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Literary Links

The Third Person: Writing in the Aftermath of a Home Robbery

“Kate Sidley Wrote About Tidy Mysteries in a Faraway Country. Then Real Violence Came Into Her Home.”

A couple of weeks ago, Literary Links included Fictionalizing Real Trauma as a Means of Healing.

In this article, Kate Sidley, author of cozy mysteries set in the Cotswolds in England, describes living through an armed robbery in her home in suburban Johannesburg, “in one of the most violent countries in the world.” The trauma counselor she visited after the event told her to tell what had happened “in the third person, as if it had happened to someone else.”

This intrigued me. One of the most defining choices you make as a novelist is that of the narrative voice, or point of view. It’s the perspective from which the story is told. Each narrative position brings with it its own problems and possibilities.

Sebastian Barry: ‘When you get past 60, you do feel a licence to write fearlessly’

I couldn’t read until I was eight. My sister was reading from the age of four, which was incredibly irritating. My father had a travelling bookcase, and the spines of the Penguin books were on it, row after row after row. I didn’t know what they were, but I knew they were something important. When I finally got a hook on it, I would go with my pocket money and buy a Puffin book every week or two.

The Answer To Loneliness? For These Women, It’s Book Clubs

Tanyel Mustafa says that a lot of her friends are joining book clubs and that she herself has recently joined one, too. “The act of reading is a solo experience, but book clubs are all about people. Cheaper to partake in than many other group-based activities, book clubs are becoming an antidote for young people feeling lonely across the world,” she writes.

The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

“Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively.”

“Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place,” writes Adam Kotsko.

Kotsko says that he has been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for more than 15 years, “and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. . . . Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.”

He acknowledges that the advent of smartphones (the first iPhone was released in 2007) and school closures caused by COVID-19 are the standard explanations for students’ lack of ability to focus on and summarize sustained reading assignments. But he claims that the real explanations go back much farther than that—to “the ever-increasing demand to ‘teach to the test’” and to the “balanced literacy” approach that displaced phonics as the major model of reading instruction.

In fact, when I started teaching at the college level back in 1971, I was appalled at students’ general lack of critical thinking skills. So I share Kotsko’s concern that current methods of teaching and testing reading skills are depriving students of the abilities to read, analyze, and understand longform writing.

5 brilliant books that pioneered new subgenres of literature

“From “The Castle of Otranto” to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, these books changed the literary landscape.”

Rather than think of genres as categories, it’s better to see them as conversations. They are the centuries-long dialogues between authors and readers, and each new work acts as a voice that discusses, revitalizes, and reimagines what came before it. Sometimes, these conversations can head off into new, unexplored tangents, and those tangents may cross paths later on.

You’ll find a basic definition of genre in the Glossary.

Move over, senior center — these 5 books center seniors

Just in time for Women’s History Month comes this list of books that “all concern women, ages 60 to over 90, who fully intend to seize the day and enjoy life while they can. These are characters who refuse to go gentle into that good night. They’re still sharp and ready to surprise.”

‘I should not have written ‘A Clockwork Orange’’: How Anthony Burgess came to disown his own novel

“A recent documentary explores the conflictive relationship between the British author and his most popular work, which became a scandalous phenomenon due to Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation”

The 2023 documentary Orange mécanique, les rouages de la violence (in English, A clockwork orange: the prophecy), produced by the French division of the cultural television channel Arte, delves into the conflictive relationship between the writer and the title with which he went down in the history of 20th century literature – whether he liked it or not.

‘Reading is so sexy’: gen Z turns to physical books and libraries

Chloe Mac Donnell reports on what she calls “a surprising gen Z plot twist”: “One habit that those born between 1997 and 2012 are keen to endorse is reading – and it’s physical books rather than digital that they are thumbing.”

Because this article appears in the British publication The Guardian, the statistics and examples used reflect British numbers: “Last year in the UK 669m physical books were sold, the highest overall level ever recorded. Research from Nielsen BookData highlights that it is print books that gen Z favour, accounting for 80% of purchases from November 2021 to 2022.”

According to one of Mac Donnell’s sources, ““The gen Z book sphere is incredibly broad . . . There is a lot of appreciation for literary fiction, memoirs, translated fiction and classics in particular.”

Tools for Thinking About Censorship

Novelist and historian Ada Palmer here describes herself as “a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates.” According to her bio offered at the end of the article, her book (scheduled for publication in 2025), Why We Censor, from the Inquisition to the Internet, “uses examples from many times and places to expose patterns in the motives and ideas which make people assent to and support censorship.”

In this article Palmer focuses on what she calls the “first and most important principle”: “The majority of censorship is self-censorship, but the majority of self-censorship is intentionally cultivated by an outside power.” She stresses that all of history’s major censorious regimes have “invested invested enormous resources in programs designed to encourage self-censorship, more resources than they invested in using state action to actively destroy or censor information.” 

In other words, censorious governments accomplish their results by making the citizenry complicit in their aim:

Just as the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, one price of free speech is eternal humility, recognizing that none of us is immune to becoming a tool of censorship if we fail to recognize how its manipulative tactics shape and distort our thoughts and actions.

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

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