Monday Miscellany

The Truth Versus Twilight

TwilightThis site, a collaboration between the Burke Museum and the Quileute Tribe, aims to set the record straight about the culture that forms the backdrop for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga.

Made famous by the recent pop-culture phenomenon Twilight, the Quileute people have found themselves thrust into the global spotlight. Their reservation, a once quiet and somewhat isolated place, is now a popular tourist destination for thousands of middle-school-age girls and their families. In the wake of the popularity of the book and film saga, the Quileute Tribe has been forced to negotiate the rights to their own oral histories, ancient regalia and mask designs, and even the sanctity of their cemetery.

. . .

In collaboration with the Quileute Tribe, this site seeks to inform Twilight fans, parents, teachers, and others about the real Quileute culture, which indeed has a wolf origin story, a historic relationship with the wolf as demonstrated in songs, stories, and various art forms, as well as a modern, multi-dimensional community with a sophisticated governance system. We also hope to offer a counter narrative to The Twilight Saga’s stereotypical representations of race, class, and gender, and offer resources for a more meaningful understanding of Native American life and cultures.

10 Tweets That Summarize the Book The Lord of the Rings

“Here’s a quick summary of this sprawling tale, in the form of ten tweets that characters might have made at various points in their adventures.”

2011 Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees

The Shirley Jackson Awards are given annually for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  novel, novella, novelette, short story, single-author collection, and edited anthology.

Storytelling Animals: 10 Surprising Ways That Story Dominates Our Lives

The Storytelling AnimalJonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, offers a list of “10 hidden ways that story saturates our lives”:

  1. neverland
  2. dreams
  3. fantasies
  4. religion
  5. song
  6. video games
  7. TV commercials
  8. conspiracy theories
  9. nonfiction
  10. life stories

iBorg: I have become them

In the ocean of ebooks-vs-printed books controversy, this unpretentious little piece by Erica Sadun for The Unofficial Apple Weblog stands out. Read how a recent evening made her realize “I have been assimilated. I am become Borg. I have betrayed the trust of my fellow ex-librarians. . . . I’ve lost the dead-tree itch. I am e-woman.”

The rise of e-reading

In surveys taken in late 2011 and early 2012, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that one-fifth of American adults (21%) report that they have read an e-book in the past year.

The rise of e-books in American culture is part of a larger story about a shift from printed to digital material. Using a broader definition of e-content in a survey ending in December 2011, some 43% of Americans age 16 and older say they have either read an e-book in the past year or have read other long-form content such as magazines, journals, and news articles in digital format on an e-book reader, tablet computer, regular computer, or cell phone.

Those who have taken the plunge into reading e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers. Foremost, they are relatively avid readers of books in all formats: 88% of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read printed books.2 Compared with other book readers, they read more books. They read more frequently for a host of reasons: for pleasure, for research, for current events, and for work or school. They are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than borrowed it, and they are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books in general, often starting their search online.

You can read the key findings or download a PDF of the complete report on this site.


In Memory of Dr. Jeanne Achterberg

Jeanne Achterberg
Dr. Jeanne Achterberg

About 10 years ago I read the book Woman as Healer because that is a topic I’ve long been interested in. A couple of years later I decided to go back to school to study for a doctorate in humanistic psychology. I had already enrolled at Saybrook before I realized that the author of Woman as Healer, Woman as HealerJeanne Achterberg, was on the faculty. I worked with her throughout my six years of study, and she chaired my dissertation committee. Jeanne Achterberg died on March 7, 2012. She was a popular and well-known scholar, researcher, and speaker, and she was immediately eulogized by her colleagues (see links below). But I knew her as a teacher—one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my long academic career.

Jeanne Achterberg made her name in the field of alternative medicine, or mind-body medicine, with the development of the use of guided imagery in the treatment of cancer. In 2001 Time magazine named her one of 100 innovators for this pioneering work. Here are a couple of tributes by her colleagues:

Also, her family has set up a tribute page on Facebook.

Jeannie was passionate about her work in promoting the spiritual nature of healing, but she was equally devoted to mentoring students, particularly in their research. Many professors think of their graduate students as extensions of themselves whose main purpose is to further their mentors’ research. But Jeannie did not think that way. She saw her role of mentor as that of guiding students in pursuing the research topics they were interested in. Trained as an experimental psychologist, her first allegiance was always to science. Her approach was to work with students to find a sound methodology appropriate for their research questions. When, at the beginning of my doctoral research, I asked her for some specific direction, she gently refused—not because she wanted to work me as hard as possible, but because she wanted me to discover my own passion within the topic rather than pursuing hers.

The other characteristic that made Jeannie such a good teacher was her own willingness, even eagerness, to learn. She frequently talked about how much she learned from her students. When I wanted to use the developing methodology of narrative inquiry for my dissertation, she initially hesitated. But she gave me the opportunity to demonstrate its soundness, then declared herself convinced and wholeheartedly supported my work. I was truly blessed to be one of the many students who earned their degrees under her direction.

Intentional HealingThere is a complete list of her publications on her web site. Here are two of my favorites, in addition to Woman as Healer:

  • Lightning at the Gate, her memoir of her own experience of illness
  • Intentional Healing, an audio program that sums up her life’s work and her belief in the spiritual nature of healing

And in this 15-minute video she discusses transpersonal psychology in advance of her scheduled appearance as a keynote speaker at the Spirituality and Psychology Conference in February, 2012 (you will need to turn the volume all the way up on both the video and your machine):

Heaven must certainly be a much nattier place now that Jeannie has arrived to offer fashion advice.

Edgar Nominees and Winners

Edgar Nominees and Winners.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners of the Edgar Awards.

Quotation: The Writing Life

“I’m conscious of writing as a living, breathing practice, not as something in a textbook or something you do for a grade in a 10-week course. It’s living a life. And particularly for women, it’s living a struggle to claim artistic practice as a viable and socially relevant activity. So as a writer I teach how to live it, how writing and literature change your life.”

—Lidia Yuknavitch

Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, OR, USA

Read more here.

Monday MIscellany

A Coalition of Dunces

The Pulitzer Prize committee refused to award a 2011 prize for literature despite the nominations of three novels by the judges. The Morning News has a good summary of the issue.

And in Time magazine’s entertainment section, writer Lev Grossman explains Why I’m Okay With There Being No Pulitzer for Fiction This Year.

Top 10 Most Misunderstood Lines in Literary History by JF Sargent

If you cringe every time you hear someone say, “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well,” this article is for you.  Learn the truth about famous quotations from the following works:

  • Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
  • William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
  • Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland
  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet
  • John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn
  • William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
  • Rudyard Kipling, The Ballad of East and West
  • Robert Frost, The Mending Wall
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
  • William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Criminal heroes! Seven of the best

If you love mysteries and thrillers, you should definitely check out Crime Fiction Lover. Here the writers offer a list of full-time professional criminals who are “some of the best anti-hero criminals we’ve come across”:

  • Parker by Richard Stark
  • Wyatt by Gary Disher
  • Eddie ‘Fingers’ Coyle by George V Higgins
  • Gloria Denton by Megan Abbott
  • Jack Carter by Ted Lewis
  • Carter ‘Doc’ McCoy by Jim Thompson
  • Crissa Stone by Wallace Stroby

And if this kind of character is your favorite, you’ll find several more suggestions in the comments (including my own choice, Lawrence Block’s Keller).

Dawn of the anti-hero

And for still more, there’s this:

Nearly 90 years to this date, F Scott Fitzgerald created what has now come to be called The Great American Novel. But The Great Gatsby didn’t just become a literary classic, it marked a departure from noble protagonists to make way for the anti-hero. Today, we look at some of the best literary characters.

This list broadens the category to include the following literary creations:

  • Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Holden Caulfield, Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Dean Moriarty, On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • James Bond, Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  • Howard Roark, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Yossarian, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Ignatius Reilly, Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Should Writers Reply to Reviewers?

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Arthur Krystal lets us in on a little secret:

Here’s the not-so-hidden secret of book reviewing: Many writers, especially younger ones, regard other people’s books as an opportunity to enhance their own reputations. What better way to show off one’s own wit, erudition, and verbal artistry than to debunk someone else’s? And if you can look good at some poor writer’s expense—well, why not?

But Krystal criticizes those smug reviewers who think that their review should upstage the book under consideration. A good book review should be a service to the potential reader, not an opportunity for the reviewer to demonstrate his superior cleverness.

I’m not complaining—OK, I am complaining, but not because reviewers find fault, but because given a chance to perform they forget they’re rendering a service to the reader, not one to themselves. A flawed book gives no one license to flog it in print. If there are mistakes, why not sound regretful when pointing them out instead of smug? If the book doesn’t measure up to expectations, why not consider the author’s own expectations with regard to it? While no one wants shoddy work to escape detection, a critic must persuade not only the impartial reader but also the biased author—as well as his biased editor and biased family—that the response is just.

The standard advice to writers who feel their book has been unjustly maligned by a critic is to remain silent. To respond to the review will only make the author look peevish and small. But Krystal disagrees:

And perhaps because I’ve worked both sides of the street, I now presume to speak for authors who feel they’ve been maligned or misrepresented. My advice is: Get mad and stay mad. Don’t cry, don’t pout, don’t feel helpless. Just because there’s nothing you can do doesn’t mean you should do nothing. . . . What the hell, make noise. Call attention to the offending review. In fact, write that letter to the editor that everyone enjoins you not to write, and in a few deft strokes outline the reviewer’s bias and how he or she misread, obfuscated, and distorted your work. Then write another letter, this one to the $#%^ reviewer and explain exactly where he or she went wrong. Address the reviewer’s objections intelligently and dispassionately.

His hope is that “if more reviewers felt they were dealing with a human being and not a bound galley, their own words might be a bit less brazen, a touch less supercilious next time out.”



2012 Pulitzer Prize: No Fiction Award, Jurors ‘Shocked’

2012 Pulitzer Prize: No Fiction Award, Jurors ‘Shocked’

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced April 16, and the big surprise wasn’t who won, but who didn’t: for the first time since 1977, no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded.  . . .

For fiction, the finalists, revealed at the same time as the award announcements, were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Knopf), and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown). But the board, for only the ninth time since the prize’s inception in 1918, did not award a winner. Susan Larson, Maureen Corrigan, and Michael Cunningham were this year’s fiction jury.

Larson, interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition, stated that the jury was “shocked, angry, and very disappointed” that the Pulitzer board did not select a winner. In the interview, Larson said she and her two fellow jurors read over 300 books for the prize and that the board’s deliberations “are confidential and they don’t give us feedback.” The hope now, Larson said, is that people will now “read three books instead of one.”


Monday Miscellany

The 10 Most Disturbing Books Of All Time

In my younger days if I heard a book or movie was disturbing or hard to handle I generally took that as a challenge. Most books generally turned out to not be too bad, but occasionally I’d come across something that would leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach for weeks. I’ve largely outgrown this “genre” of late, but here are my picks for the ten most disturbing books of all time. Any one of these books is capable of leaving you feeling a little depressed at the least, and permanently scarred at the worst. I’d say enjoy, but that doesn’t really seem appropriate …

So says William, whoever he may be. I’ve only read one of the books on his list, We Need to Talk About Kevin. And I’ve purposely avoided several of the others precisely because of their grim horror.

One book not on this list that I would add is I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, author of The Chocolate War. It’s just a little book, but it’s one of the most chilling that I’ve ever read.

How about you? Have you read many of the books on William’s list? And what others would you add?

Mad Men: the most literary show on TV

James Walton welcomes the return of Mad Men – a television drama with all the ingredients of the Great American Novel.

Walton makes a case for considering Mad Men within the history of the American novel. For example, he compares Dick Whitman, the real person behind Don Draper, to Fitzgerald’s Jimmy Gatz, who becomes the great Jay Gatsby.

From Henry James to Dorothy Parker to Philip Roth, you’ll find lots of American literary greats discussed here. “Yet if there really is a single theme that unites all American literature, it’s surely America itself.”

Library of America to release ‘Little House’ books

Laura Ingalls Wilder, who already holds a special place in the hearts of millions of parents and children, soon will be added to the country’s official literary canon.

The Library of America announced Tuesday that it will issue a boxed two-volume set this fall of Wilder’s “Little House” series, including “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little House in the Big Woods.” Wilder based the books on her family’s experiences as pioneers in the 19th century. She died in 1957 at age 90.

This new collection will reportedly contain “additional pieces by Wilder about the events and the composition of the books.”

The Final Sentence

Here’s an ambitious collection:

 An evergrowing compilation of “final sentences” from every literary work, if we could find them all, that has ever existed.

There are collections of opening sentences, of course, and those seem to serve an inherent purpose. After all, if authors don’t grab readers’ attention with the first sentence, there’s a good chance readers won’t go any further.

But I’m not so sure about the purpose of a collection of final sentences. Yes, a final sentence often sums up the whole work with a bit of a punch. That sentence can be exactly what gives the whole work a feeling of closure and purpose. BUT: the final sentence depends on everything that has come before. Reading over some of the entries here confirmed my suspicion  that it’s impossible to appreciate the craft of a final sentence in the same way that we can appreciate an opening sentence without reading the whole work.

If you want to contribute to cataloging the final sentence of every literary work that has ever existed, you’ll find directions on how to submit an entry here.

Monday Miscellany

Why teens should read ‘adult’ fiction – and vice-versa

Sheila Heti doesn’t understand why so many adults are reading YA (young adult) literature such as The Hunger Games:

What surprises me most about YA books is not that adults are reading them in mass numbers (as with Hunger Games appearing on bestseller lists everywhere); it’s that they’re being marketed primarily to teens. Adults, it seems, are these books’ rightful audience; working adults are people who want, and maybe ought, to be diverted from their lives. It makes perfect sense for someone who has been in a repetitive job for decades, or whose home life is a series of responsibilities, to immerse themselves in other lands.

Young adults, on the other hand, are typically interested in the stuff of so-called adult fiction:

But teenagers – at least the teenagers I knew and know, and the teenager I happened to be – are not so world-weary. They’re still trying to figure out this place, this land, and to assimilate all the sensations that come with being a new sort of creature: suddenly not a child. When I started reading fiction like Kafka’s Metamorphosis (and who but a teenager is the perfect audience for Gregor’s alienation from his body and his family, waking up suddenly a bug?); or Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, with their subtle heartbreak and humour; or Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, with its haunting amorality and self-torture – I finally felt understood: These writers became my closest friends, able to articulate life and feelings in ways I was needing to, but could not. . . . Teenagers shouldn’t read “great” literature because it’s good for them, but because it’s like them. So why isn’t it being marketed to them? Why doesn’t the publisher of Herman Hesse’s Siddartha, for instance, package it for teens, and advertise the book on subways? It just doesn’t make sense.

For good measure, Heti asks several writers what adult books they read when they were young. It’s quite an assorted list.

An Absolutely Beautiful Video Game All Book Lovers Should Play

From Gabe Habash, a Publishers Weekly blogger:

I realize I’m talking to a book crowd here, and books are, you know, good for your brain etc. But for the 1% of you reading this who own a Playstation 3, I’m going to recommend that you go home and download a beautiful little game called Journey.

Journey is “about taking your breath away, which it will do, many times, if you have any sort of halfway decent nervous system.” And why is it a game for book lovers?

This is a video game, yes, but it’s also an emotional investment in the way that the books we love are emotional investments. It latches onto your brain and heart in the way that your favorite books do. And, most importantly, as your journey reaches its end, you feel like you’ve gone somewhere along with the characters, like their experience has become a little part of your own.

Books best left off screen

The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and now The Hunger Games—all of these books have been adapted to monster blockbuster films. But here, Ken Dusold, assistant editor of the Truman State University [Missouri] Index explains why the following books should never have been adapted for the big screen:

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • almost anything by Dr. Seuss
  • Catch-22
  • Dances with Wolves
  • Oliver Twist

However, not everyone is following Dusold’s recommendations. Here’s news from Paramount Looking to Reinvent Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn:

In an age where Sherlock Holmes and Snow White are getting contemporary film treatments, why not delve into literature even deeper right? That’s Paramount Pictures’ thoughts as Heat Vision reports the studio is looking to give Mark Twain‘s classic literary characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn a makeover by following the duo as adults dealing with supernatural elements. As of now no plot details have been unveiled, but insiders say Huck and Tom will be similar in tone to that of Snow White and the Huntsman, a gritty, more mature themed tellin of classic literature.

10 Fantastic Novels with Disappointing Endings

is there anything less satisfying than turning the final page of a book you’ve loved and being thoroughly dissatisfied with its conclusion? This only happens rarely, and while a weak ending usually won’t completely ruin a great novel, it can certainly leave the reader feeling frustrated. We’ve round up books both classic and contemporary that have had us hooked all the way through, only to leave us wanting more (and not in a good way).

Warning: spoilers abound.

Yes, beware of spoilers as editors of The Atlantic explain why they found these books disappointing.

April foolery of the literary heavyweights | Books | The Guardian

April foolery of the literary heavyweights | Books | The Guardian

From phoney royals to fake balloonists, the best pranks have been the work of the gravest writers

And a happy April Fool’s Day to all.