Pym and then we'll have dinner."

I got my jacket from the chair. The white cat had been chewing the sleeve. The sleeve was wet, but now the cat was asleep. It slept on its back, as if it wanted its belly scratched. Its eyes were tightly shut.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fiction Readers Have More Empathy, According to Science

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Scientists have confirmed what many of us already know: fiction readers are a special group. And there's more - those who read literary fiction in particular tend to have the gift of empathy, awareness of the feelings of others. That's because we spend so much time in the heads of literary characters, taking a walk in their shoes, so to speak.

From Guardian UK
Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, at the New School for Social Research in New York, have proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people's emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships.

In a series of five experiments, 1,000 participants were randomly assigned texts to read, either extracts of popular fiction such as bestseller Danielle Steel's The Sins of the Mother and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, or more literary texts, such as Orange-winner The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht, Don DeLillo's "The Runner", from his collection The Angel Esmeralda, or work by Anton Chekhov.

The pair then used a variety of Theory of Mind techniques to measure how accurately the participants could identify emotions in others. Scores were consistently higher for those who had read literary fiction than for those with popular fiction or non-fiction texts.

"What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others," said Kidd.

And there's more:

Via ArtsMic
A 2013 Emory University study looked at the brains of fiction readers. Researchers compared the brains of people after they read to the brains of people who didn't read. The brains of the readers — they read Robert Harris' Pompeii over a nine-day period at night — showed more activity in certain areas than those who didn't read.

Specifically, researchers found heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, part of the brain typically associated with understanding language. The researchers also found increased connectivity in the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory region, which helps the brain visualize movement. When you visualize yourself scoring a touchdown while playing football, you can actually somewhat feel yourself in the action. A similar process happens when you envision yourself as a character in a book: You can take on the emotions they are feeling.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Poetry Passion: The Legacy of Maya Angelou

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RIP to a "Phenomenal Woman" - and one of the great poets of the 20th Century!

NPR Obituary of Maya Angelou, May 28, 2014
Poet, performer and political activist Maya Angelou has died after a long illness at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86. Born in St. Louis in 1928, Angelou grew up in a segregated society that she worked to change during the civil rights era. Angelou, who refused to speak for much of her childhood, revealed the scars of her past in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of a series of memoirs.
Growing up in St. Louis, Mo., and Stamps, Ark., she was Marguerite Johnson. It was her brother who first called her Maya, and the name stuck. Later she added the Angelou, a version of her first husband's name.

. . . Joanne Braxton, a professor at the College of William and Mary, says Angelou's willingness to reveal the sexual abuse she suffered as a child in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was unprecedented at the time. The critical acclaim and popularity of the book opened doors for both African-American and female writers.
"Maya Angelou brought about a paradigm shift in American literature and culture," Braxton says, "so that the works, the gifts, the talents of women writers, including women writers of color, could be brought to the foreground and appreciated. She created an audience by her stunning example."

Reading the Inaugural Poem for President Bill Clinton
"On the Pulse of Morning"

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From the New York Times Obituary
In a statement, President Obama said, “Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time — a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman,” adding, “She inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.”

. . . she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Afterward (her six-volume memoir takes her only to age 40), Ms. Angelou was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor (she was for many years the Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem); ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies.

In February 2011, Mr. Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

The most poetic interview in history:

On Sesame Street with Elmo:

With Oprah Going Down Memory Lane:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
 photo 342352b3-1297-4260-80fa-446c9186fa4a.jpgand dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
~ Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
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Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
 photo young-maya-angelou-jpg.jpgThat I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
~ Maya Angelou

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

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When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
 photo ang0-002.jpgnow shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

~ Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,

 photo BoweKfaIIAABCVK.jpgThe curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman
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Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
 ~ Maya Angelou

Friday, May 2, 2014

Guardian UK says the "Novel Is Dead"

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A gloomy writer in the Guardian UK says the Novel is essentially dead, thanks to digital media and the fact that writers and readers would rather chase squirrels on the internet than consider serious literature.

I think people have been saying the "Novel is Dead" for hundreds of years. So let's just say I'm skeptical. Jane Austen is as popular as ever. But as in her day, perhaps we are on the cusp of the new age of Poetry, for instance. Would that be so bad? There is new poetry on Twitter and Tumblr, and people are reading and posting just as many quotes from great writers as ever.

Or maybe this is the age of great screenwriters? Look at what TV is doing with shows like True Detective, combining literary symbols with visual art and performance. Would that be so bad? So I think the written word is alive and well, and if the novel suffers for a while, it is perhaps to let the light shine elsewhere. After all, Shakespeare wasn't a novelist - just a great poet and playwright. Beowulf was written in verse. The Bible is part narrative with lots of symbolism and poetry.

Just saying. I think Literature will survive in some form, or perhaps new forms.

And while I share this author's skepticism about the value of Creative Writing Programs, having been enrolled in one myself many years ago, I do recall people getting published on a regular basis. And for the vast majority of writers throughout history, there has never been one clear path to a writing life. Most writers in this world do something else to earn money, and any sweet moolah they get from their words is icing on the cake. It may be thin icing without sprinkles, but putting the cake on the table is the important thing.

See, I thought Children's Literature was "dead" until I discovered Harry Potter, written by an unknown author who was on welfare at the time, and look what happened with that. In fact, gloomy writer Will Self has to slam Harry Potter to make his diatribe possible. *eyeroll* Well, just as many adults read Harry Potter, and the form is the novel. So yeah, if you dismiss the most popular novels of our time, then yeah ~ death to the novel. Or not.

Will Self in Guardian UK
The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Let me refine my terms: I do not mean narrative prose fiction tout court is dying – the kidult boywizardsroman and the soft sadomasochistic porn fantasy are clearly in rude good health. And nor do I mean that serious novels will either cease to be written or read. But what is already no longer the case is the situation that obtained when I was a young man. In the early 1980s, and I would argue throughout the second half of the last century, the literary novel was perceived to be the prince of art forms, the cultural capstone and the apogee of creative endeavour.

. . . the novel, I think, has led a very American sort of life: swaggering, confident, brash even – and ever aware of its world-conquering manifest destiny. But unlike Ernest Hemingway or F Scott Fitzgerald, the novel has also had a second life. The form should have been laid to rest at about the time of Finnegans Wake, but in fact it has continued to stalk the corridors of our minds for a further three-quarters of a century. Many fine novels have been written during this period, but I would contend that these were, taking the long view, zombie novels, instances of an undead art form that yet wouldn't lie down.

. . . I've no doubt that a revenue stream for digitised factual text will be established: information in this form is simply too useful for it not to be assigned monetary value. It is novels that will be the victims of the loss of effective copyright (a system of licensing and revenue collection that depended both on the objective form of the text, and defined national legal jurisdictions); novels and the people who write them. Fortunately, institutions are already in existence to look after us. The creative writing programmes burgeoning throughout our universities are exactly this; another way of looking at them is that they're a self-perpetuating and self-financing literary set-aside scheme purpose built to accommodate writers who can no longer make a living from their work. In these care homes, erstwhile novelists induct still more and younger writers into their own reflexive career paths, so that in time they too can become novelists who cannot make a living from their work and so become teachers of creative writing.

. . . As I said at the outset: I believe the serious novel will continue to be written and read, but it will be an art form on a par with easel painting or classical music: confined to a defined social and demographic group, requiring a degree of subsidy, a subject for historical scholarship rather than public discourse. The current resistance of a lot of the literate public to difficulty in the form is only a subconscious response to having a moribund message pushed at them. As a practising novelist, do I feel depressed about this? No, not particularly, except on those occasions when I breathe in too deeply and choke on my own decadence.