Here’s a great list of books that can help us better understand mental health issues and the people who face them.
If you’ve ever waded through a large academic tome wrangling with a sequence of footnotes at the bottom of nearly every page, you’ll appreciate this piece by Bruce McCall in The New Yorker.
A Harvard medical student describes how he is learning to both treat and heal.
And here’s what he has to say:
Physicians are beginning to understand that the role of language and human expression in medicine extends beyond that horizon of uncertainty where doctor and patient must speak to each other about a course of treatment. The restricted language of blood oxygen levels, drug protocols, and surgical interventions may conspire against understanding between doctor and patient—and against healing. As doctors learn to communicate beyond these restrictions, they are reaching for new tools—like poetry.
Noting that some of the books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year are longer than they need be, The Guardian asserts “As titles grow longer, the patience of readers can shorten.”
One culprit can be the misguided sense that volume equals value for money. Another is the odd association between physical heft and artistic or intellectual merit – “weighty” is a compliment, “slight” is an insult. One film critic says that studios fear shorter movies will not be deemed worthy of Oscars. The very term the Great American Novel suggests a certain size, though that was not the original intent.
I’m not afraid of big books simply because of their size. But I do object to books that are longer than they should be. The only book I remember in that category is Moo by Jane Smiley, which I thought could have been reduced by about one-third.
How about you? What books have you read that are longer than you thought they needed to be?
I was attracted to this article because, obviously, these chairs and this advice were not created for long bouts of reading.
Fall provides a perfect backdrop for the merging of introverts and extroverts. Colorful scenery is luring people outdoors while the cooler temperatures are inspiring cozy days curled up on the couch under a heap of blankets. Find ideas for spending time with family and friends—both inside and outside your home—and plenty of suggestions for tucking away with a good book.
© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown
Over on my personal blog I write on topics of interest to people approaching or already into their retirement years. When writing on the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons, which occurs each year on October 1, I included a list of five novels that feature older adult characters.
Being of retirement age myself, the depiction of older adults in literature is something I’m interested in. Putting together this list for my retirement blog made me think that the topic of older adults in literature is also fair game for a literature-related blog, since literature reflects life in all its facets. Here, then, is my first list in this new category.
5 Novels That Feature Older Adult Characters
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
Margaret Hughes, age 75, has just learned that she has a brain tumor. Margaret lives alone in a huge mansion in the most upscale section of Seattle, where her only companions are the rooms and rooms full of valuable figurines left to her by her father. When Margaret’s mother, dead some 60 years, begins visiting her, Margaret decides to take in a boarder. Wanda, in her 30s, answers Margaret’s ad. She recently sold all her belongings and left New York City for Seattle in pursuit of the lover who abandoned her. Warily, Margaret and Wanda begin to befriend each other. The mansion’s list of residents increases over the course of the novel as new people arrive to fulfill various needs—both their own and each others’.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
This short, poignant novel features an older widow and widower who come together for companionship and emotional support. Their lives are complicated by small-town busybodies, social proprieties, and the demands of family relationships.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Ove (pronounced UH-ve) is probably the biggest curmudgeon you’ll ever meet, either in literature or in life. His wife died several years ago, and his retirement has left him feeling lonely and purposeless. He’s set in his ways, with strict daily routines, and he demands that everyone must follow the neighborhood rules to the letter. Translated from the Swedish, this novel demonstrates how even a crotchety old geezer can change and learn to appreciate life, with a little help from some new friends. The novel also carries a gentle message: don’t judge a man until you understand his life.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Young journalist Monique Grant is stagnating as a reporter for an internet sleaze site when she receives a sudden and mysterious summons from Evelyn Hugo, the aging actress who is finally ready to tell her story and insists Grant is the one who must write it. Hugo’s story covers her journey to Los Angeles in the 1950s, her rise to fame, and her decision to leave show business after a 30-year career. That journey includes ruthless ambition, seven husbands, a deep but forbidden love—and no regrets. She’d do it all exactly the same way again, Hugo tells Grant, before finally revealing why she has chosen Grant to write this story.
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
This YA novel from the 1960s focuses on two high school students who form a taunting, derisive friendship with a neighbor, the widowed retiree Antonio Pignati. Although the story revolves around the teenagers, the loneliness and desperate desire for companionship of Mr. Pignati, whom the kids call The Pigman, is painfully accurate.
© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated between September 15 and October 15 each year, and honors the many contributions of Americans with roots in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Spain, and Mexico. To mark the occasion, we’ve gathered some of our favorite recent books from Hispanic and Latinx authors. These books come from a range of genres, and speak to a wide variety of heritages, cultural traditions, and experiences.
How Crime Fiction Helps Us Understand The Part Communities Play in Continuing Abuse
The psychological concept of gaslighting takes its name from the film Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman:
Gaslighting is a common aspect of abusive relationships, both in fiction and in real life. An abuser uses a variety of methods to keep the victim confused and off-balance. Some tactics come straight out of the old movie, just updated for modern technology. Abusers are using internet-connected speakers and thermostats to suddenly blast music at their victims, or to abruptly and invisibly raise or lower the temperature. They use phones and computers to spy on them.
Author Sarah Zettel explains exactly how the process of gaslighting works. She argues that society prepares us for this process:
Women are primed for gaslighting at an early age. When a little boy taunts a little girl, or punches her, or pulls her hair to make her cry, she’s told things like: He doesn’t really mean to hurt you. He just wants your attention. You should be nice to him.
So, she learns to doubt her judgment, and she learns that when she’s in trouble, she’s the one who has to work to make it better. Alone.
This is why gaslighting forms the basis for so many psychological thrillers. Zettel looks at Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, among other books and films, as examples.
There are so many good writers whose politics and opinions leave us queasy about enjoying their work, though more would object to VS Naipaul than Charles Dickens. But is a story also a celebration of its author?
Author Nell Stevens considers this topic in light of the recent brouhaha raised by the death of V.S. Naipaul. I had my own similar crisis several years ago when the conservatively religious author Orson Scott Card went public with disparaging remarks about homosexuality, gay men, and lesbians. As much as I love Card’s novels Ender’s Game and Lost Boys, I finally decided that I could no longer support in any way someone who makes such remarks. I therefore have not bought or even borrowed from the library any works by Orson Scott Card.
This was a hard decision for me, because I believe he has as much right to his opinion as I have to mine. I also believe that a novel, as a completed work of art, has a life of its own, separate from the life of its creator. When I was younger, I probably would have decided differently. But now that I’m closer to the end of my life than to the beginning, I’ve begun to wonder what my life will have stood for once I’m gone. Now I feel that it’s important for me to stand up for what I believe and to draw a line in the sand that demonstrates my commitment.
How about you? Where do you stand on this question?
Like me, you probably already know what type of book you most like to read, but I found here some suggestions for reading outside my comfort zone as well. Have a look at some of the “if you liked ________, you might also like ______” comparisons for either more of what you like or something new to try.
Having come of age in the glorious 1960s, I took particular interest in this list of books published in the following decade that, in a literary way, reflect the profound ways in which the ’60s influenced later society. The books from this list that I remember most vividly are Rabbit Redux by John Updike, Kindred by Olivia E. Butler, The Stories of John Cheever, All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.
What about you? Do you remember any of these books?
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is best known for her famous 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” in which a woman, confined to bed by the conventions of patriarchal Victorian conventions, grows increasingly insane. Here Michael Robertson, professor of English at The College of New Jersey, explains that Gilman “ended it as a writer of her own utopian fictions, including Herland (1915), a playful novel about an ideal all-female society.”
Despite Herland_’s time-bound shortcomings, we need its vision of a society without poverty and war, where every child is precious and inequalities of income, housing, education and justice are nonexistent. For all its faults, Herland_ remains an eloquent expression of the nonviolent democratic socialist imagination. As fully as any work in the utopian tradition, Herland reminds us of the truth of Oscar Wilde’s aphorism: ‘A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.’
© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown
And for those of us who like a healthy dose of reading with our coffee, there’s this:
Are you looking for a bold new book that’s sure to get conversation going with your book club? We’ve compiled a list of some of the most controversial books included on the American Library Association’s annual list of books that have recently been restricted, removed, or banned. From beloved classics to modern fiction, these thought-provoking reads are sure to get tongues wagging at your next book club meeting.
The answer to the question, as Mr. Charles himself comes to realize, is a resounding yes.