A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[LINK] “The transformative visions of William Blake”

leave a comment »

Christopher Rowland has a stirring essay at Open Democracy about the importance of William Blake, as a philosopher of politics and as a literary figure (if, admittedly, after his death). I wish I engaged more with him; I wish I was more like him.

William Blake (1757-1827) lived most of his life in London, with a short spell on the Sussex coast, during which he was charged with sedition because of what he said to a soldier and for which he was put on trial. His life spanned the turbulent years that saw the independence of the American colonies and the French Revolution, both of which inform his prophetic understanding of history.

Blake’s two prophecies, America and Europe, were ‘prophetic’ not because Blake sought to predict what was going on—indeed they were written following these events. Rather, he sought to plumb the depths of the historical and social dynamics which were at work in them. He was part of a tradition of radical non-conformity in English religion, with different ways of reading the Bible.

In many ways Blake is an obvious choice of someone whose life’s work was to link ‘the personal and the political,’ but his work for justice and equality in the world was less through political activism or a practice which seeks to bring about societal transformation, and more about the intellectual task of changing hearts and minds. His Descriptive Catalogue of 1809 indicates that he wanted to make a pitch for a role as a public artist. But his exhibition met with the derision of the only reviewer of the exhibition (Robert Hunt), who disdainfully dismissed it as a “farrago of nonsense … the wild effusions of a distempered brain,” and Blake as “an unfortunate lunatic.”

This initiative on Blake’s part not only shows his sense of vocation but also the difficulties which attended the reception of his work. His illuminated books are as challenging today for the reader or viewer as they were when they were first published, and there will be many who continue to react like Hunt. But this complexity only underlines the difficulty of the interpretative tasks Blake undertook as he explored relationships to the past, and the cul-de-sacs which can so easily attend the journey of personal and political transformation.

Throughout his work he remained committed to the following task as expressed in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.” Arguably, all of Blake’s works are designed to facilitate the process of change in the individual and in society. Transformation is key to everything he undertook.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 27, 2015 at 10:54 pm

[LINK] “How the Success of Marvel’s Female Superheroes Heralds a More Inclusive Age of Comics”

leave a comment »

The Vulture‘s Claire Landsbaum writes about how Marvel, through cultivating the growing number of female audiences and creators, is succeeding with prominent female heroes. Some errors of fact, as pointed in the comments, but generally an astute analysis.

Longer than a New York City block and bigger around than a California redwood, the shark bursts skyward from a turquoise whirlpool, jaws gnashing, purple energy beams flying from its mouth.

“It’s a Megalodon!” shouts Captain Marvel, alias Carol Danvers, a superhero imbued with superhuman strength, speed, and reflexes. She can fly and shoot photon blasts from her fingers, so when she wallops the huge, sharklike creature, it dives back underwater. Nico Minoru — a witchy Sister Grim — dives in after it, delivering her own purple blast, and then it’s Dazzler’s turn to deliver her deadly disco-light beams. Finally, Miss America hefts the thing and throws it into an otherworldly void. The Citizens of Arcadia are safe thanks to A-Force, Marvel’s first-ever all-women superhero team.

A-Force, a new series from Marvel, that debuted yesterday, features better-known characters such as Captain Marvel, Nico, Dazzler, Miss America, She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, and Storm, as well as more obscure heroes like Wasp, Namora, Mantis, Firestar, and echo. For a genre historically focused on male heroes, it’s an impressive pantheon.

Promoting women-led series might seem like a novel move for Marvel, but it’s not. What’s novel is that they’re succeeding. Over the years, Marvel writers and editors have tried their hands at a number of series with female leads, but they rarely panned out, and in each case, the books were quietly canceled. One starring Peter Parker’s daughter, May, Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl launched in October of 1998 and, despite the protests of its fanbase, was canceled in 2010. X-23, which starred a mutant named Laura Kinney, ran for only about a year and a half — from September 2010 to March 2012. Although there have been other woman-led superhero series in Marvel’s past, they’ve been few and far between.

But now the women of Marvel are taking off in their own right. With female readership hovering at about 47 percent and women as the fastest-growing comics-reading demographic, Marvel is finally succeeding with a more diverse lineup of superheroes.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 25, 2015 at 9:45 pm

[WRITING] “Why romance novelists are the rock stars of the literary world”

leave a comment »

Emma Teitel of MacLean’s had a fascinating study of romance novels and their writers. She makes the case that it’s an astonishingly friendly, yet frequently overlooked, field of popular literature. Lessons, I’d suggest, could be taken from it.

When American filmmaker Laurie Kahn set out to make Love Between the Covers, a documentary about the women who read and write romance novels, she was struck by how often she heard the same story. It wasn’t a tale of beefy bodice rippers or love at first sight; it was a story about snobs. “I can’t tell you how many people I interviewed,” says Kahn, “who told me that people will walk up to them on a beach and say, ‘Why do you read that trash?’ ” Apparently, where lovers of romance novels go, contempt follows. Sometimes it’s subtle contempt—a raised eyebrow from a colleague, or a snarky comment from a friend (usually the kind of person who claims to read Harper’s on a beach vacation). Other times it’s more overt, even potentially damaging. When Mary Bly (pen name Eloisa James), an academic and New York Times bestselling author, began writing romance, she was advised to keep her fiction writing secret or risk not making tenure at the university where she worked.

For some reason, argues Kahn, perhaps because its subjects are female, romance novels are perceived as fundamentally silly, when other popular “genre fiction”—namely, fiction by and for men—is not. “Nobody,” she says, would walk up to “a man reading Stephen King, or a mystery or sci-fi novel” and scoff. And she’s right: Stephen King may write circles around romance novelist Nora Roberts, but mystery-thriller buffs James Patterson and Dean Koontz most certainly do not. Yet Roberts is the butt of jokes—a universal default example of “bad writing,” while her equally schlocky male contemporaries get a free pass.

A filmmaker whose previous work includes the Emmy-winning documentary A Midwife’s Tale, and Tupperware!, a film about American women of the 1950s who made small fortunes throwing Tupperware parties, Kahn wanted to explore not only the double standard faced by romance authors, but the wild success and collaborative nature of the romance community itself. Love Between the Covers, which premieres at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival at the end of the month, explores life from the perspective of the genre’s giants and veterans—the Nora Robertses and Beverly Jenkinses of the field (the latter a pioneer of African-American romance writing)—and its millions of readers and aspiring writers, some of whom work full-time jobs, yet write more than a thousand words every evening. (When Lenora Barot, pen name Radclyffe, began writing what would become groundbreaking lesbian romance fiction in the ’90s, she was a full-time plastic surgeon.) “It’s these untold stories of women that really appeal to me,” says Kahn. “Here is this community that is huge. It’s a multi-billion-dollar business and the women in it are writing a huge range of romantic fiction and no one gives them the time of day.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 20, 2015 at 12:00 am

[LINK] “Set to land in Cannes, The Little Prince reigns in Turkey”

leave a comment »

CBC’s Nil Köksal had a nice article about the popularity of The Little Prince in Turkey on the eve of the film release.

An international bestseller since 1943, the film version will likely introduce many young film fans to the story for the first time. It already has a huge following here in Turkey, which savvy publishers have rushed to take advantage of.

“There was great excitement among Turkish publishers” on Dec. 31, writer Kaya Genç tells me. That was the moment when the copyright on the book expired in many parts of the world.

[. . .]

One reason Turks love the tale is probably because of the Turkish character early in the story. In the fourth chapter, Saint-Exupéry writes of a Turkish astronomer wearing a fez, a traditional Ottoman hat.

Genç, though, thinks there’s more to it. “My theory is that there are some parallels between Ottoman poetry…and The Little Prince. They use similar imagery — the rose, the nightingale, the garden … the lover and the beloved. We have these parallels in Ottoman poetry and I think it’s in our genes in a way,” he says.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 19, 2015 at 9:41 pm

[PHOTO] The last of Lucy Maud Montgomery on Riverside Drive, Toronto

leave a comment »

I have been wanting for some months to visit the Toronto neighbourhood of Swansea, a Toronto neighbourhood east of the Humber River and south of Bloor Street West that has gained some fame as where Lucy Maud Montgomery spent the last seven years of her life.

Toronto Plaques let me know of a parkette created in memory of her.

L.M. Montgomery plaque #toronto #lmmontgomery #anneofgreengables #swansea #princeedwardisland #plaque

Near here, on Riverside Drive, in the house she called “Journey’s End,” L.M Montgomery, O.B.E., author of “Anne of Green Gables,” lived from 1935 until her death in 1942. She was born in Prince Edward Island on November 30, 1874. She became a teacher and also worked briefly as a reporter for the Halifax “Echo.” While working in this area (then the Village of Swansea) she wrote the last of her 22 novels – Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), Jane of Lantern Hill (1937) and Anne of Ingleside (1939). Her books, translated into many languages, are read the world over.

L.M. Montgomery park #toronto #swansea #parks #lmmontgomery #anneofgreengables #princeedwardisland

It was a peaceful parkette in the warm spring afternoon. Just south of the park is 210 Riverside Drive, her last address.

210 Riverside Drive, last home of #lmmontgomery #toronto #swansea #anneofgreengables #princeedwardisland #riversidedrive

died there

The University of Guelph has pictures of Montgomery in front of her home, which she called “Journey’s End”. She knew, then, that her life would end there, however it would end.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 19, 2015 at 1:51 am

[PHOTO] A beautiful day in the park, under a tree with a good e-book

leave a comment »

A beautiful day in the park, under a tree with a good e-book

E-books are an interesting technology. The main problem, depending on the model you have, is how long it takes to charge the reader.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 18, 2015 at 3:33 pm

[LINK] “Syria’s last bookstores”

leave a comment »

Al Monitor‘s Samer Mohammad Ismail describes the sad decline of the bookstore in Syria. Even before the civil war, it seems that literature was on the decline.

It was not the catastrophe alone that led to the disappearance of the most important bookstores in Damascus, Aleppo, Latakia and other cities. In fact, several bookstores had vanished long before the outbreak of the war.

This time, a more realistic version of the words Gabriel García Márquez wrote in “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” was experienced by Said al-Barghouthi, owner and manager of Kanaan Publishing and Distribution House.

Remembering the capital’s bookstores, he wrote, “My memory takes me back to the early 1950s. My school was close to the flea market — the only place in Damascus that sold stationery and some used school books at the time.”

Damascus did not have stores selling large numbers of books. Barghouthi added, “The city’s population at the time did not exceed 300,000 people, and the bookstore was more like a kiosk … [selling] magazines, newspapers, books, cheese, sandwiches. Bookstores did not have the same significance as today and were not specialized in selling books.”

In the 1960s and 1970s — which means during the era of big dreams, as described by Barghouthi — bookstore frequenters would go together to find books. Bookstores flourished and filled the streets of Damascus. The Palestinian Semaan Haddad established the Atlas bookstore in al-Salihiyah Street, Mohammad Hussein al-Nouri established Al-Nouri bookstore in Al-Hijaz square and Mohammad Ziad Tanbakji established the Damascus bookstore; the oldest was Yaqadha bookstore.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 437 other followers