Why Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel prize in literature

by Richard Brown Added 14.10.2016
To the surprise of many, Bob Dylan has become the first singer-songwriter to win the Nobel prize in literature. As the news broke, I was in the middle of teaching James Joyce to some undergraduates – an author who did not win the Nobel, but is often considered a pinnacle of high literature. Many wouldn’t look to compare these two artists, not least those already protesting that Dylan’s win cheapens the award. But in many ways, they’re alike....

The man behind Matilda – what Roald Dahl was really like

by Pojana Maneeyingsakul Added 13.09.2016
It is 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl – considered by many to be the world’s number one storyteller. His books have received enthusiastic responses from millions of children all around the world. And his tales of the unexpected continue to have a magical pull on readers’ imaginations with the BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory all loved by children old and young. Earlier this year, a new...

Three alternative romantic fiction authors that will heat up any beach trip

by Zoe Strimpel Added 04.07.2016
There’s no better way to escape the stresses and strains of work and – for many at the current juncture – the acute anxiety of geopolitics, than to put your reading into “romance” gear. Britain versus the world is a gloomy real-world problem; for summer relief, try instead the question of the heart versus the mind. That is the core problem of much of my very favourite, intellectually inspiring fiction. Chick lit is out, I’m afraid: an avowed...

What grammar pedants and fashion victims have in common

by Rob Drummond Added 05.03.2016
Language pedants who take pleasure in policing other people’s use of grammar often have an air of respectability about them, but it’s usually a sheen hiding something more pernicious. Rather than actual rules of language, pedantry deals in half-truths, conventions and arbitrary shibboleths which are too often used to embarrass or undermine. Remember this if you get pounced upon by a pedant on National Grammar Day. People often liken the idea...

War and Peace: a user's guide

by Sarah Hudspith Added 09.01.2016
War and Peace is more than a novel. It’s a reflection of Leo Tolstoy’s strongly held beliefs – a philosophical tract, not just about politics, war, love, marriage and property, but about history itself and the way the affairs of society are reported. Central to the book is his antipathy towards the way in which historians of his time presented events as entirely influenced by powerful people: monarchs, politicians and generals. Tolstoy felt...

How does autobiography work in fiction?

by Mary L. Tabor Added 08.12.2015
You know the line: Truth is stranger than fiction? I have a twist on that. I’ve learned through the writing of three books and a fourth in process as I write this essay that the fictional account of my stories have greater emotional truth and intellectual significance than the factual ones. As memoir has increased in popularity* both in books and movies—“A True Story” being the familiar movie tag—I’ve continued to argue that fiction, written...

Alexievich’s Achievement

by Nina L. Khrushcheva Added 23.10.2015
NEW YORK – It was 1985, and change was in the air in the Soviet Union. Aging general secretaries were dropping like flies. Elem Klimov’s cinematic magnum opus “Come and See” depicted World War II without the heroics on which we were reared, highlighting the tremendous human suffering instead. Klimov’s approach echoed that of Svetlana Alexievich – this year’s Nobel laureate in literature – in her first book, War’s Unwomanly Face, published...

Why Satin Island should win the Man Booker Prize

by David Rudrum Added 25.09.2015
How many novels can truly be called epoch-defining? Ulysses, obviously. Don Quixote, War and Peace and maybe The Sorrows of Young Werther. Beyond Europe’s insular frontiers, The Tale of Genji defined its epoch way back in 11th century Japan. Though only a handful of novels ever achieve it, something about the genre seems to lend itself to the job of encapsulating or incarnating the eras we live in. Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island is certainly an...

Dinnertime storytelling makes kids voracious reader

by Anne Fishel Added 18.09.2015
"Rare words, those that go beyond the 3,000 most common ones, are 10 times more likely to show up in dinner conversation than in storybooks. " As a young child, I loved to imagine myself as a pioneer girl in Little House in the Big Woods, eating fresh snow drizzled with maple syrup. I even pestered my mother to make this treat with the dirty snow that fell on our Manhattan sidewalk. Not a chance. Years later, I honored my young sons’ request...

Lore Segal on How to Think About Virtue: An Interview

by Mary L. Tabor Added 06.09.2015
Lore Segal, author of Shakespeare’s Kitchen , Her First American and Other People’s Houses , talked with Mary L. Tabor on thinking about questions of goodness and virtue, a conversation that began in 1997 while Segal was working on Shakespeare’s Kitchen . In October 2006, Segal was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Shakespeare’s Kitchen was published in April 2007 and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for...

Confessions of a Justified Sinner captures the modern condition perfectly

by Valentina Bold Added 20.08.2015
One of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival is undoubtedly a new production of Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which runs between August 19 and 22. In a year which is strong on Scottish literary adaptions (Alasdair Gray novel Lanark is also being staged, Paul Bright’s Confessions is based on James Hogg’s masterwork The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. First published...

Precocity, Maturity and Creativity

by David W. Galenson Added 13.08.2015
T.S. Eliot reflected that if there was one word that could be associated with classic works of art, it was maturity. He compared Shakespeare's creative life cycle to that of an exact contemporary: We can...observe, upon a little conversance, that the plays of Christopher Marlowe exhibit a greater maturity of mind and of style, than the plays Shakespeare wrote at the same age: it is interesting to speculate whether, if Marlowe had lived as...

How to write a children's classic: the Gruffalo formula

by Matthew Creasy Added 10.08.2015
Showing my class of children’s literature students around the child’s section of a large bookshop recently, the kindly bookseller showed us where they displayed the classics. “You know,” he said. “Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, The Gruffalo”. First published only 16 years ago, The Gruffalo might seem young to be in this company, yet its success is indisputable. It has been translated into more than 50 languages, there is an animated version, a...

The Burglar

by Mary L. Tabor Added 28.07.2015
Extract: Olivia had found one silver earring lying on her bureau, opened her jewelry box, and discovered the burglary. She’d opened the top bureau drawer and saw, instead of the little white cardboard box, a faint outline of dust where the box had lain, and she was stricken with loss. The items in the box had belonged to Olivia’s mother. The wedding band etched with forget-me-nots, the gold locket, the ivory cameo with  the  raised but ...

That Iron String: The tortured piano world viewed from within

by Michael Johnson Added 24.07.2015
The unhappy life of the classical pianist is rarely featured in modern novels.  I’ve always found this odd. The inherent drama of a career soloist should be raw meat for the writer. Paranoia is mixed with high art, loneliness is punctuated by standing ovations, memory lapses strike terror in the heart of the player, young geniuses pop up in unexpected places, rivalries turn vicious.  Piano competitions bring out the best – and the worst – of...

Revisiting Irvin Yalom’s seductive novels of ideas

by Michael Johnson Added 23.07.2015
It’s a rare medical man who can shift from his world of arcane jargon to a vigorous, earthy style suited to non-fiction novels. Once in a while, a Chekhov or a Somerset Maugham comes along to make an exception and prove the rule. Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom achieved this leap quite deliberately after realizing – as did the others before him -- that “frosty scientific language” fails to communicate the emotional dilemmas that afflict ordinary...

Dazzled in Istanbul - On Writers and Publishing

by Alan Skinner Added 23.07.2015
We are a society which, as a rule, prefers good order to bad, desires sensible laws to prevail over anarchy and proposes for all just the right amount of liberality to allow us to feel free without the inconvenience of actually being so. We understand that censorship is evil, and should on no account be inflicted on us except when it curbs the excesses and fallibilities of others. The sensible among us (which, of course, if you ask them, is...

Alas, Poor Will. Or Edward. Or Amelia… The Shakespeare Authorship Question

by Alan Skinner Added 23.07.2015
Have we ever known him? The Will of Rosalind and Kate, Puck, Hal, Macbeth and Beatrice? And, if not really knowing Will, are these people who came mewling, laughing, raging or loving to the stage also strangers to us? Do we have to learn to know them once again if we believe they are not Will’s creation but are the offspring of a Bacon, an Oxford, a Bassano or a Sidney? For some do argue that it is only by knowing the parent that we can...

Pass The Hatchet, Please

by Alan Skinner Added 23.07.2015
Bernard Shaw once observed that a biography tells more about the biographer than the subject. While there is some truth to this, the poor Fabian playwright-essayist-critic-troublemaker was obviously still recovering from the shock of reading Frank Harris's autobiography written under the guise of a biography of one Mr George Bernard Shaw. Nonetheless, what truth there is in the statement could also well apply to reviewers. Unfortunately, we...

The Ten Percent Rule

by Alan Skinner Added 23.07.2015
Any person who has reached a reasonable age will probably have endured that unpleasant feeling, on waking after a satisfactory night of too much alcohol and an abundance of spirited conversation, of feeling embarrassed at things they remember saying and anxiety about what they cannot recall saying. It is strange how unreserved drivel - that most harmless of excesses - can induce such disproportionate dismay. Of course, those well-practised...
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