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May 31, 2011

Wuthering Heights: Emily Bronte

A Drama Ahead of Its Time
When Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights was first published in 1847, under the name of Ellis Bell, it received mixed reviews. Although some critics saw the potential evident in the cyclical plot and other literary devices, many others were shocked and dismayed by the unashamedly dark storyline. To be sure, Wuthering Heights was a very different book than what was generally considered acceptable during that era. In direct contrast to Emily Bronte's novel, Susannah Rowson's Charlotte Temple (1828) tells the story of a young lady who permits her beau to steal her away in the middle of the night. Predictably, he impregnates her and then abandons her, after which she dies of a broken heart. As was common in novels of the era, Charlotte Temple used a fictional story to instruct its readers--primarily young ladies--in what was expected of them.


The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book is one of the works for which Rudyard Kipling is best remembered. The Jungle Book falls in line with works like Flatland and Alice in Wonderland (which offer satire and political commentary, underneath the genre title of children's literature). Likewise, the stories in The Jungle Book are written to be enjoyed by adults as well as children--with that depth of meaning and symbolism that delves far beyond the surface. Relationships and events related in The Jungle Book are important to any human being, including adult men and women, with or without families. While the tales can be read, or children may listen to them from an older reader, these stories need to be re-read later, in high school, and again in later adult life. They are enjoyable in every subsequent reading and the longer one lives, the broader is the frame of reference one has against which to draw the stories into perspective.

The Kipling stories offer a marked perspective of a reminder of human origins and history as well as animal. As the Native American and other Indigenous Peoples often state: All are related under one sky. A reading of The Jungle Book at age 90 will reach several more levels of meaning than a childhood reading and both are just as brilliant an experience. The stories can be shared inter-generationally, with interpretations shared by all. The book is a group of stories that are actually quite good for “Grandparents in the School” types of family literacy programs of the current day.


Importance of the Tales
Kipling is still much quoted, via Gunga Din and his famous poem “IF,” but The Jungle Book is also important. They are important because they address the prime relationships in one’s life – family, coworkers, bosses – and everyone’s relationship with Nature. For instance, if a boy is raised by wolves, then wolves are his family until the last one dies. The themes of The Jungle Book revolve around noble qualities such as loyalty, honor, courage, tradition, integrity, and persistence. These are good to discuss and ponder in any century, making the stories timeless.

My favorite Jungle Book story is of a young mahout and his elephant and the legend of the elephant dance in the middle of the forest. This is "Toomai of the Elephants." From woolly mammoths and mastodons to our zoological parks, to the Elephants Sanctuary in the American South to Disney’s Dumbo, and Seuss’s Horton, elephants are magical creatures. They know friendship and heartache and can cry. Kipling may have been the first to show that they can also dance.

The young mahout, Toomai, believes the tale of the infrequent event of Elephant Dance, even when the seasoned elephant trainers try to dissuade him. He is rewarded for his belief by being taken to that very dance by his own elephant, spending time in another world that few can enter. Faith makes entrance possible, so Kipling tells us, and there is the possibility that childlike faith can be translated to any number of human events.

“Tiger-Tiger”
After Mowgli left his Wolf Pack, he visited a Human village and was adopted by Messua and her husband, who both believed him their own son, previously stolen by a tiger. They teach him Human customs and language and help him adjust to a new life. However, the wolf-boy Mowgli hears from Grey Brother (a wolf) that trouble is afoot against him. Mowgli does not succeed in the Human village, but makes enemies of a hunter, a priest, and others, because he denounces their unrealistic comments about the jungle and its animals. For this, he is reduced to the status of cowherd. This story suggests that perhaps the animals are more just than Humans.

The tiger Sheer Khan enters the village, while Mowgli takes half his cattle to one side of a ravine, and his wolf brothers take the rest to on the other side. Mowgli lures the tiger into the middle of the ravine and the cattle trample him to death. The envious hunter broadcasts that the boy is a wizard or demon and Mowgli is exiled to wander the countryside. This certainly shows the dark side of human beings, again suggesting that animals are nobler creatures.

"The White Seal"
Other favorites from this collection are “The White Seal”, the tale of a Bering Sea’s seal pup that saves 1000s of his kindred from the fur trade, and “Her Majesty’s Servants”, a story of the conversations heard by a man among the camp animals of the Queen’s military. The entire collection observes mankind from a stance of needing improvement that is possible if they listen to animal wisdom.

May 30, 2011

Angry Young Man

One perhaps ought not to leave the twentieth century novel without referring to the literary phenomenon which journalists conceptualized for a mass public with the phrase ‘ Angry Young Man ,’ which are Kingsley Amis, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, and John Wain. The anger of these writers was directed against the old establishment, the liberal human, largely upper middle class, and against Bloomsbury intelligenia (Virginia Woolf, Forster, and Lytton Strachey). Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (performed in 1956, published 1957) supplied the tone and little for the movement.


May 28, 2011

The Man Who Fell To Earth: Walter Tevis


Science fiction has been in the news a lot these days, most notably with Kim Stanley Robinson’s much publicised criticism about the lack of recognition awarded to the genre by judges of the Man Booker Prize (although it’s likely that sf publishers don’t submit the works for consideration). It’s a genre that seems to want to break away from being ghettoised and obtain respectability, to prove that it’s a genre of ideas rather than, as stereotypes imply, the domain of nerds.

Dangling Man: Saul Bellow


Try as I might, I’ve never connected with Saul Bellow’s prose. My first attempt was The Actual, his penultimate work, and his shortest. A few pages in and I was lost. Then, The Adventures Of Augie March, the novel that signalled his worth as a writer: after reading the opening page repeatedly, I knew I couldn’t continue through the whole book doing so, and abandoned it.

To A God Unknown: Steinbeck


Long ago I’d expressed an interest in reading the works of John Steinbeck in chronological order, starting with Cup Of Gold, his account of Sir Henry Morgan’s piratic life, and then immediately lost track of that aim. I’ve returned to it now, albeit with a slight ‘administrative’ error, in that I’ve come next to To A God Unknown (1933), rather than The Pastures Of Heaven, published the prior year.

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich: Leo Tolstoy


Beginning, as it does, with the death of Ivan Ilyich, you wouldn’t think there was much left to say but Leo Tolstoy’s novella, The Death Of Ivan Ilyich, then winds the narrative back to an earlier part of the character’s life and lets it unravel from there.

A Clockwork Apple: Belinda Webb


There’s an old idiom that states you can’t compare apples to oranges but in the case of Belinda Webb’s A Clockwork Apple (2008) you can’t help compare it to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, purely because it follows the source so closely. However, there are wholesale changes for the sake of parody, notably the inversion of genders, so that rather than teenage boys running amok, Webb’s dystopia is populated by teenage girls.

Cup of Gold: Stenbeck


It has been my intention, for some time now, to read (and in some cases, reread) the works of John Steinbeck. Amongst his canon there’s a varied mix of fiction, essays, and journalism and I think it would be best to read them in sequence in order to experience Steinbeck’s progression as a writer. Thus I begin withCup Of Gold (1929), Steinbeck’s first novel, and his sole piece of historical fiction, something he would later consider “an immature experiment”. By this he meant that it was the novel that had to be written by the fledgling writer in order to purge the influence of those who had gone before.

Night Train: Martin Amis


Love him or hate him for his outspoken views on this, that, and the other, you can’t deny that Martin Amis has a way with words. And I say this having read very little of his work, namely Time’s Arrow and his essay collection, The War Against Cliché. So, wanting to return to some more of his fiction, it was a case of boarding the Night Train (1997), knowing little of what the novel was going to be about or where it was going to take me.

The Faerie Queene as a political Allegory

The Faerie Queene is Spenser’s masterpiece. This would have secured for him the first place among Elizabethans other than the playwrights. The poem is devoted to the greatness of the glory of England and her kings or queens. The poem is complex and allegorical which have discouraged the readers in turning to it. Spenser is seen to be a professor of morals and assumes the grave air of preacher. He wrote a vast allegory in order to fashion a gentleman of noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. In line with Aristo he created a fairy like chivalry but wanted each of his knights to represent one of the twelve private moral virtues, as Aristo and advised.

May 26, 2011

The Skeptics

Darwin’s theory of evolution shattered the common man’s faith in god and it projected human situation in the context of the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. Darwinism shook the entire edifice of Christianity and the whole Christian world was in s state of shock, bewilderment and confusion. Thus the development science and Darwinism in the 19th C caused a marked spiritual disturbance which took quite often the shape of skepticism and sometimes a patient and agnosticism and even downright free-thinking. Mid-Victorian poetry is particularly shot with the tincture of this spiritual disturbance caused by the sudden collapse of the age old edifice of Christian values.

Influences of Romantic Movement

The rise of the 19th C was the triumph of the individualism and the spirit of revolution swept enitire europe. Philosohers and thinkers like Rousseau, Kant and Hegal and, Movements and events like Frech Revolution, America’s struggle for independence from the colonial rule of Britain and growth of democracy in England paved the way for the age of “Liberty” and dignity of common man. Eventually it gave rise to Romantic movement which was responsible for spreading the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity.

May 19, 2011

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight: Nabokov

Nabokov wrote his first English-language novel—after writing eight in Russian—while living in Paris during the winter of 1938–’39. New Directions published it in 1941 upon the advice of Delmore Schwartz. Although the writer whose real life it promises to tell is said to have lived from December 1899 to January 1939, the dramatic action of the novel takes place in only the few months following his death.


Nabokov was sufficiently worried about the “fragility” of his English to ask friends to check the manuscript and galleys. And in the novel’s opening pages, he confronts the worries head on, repeating a “nasty dig” that a “celebrated old critic” aimed at Sebastian Knight after his death: “Poor Knight! he really had two periods, the first—a dull man writing broken English, the second—a broken man writing dull English.”

Mr. Sammler’s Planet: Bellow

Mr. Sammler’s Planet is a great novel—one of the ten best English-language novels since the death of George Eliot—but it presents the generous undecided reader with two immediate problems. First, what exactly is it about? The Saul Bellow Society convenientlysummarizes the novel, but their précis misses entirely its central quality—the articulate and provocative opinions of its title character. Artur Sammler is “just a mass of intelligent views,” to which he gives voice “at all times.” His “screwy visions” are the beginning, middle, and end of the novel, but they raise a second problem. How seriously are these opinions to be taken?

Shelley's Heart by Charles McCarry

For reasons of ideology, the dean of the National Cathedral in Washington cannot bring himself to greet a conservative Republican as “Mr. President.” So opens, on this pitch-perfect note, one of the best novels ever written about the American Left. Charles McCarry’s Shelley’s Heart, originally published fourteen years ago and now being reissued by the Overlook Press, takes the outward form of a political thriller—but this is no ordinary work of genre fiction. Shelley’s Heart is an ambitious attempt to describe the American Left from within and without, to catch it in the act of revealing its true character, aims, and methods.

The Believers: Zoë Heller

The shoving match between Jewish socialists and Jewish religionists may have been settled two generations ago, but Zoë Heller reignites the hostilities to fine 

effect in her third novel. The religionists did not win the historical fight so much as the socialists lost. Audrey Litvinoff, the matriarch at the center of The Believers, discloses why. “If it was living honestly and decently you wanted,” she snarls at her daughter, who has abandoned three generations of the family’s militant atheism to become Orthodox, “you could have stayed a socialist.” Setting aside the question whether she and her husband—the novel’s model socialists—have lived like that, the truth is that each of their children must find some other way if they are to live honestly and decently. Although each chooses a different path, none chooses the radical Left.


Saul Bellow, Letters

Saul Bellow, Letters, ed. Benjamin Taylor (New York: Viking, 2010). 571 pp. $35.00.


Not many more collections of letters written by American masters are likely to appear, although readers half a century from now might look forward to Michael Chabon’s Collected Text Messagesor Jonathan Franzen’s Tweets. Saul Bellow is one of the last great novelists for whom letters were not really a convenient way to stay in touch,  
but a literary genre with unique opportunities for expression and equally unique demands. For him, personal letters were only rarely personal (and then they were not unique in any respect), but might be best described as a kind of informal literary reflection.

Epitaph


Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.


                                          W. H. Auden
                                          January 1939

Terra Amata: J.M.G. Le Clézio


When Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was named laureate for the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, I was like many others in wondering who? His standing in English speaking nations, save for a couple of low profile translations in the States, was practically non-existant. And this is an author who has published over forty books since his 1963 debut. It’s been a frustrating wait, then, for publishers in the UK to rush release some backlist titles into print. No doubt translators up and down the country are soldiering away at more of his works.

May 11, 2011

Gifted: Nikita Lalwani


After the announcement of the Booker longlist, Giftedby Nikita Lalwani was the first of the thirteen that I picked up in my eagerness to find out what the chosen few were about. Had it not made the longlist I have no doubts that I would never have picked it up. The cover, you see, is rather ugly. If I were to hazard a guess at what it’s supposed to be then it’s a silhouette of a girl coupled with some stylized cumin, formed from numbers and other mathematical symbols. Gifted, it seems, does not extend to the minds behind this artistic faux pas.

But, as the old adage goes, one must not judge a book by its cover so it was between the pages of this, Lalwani’s debut novel, that I went. At first I wondered if this may have been a chicklit novel, but then, I’ve never read chicklit, so I have no way of knowing. But, beyond such notions, there’s a powerful story half-heartedly trying to get out.

Animal’s People: Indra Sinha


Novels from India are something that seem to make their way to my shelves but never get read (a few examples being Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, and last year’s Booker winner, The Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai). So, going ahead with my intent to read all thirteen books longlisted for the Booker this year, Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People was one Indian novel that wasn’t destined for indefinite shelving.

And for that happy I’m, as its narrator may say. Yes, such contortions are normal in Animal’s speech. They are a fitting parallel, for Animal’s body is physically twisted, forcing him to walk on all fours after “That Night” when the local factory exploded, its toxins killing thousands, harming many more, and polluting the elements. Although the novel is set in a fictional city called Khaufpur, it’s plain to see that it’s basis is in Bhopal, the explosion being a riff on the 1984 disaster.

Synge Travels in Ireland

A good playwright must have the very finest ear for dialogue and it is this talent that makes Synge's Irish travel writings so good. In the first part of the book he is traveling in the Wicklow Mountains northwest of Dublin and paying particular attention to the local patois. Synge was accused of troweling things on a bit, for example with this alleged quote from a Wicklow village woman: "Glory be to His Holy Name, not a one of the childer was ever a day ill, except one boy was hurted off a cart, and he never overed it. It's small right we have to complain at all." The author of The Playboy of the Western World, which caused riots at its premier for its searing caricature of marginalized Irish, is a legitimate object of suspicion, but I doubt he is distilling his material in a misleading way. In any event the flavor of the speech is clearly authentic and very charming to read.

Arrow of God: Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe's first three novels are sometimes called "The African Trilogy." They are Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer At Ease (1960) and Arrow of God (1964). I read Things Fall Apart(probably the most widely read African novel) some time ago, I have not read No Longer At Ease. Most of Achebe's writing (and he has published a great deal of work) deals with the impact of the British colonization of the Igbo lands of northern Nigeria on traditional culture there and particularly with the loss of authority of African priests under pressure both political and religious.

Poem

Paradise Lost
Opening Lines


Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the world and all our woe
With the loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, O heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed

Nobel Winner

From 1901 to 2010
1901 - Sully Prudhomme
1902 - Theodor Mommsen
1903 - Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
1904 - Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray
1905 - Henryk Sienkiewicz
1906 - Giosuè Carducci
1907 - Rudyard Kipling
1908 - Rudolf Eucken
1909 - Selma Lagerlöf
1910 - Paul Heyse

May 10, 2011

Poem

If They Answer Not 
          If they answer not to thy call, walk alone. 
          If they are afraid and    
          Cower mutely against the wall          
          O thou of evil luck        
          Open thy mind and speak out alone.
         
          If they turn away and desert   
          You while crossing the desert,
          O thou of evil luck        
          Trample the thorns under your tread,       
          And along the blood stained track, walk alone.   
         
          If they do not hold up the light when the   
          Night is troubled by storms    
          Of thou of evil luck,      
          With the thunder-flame of pain ignite your heart
          And let it burn—alone.”

—Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali (1912)

HIV and AIDS

What are HIV and AIDS?
1. HIV means Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
2. AIDS means Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome.
3. HIV is a virus that causes AIDS.
4. HIV attacks lymphocytes (white blood corpuscles). As a result the body has difficulty fighting off certain bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes.
5. AIDS is a state in which a person’s immunity to fight against diseases is completely destroyed. Then he/she is affected by severe infections.

The Genteel Tradition

In the early 19th centry, the new social and economic influences widened the cultural horizens of american society. The first of these was the tendency of the past, the growth of the historic sense. Irving and Cooprt early showed how historical legends could be woven about the familiar landscapes to add richness. The development of historical writing later owed much to Americans who had studied in Germany during the first half of the century.  

May 8, 2011

Regional Literature


Regional literature particularizes each fact of the nature and human enviorenment peculiar to the selected locale. Henry james reviewing the Southern fiction to the American writers Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-94) praised her familiarity with the natural objects of the region and observed the “She knows every plant and flower, every vague odor and sound, the song and flight of every bird, every tint of sky and murmur of the forest and she had noted scientifically the didlect of the (Negro) freedom. 

May 5, 2011

Surrealism


Surrealism is the by-product of many experiments which the writers have been making in order to explore the most appropriate modes for the expression of their experience. Its roots are, however, in realism. In literature even realism as a movement had taken many forms, owing primarily to the multiplicity of diverse opinions as to what, in truth, realism is. It is the realism of Chaucer: a personal and subjective vision of the external phenomenon, the external world of nature and man coloured by the temperament of the observer? Or is it a more objective observation of the external facts and objects with as complete a detachment as we often associate with the impersonal observation of a scientist? 

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