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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , first impressions are everything, , james baldwin, toni morrison, virginia wolfe,   

    The Ideal First Novel for 10 “Must Read” Authors 

    The list of “must read” authors is long, and differs depending on who you ask. But usually, the authors on these lists are (or were) pretty prolific, and like a pool of frigid water, you may be nervous about diving into their backlists; better to dip your toe in first. Here are 10 ideal “starter novels” for authors guaranteed to be on many, if not most, lists of can’t miss writers.

    Author: William Faulkner. Start Here: The Reivers

    Experts will insist you must read The Sound and the Fury, a real bear of a book. A brilliant novel, sure, but also one that drops you into the deep end on page one and then proceeds to hold your head under water for 300 pages. Instead of tackling what can be a frustrating and difficult read, start with Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, which discards most of his heavier literary gambits to tell one of the most straightforward stories of his career, a lightly comedic picaresque about three unlikely car thieves in a small Mississippi town. That doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant novel—it was award the Pulitzer Prize, after all—but it does mean you’ll get an intro to Faulkner’s sensibility and obsessions without having to parse his peculiarly Southern style.

    Author: William Shakespeare. Start Here: Much Ado About Nothing

    Just about everyone is assigned Shakespeare at some point in their high school or college careers, usually one of the major plays: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth. Aside from the challenge of reading works designed to be performed, his major works can be dense with allusion, reference, and, of course, wordplay (and in archaic language, no less). What makes Much Ado About Nothing a good choice for a first attempt at the Bard is its sense of fun—it’s a comedy, so the wordplay is less about historical and political references and more about, well, making off-color jokes. Even on the page, it’s hilarious and playful, which takes away some of the anxiety and difficulty.

    Author: Stephen King. Start here: Misery

    King might seem a surprising inclusion here, but as his career has gone on, his literary cred has gone up by orders of magnitude; it could be argued that anyone seeking an understanding of modern literary culture has to be familiar with the man once crowned the Master of Horror. The problem, of course, is that King’s best-known books (the ones most likely to be recommended to a newcomer) are long, and often dense with references to other works written in his uniquely wordy style. Instead of diving into the infinite pages of The Stand, start with Misery, one of the tightest, most-focused books King has ever written. It has the fluid prose and creeping dread of his longer, much-beloved books, minus the over-arching mythology that clutters much of his work, and the supernatural aspects that might turn some folks off.

    Author: Leo Tolstoy. Start Here: The Death of Ivan Ilyich

    The words “Russian novel,” with their connotations of length, complexity, and dour atmosphere, might scare you off of Tolstoy and his contemporaries altogether. Still, some of the greatest works of fiction come from this literary tradition, and Tolstoy’s name is always on the list of challenging must-read authors. Before dedicating a year of your life to War and Peace, pick up the relatively short and uncomplicated The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It’s a powerful story that touches on the themes and techniques the author uses to incredible effect in his major works, but it’s accessible in a way that those other novels aren’t—and deals in universal themes you can appreciate even if you’re not a Russian living in the 19th century. It’s the perfect introduction to Tolstoy’s genius.

    Author: Charles Dickens. Start Here: Great Expectations

    Dickens is one of those oddball literary greats who is also much maligned. Bring up Dickens, and half the room will complain that he was paid by the word and thus wrote sloppy, structureless stories merely designed to entertain, with no greater artistic merit. The other half will ask what, exactly, is the problem with that? Dickens had a way with words, and his storytelling techniques revolutionized literature, but his books are a bit lengthy, and they do get quite complicated. Start with Great Expectations; it’s the novel that would result if you poured all of Dickens’ other works into a computer and had it gin up a more concise, sharply-organized version of the ideal Dickens story.

    Author: Haruki Murakami. Start Here: A Wild Sheep Chase

    Murakami is another mainstay on the list of challenging contemporary authors, and it’s usually because people recommend his most famous works first—dense bricks like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle1Q84 or Kafka on the Shore. These books are brilliant, but they are also difficult to parse, unique in both style and structure, not to mention imagery. To ease into Murakami, start with A Wild Sheep Chase—it’s got all the trademark weirdness, but within a much more straightforward story. It will help you feel like you “get” Murakami, even the parts you don’t, so by the time you read one of his “must-read” books, your head (probably) won’t explode. Some might argue for Norwegian Wood, which has more in common with traditional Western literature, but that one is an outlier in his bibliography, and won’t prepare you for the epic strangeness of his major works.

    Author: Ernest Hemingway. Start Here: The Sun Also Rises

    Anyone seeking to pad out their reading resume will be eventually directed to Hemingway; love him or hate him, there’s no arguing that his style and approach to fiction—both very consciously honed and developed—changed everything. His influence is immense, so you simply have to read him, if only to decide for yourself if his reputation is deserved. You might be advised to start with The Old Man and the Sea because of its relative simplicity and slim page count, but don’t—it’s an outlier, his final major work, and doesn’t represent what made Hemingway Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises is the ideal starting point—the story is engaging in ways that some of his other novels aren’t, yet it also features the Hemingway “style” at its most controlled.

    Author: Virginia Woolf. Start Here: A Room of One’s Own

    Virginia Woolf’s contributions to modern literature are everywhere—subtle, often hidden or downplayed, but there nonetheless. But reading her major works of fiction if you’re not a student of literature can be daunting, so instead, start with her excellent, book-length essay, which implements a fictional narrator and story, and yet is nonetheless considered non-fiction. If you think it takes great talent to pull something like off, you’d be right. The benefit of starting here is that you’ll get a much clearer idea of Woolf’s literary sensibility and thematic focus before diving into her fiction.

    Author: Toni Morrison. Start Here: The Bluest Eye

    Morrison is one of the most important writers of the 20th century; her work is consistently beautiful and poetic. But you shouldn’t just dive into Beloved—as incredible as that book is, it is one of the densest popular literary novels ever written, a book in which Morrison’s prose resonates, where an unexpected structure and layered allusions to myth and history form something greater than the sum of its parts. Instead, dip your toe in with The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s first novel, and which shows the beginnings of her style while keeping the number of characters and the branches of the plot more limited than her later work, which will allow you to pay closer attention to the smart things Morrison is doing on the edges (and to listen to that prose sing).

    Author: James Baldwin. Start Here: Giovanni’s Room

    If you’re looking to master 20th century American literature, you’re going to have to tackle Baldwin at some point. His work is beautiful, but it also focuses on social commentary and criticism; Baldwin was a writer who was part of the world instead of removed from it. This can make his novels challenging, because they are all doing three things at once—telling a story, teaching a lesson, and shining a light on some of society’s worst aspects. Giovanni’s Room is an early novel that has all of that, but the central love story—concerning a man who falls in love with another man while on honeymoon with his new wife—is primal and tortured, compelling and universal. When you consider how ahead of its time this book is, it’s essential reading—and the perfect intro to Baldwin’s body of work.

    The post The Ideal First Novel for 10 “Must Read” Authors appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , bentley little, bird box, blindness, , carrion comfort, , , , dathan auerbach, dawn, , exquisite corpose, , ghost story, , hell house, , , , jack ketchum, jose saramago, josh malarian, koji suzuki, lionel shriver, , , , , , penal, , peter straub, poppy z. brite, ramsey campbell, , richard matheson, ring, rosemary’s baby, scott smith, , something wicked this way comes, , the face that must die, the girl next door, , the ruins, the walking, , toni morrison, we need to talk about kevin,   

    25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever 

    Literature can be a moving, beautiful artistic experience. Skilled writers can bring us face to face with scenarios and emotions we might never encounter in real life, expanding our understanding of both the universe and our fellow man.

    It can also scare the living daylights out of us. Horror novels don’t always get the respect they deserve; just because something is scary doesn’t mean it’s not “literary” or well-crafted art, but if the core purpose of a story is perceived to be “making you soil yourself in fear” for some reason that story won’t get much respect. Of course, a story can be terrifying without necessarily being great art. If your goal is to be so terrified of a book that you put it in the freezer and book a hotel room for a few days, here are twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest.

    Literally Everything Edgar Allan Poe Wrote
    Poe had a knack for infusing everything he wrote with visceral dread. His characters and narrators tend towards the mentally fragile and the insane, people who are haunted by things that might be literal or might be manifestations of their unsound thought processes. Either way, stories like The Tell-Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado retain their power to petrify more than a century-and-a-half after their publication because Poe tapped into the fundamental fear we all have that the world and people around us are not what they seem.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    Put simply, House of Leaves is one of the most frightening books ever written. From a fairly standard horror premise (a house is revealed to be slightly larger on the inside than is strictly possible) Danielewski spins out a dizzying tale involving multiple unreliable narrators, typographic mysteries, and looping footnotes that manage to drag the reader into the story and then make them doubt their own perception of that story. It’s a trick no one else has managed to such dramatic effect, making this novel more of a participatory experience than any other work of literature—which, considering the dark madness at its core, isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience.

    Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
    The film adaptation has supplanted the novel in pop culture, but the novel was a huge hit for Levin—and the film actually sticks to the plot and dialog so closely you really do get a feel for the novel from watching it. The story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after a nightmare gets its terror not from the well-known twist of the baby’s parentage (hint: not her husband), but from the increasing isolation Rosemary experiences as her suspicions about everyone around her grow. So many threads tie into the terror, from the emotional and economic uncertainty of a struggling young couple to the simple fear any mother has for their child, all expertly knotted into a story that will keep you awake at night.

    The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
    When you think about clichés in horror fiction, the haunted house is at the top of the list, an idea done so often it’s frequently an unintentional parody. Shirley Jackson, however, was no ordinary writer, and she takes the concept of the haunted house and perfects it. The Haunting of Hill House is simply the best haunted house story ever written. The scares come not just from the malevolent actions of a house that seems sentient and angry, but from the claustrophobia we experience from the novel’s unreliable narrator, Eleanor, whose descent into madness is slow and excruciating and only begins after we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming relatability of her early persona.

    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    The great sage Pat Benatar once sang that hell is for children. Golding’s account of children stranded on an island without supplies or adult supervision is absolutely terrifying for one simple reason: there’s nothing supernatural going on. It’s a story about insufficiently socialized humans descending into savagery because that’s our fundamental nature. You look into the abyss at the center of this novel and the abyss looks back.

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
    Another story centered on the terror of children, the horror inherent in this story comes from the fact that the human beings we create eventually become their own people—and possibly strangers to us. Not everyone has a close and loving relationship with their parents, and while the idea that your own kids might grow up to be criminals isn’t pleasant, most people assume they will at least recognize themselves in their kids. But what if you don’t? What if your child—your child—is a blank monster?

    Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
    In the Internet Age it’s pretty easy to fall down a rabbit hole of pop culture obsession, and there are still dark areas of culture that haven’t had a wiki created around them. Pessl’s story about a mysterious underground filmmaker whose movies may or may not contain hints of dark power and horrific events and the journalist who becomes obsessed with him asks the reader how you can be certain there’s a clear line between fact and fiction, then, once that wedge of doubt is established, presents a terrifying fiction to fill that space.

    Ring, by Kōji Suzuki
    The novel that inspired the horror films of the same name, the premise is well-known: anyone who watches a mysterious videotape of creepy images is informed that they will die in seven days—and then they die. The investigation into the tape and how to avoid this grim fate leads to what remains an incredibly shocking backstory involving rape, smallpox, and a forgotten well. Technology has shifted, but the terror never really relied on VHS tapes—it’s the concept that ideas can be deadly, that simply by experiencing something you can be doomed, that’s so horrifying.

    Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach
    Pivoting on the idea that we’re often blinded by the details we can see, making it impossible to see the bigger picture, Auerbach’s debut began life as a series of creepypasta stories on the Internet. The episodic nature of the story is ideal for the effect he achieves; the narrator tells of being a young boy and sending a penpal request attached to a balloon with his classmates, including his best friend Josh. He doesn’t receive a response until nearly a year later, and his life takes a turn for the bizarre shortly afterwards. A series of tragic and strange things happen to him and everyone around him, building a sense of dread that is only increased when the truth is revealed.

    Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons
    Simmons’ novel follows several groups of people who have The Ability, a psychic power that allows them to take control of others from a distance and force them to perform any action. When one of their puppets murders someone, the person with The Ability is invigorated and strengthened. Simmons doesn’t shy away from the implications of this power on history and the future, and the book will destroy any sense of security you have in the world around you, revealed to possibly be simply a worldwide board game for those who can control us all like pawns.

    Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
    Several of King’s books could be on this list, but he frequently blunts the terror of his stories with the richness and humanity of his characterizations and the sprawl of his narratives. Pet Sematary manages to be his most terrifying novel by dint of its simple, devastating concept: a magical cemetery where buried things come back to a sort-of life—but aren’t quite what they once were. From that simple idea King ramps up to a climax that gets under your skin in a fundamental way most horror stories fail to.

    The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
    Horror often pivots on the corruption or warping of societal norms and rules; once you feel like you can’t rely on the natural social order, literally anything is possible. Ketchum’s disturbing novel about the unimaginable abuse suffered by two sisters when they are forced to live with their mentally unstable aunt and her three savage sons is based on real events, but it’s the central theme of an adult giving official sanction to the atrocities that makes this story so utterly horrifying.

    Blindness, by Jose Saramago
    Helplessness is a key factor in a lot of horror; most people labor under the delusion that they are in charge of their destiny and their lives, and horror is often effective simply by reminding us how little control we actually have. An epidemic of blindness leaves an entire city’s population secluded in a mental institution as society within and without crumbles. The brutality and descent into animalistic madness is all too realistic, and Saramago manages to capture the terrifying confusion and helplessness experienced by people in a society that no longer functions.

    Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
    McCarthy’s entire writing style and technique is terrifying; the man could write a grocery list that leaves the reader dripping with dread. This tale of extreme, ruthless, and pervasive violence in the American west emerges from under a sheen of the unreal to become all too real, and the greatest trick McCarthy manages here is by making the single most terrifying aspect of the story—the main character’s death—the one act of brutality he doesn’t depict, leaving the terrors contained within that scene to our imagination—which is infinitely worse than anything he might have conjured.

    Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z. Brite
    Brite’s most famous novel follows two serial killers who initially aim to kill each other but, upon discovering a fellow traveler, instead engage in a spree of horrific sex and murder. The matter-of-fact way the pair concocts a plan to kidnap, torture, and then consume a beautiful gay man named Tran is the sort of stuff that could simply be shocking, but Brite continuously considers the value of existence and what we could all be doing with the time we have left—time we too often imagine to be infinite when, of course, we’re all going to be consumed someday by something.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s epic rumination on childhood and adulthood tells the story of a magical circus come to a small town, offering the residents dark gifts they weren’t aware they wanted—most notably the carousel that can change your physical age, making boys who yearn to be adults grow older, and middle-aged men and women who yearn for their lost youth to grow younger. Bradbury knows the worst horror in the world is losing the natural order of your life, and perfectly captures the combination of dread and excitement everyone experiences as they crack the mysteries separating them from adulthood.

    Hell House, by Richard Matheson
    What Matheson taps into in this classic haunted house story is the universal fear that we are already lost, already broken. Hired to investigate the existence of an afterlife by exploring the notoriously haunted Belasco House, a team moves in and slowly succumbs to the influence of the entity within—an entity that only uses their own weaknesses and secret shames against them. Their descent into the depths of horror is too close for comfort as a result—for everyone reading the book knows all too well that they have weaknesses, and secret shames, as well.

    The Face That Must Die, by Ramsey Campbell
    Campbell wrote a number of books that are absolutely terrifying, but this one stands out in the way he forces the reader to completely inhabit the mind of a very sick man, Horridge. As he fixates on an overweight man living in his neighborhood, the reader is forced to see the world consistently through his eyes. Everything is off-beat, everything drips with ominous meaning and horrific intent. Horridge sees the entire world as a horror that must be destroyed, and for a while the reader is carried along on that uncomfortable point of view, leaving them exhausted and terrified.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Told in alternating chapters that depict a group of aspiring writers voluntarily secluded in an unusual writer’s retreat and the stories they’re writing, Haunted not only contains one of the most disturbing short stories ever published (“Guts,” which caused several people to faint when Palahniuk read it in public) it’s also a deep dive into madness as the reality-TV obsessed characters start sabotaging their experiment in a quest for fame. The sense of suffocating dread that Palahniuk applies grows so incrementally you don’t notice it until you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath for five pages.

    Dawn, by Octavia Butler
    Although technically science fiction, this story of the human race centuries after a devastating apocalypse is straight terror in many ways. Lilith is one of the last surviving humans, awakened on an alien ship. The aliens, three-sexed and many-tentacled, offer Lilith a deal: they will help her repopulated the Earth, but their price is to breed with humanity to gain humanity’s “talent” for cancer (and the creative possibilities it offers) while blunting their self-destructive tendencies. The horror imbued in each page is subtle, but it exerts tremendous mental pressure as you progress through the story.

    The Walking, by Bentley Little
    Far from just another tale of zombies, Little’s story of a man whose father rises from death after a stroke sizzles with a sense of doom long before the reader understands what’s at stake. Discovering that many families are hiding zombie relatives, and have been for some time, private investigator Miles Huerdeen digs into the mystery—and what he finds is easily the scariest stuff about zombies you’ll ever read. If you watch zombie movies and shows and laugh at their shuffling, mindless threat, this book will change your mind.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Smith’s story is deceptively simple: a group of tourists in Mexico go off in search of an archaeological site where a friend has set up camp; they find a pyramid covered in odd vines, the land around it salted and barren. Once on the pyramid, they discover the dead body of their friend, covered in the vines, and that the nearby villagers have arrived with guns to force them to remain on the pyramid. The vines are one of those simple monsters that seem so easy to defeat at first blush, yet the inexorable doom that descends on the characters slowly, grindingly proves otherwise.

    Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
    Malerman’s intense story of a world that slowly crumbles as people go murderously insane after seeing mysterious creatures—referred to simply as The Problem—is so scary because the reader only has the information that the characters have, and that’s not much. The world collapses and the survivors can only seal themselves off from the outside and try to avoid the worst, leading to a torturous wearing down of hope that leaves the reader defenseless against the horrible images Malerman conjures.

    Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
    A good old-fashioned ghost story is designed to terrify and entertain, and Straub’s breakthrough novel does both. Five old friends gather regularly to trade ghost stories, but when one of them dies mysteriously and the survivors begin to dream of their own deaths, a secret from their past is revealed—and the simple pleasures of a ghost story are explored to their most frightening ends by a master of the form.

    Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    If you don’t think of Beloved as a horror story, you haven’t been paying attention. Morrison’s skill as a writer is in full effect as she draws the reader into what is assuredly one of the saddest and most horrifying stories committed to paper. There’s no more terrifying sequence than the long slide into madness as escaped slave Sethe, convinced the young woman calling herself Beloved is the daughter she murdered in an attempt to keep her safe from slavers come to reclaim them, grows steadily thinner and weaker as she gives everything she has—including food—to Beloved, who grows steadily larger.

    Did we leave off any truly terrifying books? Let us know in the comments.

    The post 25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jenny Shank 5:30 pm on 2015/11/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , toni morrison, ,   

    Writing Advice from Great Authors to Get You Through NaNoWriMo 

    Across the country this November, aspiring novelists are clacking away at their keyboards in service of National Novel Writing Month, in which participants must write 50,000 words in 30 days. Part of the process for many involves reading any book of writing advice they can get their hands on, alongside profiles and interviews with their favorite authors, in hopes of finding the secret that will make writing a novel quick, painless, and fruitful. As a fellow seeker, I can tell you there is no such secret—and yet, there are certain nuggets of wisdom I’ve found in my quest that have stuck with me, and help me every time I make a new attempt at writing a novel. While I’m writing, I repeat certain snippets of this advice like a mantra in my head: “This is just the down draft. Get it down. Now, don’t go visit Mr. Coffee! Stay in the chair! Done? Okay, now stick it in the drawer for six weeks.” Here are 7 tips for those who are getting started on writing a novel, those who are along the way, and those ready to revise.

    Getting Started

    Get it Down.
    “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”
    –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

    Write the Missing Book You Want to See in the Bookstore.
     “There were no books about me, I didn’t exist at all in the literature I had read…this person, this female, this black did not exist.”
    Toni Morrison, quoted in Toni Morrison: Contemporary World Writers by Jill Matus

    ”If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.”
    Beverly Cleary

    Along The Way

    Treat Princesses and Chambermaids with Equal Dignity.
    “Lucia’s guidance was quiet and subtle, with one memorable exception: the tyranny of the preachy narrator. Write your characters as ghastly as you like, she said, but get off their backs. Chekhov was her hero, for his fierce discipline toward impartiality. A princess and a chambermaid, she said—Chekhov would treat them exactly the same. Lucia let that sink in and then probed to see if I’d internalized that as ennoble the maid. Of course. It was the princess I had to look out for, she said—most writers were likely to dis her. And the maid didn’t need my pity or false praise.”
    –Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine, writing about his teacher Lucia Berlin for Vanity Fair.

    Don’t Go Visit Mr. Coffee. The Writer is The Person Who Stays In The Room.
    “When you’re a writer you spend days in the room without knowing what you’ve got, but you’re still willing to keep reeling it in and following it. You’re willing to be true to it. It may mean you have to write thirty pages to get fifteen. The big secret to such writing is the ability to stay in the room. The writer is the person who stays in the room…all the good writing I’ve done in the last ten years has been done in the first twenty minutes after the first time I wanted to leave the room. I’ve learned to stay there and keep writing. I think, ‘Oh, I’ll just go get some coffee.’ Well, I love coffee, but I don’t really want any coffee at that moment. What’s happened is that I’ve confronted a little problem that’s got me kind of rattled. I can’t identify it. I don’t even know I’m rattled. I just don’t want to go on. A threshold’s come between me and the page, and I want to get out of there. I have a Mr. Coffee in the kitchen and, when I get to it, I find I also have a Mr. Refrigerator. There’s Mr. Kitchen Table, Mr. Newspaper, Mr. Big Long Couch, Mr. World Outside the Window, and honest to god, my career as a writer is over and I’m dead in the water. So I’ve learned to stay there…I’ve learned that the cup of coffee I fix afterwards is really good. Staying in the chair improves the quality of that beverage.”
    Ron Carlson, quoted in Glimmer Train Stories Writers Ask, issue 23

    Making It Good

    Figure Out What Your Charm is and Hone It.
    “Writing is about charm, about finding and accessing and honing ones’ particular charms.”
    George Saunders, “My Writing Education,The New Yorker.

    Give it A Rest.
    Stephen King advises writers to let their books rest for six weeks between drafts. “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks…If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own…With six weeks’ worth of recuperation time, you’ll also be able to see any glaring holes in the plot or character development. And listen—if you spot a few of these big holes, you are forbidden to feel depressed about them or to beat up on yourself. Screw-ups happen to the best of us.”
    –Stephen King, On Writing

     

     
  • Jenny Shank 6:30 pm on 2015/10/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , toni morrison,   

    Where to Start Guide: Toni Morrison 

    The incomparable Toni Morrison looms large in American literature. She’s the only living American novelist who has won the Nobel Prize in literature, and only the second American female writer to ever win it. Other honors for her 11 novels include the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison’s reputation for genius can make her work seem unapproachable if you’ve never read her before, but it would be a shame to miss out on this singular storyteller, whose lyrical prose feels like it has a live current of electricity running through it. If you’ve never read Morrison, or are looking to explore more of her work, try these five can’t-miss books.

    The Bluest Eye
    Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931, and her first novel, set in her hometown, might offer first-time readers the best entry to her world. “Quiet as it’s kept,” Morrison writes, “there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that the marigolds did not grow.” The story of 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove, a confused, mistreated African American girl who wishes for eyes as blue as Shirley Temple’s, was revolutionary when it hit bookstores in 1970, and remains startling for the depth of its revelations.

    Beloved
    Morrison’s riveting 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner is the novel that shows off the most of her gifts at once: her poetic prose that almost seems as though it’s meant to be sung, her fierce storytelling instincts, her ability to channel folklore and history into a tale all her own, and her knack for creating an unconventional structure that underscores the impact of the story. This harrowing novel, set after the Civil War, concerns a ghost named Beloved who haunts her mother, Sethe, a woman who killed her child rather than let her be taken into captivity by a posse seeking runaway slaves in 1856.

    Song of Solomon
    Next to Beloved, Song of Solomon is probably Morrison’s most lauded book, winning the National Book Critics Circle award and a boost from Oprah’s Book Club decades after its publication. This novel is one of Morrison’s only books to feature a male protagonist, the unforgettable Macon “Milkman” Dead III, so named because he kept breastfeeding long past babyhood and was teased for it. In this coming-of-age story set in Michigan, Macon must navigate the complications of growing up as a black man in America, including a rift between his parents and a young woman’s obsessive, unrequited love for him.

    Jazz
    Morrison’s Jazz hasn’t gotten as much attention as some of her other books, but it’s a favorite of mine, in part because of its fascinating setting: Harlem in the 1920s. Morrison incorporates rhythms of African American music into the book’s structure. It opens with its narrator discussing a bit of neighborhood gossip, the sad tale of doomed love at the novel’s heart: “He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going.” The language in Jazz is as sensuous as the passions are unbridled.

    God Help The Child
    The 84-year-old Morrison isn’t ready to retire to the literary hall of fame just yet. She remains a working writer publishing accomplished novels just as frequently in the ninth decade of her life as she did during the stunning beginning of her career. God Help The Child tells the story of Bride, a woman whose light-skinned mother rejected her because she was born “midnight black, Sudanese black.” Bride tries to attract her mother’s attention any way she can, and ends up accusing an innocent person of a crime. When Bride grows up, she tries to make amends for her lie, drives off her lover with a revelation, and then sets out to regain him. Morrison’s writing feels loose and fresh in this novel, as she delves into magical realism. “What you do to children matters,” Morrison writes, underscoring a theme to be found in many of her novels, “And they might never forget.”

     
  • Jenny Shank 6:30 pm on 2015/10/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , song of solomon, , toni morrison,   

    Where to Start Guide: Toni Morrison 

    The incomparable Toni Morrison looms large in American literature. She’s the only living American novelist who has won the Nobel Prize in literature, and only the second American female writer to ever win it. Other honors for her 11 novels include the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison’s reputation for genius can make her work seem unapproachable if you’ve never read her before, but it would be a shame to miss out on this singular storyteller, whose lyrical prose feels like it has a live current of electricity running through it. If you’ve never read Morrison, or are looking to explore more of her work, try these five can’t-miss books.

    The Bluest Eye
    Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931, and her first novel, set in her hometown, might offer first-time readers the best entry to her world. “Quiet as it’s kept,” Morrison writes, “there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that the marigolds did not grow.” The story of 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove, a confused, mistreated African American girl who wishes for eyes as blue as Shirley Temple’s, was revolutionary when it hit bookstores in 1970, and remains startling for the depth of its revelations.

    Beloved
    Morrison’s riveting 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner is the novel that shows off the most of her gifts at once: her poetic prose that almost seems as though it’s meant to be sung, her fierce storytelling instincts, her ability to channel folklore and history into a tale all her own, and her knack for creating an unconventional structure that underscores the impact of the story. This harrowing novel, set after the Civil War, concerns a ghost named Beloved who haunts her mother, Sethe, a woman who killed her child rather than let her be taken into captivity by a posse seeking runaway slaves in 1856.

    Song of Solomon
    Next to Beloved, Song of Solomon is probably Morrison’s most lauded book, winning the National Book Critics Circle award and a boost from Oprah’s Book Club decades after its publication. This novel is one of Morrison’s only books to feature a male protagonist, the unforgettable Macon “Milkman” Dead III, so named because he kept breastfeeding long past babyhood and was teased for it. In this coming-of-age story set in Michigan, Macon must navigate the complications of growing up as a black man in America, including a rift between his parents and a young woman’s obsessive, unrequited love for him.

    Jazz
    Morrison’s Jazz hasn’t gotten as much attention as some of her other books, but it’s a favorite of mine, in part because of its fascinating setting: Harlem in the 1920s. Morrison incorporates rhythms of African American music into the book’s structure. It opens with its narrator discussing a bit of neighborhood gossip, the sad tale of doomed love at the novel’s heart: “He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going.” The language in Jazz is as sensuous as the passions are unbridled.

    God Help The Child
    The 84-year-old Morrison isn’t ready to retire to the literary hall of fame just yet. She remains a working writer publishing accomplished novels just as frequently in the ninth decade of her life as she did during the stunning beginning of her career. God Help The Child tells the story of Bride, a woman whose light-skinned mother rejected her because she was born “midnight black, Sudanese black.” Bride tries to attract her mother’s attention any way she can, and ends up accusing an innocent person of a crime. When Bride grows up, she tries to make amends for her lie, drives off her lover with a revelation, and then sets out to regain him. Morrison’s writing feels loose and fresh in this novel, as she delves into magical realism. “What you do to children matters,” Morrison writes, underscoring a theme to be found in many of her novels, “And they might never forget.”

     
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