Monday Miscellany

Top 10 books about missing persons

Gone Girl: cover
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Top-notch mystery writer Laura Lippman discusses “the 10 best books about mysterious disappearances”:

And while most missing person stories centre on those left behind, the “disappeared” have their stories to tell as well. These are often crime stories, and always love stories.

In fact, the most satisfying ones are those in which a bereft loved one becomes determined to track down the missing person, at any cost.

Not surprisingly, at the top of her list is Gillian Flynn’s recent run-away best seller, Gone Girl. See what other books made the list.

Bookstores in Seattle Soar, and Embrace an Old Nemesis: Amazon.com

SEATTLE — A love of books and bookstores runs deep in the sinews of this city, where gray skies and drizzle can drive a person to drink, or read, or both. A long-running annual survey ranks Seattle the country’s second-most literate big city, behind Washington, D.C., as measured by things like the number of bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulation and education.

Amazon.com Inc. also calls Seattle home. And in recent years, as many small independent bookstores here and around the nation struggled or closed their doors, owners often placed blame for their plight on the giant online retailer’s success in delivering best sellers at discount prices, e-readers and other commodities of the digital marketplace.

The New York Times reports on the irony that “local bookstore owners have seen a surprising new side of the company they loved to hate: Many Amazon employees, it turns out, are readers who are not shopping at the company store.”

Books that inspired punk

Punk began in the mid-1970s as a total rebellion against rock music of the time. Rock had become overdone, with long complicated guitar solos that were accompanied by full orchestrations; the rock stars were flying in private jets with the Queen; and fans had to pay a fortune to squint at the act from the back of a stadium. Punk aimed to bring the music back to the people. To play punk all you needed was to, as Sid Vicious said, “just pick a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.”

Unfortunately, that lack of emphasis on expertise has caused many to regard punk as not the most intelligent of genres-yet that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Aside from the advanced political attitudes that punk came to represent, the genre is bursting with literary influence.

Read how writers as diverse as George Orwell and William S. Burroughs have influenced punk rock.

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and the literary spouse

The 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath on Monday April 14 is a reminder of the potentially key role of literary spouses. Steinbeck didn’t like his own ideas for the title, so when his wife Carol proposed a phrase from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” he adopted it at once.

This set us thinking about the impact of other partners on the history of literature. As the following examples show, though usually either dismissed as humble help­meets or complained about as posthumous image-protectors, they can sometimes decisively shape a book or career.

4 Anti-Heroines in Literature Who Are Inspiring, Admirable and Tough as Nails

There’s nothing unexpected in Alexandra Israel’s list:

  • Tess from Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles 
  • Penelope from Homer’s Odyssey
  • Anna Karenina from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
  • Jane Eyre from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

More interesting is the concept of anti-heroine she discusses:

By definition, an anti-heroine is “a female protagonist, as in a novel or play, whose attitudes and behaviors are not typical of a conventional heroine.” Flavorwire had a more up-to-date definition, inspired by author Leslie Jamison: “Fairy tales introduce us to certain standard breeds of heroine: beautiful innocents, homely martyrs, and plucky tomboys. These heroines aren’t those ones… they make it hard to look away.” This definition is true; anti-heroines are sometimes what keep us going in long novels.

Be sure to click through to the Flavorwire piece Israel references to see more of Leslie Jamison’s definition and her longer list of literary anti-heroines.

And what other female fictional characters would make your list?