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Literary Links

How to Remember What You Read

First of all, back in my pre-internet life I taught advanced composition at the college level, a course that included topics such as critical thinking and vetting research sources. That approach to information has become exponentially more important now, so it’s the first thing I do whenever I discover a web source I’ve never heard of before. The person behind this web site, Farnam Street, includes an about page obviously meant to pique, without really satisfying, readers’ interest. He does include a link to a New York Times profile that I consulted before including his piece on reading here. 

Although his suggestions are aimed at the reading of nonfiction, much of his advice is also applicable to the reading of fiction. Check out his six truths about reading near the beginning of the piece and you’ll see he had me at #2. Concentrating on active reading, as he advocates, can benefit fiction readers interested in noticing and thinking about how and why the author has written this story in exactly this way: “Active reading is thoughtfully engaging with a book at all steps in the reading process.”

7 Books About Navigating A Post-Pandemic World

A lot of us are now in our third year of trying to figure out how to live in a world that has been unavoidably changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here Sequoia Nagamatsu, author of How High We Go in the Dark, talks about post-pandemic literature:

The process of selling How High We Go in the Dark helped me articulate that a good deal of pandemic and post-pandemic fiction (more than I realized) isn’t really about a virus, but about our emotional, societal, and cultural reaction to it—the way we come together (or not), how we continue to love, how we are forced to reimagine grief, how we hold onto hope and memory in the face of a changed world.

Did Kurt Vonnegut have PTSD? And does ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ prove it?

Elliot Ackerman is a former Marine Corps officer who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this article he looks at the book Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughter-house-Five by Tom Roston in light of Roston’s stated aim to analyze the novel for evidence that Vonnegut suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of his World War II experiences.

Top 10 novels inspired by Greek myths

“From James Joyce to Ali Smith and Chigozie Obioma, the archetypal stories of the ancients have inspired some of our best fiction”

The former classics major in me just can’t resist articles like this. Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of the novel Pandora, discusses books that illustrate how modern retellings of Greek myths “explore the full range of human experience.”

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Improve Your Reading Skills With These Online Classes

Tracy Shapley Towley asks:

Could I in fact be reading harder? Could I retain more, understand better, or read faster? I searched high and low to find the best online reading classes to see if they hold the answers.

I have mixed feelings about this article. As I’ve said many times, I advocate slow reading, not speed reading. Several of the classes listed here purport to teach people how to both read faster and retain more. I’m not sure those two goals go hand in hand. So if you decide to spend the money to try one of these classes, I hope you’ll report on the experience.

The Building Blocks of Personhood: Oliver Sacks on Narrative as the Pillar of Identity

The amazing Maria Popova discusses Oliver Sacks’s 1985 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and how it illustrates the concept of life story, the story we all tell others and ourselves in order to understand our lives and build a sense of identity. This concept underlies my approach of using the lens of life story to understand how novelists examine human nature.

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

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