Monday Miscellany

The greatest death scenes in literature

Five judges of the 2012 Wellcome Trust book prize for medicine in literature ponder the question “What makes for a great literary death scene?” Tim Lott calls their choices “eclectic.” Take a look, and see if you have other favorite death scenes to add to the list.

The 10 best songs based on books 

Here’s another list, this one in pictures.

Hey, Teacher. Let Kids Read Alone.

Writing in the Huffington Post, high school English teacher Steve Terreri suggests that school may be contributing to rather than stemming the decline of reading by American adults. He argues that classrooms try to turn reading, which is essentially a personal and solitary activity, into an act of social conformity:

Reading a book or story or poem or play on one’s own is a peculiarly individual experience. No other medium comes to mind so absent of social or communal qualities, and considering the collective genius currently available in books on every imaginable subject, I’ve often speculated that the modern classroom’s entire reason for being is to translate individual learning experience into social consensus or application.

Terreri concludes:

Considering how wide the differences between reading on one’s own and reading in a class are, I’m interested in how educators might take some aspects from the former to let high school students read just to read and still not only foster literacy but stimulate interest in literature.

How to get your kid to be a fanatic reader

Best-selling author James Patterson weighs in on the issue with CNN:

Sorry, moms and dads, but it’s your job — not the schools’ — to find books to get your kids reading and to make sure they read them.

Patterson says that boys especially need encouragement to read: ” Boys should be made to feel all squishy inside about reading graphic novels, comics, pop-ups, joke books, and general-information tomes.” He encourages family members as well as sports and entertainment superstars to model reading.

Of course Patterson has a vested interest in encouraging youngsters to read. But this article is refreshingly free of self-promotion. It also contains links to many organizations where parents and schools can find information to help them promote reading among children.

Censorship Causes Blindness: The 5 Best Banned Books Turned Films 

In honor of the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week, celebrated last week here in the U.S., Word and Film offers its own list:

  • American Psycho
  • Lolita
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Handmaid’s Tale

Be sure to visit this site, which provides the official trailer for each film.

Books that deserve to be banned

Also in honor of Banned Books Week, Salon writer Laura Miller—facetiously, of course—asks:

Where were these censors when we really needed them — that is, when our 10th-grade teachers assigned “Beowulf” or “The Pearl”? As deplorable as real-life book banning may be, there’s some required reading that those of us at Salon would love to see retired from the nation’s syllabuses simply because we were tortured by it as kids.

Remember Silas Marner? How about Green Mansions? See what books Salon editors remember with distaste. And then take a look at some of the many comments left my readers. They provide an informative exchange.

Literature & Psychology |

Literature & Psychology |

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Monday Miscellany

2012 Stamp Preview: A Stamp a Day

The United States Postal Service will be issuing some new literature-related stamps in 2012. Click on the numbers to see more information about these:

  • #2 Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • #11 O. Henry
  • #31 Twentieth-Century Poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, E. E. Cummings, Robert Hayden, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams

One in Six Americans Now Use e-Reader with One in Six Likely to Purchase in Next Six Months

Yet more evidence of the rapidly growing popularity of e-readers. This release announces the results of a Harris Poll of 2,183 adults surveyed online between July 11 and 18, 2011:

While some may lament the introduction of the e-Reader as a death knell for books, the opposite is probably true. First, those who have e-Readers do, in fact, read more. Overall, 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (20%). But, among those who have an e-Reader, one-third read 11-20 books a year (32%) and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year (27%).

Overall, e-readers do not seem to be contributing to the downfall of reading, but they are a fact that publishers will have to adapt to in order to survive.

9 Things That Happen When You Read

Susan K. Perry, Ph. D., writes about creativity in her “Creating in Flow” blog for Psychology Today. In this entry she discusses The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. Here is her own paraphrased and adapted list, based on Pamuk’s book, of 9 things that happen when we read:

1. We observe the general scene and follow the narrative. Whether action-filled or more literary, we read all novels, Pamuk says, the same way: seeking out the meaning and main idea.

2. We transform words into images in our mind, completing the novel as our imaginations picture what the words are telling us.

3. Part of our mind wonders how much is real experience and how much is imagination. “A third dimension of reality slowly begins to emerge within us: the dimension of the complex world of the novel.”

4. We wonder if the novel depicts reality as we know it. Is this scene realistic, could this actually happen?

5. We enjoy the precision of analogies, the power of narrative, the way sentences build upon one another, the music of the prose.

6. We make moral judgments about the characters’ behavior, and about the novelist for his own moral judgments by way of the characters’ actions and their consequences.

7. We feel successful when we understand the text, and we come to feel as though it was written just for us.

8. Our memory works hard to keep track of all the details, and in a well-constructed novel, everything connects to everything.

9. We search for the secret center of the novel, convinced that there is one. We hunt for it like a hunter searches for meaningful signs in the forest.

Describing what happens when we read is difficult because, once we begin to think about what’s happening, whatever it is stops happening. However, these 9 points seem to describe what I later remember as going on during a period of intense, prolonged reading.

How about you?

Prize-Winning Female Authors Respond To Questions About Gender Gap

Merritt Tierce and Apricot Irving, two winners of the Rona Jaffee awards given to female writers who display both promise and excellence early in their careers, answer questions about how women writers fare in relation to their male counterparts.

5 Free College-Level Writing & Lit Videos

Recommendations of five videos relating to writing, reading, and publishing from YouTube’s education channel. Here’s your chance to learn for free from masters such as Ray Bradbury, Clive Cussler, Maxine Hong Kingston, Penelope Lively, and David McCullough.