Recent news that HBO plans to adapt the works of William Faulkner for television has prompted critical discussion of the suitability of novels for this kind of medium translation.
“The novel and television are commingling as never before. And it’s about time,” declares Laura Miller in TV and the novel: A match made in heaven. She argues that television and the novel have more in common than do the novel and theatrical film because “[r]arely are a book’s most devoted admirers satisfied by the film.” Not only must much of any novel usually be cut to fit the 90- to 120-minute format of a feature film, but the standard three-act structure of film also trims much of the rich expansiveness of a novel. “A television series, however, has the time to spread out and explore the byways and textures of a novel’s imagined world,” says Miller. But whereas the necessity for mass-market appeal of shows on the broadcast networks prevented more than an occasional successful adaptation of a novel until the advent of cable, “A network like HBO, however, doesn’t need to attract large audiences; rather, it aims to persuade a much smaller population of subscribers that it’s worth paying a little extra every month to see better programming.”
The cable network [HBO] has optioned a number of widely recognized literary works, including Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!,” Chad Harbach’s “Art of Fielding” and Mary Karr’s memoirs. “At some point in the last year,” says Michael London, the indie-approved producer whose Groundswell Films brought “Goon Squad” to HBO, “everyone in the business had an epiphany that the DNA of cable television has much more in common with novels than movies do.”
“Indeed, where a movie means paring a novel down, a TV show can mean breaking it wide open,” Fehrman adds. He reports that many authors are now eager either to write their novels with an eye toward later TV adaptation or to collaborate on an adaptation after book publication. He compares this trend to what happened in the 1930s, when authors such as William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, Nathanael West, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all headed for Hollywood to try their pens at writing for the new medium of the feature film.
You may remember learning in school that there are two kinds of dictionaries:
descriptive: those that describe how language is used
prescriptive: those that dictate the standards for how language should be used
In school your teachers used the second type almost exclusively, admonishing you to check the dictionary to find out whether a particular word in your paper was acceptable. You remember: “Ain’t ain’t in the dictionary” and that kind of thing.
This article describes the rise of Worknik and a few other linguistic databases that have arisen with the explosion of electronic communication. For these databases “automatic programs search the Internet, combing the texts of news feeds, archived broadcasts, the blogosphere, Twitter posts and dozens of other sources” to discover exactly how language is currently being used. Without the intervention of human evaluation, such databases serve only to describe how language is used rather than to prescribe how it should be used.
The Los Angeles Times asked writers, editors and publishers what their literary resolutions for 2012 will be. If you’re looking for some literary resolutions, you’re bound to find some inspiration here. These resolutions range from “I’m going to reread “Moby-Dick,” “Crime & Punishment,” and “The Scarlet Letter” to “Read more poetry. Use fewer commas.”
And, in a related article, the LA Times checked back with some of the people who had offered their literary resolutions for 2011. Reading through this piece might soothe your conscience a bit. Lots of these people didn’t quite fulfill their annual resolutions, either.
Maria Konnikova is a woman after my own heart. At Scientific American she has just introduced her new column, Literally Psyched, a “journey of interdisciplinary exploration”:
Here, I propose to use literature and creative inspiration to explore concepts in the psychology of the mind and human thought. To create a place that will blend the world of fiction and non-fiction, that of the literary and the psychological, of artistic inspiration and scientific exploration. To use whatever inspires me—a book, a character, a line, a moment—as a window of insight into the human mind. For who are creative writers but individuals who have dedicated their life and art to observing and chronicling humans as a whole: their interactions, their dreams, their hopes, their disappointments, the full complexity of their internal life?
And, as if her interdisciplinary approach to the areas in which literature (and other creative endeavors) and psychology intersect weren’t enough, she begins this introductory post with a personal story, a narrative anecdote from her own life that illustrates how she has become the person she is.
Literature, psychology, and life narrative all wrapped up together! This is good stuff. I think she’d probably be interested in Literature & Psychology.
In his new book How to Build a Time Machine, Brian Clegg takes a “pop science” look at time travel, explaining quantum entanglement and superluminal speeds in terms that even a technophobe could understand. We asked Clegg about his book, some of his favorite time travel stories, and the most important scientific discovery of his lifetime.
I’ve always been fascinated by the literary potential of time travel. Devising a means of time travel is a challenge to a writer’s creative ingenuity: a blow to the head, a drug, a complex machine, a dream, a wormhole in the space-time continuum, a genetic disease, a ghostly netherworld. But the means of time travel is only a gimmick. What’s really important are the philosophical, psychological, scientific, and moral questions that would arise if, like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, we were to come unstuck in time: What happens if a time traveler changes history? Can time travelers meet their older or younger selves in a different time period? If I could go back to an earlier time in my life knowing what I know now, would I change anything, and, if so, what might the results be? What advice would I offer my younger self? Would I listen to anything my older self had to tell me? Would I want to know how and when I was going to die?
Asked about his favorite fiction involving time travel, Brian Clegg, who has a degree in physics from Cambridge, replied:
One of my all time favorites is a short story by Robert Heinlein called “All You Zombies.” Heinlein sets up a wonderful time paradox, where the main character, who has had a sex change, goes back in time to impregnate his younger, female self. The resultant child is then moved back through time to become the mother. The character has literally come from nowhere. Perhaps my favorite novel with a time travel theme is Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, originally envisaged as a counter to Heinlein’s gung-ho Starship Troopers. Because the protagonists in Forever War are always taking long journeys at near the speed of light, they travel far into the future. By the time they return home everyone they once knew is dead, the world is not the one they remember – so there is nothing for it but to sign up for another tour.
See, its the implications of the time travelers’ actions, not the time travel itself, that’s fascinating.
Clegg believes that our ability to construct the technology necessary for time travel is thousands of years away. “But for me the amazing thing is that it’s only a matter of getting the technology right. There’s nothing in physics that prevents time travel.”
For Walter Rodgers, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, that gift is books:
Even the best Christmas gifts lose their luster within a few months. Books have a staying power few gifts can match. I have nothing left from Christmases long past except my childhood books, each still prized. This season, give books. They are our bulwarks against time, ignorance, and barbarity.
Writing in The Harvard Crimson, Sofie C. Brooks discusses how the rise of ebooks may change the publishing industry:
What the publishing industry faces right now is a customer base that demands a digital product even as the technology that makes these products possible is still in its early stages of development. Random House has experienced a 200 percent growth in eBook sales this year, and every other company’s sales tell similar tales.
Brooks suggests some ways that authors, publishers, and distributors could work together in the changing world of literary publication.
While there are still those who continue to cling to the beauty of the traditionally printed word, literature is not dependent on its physical form. Unlike an opera or ballet, the words of Dickens, Chaucer, and Shakespeare still ring true even on an electronic screen. The essence of the art is inextinguishable, and the rest may turn out to be just details.
We keep hearing that modern society has come to rely on drugs rather than psychotherapy for dealing with mental health issues. But, Kabi Hartman assures us:
Nevertheless, fictional teenagers are still talking to therapists for pages on end. Having now read a growing pile of novels, I can vouch for the fact that teen protagonists are actually having insights and getting better. In fact, the majority of these novels depict psychotherapy as transformative.
Hartman likens the several novels she discusses here to the tradition of religious conversion narratives (think John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress). And she finds hope in the picture that these novels offer, that adolescents can achieve self-knowledge through therapy:
these novels, however rife with soap operatic bad luck and sentimentality, champion the idea that self knowledge emerges in dialogue with a trusted other. Although most of them grind out cookie cutter conversion stories, I cannot be hard on these works. Ultimately, they suggest that engaging with someone else, face to face, is transforming — or, at the very least, provides more scope for plot and character development than popping a pill.
Writing in the New Yorker blog “The Book Bench,” Nathaniel Stein looks at the value of rereading books. He refers to “’On Rereading,’ Patricia Meyer Spacks’s charming and strange blend of memoir, literary criticism, and scientific treatise.” After retiring from teaching, Spacks undertook a period of rereading many of the literary milestones of her life.
Spacks’s constant fixation is the paradox of the simultaneous “sameness” and “difference” of rereading—how it is that the words are exactly the same but our perceptions of them so different?
Stein himself is more interested in the question “are rereadings better readings?”
What rereading tells us about ourselves, and how we have evolved intellectually, is as important as what it tells us about the books, Spacks believes. She’s endlessly interested in “how our minds, hearts, experience, personal and cultural situation, or all of the above … have changed since the last time we read those words.”
Stein further writes that Spacks believes rereadings “can reveal unwelcome truths about our past selves, and cause disenchantment—in the most literal sense—with the books we used to love.”
I haven’t read Patricia Spacks’s book, although I have now added it to my ever-growing list of TBR (to be read) books. But Spacks seems to subscribe to the reader-response theory of literature, which posits that readers bring to bear all their past experiences and learning when they read a book. In this respect, then, a rereading of a book could very well differ from the first reading because the reader is now a different person. When we reread a book we originally loved and find out that we now love it less, that realization may say more about us than about the book. I suspect this is what Stein says Spacks means by recognizing “unwelcome truths about our past selves.”
However, the experience may also work in a more positive direction. Whenever I find myself feeling down on humanity, I reread To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Immersing myself in the story of Atticus, Scout, and Jem Finch always reminds me that there are many good and decent people in the world.
How about you? Are there any books that you have enjoyed rereading?
A dystopia is an imaginary world in which people live dehumanized lives of fear and subjugation; it’s the opposite of utopia. In this piece YA writer Moira Young examines why distopian novels such as Suzanne Collins’s recent Hunger Games trilogy are so popular with young people:
Books for young people set in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian worlds are not new. Three notable early examples are Madeleine L’Engle’s science fantasy A Wrinkle in Time (1962), William Sleator’s suspense novel House of Stairs (1974) and the politically intriguing The Giver (1993) by Lois Lowry. Some of the big names of the new wave, along with Collins, are British-based American author Patrick Ness, Mortal Engines writer Philip Reeve, and young adult science-fiction novelist Scott Westerfeld. But what is it that attracts teenage readers to dystopian fiction?
Teenagers like to read dystopian fiction because it’s exciting. It all comes down to the story. The story comes first, and the setting – extraordinary though it may be – is of secondary importance.
For the most part, dystopian fiction owes more to myth and fairytale than science fiction. These are essentially heroes’ journeys – they just happen to be set in an imagined future world. The hero, reluctant or willing, is just as likely to be female as male. Something happens – an event, or a messenger arrives bearing news – and the teenage protagonist is catapulted out of their normal existence into the unknown. They cross the threshold into a world of darkness and danger, of allies and enemies, and begin a journey towards their own destiny that will change their world. They will be tested, often to the very edge of death. The stakes are high. The adults are the oppressors. The children are the liberators. It’s heady stuff, far removed from the routine of everyday life.
The outer, global journey of the characters is matched by an inner, emotional and psychological journey. These are no cartoon superheroes. They, like their teen readers, have to deal with recognisable concerns and problems, including friendship, family, betrayal, loss, love, death and sexual awakening.
And in defense of adults who write these stories for adolescents Young says:
These are dark, sometimes bleak stories, but that doesn’t mean they are hopeless. Those of us who write for young people are reluctant to leave our readers without hope. It wouldn’t be right. We always leave a candle burning in the darkness.
And we write good stories. That’s why teenagers read them.
Any successful novel has to be, at its heart, a good story. That what makes books such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale so appealing to both young people and adults. We have an innate affinity for stories, which is why children beg for “just one more” bedtime story. And this same natural response to stories allows young adults to recognize the representative nature of these tales instead of being overwhelmed by their darkness. No matter what age we are, we all learn from these stories. That is the beauty and the power of narrative.
And, from the other end of the pen, here’s more on story. Writer Jim Gilliam explains how a harsh critique from a novelist forced him to reread his novel in progress as the reader rather than as the writer. He asked himself, “As a reader why should I care about this?”
I write for my readers and if I’ve placed the reader in the scene with my protagonist and the reader feels the same things that he does, and the reader fears for his life, and vicariously for their own, then I have accomplished my ultimate goal and the reader has paid me the greatest compliment by staying with me until the end of the tale.
You can use this same criterion when you read a novel. If you find that the novel isn’t pulling you in, the reason often lies in the writer’s inability to put you inside the character’s mind and heart.
This piece by John Self comes from the U. K. newspaper The Guardian, which is why the introduction deals with the recent kerfuffle over the Man Booker Prize. But if that means nothing to you, you can skip down a bit further, to Self’s discussion of readability, which “essentially means ‘not too hard going’.” A book with readability is “something that slips down effortlessly.”
And here’s Self’s recommendations of books that have readability as well as literary merit:
The Doctor’s Wife by Brian Moore The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler Trauma by Patrick McGrath
Wired.com published its own list of “9 Essential Geek Books You Must Read Right Now,” a link to which you’ll find at the beginning of this article. Here, Wired.com readers have produced their own list:
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Dune by Frank Herbert
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
I don’t consider myself a geek by any means, so I was surprised to discover that I’ve read 5 of the books on this list. I really hated Stranger in a Strange Land, but I DID read it.
The Seattle Times spotlights 92-year-old Grace Crecelius:
For 61 years, Grace Crecelius has cracked the books. Not just any books, mind you, but the works of Plato, Descartes and Kant, Shakespeare, Marx and Freud.
At 92, Crecelius is the oldest member of what may be one of the longest-running book clubs around — the Vashon Island Great Books Foundation discussion group.
The Great Books Foundation was founded in 1947 by Mortimer Adler and Robert Maynard Hutchins. Its purpose is to help readers of all ages become more reflective and responsible thinkers by engaging with great works of literature. Since its beginning the Foundation has expanded its materials to serve students of all ages (K-12, college, and adults). While its original offerings focused on great works of thinkers such as Plato and Socrates, current materials include newer literary works such as contemporary novels and even science fiction. Its aim is to “make the reading and discussion of literature a lifelong source of enjoyment, personal growth, and social engagement.”
On the Great Books web site you can search for a group in your area. If there isn’t one, you can also find out how to start a group. The Foundation also offers instruction in how to practice civil discourse in discussion of the ideas presented in literature.
Scholar, activist, provocateur, teacher, community-builder, inspiration: No one word can span the career of bell hooks or capture how much we love her work. According to Ms. readers’ selections of the best feminist non-fiction of all time, she’s your favorite writer, with three books in our top ten–including number one–and a total of seven books throughout the list. To judge by the final picks, issues of work, sex and intersectionality ranked highest among our reader’s feminist concerns.
And here are the top 10:
10. The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti
Seal Press, 2009
Jessica Valenti combats a nation’s virginity complex, arguing that myths about “purity” are damaging to both girls and women. She points the way forward toward a world where women are perceived as more than vessels of chastity.
9. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
by bell hooks
South End Press, 1985
Cementing her place as one of the most influential feminist theorists, hooks’ Feminist Theory explores Kimberle Crenshaw’s conversation-changing idea of intersectionality: the way racism, classism and sexism work together to foster oppression.
8. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks
South End Press, 1999
Named after the famous speech by Sojourner Truth, this must-read by bell hooks discusses black women’s struggle with U.S. racism and sexism since the time of slavery and doesn’t shirk from how white middle- and upper-class feminists have at times failed poor and non-white women.
7. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
by Ariel Levy
Free Press, 2005
What do phenomena such as Girls Gone Wild say about feminism? This book looks at the ways women today make sex objects of themselves, and she’s not impressed. She chews out false “empowerment” based on self-objectification and offers feminist alternatives.
6. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women
by Susan Faludi
This landmark book sounded the alarm about a pervasive backlash against feminism. She painstakingly refutes each insidious anti-feminist argument–for instance, that feminism is responsible for a supposed epidemic of unhappiness in women. What’s really wrong, she says, is that equality hasn’t been achieved; in fact, the struggle has only just begun.
5. Nickel and Dimed
by Barbara Ehrenreich
Metropolitan Books, 2001
Long-time Ms. columnist Barbara Ehrenreich posed undercover as a low-income worker to gain material for this empathetic portrait of how the bottom half lives. She reveals that simply making ends meet is a silent struggle for many Americans, especially for women with families to support.
4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Harcourt Brace, 1929
This classic from the 1920s makes a devastatingly eloquent argument with a simple takeaway: For a women artist to thrive, she must have space in which to work and some money for her efforts.
3. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
by Audre Lorde
Crossing Press, 1984
This master work by Audre Lorde, a Caribbean American lesbian feminist writer, collects her prose from the late 70s and early 80s. Many of these pieces made feminist history, including her candid dialogue with Adrienne Rich about race and feminism, her oft-quoted critique of academia “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” and her Open Letter to Mary Daly.
2. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence
by Inga Muscio
Seal Press 2002
Inga Muscio’s 2002 feminist manifesto radicalized a new generation. She argues for the reclaiming of the tarnished word cunt, and discusses her personal experiences with self-protection, sex work, abortion and solidarity.
1. Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics
by bell hooks
South End Press, 2000
Fittingly, in Ms. readers’ favorite feminist book of all time, bell hooks argues that feminism is for everybody, regardless of race, gender or creed. She urges all to live a feminism that finds commonality across differences and makes room for impassioned debate.
You know how readers almost always say that they liked a book better than its movie version? Well, in another one of those lists that they love so much, The Huffington Post presents “movies that feature totally different endings, story lines, and main characters than the original book. Here are a few of our favorite examples. Be warned, spoilers ahead!”
Luanne Bradley asks, “What came first, the depressing women’s book clubs or the morbid books?”
The inevitable prerequisite [of book group selections] is the agreed-upon selections must be meaty enough to spark evocative feedback for eloquent sharing round the coffee table. As a result, our picks are highly wrought works of historic, political or cultural significance perpetually mired in sadness. Or, as a fellow member recently commiserated, “Can’t we move on from the holocaust and women in pain?”
I do admit that my own book group has read so many holocaust books that we’ve decided on a moratorium for that subject matter. And a few years ago we read so many books about men who treated women badly that we called ourselves, for a time, the SOB book group.
But back to Bradley’s article:
“As someone who has written about ‘women in pain,’ women dealing with the death of a child, for example, I think that the premise of your question is problematic,” novelist Ayelet Waldman tells me. “All interesting stories are about someone in crisis – in ‘pain’ if you will. Who wants to read about happy people doing happy things? Story is conflict, conflict is story. The Corrections was about people in crisis. Does that fall into your category of ‘victim-literature?’ If it doesn’t, then I think you should take a good look at the question you’re asking, and consider whether it isn’t inherently sexist.”
One suggestion Bradley has for finding other types of books to read is not to “rely solely on the New York Times lists and peruse book stores for the employee recommendations. Oftentimes, you will find sparkling little stories that didn’t cut the mustard with the corporate giant, but are worthwhile nonetheless.”
And my personal assignment from my book group is to find a good mystery that we can all cozy up to this fall.
We’ve seen the discussion before about whether YA (young adult) literature is too dark for adolescents. In this article Brian McGreevy dismisses this subject:
My concern is not this debate — in fact, I consider it to be moot. The YA category is a marketing distinction, not a moral one, however much parents would like it to be a synonym for “safe.”
Instead, he argues that when adolescents reach the point when they’re interested in reading adult fiction, they should be allowed to do so. He calls this point “the V.C. Andrews Curve, after the author of ‘Flowers in the Attic.’” At this point, “not only will your kids survive an exposure to violence and sexuality in books, but it is crucial to their moral development”:
Of course adolescents have an irresistible attraction to adult themes; perverse and puritanical an instinct as there is in this culture to prolong childhood, there is a far stronger counter-instinct in children to analyze, simulate, and as soon as humanly possible participate in the challenges of adulthood.
Furthermore, he argues that books provide a kind of experience that neither films nor video games can provide:
What neither films nor video games are cut out for is developing the critical faculties that reading does. Higher-order mental processes are not even strictly required to enjoy a movie, whereas books, by nature, are undemocratic. A combination of education and innate sensitivity is required to enjoy them, and the reward is the closest possible experience to entering another human being’s consciousness and revising the parameters of your own. It’s harder because it should be.
I’ve often thought that preventing children who are growing into young adults from reading about the truths of human existence is both a disservice to and a devaluation of them. Young adults know and understand more than we give them credit for. And, while parents’ desire to protect their children from adult knowledge may have good intentions, preventing young adults from learning about adult life leaves them unprepared for a world that they will eventually grow into, whether we like it or not. We need to trust our children:
They’re equipped with a strength and ingenuity they’re not often enough credited with. Life’s genesis and termination — and every gradation of human experience in between — is their birthright. They are entitled to learn about it at exactly the rate it is appropriate to their individual moral development to do so. And as long as you love them enough, they’ll end up basically OK.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.