An ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us

imaginationThe New York Times continues to offer age-old questions that can be answered in as may ways as the wind blows. This week it was Should Literature Be Considered Useful? This, of course, begs the question of whether we should consider this question useful, let alone ask what we mean by literature. I suppose no one would even consider asking if art was useful (a good painting can hide those pesky nail holes left by the not-as-good painting you gave to the Animal Shelter for their annual fund raiser).

Doing a mind dump about literature I know that it generates many jobs—writer, publisher, editor, bookseller, etc.—and has a huge secondary market in the folks that purchase the books, read the books, and study the books in school (not to mention the billions and billions of reading groups on the internet). But what do they say in Bookends?

Continue reading

50 Major Milestones in Literature?

PPDon’t we all just love lists? This one is from early in 2013 and might, as it’s author suggests, generate a bit of controversy. All the items are written in English so don’t look for Flaubert or Balzac on the list. For some reason the Russians have also gone underground and even the great Spanish writers have to keep their adventures to themselves. Who knew literature was an English thing?

What follows in a self-revealed highly partisan and impressionistic catalogue of the fifty major milestones in literature, or at least in literature from the English speaking world. Published in The Guardian in Robert McCrum’s Blog “On Books,” it makes no claim to be comprehensive. Rather, it aims to stimulate a discussion about the turning-points in the world of books and letters from the King James Bible to the present day.

Continue reading

Nobel Literature Prize

The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards - ShowThe Nobel laureates are being announced and there is plenty of news surrounding the upcoming Nobel Prize for Literature. Who will it be?

The Daily Beast has provided a rather exhaustive list of candidates and to emphasize the artistic credentials of these esteemed writers, have even included the odds for winning the prize as posted by the bookies. Hey, if you might win a prize for writing a book, wouldn’t it be natural for a bookie to be involved in the decision?

Continue reading

Literature is not homework

America’s Great Neglected Entertainment

My goal in this article is to offer an alternative method of viewing literature than the one I was exposed to in the public school system. I was taught that, by the structuring of the classes and curriculum requirements, literature was a painful, line-by-line analysis, as a result of which comprehension of the most basic story elements, such as plot, denied us the opportunity of getting excited about literature. Unfortunately, this leads many people to become disinterested in literature because of their fear that they won’t understand the piece or will find it too difficult to read.

Literature is not homework. Literature books are foremost entertaining, then as a sweet gift, they offer depth and self enlightenment to boot. If you are already a reader and lover of literature, then I wish you slower clocks, for those not yet convinced, I am intensely excited for you.

So writes Caleb Jacobo in his opinion piece for Nation of Change. Is that entirely true? Let’s make a minor paraphrase that possibly addresses the other side of the equation:

My goal in this paraphrase is to offer an alternative method of viewing mathematics than the one I was exposed to in the public school system. I was taught that, by the structuring of the classes and curriculum requirements, math was a painful, equation-by-equation analysis, as a result of which comprehension of the most basic mathematical elements, such as logarithms, denied us the opportunity of getting excited about cyphering. Unfortunately, this leads many people to become disinterested in mathematics because of their fear that they won’t understand the problem or will find it too difficult to solve-for-X.

I knew a woman who spent hours in her study solving all the problems in an impressive complete collection of Schaum’s Outlines and when she settled in for a cosy evening with a cup of Postum and a book of Sudoku, you could see that she was truly entertained. Me? Give me Joyce or give me death! Just try to interrupt my merry reading when Molly is doing her thing … yes, yes, yes.

Is Caleb actually suggesting that understanding literature is the evil factor which makes people not want to read?