Monday Miscellany

11 Required Reading Books You Should Re-Read Now That You’re Older

Madeleine Crum thinks you’d benefit from rereading these books that you were probably required to struggle through in English classes while growing up.

I have actually reread several of these in recent years, and I agree with her assessment that they have much more to offer than we were capable of understanding as adolescents.

33 Of The Most Hilariously Terrible First Sentences In Literature History

writingFinally, a contest that we all have a chance of winning:

Every year, the announcement of Bulwer-Lytton Prize is a gift from bad writing heaven. Inspired by novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s famous “it was a dark and stormy night” opener, the contest asks writers to submit an opening sentence for the “worst of all possible novels” — although Fifty Shades of Grey has already been written. The results are perennially astounding, with entries in every genre from Children’s Literature to Spy Novels, and one sentence awarded the dubious honor of the worst sentence of the year.

Read this list for inspiration. Then try your own hand at writing the worst of all possible opening sentences.

A star-struck way to write

Cover: The LuminariesThe novel The Luminaries by New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton was recently shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. This article is about Catton and the background of how she came to write The Luminaries, which this reviewer calls “a hugely ambitious novel.”

Here’s what I found most interesting:

An intriguing aspect of The Luminaries is its structure as an ”astrological fable” around star charts: the 12 men in the hotel represent the 12 constellations of the zodiac and the seven other main characters are the planets (the dead Crosbie Wells is terra firma). It is also framed as a mathematical construct: it is told over 12 months in 12 parts, with each consecutive part half the length of the previous part, so that part one, ”A Sphere within a Sphere”, is 360 pages, but the final part, ”The Old Moon in the Young Moon’s Arms”, is a mere two pages.

Structure can be a significant factor in a novel’s effectiveness. Think of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, with its interweaving of several stories that span centuries; or Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, with its variety of sections, including a PowerPoint presentation.

The Luminaries will be released in the United States on October 15, 2013.

Book Lovers Will Adore These Neat New Maps

Emily Badger writes about a concept described by Anne Fadiman: “You-Are-There-Reading, ‘the practice of reading books in the places they describe.'” Badger says she has started compiling her own book list of “you-are-there reading”:

But there are a lot of books I haven’t read, and a lot of places I’ve never been (please share recommendations!). And so I was excited to come across a couple of mapping projects, linked via Google Maps Mania, that are doing a much more comprehensive job than I am of plotting the literal bookmarks (literature landmarks?) between reading and place.

See her descriptions of, and screen shots from, these two projects:

  • The Book Globe
  • LitMap Project

‘Outlander’ TV series casts its romantic leads

Cover: Outlander

I’ve never read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, but it is enormously popular. So for those of you waiting for the TV series, here’s news about recent casting signups.

11 Most Evil Characters in Books

Since we began with a list, here’s another list to round out today’s offerings.

Koren Zailckas is the author of Mother, Mother, which Publishers Weekly describes as “the kind of book that keeps you up at night.”

“Most disturbingly, Evil comes to us in human form,” Zailckas says. Here’s her list of literary examples:

These 11 baddies from books have a lot to teach us about Evil’s motivations and methodology. The tools of Evil’s trade are pretty consistent across the board: seduction, gaslighting, gossip, lies, exploiting our empathy to its advantage. But the purpose seems unclear even to Evil itself. In the end, maybe the scariest thing about villains is their total mindlessness.

Look at her list and see if there are others you’d add.