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Archive for the ‘reading’ Category

McEwan’s latest

Posted by Mariel Amez on April 4, 2010

Academic prestige, pride, adultery and death (murder?)  set in the midst of worries and possible solutions for global warming seem to be the main ingredients of Ian Mc Ewan’s latest novel, Solar.

Worried you cannot attend the author’s readings? New media offer you a chance:

Some reviews you may want to try out are those from The New York Times, The Guardian and National Public Radio (NPR) – including an excerpt from the novel.

You can also visit the author’s own website for a collection of links to reviews, book tour dates in the USA and Canada and other interesting info.

I know I want to read it soon. What about you?


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My contribution

Posted by rlothringer on February 10, 2010

To pay homage to J. D Salinger I want to share with you the lines published by David Lodge in the NYTimes.

The Pre-Postmodernist


Published: January 29, 2010

Birmingham, England

THE life of J. D. Salinger, which has just ended, is one of the strangest and saddest stories in recent literary history. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to let the disappointment of the second half of Mr. Salinger’s career — consisting of a long short story called “Hapworth 16, 1924” that reads as though he allowed the pain of hostile criticism to blunt the edge of self-criticism that every good writer must possess, followed by 45 years of living like a hermit in the New Hampshire woods — to overshadow the achievements of the first half.

The corpus of his good work is very small, but it is classic. His was arguably the first truly original voice in American prose fiction after the generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner. Of course nothing is absolutely original in literature, and Mr. Salinger had his precursors, of whom Hemingway was one, and Mark Twain — from whose Huck Finn Hemingway said that all modern American literature came — another. From them he learned what you could do with simple, colloquial language and a naïve youthful narrator. But in “The Catcher in the Rye” Mr. Salinger applied their lessons in a new way to create a new kind of hero, Holden Caulfield, whose narrative voice struck a chord with millions of readers.

The narrative is in a style the Russians call skaz, a nice word with echoes of jazz and scat in it, which uses the repetitions and redundancies of ordinary speech to produce an effect of sincerity and authenticity — and humor: “The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl … she keeps telling you to stop. The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don’t. I can’t help it. You never know whether they really want you to stop, or whether they’re just scared as hell, or whether they’re just telling you to stop so that if you do go through with it, the blame’ll be on you, not them. Anyway, I keep stopping. The trouble is, I get to feeling sorry for them. I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t any brains. I don’t know. They tell me to stop, so I stop.”

It looks easy, but it isn’t.

Nearly everybody loves “The Catcher in the Rye,” and most readers enjoy Mr. Salinger’s first collection of short stories, “Nine Stories.” But the work that followed, the four long short stories paired together in two successive books as “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction,” were less reader-friendly and provoked more critical comment, leading eventually to the retreat of the wounded author into solitude.

This was as much the consequence of critical failure as of authorial arrogance. These books challenged conventional notions of fiction and conventional ways of reading as radically as the kind of novels that would later be called post-modernist, and a lot of critics didn’t “get it.” The saga of the Glass family is stylistically the antithesis of “Catcher” — highly literary, full of rhetorical tropes, narrative devices and asides to the reader — but there is also continuity between them. The literariness of the Glass stories is always domesticated by a colloquial informality. Most are narrated by Buddy, the writer in the family, who says at the outset of “Zooey” that “what I’m about to offer isn’t really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie.”

The nearest equivalent to this saga in earlier literature is perhaps the 18th-century antinovel “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman,” by Laurence Sterne. There is the same minutely close observation of the social dynamics of family life, the same apparent disregard for conventional narrative structure, the same teasing hints that the fictional narrator is a persona for the real author, the same delicate balance of sentiment and irony, and the same humorous running commentary on the activities of writing and reading.

How Shandean, for instance, is Buddy’s presentation to the reader in “Seymour” of “this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((( )))). I suppose, most unflorally, I truly mean them to be taken, first off, as bow-legged — buckle-legged — omens of my state of mind and body at this writing.”

Seymour Glass first appeared in one of the “Nine Stories,” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” as a disturbed veteran of World War II (as Mr. Salinger himself was), who on vacation with his rather shallow wife, after a charmingly droll conversation with a little girl on the beach, shockingly shoots himself in the last paragraph. The late stories are all in some way about the attempts of Seymour’s surviving siblings to come to terms with this action. This often takes a religious direction, and presents the Glass family as a kind of spiritual elite, struggling against a tide of materialism and philistinism with the aid of Christian existentialism, Eastern mysticism and a select pantheon of great writers.

This cultural and spiritual elitism got up the noses of many critics, but I think they overlooked the fact that Mr. Salinger was playing a kind of Shandean game with his readers. The more truth-telling and pseudo-historical the stories became in form (tending toward an apparently random, anecdotal structure, making elaborate play with letters and other documents as “evidence”), the less credible became the content (miraculous feats of learning, stigmata, prophetic glimpses, memories of previous incarnations, and so forth). But what were we asked to believe in: the reality of these things, or the possibility of them? Since it is fiction, surely the latter; to suppose it is the former is to lose half the pleasure of reading the books.

David Lodge is the author, most recently, of the novel “Deaf Sentence.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 30, 2010, on page A23 of the New York edition.

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National Poetry Day UK 2009

Posted by Mariel Amez on October 9, 2009

October 8th was National Poetry Day in the UK, and it certainly made ample use of ICT to celebrate.

The official site included a wealth of resources to “live” the day both in the flesh and virtually. For example, they invited visitors to their website to contribute images of Poetry in Public Places.

See the slideshow

The BBC organised a poll to find the nation’s favourite poet. 18,000 votes were cast and the winner was … T.S. Eliot, followed by John Donne and Benjamin Zephaniah! Read this response to the results from The Telegraph.

Faber and Faber (the publishing house) held its 80th anniversary evening at the Soutbank Centre in London . This video features Seamus Heaney, Wendy Cope, Daljit Nagra, Alice Oswald and Paul Muldoon reading from their own work and a Faber poet from the backlist.

Faber 80th anniversary poetry event at the Southbank, London

Last but not least, the celebration was covered on Twitter.

Have you read about any other interesting events that you would like to share?

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What are you reading now?

Posted by Mariel Amez on April 26, 2009

I’ve just found this site through a student


It is described in the following terms:

“Goodreads is a free website for book lovers. Imagine it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone’s bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can also post your own reviews and catalog what you have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. Don’t stop there – join a discussion group, start a book club, contact an author, and even post your own writing.”

I think I’m going to give it a try. Would you like to?

Check out some books I’ve read at:


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Peeping Presents

Posted by cris1923 on April 10, 2009

carrollc2b4s_-rectory-umbrella_11 carroll_alicec2b4s-armtennielc2b4s-alice

Peeping Presents


Did it again! Bought a book for a dear friend of mine and before presenting it to her –just had to take a peep! I could not possibly avoid the temptation: the book in question is the latest, state-of-the-art, definitive edition of The Annotated Alice by none other than journalist, mathematician and Carrollinian sleuth Martin Gardner1.

Similarly to the dog-eared paperback edition I own2, this beautiful hardback published by W.W. Norton & Co., includes Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as originally illustrated by John Tenniel. However, it brings along a few extra bonuses: new and revised annotations, a whole deleted episode from the second Alice book called “The Wasp in the Wig” ; the facsimile letter of a somewhat tired Tenniel urging Carroll to do away with the “[…] wasp chapter which doesn´t interest me in the least, and I can´t see my way into a picture” , plus a wealth of bibliographical references –filmography on Alice as well.

Before re-wrapping and making the present respectable again, an idea dawned on me. Wouldn´t my co-bloggers enjoy sharing some of my ´peeping´, as well? Certainly so, I told myself. So here I go, giving you a glimpse of some of the material plus samples of the drawings that accompanied the very first Alice MS, called Alice´s Adventures Under Ground, illustrated by Lewis Carroll himself3!

According to his biographers, Dodgson loved drawing and had entertained the idea of becoming an artist. The quirky, nonsensical tone of the drawings illustrating the Rectory Umbrella4 –one of the many home magazines he put together as a child for his enjoyment and that of his brothers and sisters, eleven in all —was also a feature of the MS he offered the real Alice when he decided to put down the story he´d shared with her and her sisters and illustrated it. But when his friend Ruskin saw the drawings, he urged him to commission Punch cartoonist, John Tenniel, to do so instead. Though Dodgson managed to recover the facsimile edition of his original –published as a limited edition in 1886– the MS was eventually auctioned and is now in the British Museum5.

As sometimes is the case, this artistic couple´s relationship was far from congenial reaching at times the brink of exasperation. Irritated at Carroll´s demands, Tenniel´s claimed to have described Carroll as “that conceited old Don”6 . Not surprisingly both men were quite exacting as to their respective work; no doubt Dodgson may have proved a pain in the neck when placing demands on his illustrator yet Tenniel, despite blindness in one eye , must have in turn irked the writer when claiming to have “a wonderful memory for observation”7 while refusing to accept any models –photos or live– for his rendering of Alice.

Time now to enjoy the attached illustrations, judge for yourselves Carroll´s artwork, and join in the gossip by reading Tenniel´s extant letter. As for myself, I´ll do my very best in redecorating the parcel neatly so my friend doesn´t suspect a thing. Wish me luck!

Contributed by Cristina Grondona White



1 Gardner, Martin, ed. (1999). The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Illustrated by J. Tenniel.


2 Carroll, Lewis (1970). The Annotated Alice. Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd. Illustrated by J. Tenniel.


3Carroll, Lewis (1929, 1965). Alice´s Adventures Under Ground. Facsimile of the author´s manuscript book with additional material from the facsimile edition of 1886. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.


4Pudney, John (1976). Lewis Carroll and His World. London: Thames and Hudson.


5 In his “Prefatory Note” to the Everyman Edition, Roger Lacelyn Green states the MS in question sold for £30.000.

6The Oxford Companion to Children´s Literature, H.Carpenter and Mari Prichard (1984). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 521.


7Op. cit., p. 522.



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“New” literature?

Posted by Mariel Amez on April 6, 2009

On reading the Sunday paper I was struck by this headline

“Ya no se llamarán escritores”

The article proved worthwhile indeed. I was acquainted with hypertextual fiction of the kind of  253 by Geoff Ryman, but the multimodal fiction exemplified by The 21 steps by Charles Cumming, which integrates Google maps to tell a story, is truly innovative.

How will our reading practices be affected by these new formats? What do you think?

Posted in reading | 2 Comments »

Writers speaking

Posted by Mariel Amez on March 1, 2009

Winners of the American Book Award, Booker Prize, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize, among others, were interviewed for Don Swaim’s CBS Radio studio in New York. The recordings are now available through Wired for Books to listen online or to download as mp3 files. Although these files are for personal use only, classroom use is permitted.

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Posted by Mariel Amez on December 31, 2008

2008 UK National Year of Reading

The National Year of Reading (NYR) is a year-long celebration of reading, in all its forms. It aims to increase awareness of the many values of reading – anything, anytime, anyplace – for children, families and adult learners alike. 

Read more


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