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review 2017-04-06 18:29
Anything Goes: "The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction" by Bran Nicol
The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction - Bran Nicol

Postmodernism scrutinizes the accepted ways of producing art and finds new ways to portray interesting things. Without this approach everyone would still be scratching stick men onto cave walls. In a world in which change happens so fast, it's useful and important to think in terms of what changes, why it changes, and how the change helps or hinders us. Having said that, and in the long run, post modernism is as irrelevant as any other “ism”, all of which had their own junk philosophies to contend with, what matters at the end of the day is the content of art and how society or an individual responds to it that matters. Sadly post modernism could have provoked a radical and revolutionary response to society but its adherents proved conservative, more interested in money and their careers to make any meaningful art. So unlike so many “isms” whose adherents created great works in spite of a particular ism´s junk philosophy, post modernism hasn´t produced many works of literature worth remembering. Postmodernism is not throwing a whole lot of weird stuff together and seeing what craziness happens. This, however, is what a lot of people, including artists, curators, critics, and journalists who all should know better, think it is, This "anything goes" postmodernism is what winds people up and makes them say 'That's not art!' as if there's something which art ought to be.



If you're into literary criticism, read on.


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review 2017-03-20 15:21
Cultural Chicken Soup for the Soul:"An Experiment in Criticism" by C. S. Lewis
An Experiment in Criticism (Canto) - C.S. Lewis

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.


In “An Experiment in Criticism” by C. S. Lewis



Anarcho-punk, extreme literature..... Beware the coming revolution.


All the best writers are anarcho-punks:


-          JJ Rousseau: A Discourse On Inequality

-          Thomas Payne: The Rights Of Man

-          Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

-          Victor Hugo 'Les Miserables' set in the French Revolution in Paris.


Dostoevsky wrote his first novel 'The Poor Folk' aged 29. This resulted in him and his 3 co-radicals being sentenced to death by firing squad in the main public square in St Petersburg by the Tsar who was offended by their revolutionary contents. At the last second the Tsar commuted the punishment to 4 years hard labour in Siberia. Two of the writers went mad from this sadist act, but Dostoevsky kept on writing about being on death row, psychological torture, his time in jail and did so for the rest of his life. Orwell. 'Homage To Catalonia' set in Spanish Revolution in Barcelona where anarchists fight fascists.



If you're into literary criticism, read on.

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review 2017-03-01 11:00
An Author’s Fictionalised Experiences: The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō by Yasuko Claremont
The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo - Yasuko Claremont

All his life Gustave Flaubert claimed that only the story counted and that its author should disappear without trace behind it, but however passionately a writer may assure that her or his work has nothing whatsoever to do with her or his life, such complete objectivity is an illusion. It’s impossible to achieve because nobody’s soul is an empty slate. Every word that a person jots down, be it on the spur of the moment or after long thought, be it in fiction or non-fiction, inevitably mirrors past experiences, education and views. To truly understand a literary work it can therefore be helpful to know the biography of its author, notably when the writings are complex or full of symbolism. In her critical study The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō Yasuko Claremont from the University of Sydney analyses the literary oeuvre that the recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature produced between 1957 through 2006 and links it with important events in the Japanese author’s private life beginning in his childhood.


As Yasuko Claremont illustrates, the writing of Ōe Kenzaburō – like every author’s – isn’t static but changes over the decades and often mirrors events that had a more or less important impact on him as a person, on his family or on society altogether. She also demonstrates by several examples that the works of the author, notably early ones like Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids and award-winning Prize Stock, clearly show the marks of his partly traumatic, partly spiritual experiences as a boy in a remote village surrounded by dense forests during and shortly after World War II and then as a young man in war-shattered Tōkyo where he studied French literature. According to the scholar these formative years quite naturally account too for the more constant elements in his opus, above all for Ōe‘s themes that are generally depressing as well as full of violence and despair in all their (cruel and destructive) manifestations. She states as well that his entire literary oeuvre is permeated with humanistic moral views that are clearly influenced by Western literature and philosophy, notably Jean-Paul Sartre, C. G. Jung, Wilhelm Reich, Mikhail Bakhtin and the Bible. Moreover, Yasuko Claremont finds the roots of the mythical abstractions that he uses throughout his career in the ancient legends that he heard in his childhood and that he internalised. The most obvious changes in Ōe’s writing the scholar sees in his approach to themes and characters. The three big stages of development that she identifies in the author’s long as well as successful literary career are a deeply Sartrean existentialism that saturates his rather bleak early work – e.g. the story Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids or the novella Seventeen – on which follows a more positive phase surrounding the principle of atonement – as in the novels A Personal Matter and The Silent Cry – that eventually leads the author to the concept of salvation in daily life – like in the novel Somersault.


Having read so far only one novel by Ōe Kenzaburō (»»» read my review of The Changeling on Edith’s Miscellany), it was difficult for me to follow the literary and spiritual path that Yasuko Claremont traced in such detail. It’s true that she integrated summaries of all the author’s important works into her study (not least because several of them aren’t available in English translation), but naturally it wasn’t the same as knowing the full text. Certainly, her target audience were other scholars and fans of the author with a comprehensive knowledge of his work. Nonetheless, this critical study of The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō was an interesting and as regards the novel that I read and reviewed also an enlightening experience that made me curious about the en-NOBEL-ed writer’s other works, above all the later ones that seem to be less bleak and less overtly violent.


The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo - Yasuko Claremont 

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review 2016-09-09 02:43
Science-Fiction and Literary Criticism
Of This and Other Worlds - C.S. Lewis,Walter Hooper


While this book was eventually published in 1983 the essays that the book contains date back to the fifties and the sixties and tend to focus on both the emerging science-fiction and fantasy genre, as well as some essays looking at literary criticism in general. The thing with science-fiction and fantasy at this time was that it was still very much a fringe genre, generally looked down upon by the critics of Lewis' day, and these essays were designed to attempt to change the perception of this new form of literature, especially since it has existed in some form or another since people first started telling stories.


What we seem to have with regards to this genre are the generally recognised classics of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, however they weren't the only people who were experimenting with this new genre – Mary Shelly had published Frankenstein, which is basically about a robot that hunts down its master, and The Last Man, which is a post-apocalyptic story of the last man left alive on Earth. However, even around Wells' time we have writers such as Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the creator of Conan the Barbarian Robert E Howard. The thing is that in the case of Haggard, his stories about the adventures of Alan Quartermain, have found themselves moved out of the category of fantasy and into the category of adventure.


The reason for this is that when the world was smaller, and a lot less known, authors would imagine what the world was like in these mysterious places – Swift set is adventures out in the middle of the oceans, while Haggard set his adventures deep in the darkest parts of Africa. Even writers like Howard created a time that existed before recorded history, and created a civilisation that existed there but has since been all but destroyed. The problem is that as we explore and map the globe, and as we make educated guesses about the pre-historic times, setting stories in these places becomes less and less believable, so authors need to look for other worlds in which to set their stories – and the main reason for setting the stories in other, imaginary, worlds, is that there is a lot less demand for realism, while setting a story in, say, Hong Kong, probably requires a lot more research (not that writers actually do that). Mind you, when they made the film version of John Carter, one of the complaints was that now we know that Mars is little more than a barren rock so creating a movie where a civil war soldier lands up in a world full of Martians isn't going to sit all that well these days.



One interesting thing that Lewis comments on was how he was disappointed with a film version of King Solomon's Mines, and how the final cliff hanger was changed to make it somewhat more exciting. I can sort of see where Lewis is coming from here, because I'm sure many of us have been seriously disappointed when one of our favourite books has been put onto the big screen. However cinema is a completely different medium to a book, in the same way that a play isn't necessarily the same as a poem – reading a play and watching a play be performed are two completely different experiences, and as I have discovered watching the play performed means that you are able to understand it a lot better. However, noting Lewis' criticism of the cinema adaptation of Rider's classic adventure tail, we begin to see cinema take on a life of its own – Indiana Jones comes to mind. In fact Lewis even suggests that when he was writing we had only seen the beginnings of this genre and the best were yet to come – well, when I think about it after Lewis' death we did see the rise of cult sci-fi classics such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and of course Doctor Who.


Lewis also writes a couple of comments on literary criticism, which I'm sure should apply to us since many of us do write reviews on books on Booklikes. Lewis suggests that one of the worse jobs to have is to be a paid book reviewer. I sort of can appreciate that. I write reviews because I enjoy writing reviews – as soon as you start getting paid to do it the pleasure somehow disappears. Mind you, I suspect that you would be lucky these days to get a paid reviewing job, particularly since many of the websites that post reviews of, well, whatever, tend to rely upon the unpaid work of schmucks like us (yet will pocket the profits gained through click-bait advertising).


I can also appreciate how he mentions that as a paid reviewer your TBR list literally explodes, and you have a dead-line to read all of these books. Personally, I don't like being rushed when it comes to reading a book, which is basically why I ignore review requests (and I suspect that I am not the only one). Mind you, all you need is for one bad apple and even the most interesting book will be ignored (I had some guy request I review a book, and I agreed, only to have him hound me for a couple of weeks to write the review, and didn't even get a thankyou, or a like, when I did so – I also suspect that I am not the only person who had this problem). Mind you, since my tastes generally involve authors that are, well, dead, then it is going to be difficult for a Booklikes author to fall into that category.


What caught my attention though were the reviewers that would review a book that they had never even read, or review a book in an attempt to cover up some flaws in the story (though I'm sure it isn't possible to cover up bad grammar, or spelling, unless of course you are writing poetry then theoretically anything goes, but once again, as Lewis suggested, in former times a poet was simply another name for a writer of fiction and fantasy). Mind you, I do spend an inordinate amount of time trying to patch up the apparent contradictions in the X-men films, namely because they are supposed to be all in the same universe, but the more you think about it the more it makes your head hurt. As for reviewing books that one hasn't read – I'm sure nobody actually does that on Booklikes.

9 September 2016 - Singapore (or at least the Airport)


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1751228111
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text 2016-08-08 16:21
Reading progress update: I've read 53 out of 353 pages.
Deadly Women - Ellen Nehr,Jan Grape,Dean James

I started rereading this last night, in part to jog my memory as to where I had got the darn thing.  The jog worked; I remembered.


About 20 years ago I was teaching a non-credit creative writing class at the local community college.  One of my students had started a book review blog -- I'm not even sure that term existed at the time -- and asked if I would be interested in reviewing for it.  She had some connections to the publishing industry, though I don't remember what they were, and received several boxes of books each week, more than she and her two or three other reviewers could handle.  All the books were mysteries; most were hardcover, some were paperback.  Her objective was to become a Harriet Klausner: get lots of free books, especially first editions, then sell them on a different website.


Seemed like a plan to me!


Anyway, I was diligent and produced reviews for all the books I was given, but alas, she couldn't keep up and the publishers stopped sending her freebies and her website/blog disappeared.  However, among the last batch of books she handed out for review was this uncorrected proof of Deadly Women.  That's how I came into possession of it.


Mystery solved!


The first section is an overview of the history of women in the mystery genre as both writers and characters, including information to suggest that the first true American mystery novel was written by a woman, Mrs. Metta Victoria Fuller Victor:  The Dead Letter, published in 1866.  She and the better-known Anna Katharine Green are considered the "mothers" of American mystery fiction.  Many of Green's novels are available as free Kindle editions from Amazon.  I've read The Forsaken Inn, and while it's not the best, it's still readable without any major rolling of the eyes.  I would definitely read more.


I read until 1:30 in the morning, reaching about the halfway point of an interview with Mary Higgins Clark.  I quit when my eyes started to blur . . . and the conversation devolved to discussing Clark's wardrobe.  Yeah, it did.

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