Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Women in 19th Century Literature - Cosette, Lucie and Mina

Recently I received an Android phone, complete with Amazon's Kindle app. This excellent ereader allows me to access the Free Popular Classics section of the Amazon store, which holds an excellent selection of classic novels, treatises and essays. Some of the books I have downloaded and read so far include A Tale of Two Cities, Dracula and of course Les Misérables.

A Tale of Two Cities (ATTC) dates from 1859, while Les Mis was published in 1862. Dracula comes in a little bit later, in the year 1897. While each of these novels are very different, a notable aspect of each them is their treatment of their leading female characters, particularly those of the upper classes.

Cover Image, Godey's Lady's Book

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ira Glass on Writing and Creativity

(Reposted from the Mythic Scribes Facebook page, and originally shared by artist and imaginative realist Marc Fishman.)

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people who I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You've just gotta fight your way through." - Ira Glass

Quill pen parchment and ink bottle 9 Back to School Inspired Home Decor Ideas

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ian McEwan on Writing (from Atonement)

"She could imagine herself hurrying down to her bedroom, to a clean block of lined paper and her marbled, Bakelite fountain pen. She could see the simple sentences, the accumulating telepathic symbols, unfurling at the nib's end. She could write the scene three times over, from three points of view; her excitement was in the prospect of freedom, of being delivered from the cumbrous struggle between good and bad, heroes and villains. None of these three was bad, nor were they particularly good. She need not judge. There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made other people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have."

Reposted from Reddit. And no, this isn't just a sneaky excuse to put a picture of 'that dress' on my blog...

Les Misérables - How Not To Write A Book?

Ok, yes, that is an attention grabbing headline to describe what is often considered to be one of the world's great books. Please believe me however when I say that I am totally in earnest in posing the above question. Let me also clarify that while I am somewhat critical of the manner in which Les Misérables has been put together, I am in no way passing judgement on Victor Hugo's ability to write. Instead please view this post as a discussion on the book from a reader's perspective.

While most people who have read Les Misérables seem to be fans of the book, just about all of them admit that reading this giant tome is a considerable challenge, and not just because of its size. Personally I've read plenty of large books, more than my fair share of trilogies, and quite a few classics. So in general I have no problem with a huge word count, old-fashioned language, or an archaic style. Indeed, the majority of celebrated classics tend to feature extensive descriptive passages, soliloquies, and essays on the nature of the human condition etc., all of which are often the defining aspects of these great novels. However Les Misérables is a case in point, a prime example of how this stylistic approach can sometimes be taken much too far.