Monday, January 21, 2013

The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw
By Henry James
First published in 1898

The Turn of the Screw is a novella that was published in serial form in Collier’s Weekly. The story is divided into a prologue and twenty four chapters. The story begins on a Christmas eve with people sitting around a fire telling ghost stories. After a lackluster ghost story the narrator introduces the story of a governess who is watching over two children who are haunted by apparitions! The novella is a quick read and will keep you reading long into the night!

We are studying this story in a Critical Approaches to Literature class that I am taking. The definition of critical is not passing judgement but as a way to interpret and analyze literature. We are applying different theoretical frameworks to interpret literature. The more well known theories are psychoanalysis and new criticism. Even if you don't know the theories you may have heard of the terminology associated with them like close reading, and symbolism. I tend to interpret literature in the classical way, that is incorporating the authors history and historical context of the text. That also influences the way I normally present these blog post. I tend to give a brief bio of the author or things I think are significant to the text. Also, some of the text discussed here are a hundred or even a few hundred years old and I tend to interpret them from the context they were written in. See my King Lear post and Tom Sawyer post. That said, I am trying a little something different with this one.


The Turn of the Screw - Free

The Turn of the Screw: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism) - $13.64 This is the version we are using in class. Has many great essays on the book using different approaches. unfortunately it is not available in eBook format.

The Turn of the Screw is a framed story. The story is being narrated on a cold winter night while people are taking turns telling ghost stories. The person telling the story is recalling the story from the written account he got from the Governess who experienced and wrote it down. How does the framing of the story affect the story? The story could have been the written account from the governess herself. Why does Henry James chose to tell the story in this way?

Because the story is being told from memory, the question of the reliability of the narrator is raised. Is the written account reliable? It is written from the first person account and telling of supernatural events; is the governess telling what she saw or is she delusional? Is the ghost story teller relaying all the facts or is he elaborating on the story for effect?

These are some of the questions that come up while doing a narratological reading of the story. Narratology is looking at how the structure of the narrative affects the interpretation of the story. This is a great story to do this type of interpretation. The novella is written by the author who is telling a story. He frames it as a ghost story in the story he wrote. Also, the author is writing in a genre, and the conventions of the genre affect the way the story is told and what has to be included.

The critical approach to literature can help in understanding the story in a more profound way. The author wrote the story for the entertainment of the reader, and the reader can get a deeper understanding by critically thinking about what they are reading. Spending time thinking about the story can help the reader remember the story better. From personal experience, the stories I tend to forget are ones I did not spend time thinking about. Asking simple questions like “why the author chose to start the story in a certain way” can lead to a more in depth reading experience. I read for pleasure but I also like to learn from what I read. Our culture is becoming increasing more reliant on sound bytes and information overload. Spending time reading and thinking about reading is important. I don't just want to read to get through a novel, I want to enjoy the experience and I can do that by thinking about what I am reading as well as while I am reading. Thinking about the choices that authors make in starting novels or in organizing the chapters, helps the readers to become an active reader. 


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Monday, December 17, 2012

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina - Free
First Published in 1877

Anna Karenina is a novel by Leo Tolstoy. The novel was originally published in serial form from 1873 to 1877. This is a highly regarded book and one that I personally love. It has grown in popularity in recent years and is widely regarded as a flawless book. The new movie version looks really good with Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina and Jude Law as her husband Count Alexei Karenin.

Anna Karenina is a classic novel dealing with the grand themes of adultery, forgiveness, death and social change in 19th century Russia. Tolstoy loved to write and it shows in this 800 plus page book. His War and Peace is over 1000 pages but with the magic of the Kindle, the weight of the book disappears.

The novel starts out with some immortal words.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
The novel is split into eight parts with each part containing 20 to 30 chapters. Because the novel was originally serialized, you can read each chapter as a standalone within a greater work. Tolstoy managed to write a 800 page page-turner. A feat that is highly praised by many including William Faulkner who called it “the best ever written.” Read the book before you go out and see the movie because like I always say, the books are always better than the movies! The novel has been made into at least 12 different movie versions.

Download the book and see what is changed or left out in the new movie version.

Anna Karenina - Free The Constance Garnett translation.
Anna Karenina - $0.99 A nicely formatted version with a table of contents.
Anna Karenina (Maude Translation) - $2.99 The highly praised Maude translation.

Check out our Facebook Page and Like us to keep up to date on the latest Kindle Literature news. You can share this post or any others on your social media of choice and bookmark the site for future post. You can also grab the RSS feed or try a   free 2 week trial*  on your Kindle to have the posts delivered directly to your Kindle. Follow me on twitter @seframos. Happy Reading.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 Literary Awards

Every year there are a number of awards that highlight some of the best literature and writers. With so much being published and people having less and less time to read, awards are a good place to find books to read. Literature awards are also a good place to follow along with the happenings in the literature world as well as discover new writers. 

Nobel Prize In Literature

One of the highest honors a writer can get is the Nobel Prize in Literature. This award is given to writers for their body of work. It is not limited to a country or type of writing. The award can go to any writer writing in any language. It is a very exciting award because of all the rumors that fly around. “Will so and so finally win?” There is a long list of great writers around the world that are considered for this and you can count on being surprised by the winner. This year was no exception. Mo Yan, a chinese novelist and short story writer, won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. This is a very controversial selection and many people, including Chinese dissidents and past prize winners were critical of the choice. No one is critical of his writings. He seems like a fascination writer, one that defends censorship while being censored himself. I had never heard of him before he won the award and it seems he is one of the most well read writers in the world and barely known here in the US. Here are some of his most popular novels.

Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out $8.98
The Garlic Ballads $3.99
Shifu, You'll Do Anything For a Laugh $7.69


The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction  is “awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” There are also many other awards ranging from journalist to nonfiction. The Award was founded in 1918. Some previous winners are Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway. This is yet another controversial year for a coveted award. This years winner is NOBODY! The panel that judges the winner is made up of 3 judges. There were three novels on the short list and each judge chose a different author. It was a three way tie with no winned and so no award will be given in 2012. This has happened a few times in its long history. This is a great award to follow highlighting some of the best fiction by American writers. Here are the three finalist. 

David Foster Wallace - The Pale King $8.89
Karen Russel - Swamplandia! $9.99
Denis Johnson - Train Dreams: A Novella $9.99


National Book Award

The National Book Award’s mission is to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America.” This book has a long and varied past and is one of the major awards given to American writers. This is another great place to find books to read and they do a lot of outreach to communities and in supporting public appearances by writers. Faulkner, Pynchon, Updike, McCarthy, and Franzen are someof the past nominees and winners. This years winner is Louise Erdrich with The Round House.

The Round House $12.99

And the runners up.


Junot Diaz - This Is How You Lose Her $12.99
Dave Eggers - A Hologram for the King $9.99
Ben Fountain - Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel $9.68
Kevin Powers - The Yellow Birds: A Novel $9.99


The Man-Booker Prize

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe, according to Wikipedia. This is a very big deal. This is the biggest of the English Language awards given. They have a long list which they announce very early on and then a short list is selected out of that. They have had their own share of controversy but this year was free of any. Hilary Mantel won for the second time in 5 years for her historical novel Bring Up the Bodies. This is a major award to follow because it includes many countries that speak English and covers a diverse range of topics. I discovered a couple of my favorite writers while reading these novels, Julian Barnes and J.M. Coetzee.

Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel $13.49

Please note all the prices are accurate as of the time of this post, in the US Amazon store. You can check out the other awards given by the different organizations. I study and follow fiction and so these are just the awards that I like to keep up on. I try to read the Pulitzer and the Man Booker every year. They also have many different awards for nonfiction, science fiction, horror, and children’s books.

Check out our Facebook Page and Like us to keep up to date on the latest Kindle Literature news. You can share this post or any others on your social media of choice and bookmark the site for future post. You can also grab the RSS feed or try a   free 2 week trial*  on your Kindle to have the posts delivered directly to your Kindle. Follow me on twitter @seframos. Happy Reading.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote
First Published in 1605

Many of the books discussed before on this blog have been on “Best Books” lists including Things Fall Apart, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Crime and Punishment, The Odyssey, and King Lear. There is one book that is consistently ranked high on all the best books’ lists and was voted “best literary work ever written,” Don Quixote.

Don Quixote is a parody of the knighthood tales that were popular at the time.

PARODY n. a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.
Miguel de Cervantes published the first part in 1605 and the second part ten years later in 1615. The work was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into many languages including a great number of different English translations. An interesting fact is that Don Quixote is the second most popular printed work, behind the Bible.

Don Quixote is a middle aged country man who decides to set off on adventures to save the world. Being influenced by the many tales of knighthood and the chivalric code that he has been reading, he begins his adventures. He gets himself knighted and finds himself a noble squire, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote is a man out of time trying to live by the code that has long been forgotten.

The first part of the book is silly and makes fun of many tales of knighthood. The second part is more serious and deals with philosophical issues of deception. There are several free versions of the book in the kindle store.

Don Quixote - Free
The History of Don Quixote, Volume 1, Complete - Free

Don Quixote (Modern Library) - $9.99
Don Quijote (Spanish Edition) - Free

If there is one book that is considered a must read for most people, it has to be Don Quixote. The book was an instant success and has remained popular for more than 400 years! I am reading this book in English and I will try to read it in Spanish when I am done. If your kindle has text-to-speech, you can have it read the greatest novel to you while you drive back and forth from work!

Check out our Facebook Page and Like us to keep up to date on the latest Kindle Literature news. You can share this post or any others on your social media of choice and bookmark the site for future post. You can also grab the RSS feed or try a   free 2 week trial*  on your Kindle to have the posts delivered directly to your Kindle. Follow me on twitter @seframos. Happy Reading.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Professor's House

Willa Cather
The Professor's House - $4.65
Published in 1925

Willa Cather was a Pulitzer Prize winning American writer. She was a very confident writer, working for years on novels to produce a very specific voice. She did not fit in with other women writers of her time and is said to have “regarded most women writers with disdain, judging them overly sentimental and mawkish.” She is now recognized as a major American writer and the foremost woman writer.

In undergrad, I had the pleasure of taking a Willa Cather course with a renowned Cather Scholar Dr. Margaret Doane. Dr. Doane has published over 60 articles and papers dealing with many themes in various Cather novels. We read several novels by Willa Cather and The Professor’s House was the one that made the most impact on me.

The novel is split into three parts. The first concerns the family of Professor Godfrey St. Peter and the midlife crisis he is experiencing after winning an award for his life’s work. He has lost his lust for life after publishing his life’s work and still having a life to live after. He has become estranged with his family and is mourning the death of a brilliant pupil, Tom Outland. The second part is the story of Tom Outland that the Professor is editing from Tom’s journals. The last part concerns the Professor trying to hang on to his old life while his family is away on a trip in Europe.

The novel, like most great novels, has inspired a wide array of readings. A common reading of the novel is that it’s a “story about the moral decline of a money driven society.” This was a popular reading of the novel for many years until the novel and Willa Cather began to be studied more widely. Dr. Doane was the first to do a feminist reading of The Professor’s House. Willa Cather was a woman writing a man’s view of women. Generally, the views of the male characters were viewed as her views. It wasn't until doing a feminist reading of the novel that you can see that “the Professor strongly feels women, particularly those in his family, are destructive and petty.” The Professor is always amazed with women even though he finds fault with them. Professor “St. Peter and other males’ --thoughts about women shows a perspective which is both prejudiced and insensitive.”




The readings of the novel range from societal critique to feminist readings and more recently homosexual readings. Whichever reading you choose to use, The Professor’s House is a novel worth reading. This is not her most famous novel or the one she won awards for, but it is the one that defines Willa Cather for me. Download a sample and check out the foremost American woman writer.

Check out our Facebook Page and “Like” us to keep up to date on the latest Kindle Literature news. You can share this post or any others on your social media of choice and bookmark the site for future post. You can also grab the RSS feed or try a free 2 week trial* on your Kindle to have the posts delivered directly to your Kindle. Follow me on twitter @seframos. Happy Reading.