Readersforum's Blog

April 23, 2014

Nadine Gordimer: The Great Post-Mandela Disillusion

No TimeBy Michael Skafidas

Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, is the leading lady of letters in South Africa. Through her fiction and non-fiction writings she has captured the despair and the triumph of a country that went all the way from the ignominy of apartheid to the heights of Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

In this conversation, Gordimer speaks with Michael Skafidas for the WorldPost about the disillusion of post-Mandela South Africa, her distrust of the digital era and her decision to retire from writing fiction.

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January 24, 2014

25 Big Novels That Are Worth Your Time

ProustBy Jason Diamond

What we love about big novels is that you have to get really comfortable with them. A big page count usually equals a big chunk of time, meaning you need to be a serious reader without a fear of commitment, but with books like Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and Sergio de la Pava’s A Naked Singularity receiving heaps of praise and major literary awards in 2013, there is a very great chance that this year will probably see its share of great novels that tip the scales at over 500 pages. With that, we offer you this list of epic page turners that you may have missed, skipped, or just couldn’t finish the first time, because we believe that bigger can certainly be better, and these books are proof of that.

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May 17, 2013

“The Genius They Forgot”

Dorothy Richardson   (1873 - 1957)

Dorothy Richardson (1873 – 1957)

On this day in 1873 Dorothy Richardson was born. Pilgrimage, Richardson’s twenty-year experimental novel, began appearing in 1915 — at about the time Joyce, Proust and Woolf were engaged in similar experiments. While Richardson may or may not be “the genius they forgot” (the subtitle of one biography), her writing was the first to be described as “stream of consciousness,” and her life is every bit as remarkable as those more famous and remembered.

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November 6, 2012

Maurice Sendak [Author, Illustrator]

 

“I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”
Things still worth caring about, near the end of a life:
Peace and quiet, helping young artists, The Odyssey, Marcel Proust, Henry James, George Eliot, Franz Schubert, Samuel Palmer, William Blake, the ancients, William Shakespeare, John Keats, all the people you love passionately, telling the truth, love affairs, noses
By Emma Brockes

I went to see Maurice Sendak last year at his home in Connecticut. The eighty-three-year-old was promoting his latest book, Bumble-Ardy, about an orphaned pig whose ninth-birthday festivities are gate-crashed by teenage swine. He came to the door with his dog, Herman (after Melville), and for the next two hours was everything one might expect him to be: furious, caustic, darkly hilarious, and, above all, warm about life and love and what matters most.

After his death, in May, much was written about Sendak’s legendary crossness, but it was really just impatience with artifice. “I refuse to lie to children,” he said. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.” There was no roughness in his delivery. It was spiked with merriment. He was also very tender. Sendak’s memories of his family, the suffering they had gone through during the war, and the effect this had on his development as an artist, still brought him close to tears. He recalled his mother and father as bewildered, hurt people, first-generation immigrants from Poland set at sea in America.

He had been grieving since the death, in 2007, of Eugene Glynn, his partner of fifty years, and was not afraid of dying.

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September 30, 2012

The 10 Best Narrators in Literature

By Antoine Wilson

The first-person narrator descends from the ancient storyteller unspooling his tale around the fire for the delight and edification of his people. But on the page, two things transform him. One, we readers can ask “Who is this speaker? Why is he telling us this story, and what isn’t he telling us?” Two, he can go on as long as he wants. The first case invents the so-called Unreliable Narrator, the second gives rise to what I like to call the World Swallower.

Whether insane, overheated, strung-out, or merely young and naïve, Unreliable Narrators always deliver more than their characters intend to. Comic or tragic, serious or absurd, they can tell just about any story while also reflecting our capacity for self-deception, our limited sliver of knowledge about the world, and the limits of language itself.

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September 10, 2011

Fiction far from farce in 21st century literature

By Danny Wicentowski

James Joyce’s “Ulysses” dares you to try to read it. Thick as a phonebook and infinitely denser, the modernist masterpiece is notorious for its ability to break the will of even the most dedicated literati. While the book’s value was questioned on grounds of obscenity in 1921, the 21st century finds the value of literature itself uncertain in an environment populated by new forms of media.

So why bother with Ulysses? Why bother with fiction at all?

Such was the question that followed the release of President Obama’s summer reading list, which included four works of fiction, such as “The Bayou Trilogy,” a collection by Daniel Woodrell, and “Rodin’s Debutante” by Ward Just. President Bush, by comparison, consistently chose weighty works of history and political theory for his reading list.

Notably, conservative columnist and radio host Michael Medved wrote, “Does it make sense for the president of the United States to carve time out of his busy schedule to read novels?”

Medved implies that a novel — by its very nature — is a waste of time, only meant for “relaxation.” So the question isn’t only whether President Obama should indulge in fiction, but whether anyone should.

Jonah Lehrer, author of “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” is a firm believer in the value of literature, especially the difficult variety.

“Literature really requires that you do something that’s a little more sophisticated from the perspective of your brain,” said Lehrer, also a contributing writer at Wired magazine.

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September 3, 2011

10 Novels That We Dare You to Finish

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Peter Nadas’s novel Parallel Stories, which will be released this November, clocks in at well over 1,000 pages. In an interview with New York, the Hungarian author queried, “Why wouldn’t ­Musil, Mann, or Broch be my contemporaries?” In honor of his ambition,  we’ve compiled a list of 10 novels that could also function as doorstops if you decide to give up on them. Maybe you’ve tried to impress your friends by casually mentioning that you’re finally reading Proust, or you’re the annoying person on the train with the weighty tome in both hands, jostling into your fellow passengers because you can’t spare a free hand — whatever the reason, we salute you, foolhardy readers.

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