Tagged: Classics Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Saskia Lacey 11:00 am on 2017/06/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Classics, , future classics   

    Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats 

    Here are fifty incredible literary works destined to become classics (in no particular order!). Many are Pulitzer Prize winners, but there are a few dark horses. If your favorite literary masterpiece has not been included, fret not, the comments section awaits! Tell us about any we’ve missed, any you disagree with, or any you think are spot on. And then add the ones you may not have gotten to yet to the top of your teeteringTo Be Read pile…

    The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace
    The last missive from one of our generation’s literary gods, The Pale King holds its ground among the author’s greatest works. Told from the perspective of an IRS agent, David Foster Wallace does the impossible: he shapes the seemingly drab work of accounting into something compelling, heartbreaking, and, of course, wonderfully comic.

    The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
    Peter Carey’s fictionalized account of a real man, Ned Kelly, paints the bank robber as a noble sort of scoundrel. Loved by the poor, but hated by the police, Ned Kelly, the Jesse James of Australia, writes to his daughter while hiding out from the law.

    Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates
    From Norma Jeane Baker to Marilyn Bombshell Monroe, Joyce Carol Oates takes us from the icon’s girlhood to Hollywood stardom. Fictional, but achingly believable, Blonde gives us a new vision of the silver screen legend.

    Chronic City, by Jonathan Lethem
    Chronic City revolves around Chase Insteadman, a former child actor, and Perkus Tooth, a pop culture fanatic with a Marlon Brando obsession. The two unlikely friends bond through a series of stoned adventures, some of which land them among the uber rich of New York’s Upper East Side.

    Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
    A story of captives and captors in South America, Ann Patchett’s novel is defined by its swoon-worthy prose. The novel’s setting is a birthday party for a wealthy businessman. Roxane Coss, a gifted opera singer, is the highlight of the evening. The party sours when a pack of terrorists turn the celebration into a war zone.

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    With just a pistol between them and the world’s (almost unspeakable) evils, father and son journey through a post-apocalyptic hellscape. McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is relentless, horrific, and impossible to turn away from.

    The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
    At a summer camp for the artistically gifted, six young people with “potential” forge lifelong friendships. After camp ends, each takes a different path. Some use their gifts to great success, their promised potential resulting in actual fame. The Interestings is about the joy, pain, comradery, and competition of creative friendships.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    A novel with an impossible history, House of Leaves was once just a stack of papers passed between friends. Now, years after its publication, the book is a horror classic. At the center of Danielewski’s novel is the house on Ash Tree Lane, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and full of strange secrets.

    Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
    King Henry VIII and the world are at odds. The King is determined to marry Anne Boleyn, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church. With Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel reinvents some of Britain’s most famous figures of history: Thomas Cromwell, and Henry VIII. Wolf Hall was winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

    The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates
    Across the city, girls from good families are disappearing. It’s the early 1900s and something is haunting Princeton, New Jersey. Joyce Carol Oates spins a marvelously gothic web with The Accursed, a novel populated by turn of the century greats like Grover Cleveland, Upton Sinclair, Woodrow Wilson, Jack London and Mark Twain.

    Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
    Powerfully funny, Olive Kitteridge is a novel-in-stories centered around a retired school teacher. Olive Kitteridge is a woman of big emotions. She is kind, ruthless, empathetic, and cruel. She is a total original. Strout’s collection of 13 narratives tells an epic story of a small New England town and its people.

    Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
    A tiger, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a boy named Pi are the lone survivors of a shipwreck. In time, only the boy and the tiger remain. The two survive for months at sea before landing in Mexico. Pi is eager to tell his story, but will anyone believe him?

    The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Namesake cemented Jhumpa Lahiri’s status as a literary great. Her novel centers around Gogol Ganguli, a child of immigrants who struggles with questions of identity. Throughout The Namesake, Gogol vacillates between trying to fit in, and embracing his position as an outsider. 

    The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Madeleine Hanna is an English major with a passion for Jane Austen and George Eliot, two literary masters of the marriage plot. But Madeleine’s life is unlike the novels she adores. As a young woman in the 1980s, love has little to do with the courtship rituals of the Victorian novel.

    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
    Elena and Lila are friends living in 1950s Italy. In their violent neighborhood, death is not a stranger. As the two friends grow and change, so does their environment. Elena reaches towards writing as an escape, while Lila’s ties to their neighborhood only become stronger. My Brilliant Friend is the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet.

    Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
    Purity, or Pip, is on the hunt. She has a murky past, a missing father, and a mother who refuses to answer questions. Her journey will take her to strange places—including a dubious internship in Bolivia—where she will meet unusual people. Among them is Andreas Wolf, a charismatic man with a dangerous history.

    Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
    Lydia was supposed to do what her Chinese American father never could: fit in. A young girl with a promising future, Lydia was bound to succeed. But everything changes when her body is found at the bottom of a lake. Celeste Ng’s story is one of a small town shaken by the death of a young girl and a family with secrets. Everything I never Told You is an astonishing new author’s debut novel.

    Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
    Joshua Ferris’ novel of corporate life is a familiar one. Told from the perspective of the collective—the first-person plural “We”—Then We Came to the End is filled with rumors, drama, competition, and workers gone rogue. Essentially, Ferris has created a realistic portrayal of the average, thoroughly dysfunctional, modern office.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    When an intimate moment is misinterpreted by a young girl, the consequences are tragic. Ian McEwan’s novel of two lovers separated by an imagined crime, explores the redemptive nature of storytelling.

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
    Michael Chabon’s novel of friendship and identity is a jubilant look at the Golden Age of comics. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, follows artist and magician Joe Kavalier and his comics-obsessed cousin, Sammy Clay, through New York during World War II.

    1Q84, by Haruki Murakami
    The world is not what it seems. Aomame tugs on the thread of reality, and finds it unravels. She should be in Tokyo in 1984, but instead she is in a disturbing and dreamlike parallel universe.

    A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
    A novel revered by music nerds, A Visit From the Goon Squad also happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. Egan’s work revolves around the lives of Bennie, a retired punk rocker, and Sasha, his pickpocket employee.

    White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
    For many, White Teeth was an introduction to literary wunderkind, Zadie Smith. The novel is a multicultural masterpiece that follows two London families, one willing to accept the status quo and another who will fight fate every step of the way.

    Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill
    In the aftermath of 9/11, an expat from London navigates a ruined New York. Alone in the city, he searches for connection in local cricket matches.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Three children are raised in an English boarding school, hidden from the rest of the world. They are told that they are special, but the reasons behind their unusual status are unknown. As they grow older, their purpose becomes terrifyingly clear.

    The Human Stain, by Philip Roth
    A well-respected professor, Coleman Silk, is accused of racism. The truth is something very different. Silk has a secret burden he has carried with him all his life. The Human Stain won 2001’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
    Named after a fictional town in Iowa, Gilead concerns itself with the life of an aging pastor. John Ames is a man who, even in his old age, retains an immovable Christian faith. In his seventies, Ames has a son, and grieving his lack of time, writes a letter to his son that takes a diary-like form. Gilead is winner of 2004’s Pulitzer Prize. 

    Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Jeffrey Eugenides epic novel centers around Calliope Stephanides. Calliope, later Cal, has been “born twice,” first as a girl, and later, as a boy. Middlesex revolves around Calliope’s transformation and the genetic secret kept by her Greek-American family. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex is a multigenerational tale of identity, family, reinvention, and humor.

    Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan
    An aging fashion model, Charlotte Swanson, gets in a horrific car accident. After a drastic surgery, she is unrecognizable. Charlotte “recovers” from her accident by throwing herself into drink and navigating her old New York haunts, newly anonymous. Charlotte’s story becomes entangled with that of another, younger Charlotte, who is involved with a dangerous stranger.

    The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
    Henry Townsend was once a slave, but at the beginning of Edward P. Jones’ novel, he is a dying slave owner. Henry has become a man who purchased his freedom only to enslave others. The Known World takes a searing look at the beginning of black “freedom” in America and its dangerous implications for both masters and slaves. 

    Invisible, by Paul Auster
    Adam Walker, a Columbia University undergrad with a love for poetry, is changed by a chance meeting with Rudolf Born, an intense man eager to become his patron. Adam’s dealings with Born quickly become complicated. When Born’s brutal nature finally reveals itself, Adam’s life is forever altered.

    The Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes
    Tony Webster’s middle age is comfortable, if a bit lonely. In his sixties, retired, and divorced, it seems that the rest of his life will follow a predictable course. But when visitors from his past upend Tony’s simple existence, he is forced to contend with memory, time, and the friendships and loves of his youth. 

    NW, by Zadie Smith
    Zadie Smith’s NW is the story of four Londoners who begin life in the same poor neighborhood. Each has grown up and reacted to their upbringing in a different way. Some find success, and others are left feeling perpetually displaced, unable to catch up with time. Zadie examines the joys and bitter disappointments of seeking a “traditional” path leading to marriage, children, and the inevitable attempts to escape from both. 

    The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
    Eleanor Catton’s novel takes place in 19th century New Zealand. Her cast of characters are drawn together by the country’s gold rush and a mysterious crime. Readers of The Luminaries will marvel as the novel’s mysteries slowly reveal themselves. Eleanor Catton’s novel is winner of the Man Booker Prize.

    The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
    A book with serious heft, reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is a commitment. Thankfully, the nearly 800-page novel, delivers in a big way. It is the story of a young man, Theo Decker, who loses his mother in a tragic accident. As a result of his mother’s death, Theo ends up living a strange life on Manhattan’s upper east side. Through it all is his obsession with Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch, a painting that reminds Theo of his lost mother.

    The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
    Chad Harbach’s novel follows Henry Skrimshander, an athlete whose destiny as a baseball great seems all but certain. But then, things go afoul. With one bad throw, Henry’s whole career hangs in the balance. The repercussions of the mistake are felt not only by Henry, but five others.

    The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood
    Winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Blind Assassin is a story of two sisters who couldn’t be more different. Iris Chase is sensible while her younger sister, Laura, has a wild streak. At the novel’s opening, an aged Iris reflects on her life and the death of her sister. Within this story is another, a science fiction novel penned by Laura. Through both fiction and nonfiction, the story of the two sisters takes shape.

    A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
    In 1976, there was an attempted assassination on Bob Marley. A Brief History of Seven Killings grows outward from this event, and covers the explosive history between Jamaica and the United States. Marlon James populates his novel with a diverse cast, which includes CIA agents, politicians, music journalists and drug dealers. 

    Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson
    Denis Johnson’s novel will break your heart. Its brutal setting is 1960s Vietnam. At the center of the novel is the story of a young CIA agent named William Sands. Tree of Smoke also features a protagonist from one of the author’s earlier novels, Bill Houston of Angels. Johnson’s novel is winner of 2007’s National Book Award.

    Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett
    Adam Haslett investigates the fraught terrain of mental illness over the course of two generations. Imagine Me Gone focuses on the terror caused by depression and anxiety to those afflicted and those who live with them. Despite its dark material, the novel is filled with warmth and humor.

    The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
    A poor town called Dickens is exiled from California. Taken off the map, Dickens ceases to exist. To fight against anonymity, an African American man does the unthinkable. He revives segregation and slavery, putting himself and his town on center stage, with a Supreme Court trial. Paul Beatty’s satirical novel is a hilarious and essential read.

    Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
    Richard Russo’s novel is a Pulitzer Prize winner. His book follows Miles Roby, a burger joint employee of two decades living in Empire Falls. The city is a dying town run by a wealthy, all-powerful family. Roby’s journey is a simple but compelling one.

    American Woman, by Susan Choi
    Susan Choi’s American Woman centers around an underground political community. She focuses on several young radicals living in hiding, a dark and paranoid existence. Choi’s novel is a claustrophobic character study of how we act under extreme pressure.

    The Circle, by Dave Eggers
    Mae Holland can’t believe she gets to work at the Circle, a nearly omnipotent internet company based in California. Mae starts at the bottom of the corporate ladder, but climbs quickly, becoming more and more entrenched in the company’s culture. The Circle is a spellbinding look at a particular moment in our tech history. Eggers sharply assesses the addictive nature of social media, the cost of total e-connectivity, and the benefits and terrifying consequences of modern surveillance. 

    Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson
    Robert Granier, born at the end of the 19th century, witnesses the shaping of the American West. He is an orphan who gains a family, only to lose them in a fire. A quick and haunting read, Train Dreams is a novella of immense impact. 

    The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
    A biting satire narrated by Balman Halwai, an entrepreneur and self-styled “man of tomorrow,” The White Tiger is a vision of the modern Indian class system from the perspective of a man who starts at the bottom. 

    The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    A young slave named Cora plots her escape from a cotton plantation. Her life is brutal beyond imagining. There is word of secret tunnels, a true underground railroad, but the journey is dangerous. As she travels towards what seems like an impossible freedom, Cora never feels safe; her hunters are always close behind.

    Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
    An immensely difficult but rewarding read, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is comprised of six stories. The style of each varies so greatly that the reader wouldn’t be surprised to learn each story was written by a different author. Cloud Atlas stretches across hundreds of years, transporting the reader from 19th century ships to alien gods of the future. 

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
    All Oscar wants is to find love. But being overweight, nerdy, and cursed, his chances don’t look good. Oscar and his Dominican family have been subject to the fukú, a supernatural curse, for as long as anyone can remember. If Oscar is to succeed in love and life, he must battle the unbeatable. 

    Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
    Walter and Patty Berglund haven’t yet learned how to live. A suburban couple with two children, in building their lives together the Berglunds may have compromised too much. Franzen’s novel follows Patty and Walter through their college years and beyond, where the figure of Walter’s charismatic best friend, Richard, looms large. While both Patty and Walter yearn for a different life, neither are quite willing to let go of the other.

    What books would you add to this list?

    The post Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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

    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, , ,   

    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 7:30 pm on 2017/01/13 Permalink
    Tags: blooming, Classics, , , ,   

    10 Things You Never Knew about James Joyce’s Ulysses 

    On the list of long, difficult books, Ulysses by James Joyce is easily in the top five. It’s one of those books everyone generally feels should be read, but may also be too intimidating to actually read. But it’s not as hard to read as its reputation might imply—deeply compelling, even amusing, from chapter to chapter. It’s also a source of some incredible trivia and surprising facts that might make it a little easier to contemplate. Without further ado, here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Ulysses.

    By the time he wrote it, Joyce hadn’t lived in Dublin for years
    Ulysses famously takes place over the course of a single day—June 16th, 1904—in Dublin, Ireland. Much of Joyce’s energy is expended on recreating Dublin, from the smells and sights to the layout of the streets. To this day, you can walk the city, following in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom, and see much of what he would have seen. Yet when he wrote the book, Joyce hadn’t lived in Dublin for years—working almost completely from memory in the days before Google Street View.

    Joyce’s wife is at its core
    The date covered in the book, June 16, 1904, is today known as Bloomsday (after the main character), and is celebrated in literary circles the world over. It wasn’t chosen randomly—that was the date of Joyce’s first official encounter with his future wife, Nora, who also serves as the template for Leopold’s wife Molly. Nora and Joyce had an, um, erotic encounter on a park bench on their first date, and as their love letters, attest their ardor for one another never waned—thus explaining why the date remained important to Joyce.

    Its last line is a climax
    There are various schools of thought on the “best” way to read the book, but one thing is for sure: you won’t take it all in on your first go-round. One thing that’s easy to miss the first time is that the final lines of the book are culmination of a lengthy stream-of-consciousness peek into Molly Bloom’s mind as she pleasures herself (composed of eight of the longest sentences in history), making that last line a literal climax. Which partially explains why …

    It was banned in the U.S. for 12 years
    Ulysses was initially serialized between 1918 and 1920, and published as a novel in 1922. But it was labeled pornographic and banned in the United States until 1934. Which, okay, there’s a lot of sex in it, and Joyce does celebrate the smuttier side. Which makes sense, because …

    It’s a comedy
    Much is made of the literary allusions, the structural basis in Homer’s The Odyssey, and other erudite aspects of Ulysses. That makes it easy to forget that Joyce is sending up many of those stuffy conventions. His big joke was to use Homer’s structure to tell a story filled with masturbation and scatological jokes, even while littering the work with obscure references to keep critics jumping through hoops. In other words, when you study Ulysses, Joyce is laughing at you.

    There’s an app for that
    Adapting this novel into any medium is going to be a challenge, but trying to cram it into a graphic novel seems particularly insane. Artist Robert Berry has decided to try, and he’s doing so through the modern-day media of the app, posting each page as he finishes. He estimate it will take about a decade to get through the whole book.

    You can read just three chapters and grasp the narrative
    As we mentioned, people have been arguing about the “best” way to read Ulysses more or less since it was published. Critics disagree about whether every chapter is necessary; even the book’s most ardent defenders will admit some of the chapters are a bit more obtuse than others. (A few even argue you can get away with reading just one chapter!) There are more than a few defenders of the notion that you can get the TL;DR version of Ulysses by reading the following chapters, and nothing else: “Telemachus,” “Calypso,” and “Penelope.” You’ll be missing out on a lot of great stuff, but you’ll also be able to fake your way through a conversation about Joyce’s masterpiece.

    You can’t read it “cold”
    Many folks have made the mistake of trying to read Ulysses like it’s any old ordinary novel. It isn’t. Joyce said, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant.” In other words, the allusions and references are the point. No matter who you are, you’re going to have to do a little research.

    It has somehow been filmed twice
    Surprisingly for one of the most interior, detailed stories of all time—a story seemingly impossible to adapt—Ulysses has been made into a movie twice. A 1967 version attempts to follow the story, and uses many lines straight from the page. In 2003, Bloom, starring Stephen Rae, took a looser approach in an attempt to approximate the novel’s “stream of consciousness” style. How successful either is at recreating Joyce’s masterpiece is definitely up for debate.

    Have you braved the journey of Ulysses?

     

    The post 10 Things You Never Knew about James Joyce’s Ulysses appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2016/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: august wilson, Classics, page and stage, the pittsburgh cycle,   

    Hopping Onto August Wilson’s The Pittsburgh Cycle 

    August Wilson (1945-2005) left behind a body of nearly 20 plays, but a good deal of his life’s work consists of an incredibly ambitious project, one not really attempted by anyone else in recent memory, if at all. Wilson wrote a cycle, or a set of plays on a loosely related theme. Wilson’s theme is the cultural, historical, and personal experiences of the African-American in the 20th century. And he wrote one play expressing that for each of the 10 decades of the century. It’s called The Century Cycle for obvious reasons, but it’s also known as The Pittsburgh Cycle, as nine out of the 10 plays are set in Wilson’s hometown of Pittsburgh, and in the traditionally African-American neighborhood of Hill District. Wilson didn’t write the plays of the Cycle in chronological order, and it isn’t a 10-part play; they aren’t sequels of each other, although they are connected.

    While August Wilson is one of the most prominent and regarded playwrights of the last few decades (two of the Cycle plays won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama), your local playhouse probably hasn’t done one of Wilson’s plays in a while. It’s because Wilson demanded that only all-African-American theater companies or casts perform his plays. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of those operating right now. (Chicago’s Goodman Theatre produced all 10 plays between 1986 and 2007, the Huntington Theatre Company of Boston has done the full Cycle, and Wilson’s hometown Pittsburgh Public Theatre has finished the Cycle, too.) What all this means is that you’re going to have a far easier time reading Wilson’s works than you are getting to see them live. But they’re so rich in cultural history and musical language that reading Wilson’s plays provides a completely different level of understanding and enjoyment.

    Gem of the Ocean (1900s)
    The first play chronologically (but ninth written) follows Aunt Ester, a 287-year-old matriarch who brings two boarders into her Pittsburgh home in 1904: a former slave and Union Army scout, and a young man from Alabama named Citizen Barlow. It explores the difficult period after the Civil War in which slavery was outlawed but African-Americans were skeptical of the government’s progressive reforms. Aunt Ester is a mystical cleanser of souls, and she helps Barlow literally break free of his past.

    Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1910s)
    Taking its title from the chorus of an early blues song, Joe Turner (written in 1988) is set in another boarding house, run by Seth and Bertha Holly, who head up the nontraditional family of itinerant workers. The play is set against the backdrop of the Great Migration of the 1910s, when a vast number of descendants of slaves left the South for good in search of better jobs and better treatment in northern states.

    Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1920s)
    Wilson’s 1984 play is the only one in the Cycle not set in Pittsburgh. It takes place entirely within a recording studio as the hugely popular and influential blues star Ma Rainey is about to record some songs…if she can get her band to get it together. And if she can get the record company to not cheat her.

    The Piano Lesson (1930s)
    It’s 1936, just after the Great Depression, and two grown siblings named Boy Willy and Berniece can’t decide whether or not to sell the very old piano they’ve had to their family for decades (stories of which are richly detailed by their uncle). The piano has deep meaning that leaves the siblings in conflict—will Boy Willy sell it to buy land, or should they keep it as a reminder of their past? The Piano Lesson won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

    Seven Guitars (1940s)
    Told in a non-chronological format, this play (written in 1995) takes place around the funeral of Floyd Barton, and the circumstances surrounding his death. Just out of prison but also a music star, he returns to Pittsburgh to mend relationships and atone for his mistakes. Things are going pretty good, until his life is violently cut short.

    Fences (1950s)
    It’s a little bit about broken dreams caused by racism, as well as a discussion of how institutionalized racism prevents advancement in the workplace. The main character in Fences is Troy, a former baseball player who didn’t get very far into the pros because he played before the color barrier was broken; he’s now a garbage collector who can’t seem to get promoted to garbage truck driver. Wilson won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

    Two Trains Running (1960s)
    It’s the very end of the ‘60s, and the Civil Rights Movement is winding down, and although laws have changed and progress has been made, life doesn’t feel too much different for the denizens of a Hill District neighborhood café. Malcolm X has been assassinated not long before, and the multiple generations of African-Americans clash in their outlook: for the older generation, it’s cynicism and pessimism, and for the younger group, it’s uncertainty.

    Jitney (1970s)
    In 1982, Wilson started the Cycle with this play—which suggested a lot more questions than it answered about the African-American experience. Like the rest of the Cycle, it’s a small, personal story that reflects little-reported history and the experience of millions. Demonstrating how the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s far from solved racism, Jitney is about unlicensed Pittsburgh cab drivers, or jitneys, operating in Pittsburgh’s Hill District…because the licensed cabs won’t go to that neighborhood.

    King Hedley II (1980s)
    Perhaps because it’s one of the most intimate, or perhaps it’s because it’s set in one of the most recent decades, King Hedley II is one of the most unnerving in the Cycle. Set in 1985 (and written in 1999), it’s the story of a man just out of prison trying to get his life together by selling stolen appliances to raise enough money to buy a small video rental store. It turns out that Reaganomics makes that goal virtually impossible.

    Radio Golf (1990s)
    The last play Wilson wrote—for the Cycle, and in his career—is also the last play in the Cycle chronologically. The plot tries to offer some closure, however ambiguous, to the loosely connected world of his plays. Aunt Ester returns as a spiritual figure, an important presence as two rich guys attempt to gentrify—and strip all character from—the Hill District, circa 1997. So, Wilson did get to see out his life’s great project. He witnessed Yale Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of the play in early 2005, a few months before he passed away. And just two weeks later, Wilson’s legacy was solidified when the Virginia Theatre on Broadway was renamed the August Wilson Theatre.

    The post Hopping Onto August Wilson’s The Pittsburgh Cycle appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
esc
cancel