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  • Jeff Somers 3:30 pm on 2017/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , classics revisited, ,   

    The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books 

    Where once delirious theorizing about novels was the province of English professors and their students, safely locked away in the ivory tower of academia, in the modern age the democratizing force of the internet has made it everyone’s business to think way too hard about what they watch, read, or listen to, and then type up Tumblr posts about their new theory.

    Most of these theories are pure bosh, of course, and are quickly swept aside by the rising tide of the next day’s theories—and none of them can be “proved” anyway, at least not in any real sense. But some of these fan theories are a lot of fun—and some have more staying power than others. These five may not hold up in a court of literary law, but they will mess with your mind.

    Theory: There is no Mr. Hyde
    Book: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Did you ever notice that in Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we never get a glimpse of Mr. Hyde’s point of view? While most of the usual discussion about the story takes for granted that Mr. Hyde is literally a separate personality that Jekyll has unleashed—younger, different in appearance, and of a completely different, er, temperament—the fact is we only have Jekyll’s unreliable evidence to back this up. A lot of readers speculate that Hyde is just an excuse for Jekyll to go ham on some really unacceptable behavior he has always wanted to get into. Readers have been fooled because we take Jekyll’s words at face value, and Jekyll believes himself to be a good man who couldn’t possibly do such terrible things. But if Jekyll is unreliable—as he clearly is—then why take him at his word on that?

    Theory: Jane Austen’s novels are about sociopaths and Game Theory
    Book: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

    This one will really get at Austen fans: there’s a prevalent theory that you can use Austen’s novels (not just Pride and Prejudice) as a guidebook to Game Theory, because all of Austen’s characters are basically sociopaths who manipulate everyone around them like game pieces on a board. If you think about it, this is blood-chillingly obvious: Just about every major character in Austen’s stories is playing a cold-blooded game, breaking down their opponents’ weaknesses, deceiving them, and then using their mistakes against them, all to gain social ascendancy. Put in that light, Austen’s work is some Game of Thrones–level stuff.

    Theory: Jack Torrance wrote Apt Pupil
    Book: Different Seasons and The Shining, by Stephen King

    Over on Reddit last year, this theory popped up and took root due to its plausibility—especially when you consider how hard Stephen King has worked to connect his books into one sprawling multiverse. It boils down to a few simple facts: Jack Torrance in The Shining is a frustrated writer who has lost a teaching job because of a violent run-in with a student, and he’s working on a story featuring a character named Denker. Apt Pupil also features a character named Denker, who meets a student who’s a much worse version of the kid Jack attacked. There’s not much more to the theory, but the idea that Jack might have been writing Apt Pupil while going insane in the Overlook Hotel is so exciting we’d like to suggest King go back and revise his books slightly to make the connection overt.

    Theory: George is homosexual
    Book: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

    Of Mice and Men was published in 1937, way before homosexuality was something discussed freely in public, much less accepted in everyday life. There are some references to homosexuality in the book, but they serve to underscore how bad it would be to be outed back in those days. And there is some evidence that Steinbeck may have intended George to be gay. When he sees Curly’s wife, the only woman in the book and a woman who is clearly reveling in her sex appeal among the men working the ranch, George barely looks at her and doesn’t have much reaction. But when George spies Slim—or any other man—his descriptions become far more effusive. It’s subtle—but it adds an unexpected dimension to the story.

    Theory: Heathcliff is a werewolf
    Book: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

    Wuthering Heights is an amazing book, very dark, centering on a romantic duo that’s deeply polarizing. Heathcliff’s story is certainly tragic and deserving of sympathy, but he’s also a destructive, vengeful force, and a malevolent one, at that. When you consider how easy it is to imagine Brontë wrote an early supernatural romance and just made all the references super subtle for plausible deniability, however, it all changes. Cathy? Totally a vampire. And Heathcliff, a man repeatedly described as “savage,” a man who lives in a house with a pack of dogs, a man with “sharp cannibal teeth”? A werewolf. In fact, turning Wuthering Heights into the first-ever Twilight requires you to squint just a little bit.

    The post The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:30 pm on 2017/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , classics revisited, ,   

    The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books 

    Where once delirious theorizing about novels was the province of English professors and their students, safely locked away in the ivory tower of academia, in the modern age the democratizing force of the internet has made it everyone’s business to think way too hard about what they watch, read, or listen to, and then type up Tumblr posts about their new theory.

    Most of these theories are pure bosh, of course, and are quickly swept aside by the rising tide of the next day’s theories—and none of them can be “proved” anyway, at least not in any real sense. But some of these fan theories are a lot of fun—and some have more staying power than others. These five may not hold up in a court of literary law, but they will mess with your mind.

    Theory: There is no Mr. Hyde
    Book: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Did you ever notice that in Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we never get a glimpse of Mr. Hyde’s point of view? While most of the usual discussion about the story takes for granted that Mr. Hyde is literally a separate personality that Jekyll has unleashed—younger, different in appearance, and of a completely different, er, temperament—the fact is we only have Jekyll’s unreliable evidence to back this up. A lot of readers speculate that Hyde is just an excuse for Jekyll to go ham on some really unacceptable behavior he has always wanted to get into. Readers have been fooled because we take Jekyll’s words at face value, and Jekyll believes himself to be a good man who couldn’t possibly do such terrible things. But if Jekyll is unreliable—as he clearly is—then why take him at his word on that?

    Theory: Jane Austen’s novels are about sociopaths and Game Theory
    Book: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

    This one will really get at Austen fans: there’s a prevalent theory that you can use Austen’s novels (not just Pride and Prejudice) as a guidebook to Game Theory, because all of Austen’s characters are basically sociopaths who manipulate everyone around them like game pieces on a board. If you think about it, this is blood-chillingly obvious: Just about every major character in Austen’s stories is playing a cold-blooded game, breaking down their opponents’ weaknesses, deceiving them, and then using their mistakes against them, all to gain social ascendancy. Put in that light, Austen’s work is some Game of Thrones–level stuff.

    Theory: Jack Torrance wrote Apt Pupil
    Book: Different Seasons and The Shining, by Stephen King

    Over on Reddit last year, this theory popped up and took root due to its plausibility—especially when you consider how hard Stephen King has worked to connect his books into one sprawling multiverse. It boils down to a few simple facts: Jack Torrance in The Shining is a frustrated writer who has lost a teaching job because of a violent run-in with a student, and he’s working on a story featuring a character named Denker. Apt Pupil also features a character named Denker, who meets a student who’s a much worse version of the kid Jack attacked. There’s not much more to the theory, but the idea that Jack might have been writing Apt Pupil while going insane in the Overlook Hotel is so exciting we’d like to suggest King go back and revise his books slightly to make the connection overt.

    Theory: George is homosexual
    Book: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

    Of Mice and Men was published in 1937, way before homosexuality was something discussed freely in public, much less accepted in everyday life. There are some references to homosexuality in the book, but they serve to underscore how bad it would be to be outed back in those days. And there is some evidence that Steinbeck may have intended George to be gay. When he sees Curly’s wife, the only woman in the book and a woman who is clearly reveling in her sex appeal among the men working the ranch, George barely looks at her and doesn’t have much reaction. But when George spies Slim—or any other man—his descriptions become far more effusive. It’s subtle—but it adds an unexpected dimension to the story.

    Theory: Heathcliff is a werewolf
    Book: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

    Wuthering Heights is an amazing book, very dark, centering on a romantic duo that’s deeply polarizing. Heathcliff’s story is certainly tragic and deserving of sympathy, but he’s also a destructive, vengeful force, and a malevolent one, at that. When you consider how easy it is to imagine Brontë wrote an early supernatural romance and just made all the references super subtle for plausible deniability, however, it all changes. Cathy? Totally a vampire. And Heathcliff, a man repeatedly described as “savage,” a man who lives in a house with a pack of dogs, a man with “sharp cannibal teeth”? A werewolf. In fact, turning Wuthering Heights into the first-ever Twilight requires you to squint just a little bit.

    The post The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Nicole Hill 9:15 pm on 2016/03/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , classics revisited, , , jane steele, lyndsay faye, ,   

    Jane Steele Is the Hard-Edged Jane Eyre You Never Knew You Wanted 

    Lyndsay Faye is a certifiable meddler in fiction. Her debut novel, Dust and Shadow, pitted Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper in a masterful showdown between a fictional giant and an enigmatic true-life menace. The pairing seemed a more even match than even Moriarty could provide. In a world where Holmes pastiche is a cottage industry, Faye captured Doyle’s characters near-flawlessly, while setting before them a new challenge worth their respective salt.

    Now she’s back, focusing that same tender, exploratory devotion to Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork with Jane Steele. In Jane Eyre, poor, plain Jane gets hurtled from mistreatment to mistreatment, until finally she finds ethically questionable romance with Mr. Rochester. As readers, you can connect deeply with Jane on an emotional level, as she endures an endless parade of indignities and anguish. While she’s an incredibly strong woman—you’d have to be to withstand the secret in the attic—Jane is at the disadvantage of living in the 19th century and having little control over her own circumstances. As an orphan, and then as a governess, she’s got little means to rise above whatever misery befalls her.

    Not so much with young Jane Steele. Jane Steele gets things done, and she’s got the trail of bodies in her wake to prove it. Faye’s novel shares the basic elements of Brontë’s: a heroine orphaned at a young age, a sinister aunt, a demented boarding school for wayward young women, a new life as a governess, a secretive, erudite lordling pitching woo despite his shady past.

    It’s all there, because it all makes a great story. What makes the narrative unique is that Jane Steele knows this story. She’s not a stand-in for Jane Eyre; she’s her biggest fan. It’s a unique device, bestowing this meta awareness on Jane, and it adds a winking playfulness to the proceedings. Truthfully, it’s a quality any story about a serial-killing Jane Eyre groupie should have.

    Yes, Jane Steele has murdered, “for love and for better reasons,” and the story of Jane Eyre has inspired her to tell her own, deepest, ugliest secrets and all. Each chapter begins with a relevant passage from Brontë, serving as an anchor for Steele, who is buoyed by the similarities between herself and her fictional hero, yet dryly critical of how her predecessor handled her trials and tribulations.

    This Jane is a different bird. Though still sensitive and quietly altruistic, she’s also scrappy, droll, and endlessly industrious. Often, she’s a firecracker just waiting for a fuse to be lit. But she’s far from a manic menace; Jane Steele is plagued by the deeper consequences of her actions, by the perilous fragility of truth, by the weight of her own conscience.

    Thus, by the time Jane Steele meets Mr. Thornfield, the splendidly sarcastic army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars to inherit her childhood home, she’s more a match for him than Mr. Rochester’s Jane ever was. She and Thornfield both have skeletons—many literal—in their closets, and it puts them on a more even footing as they pursue a romance. Whereas Jane Eyre’s innocent, unyielding stoicism endeared her to Rochester, adrift in his own failings, it’s Jane Steele’s crackling chutzpah that catches the tormented Thornfield’s eye. He sees in her much of what he sees in the mirror: someone running from a past darkened by tragedy not entirely of their own making.

    The result of all of this is a Jane Eyre for our age, with a heroine who can wield both a knife and a well-placed insult. That her crimes are endearing instead of alienating is both a tribute to Faye’s deceptively charming style and to Jane’s sturdy yet pliant moral code. Who could begrudge a few casualties when you’re having this much fun?

    Jane Steele is on sale March 22, and available for pre-order now.

     
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