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  • Ginni Chen 3:00 pm on 2016/11/09 Permalink
    Tags: ask a literary lady, ,   

    Ask a Literary Lady: Help, My Guest Keeps Taking Books! 

    Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

    I have a houseguest who always takes a couple of my books with her when she leaves. Do you have any advice on how to handle her, without starting too much drama?

    – H.K., Indianapolis, IN.

    Dear H.K.,

    Search her bags! I jest, but it’s certainly tempting under the circumstances. A sticky-fingered, book-loving houseguest sounds like a tricky situation. In the best case scenario, she might think that she’s merely “borrowing” your books and will return them the next time she comes around. If that’s the case, she might just need gentle reminder to return your personal property.

    In the worst case scenario, however, she thinks of your home as a hotel, and your books as travel-sized bottles of shampoo that she can squirrel away in her luggage. If that’s the case, you’re going to have to take more drastic measures.

    You could:

    1. Hide all your books before she comes to your house.

    2. Make a big show of cataloguing and organizing your books. That way, she knows that you’ll notice immediately whenever a book goes missing.

    3. Fill her room with books that you’re fine with her taking—a 1994 travel guide to Florida, your summer reading list from tenth grade…

    4. Wait to see what book she takes. Then give her that book as a gift and say something sweet, like, “I saw you reading this and I wanted to get you your own copy!”

    5. While she’s staying with you, take her book shopping.

    6. Help her pack, or at least hang out while she does it, so she can’t sneak a few books into her bags.

    7. Ask her, point blank, if she borrowed your copy of a novel. Tell her you need it back for a book club meeting tonight.

    8. Go visit her and be her houseguest. Reclaim all your long-lost books.

    9. Read everything on a NOOK so she has nothing to steal anymore.

    10. Start a conversation about how much you both love to read. Tell her about the books you have, where they came from, and why you love them. Once she sees you as a fellow literary soul, it just might change her behavior for the better.

    Lastly, I know it can be frustrating to watch someone take advantage of your hospitality by depleting your library. Remember, though, that you can always buy new books but you can’t always fix burnt bridges. If there’s a good reason that she’s a repeated guest in your home, then there may be a good reason to think generously, give her the benefit of the doubt in her actions, and tell yourself that she has every intention of returning your books to you one day.

    Love and paperbacks,
    Literary Lady.

    The post Ask a Literary Lady: Help, My Guest Keeps Taking Books! appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ginni Chen 4:00 pm on 2016/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: ask a literary lady, , dialects,   

    Ask a Literary Lady: Help! I Can’t Read Books Written in Dialect 

    Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

    I have trouble reading books written in dialect so I always avoid them. I know I’m missing out on some great novels though, so how do I tackle books written in dialect without getting frustrated?

    – B.M., Pittsburgh, PA.

    Dear B.M.,

    I love books that capture the diversity of speech, but I agree that it can be more challenging to read novels written in dialect than novels written in plain, standard English. For one, novels written in dialect take more work to read, word for word, than other novels. When you read a work written in dialect, you have to digest the prose phonetically. You have to sound it out in your head, maybe even mouth the phrases to yourself silently, until something finally clicks in your brain and you hear what the author is trying to say.

    As an avid reader, you probably moved beyond reading phonetically ages ago. It’s something we do when we were first learning to read, but we don’t maintain the practice throughout the years. Instead, we just look at a word and the visual cue may be enough for us to know what it means.

    When reading in dialect, we have to return to the way we read as children—phonetically, diligently, and painfully slowly. And that’s where our frustration lies—we are reading more slowly than we usually do, we are reading in a way that we’re not used to, and because of this, we start to feel dumb.

    I think having more patience with yourself can actually help when tackling books written in dialect. First of all, don’t expect to read it at the same pace as other books. Tell yourself you’re reading in another language, and set your expectations accordingly. You’re going to be turning the pages at a significantly slower pace than usual, you’re going to be rereading certain sections, you’re going to be completely puzzled at times, and you’re going to be perfectly ok with that.

    Second, it helps to remember that reading a novel in dialect is not just about knowing the story and figuring out what happens. A lot of authors write in dialect to capture a different time and place, and to authentically develop a character. Stop and ask yourself if you can hear the characters. Who are they? What would they sound like in a movie, or in real life? Sometimes, focusing on the characters is a more rewarding exercise than focusing on the plot.

    Additionally, try to embrace the phonetic aspect of reading a book in dialect. Sit at home and read it aloud. Listen to the novel on audio. Become aurally acquainted with the accented dialogue, and think about how the author has cleverly manipulated their text to help you imagine and imitate a form of speech. If you really can’t hear it, try looking up clips online or reference material that might help you sound out the dialogue better. Sometimes I’ll even imagine different actors mastering the accent in a movie.

    Lastly, I’ve found that reading in dialect sometimes piques my curiosity about how others speak in the real world. I’ll catch myself listening to other people talk and thinking about how I’d represent their speech in writing. What do I assume about people I see every day, just from the way they speak? How would I describe how they speak to others? How would they tell me a story in their own words? I find that thinking about these things always gives me newfound appreciation for writers who write in dialect.

    Love and paperbacks,
    Literary Lady

    The post Ask a Literary Lady: Help! I Can’t Read Books Written in Dialect appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ginni Chen 1:00 pm on 2016/10/12 Permalink
    Tags: ask a literary lady, ,   

    Ask a Literary Lady: Traveling and Sight-Seeing with a Non-Literary Friend? 

    Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

    I’m planning a trip abroad with a friend. I’m a big reader, but my friend isn’t. What are some ways I can do some literary sightseeing and my friend can do the sightseeing she wants to do, without boring each other to tears?

    – S.G., Minneapolis, MN

    Dear S.G.,

    I love traveling with people who have vastly different interests from my own. It gives me a chance to see things I would never have found for myself and broadens my perspective on a country beyond my own areas of interest.

    True, it’s a bit harder to come up with a travel itinerary when there are competing interests at stake, but there’s a lot you can do at the outset to make sure everyone’s happy.

    First, communicate with your travel companion even before you start planning your sightseeing itinerary. You both know you want to see different things, so have a candid discussion about what you each absolutely have to do on this trip. You can each make a list of the top 10 things you want to do or see, in order of importance, or you can go through the guidebook together and discuss what activities to prioritize.

    Second, communicate any deal breakers you each have. For example, you may not want to spend more than a certain amount of money to go to a museum that you aren’t that excited about. Or your friend doesn’t want to wait in line for an hour to get into an author’s childhood home. You may draw the line at waking up at dawn for an activity, and your friend may balk at hiking two hours to see the gravestone of a celebrated poet. Put it all on the table so you know what to avoid.

    Third, you should each do your research. Look up the surroundings of each of the sites you want to visit. You might discover that there’s a great restaurant near the historic library you want to visit, or an art gallery that appeals to your friend. Your friend might find that one of the museums she wants to visit houses a rare manuscript that you’d like to see, or that there’s a famous bookstore in the shopping plaza she wants to visit.

    Look for places where your interests converge, but don’t rule out the possibility of going your own separate ways for an afternoon. Traveling abroad requires spending a lot of time together and a lot of compromise, so it’s natural that you’ll want a break from each other. Build that into your schedule, so you both know that there’s time to do whatever you want do.

    Take some time to learn about each other’s interests. Ask your friend about the significance of the places she wants to visit. Tell your friend why a particular literary site is meaningful to you. Develop your own curiosity about a place or an activity, so that you’re not just tagging along with your friend.

    Lastly, be open-minded and flexible. Traveling is difficult, exhausting, and it almost never goes as planned. Some places will be crowded, some places will be less impressive than you had hoped, and some will be inexplicably closed. If you both keep an open mind, you’ll always find something new and unexpectedly fascinating. The inevitable snafus you’ll encounter while traveling are a great excuse to wander away from your itinerary and see more than you ever expected.

    Happy travels!
    Literary Lady

    The post Ask a Literary Lady: Traveling and Sight-Seeing with a Non-Literary Friend? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ginni Chen 3:00 pm on 2016/09/14 Permalink
    Tags: ask a literary lady, ,   

    Ask a Literary Lady: How Do You Agree to Disagree About Books? 

    Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

    My friend and I both love to read, but we never agree about books. She hates many of the books I love, and I hate many of the books she loves. Should I just give up trying to talk books with her?

    D.F., Sacramento, CA

    Dear D.F.,

    No, absolutely not! Your friend who disagrees with you might be your most valuable literary friend yet. She’s the Justice Scalia to your Justice Ginsburg, a friend whose dissent makes your opinion stronger and makes you a better reader overall.

    If anything, you should keep talking to your friend about books because you disagree so much. It makes for much more interesting, thought-provoking conversation. Sure, it’s more difficult to converse with someone who disagrees with you than with someone who agrees with you, but it’s ultimately more rewarding.

    Admit it, when you talk to someone about a book you both like, the conversation tends to go like this,

    You: Did you read Such and Such book?
    Them: Yes, I loved it!
    You: I loved it too!
    Them: It’s so great.
    You: Yes, it’s so great.
    Them: Yeah.
    You: Yeah.

    It’s a pleasant enough conversation, but it’s not the intellectually riveting debate you could be having with someone who disagrees with you. When you have to defend your love for a certain book, you’re forced to think critically about your own opinions, you analyze your favorite aspects of the novel, and you learn more about your own literary tastes.

    When it’s your turn to hate the book that your friend loves, you’ll get more out of that argument than you would out of shared dislike. Listening to my friend rave about a book that I disliked makes me question why I couldn’t get into it. Sometimes I’m able to articulate the parts of the novel that didn’t ring true to me. Other times, I realize that I don’t have a leg to stand on because I only read three chapters and gave up. More often than not, my friend convinces me to go back and give the book another shot.

    My most valued conversations about books have been with people who disagreed with my opinion, so I urge you to seek out those conversations with your friend. Your talks will take some fascinating turns, and you’ll find yourself reading new books with future conversations in mind.

    Love and paperbacks,
    Literary Lady

    The post Ask a Literary Lady: How Do You Agree to Disagree About Books? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ginni Chen 3:00 pm on 2016/08/24 Permalink
    Tags: ask a literary lady, ,   

    Ask a Literary Lady: How Do I Become Someone’s Literary Muse? 

    Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

    I just realized how I can contribute to literature without ever picking up a pen myself—I can just become a writer’s muse. Yep, life goals! Any tips on achieving muse-iness ?

    – S.I, Los Angeles, CA.

    Dear S.I.,

    It’s true that we owe so much great literature not just to the artists, but to the people who served as their inspiration. Without muses, a lot of the books we know and love wouldn’t exist, or, if they did, they’d be very, very, different.

    If the annals of history have taught us anything, it’s that one does not simply become a muse. You have to do a little work to earn it, before someone will do the heavy-lifting of memorializing your dazzling self for all posterity.

    Unfortunately there’s not too much research on the magical makings of muses, but as far as I can tell, the paths to becoming a literary muse are:

    1. Make someone fall in love with you.
    James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Keats, and Jane Austen—the list of Cupid-inspired writers goes on. Our libraries are brimming with the books of literary greats whose words sprang from the well of love. Find someone to feel amorous toward you and you just might spark an entire literary movement.

    2. Reject their love.
    Got the falling in love part down but don’t have the best-selling novel yet? Try making that love unrequited. Apparently, that’s what got W.B. Yeats, Ayn Rand, and Louisa May Alcott to put their pens to paper. Yeats proposed to the Maud Gonne four times and was rejected four times, and Rand had a crush on a neighbor boy who wasn’t very nice to her. Alcott tops it all with a double dose of unrequited love, holding a candle for both Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    3. Write a lot of letters.
    Sure, these days, all romantic overtures are conducted over smartphones, but you’re never going to inspire a literary masterpiece with a passionate text. You need to write good ol’ fashioned letters via snail mail. James Joyce and his wife, Nora Barnacle, wrote countless passionate and erotic letters to each other.

    4. Flout convention in some way.
    You could also achieve muse-worthy status by openly challenging social moires. Zelda Fitzgerald was a wild card at a time when Southern belles were expected to be dainty and docile. Charles Lewes, the live-in partner of George Eliot, had an open marriage with his wife in the 19th century. Neal Cassady, who served not just as Jack Kerouac’s muse but also Allen Ginsberg’s, had a seminal role in the countercultural Beat movement.

    5. Live your own inspired life.
    Some muses swan around in a bathrobe all day, while others seemed to have inspired great literature because they were inspired to take action themselves. Yeats’ muse, Maud Gonne, was an Irish revolutionary and suffragist who spent 20 days in jail for her activism. And don’t think that becoming a muse means you don’t have to write—some historians speculate that one of Shakespeare’s muses was Aemilia Bassano Lanier, the first professional woman poet in England.

    All told, muse-iness seems like quite an emotional chore and a shot in the dark. You have to find a genius, make them fall in love with you, and have some sort of turbulent romance that coaxes out literary gold. It’s looking like option #5 is really the easiest and most fun—do your own thing.

    Love and paperbacks,
    Literary Lady

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