Classics Club February Meme: Question #19

The Classic Club’s question for this month is as follows:

“Dead white guys” are all too often the focus when it comes to discussions of the Western Canon. We’d love to see members highlight classic works or authors that are overlooked in the canon that deserve recognition. Pick one/or more and tell us how their work resonates for our century and/or for you. As always, you determine what is a “classic” in your point of view, including works from 2000+, and works from anywhere in the world. // Or, if you have trouble thinking of an author/work to highlight, you could simply discuss the topic itself: What is “The Western Canon” — have you thought about who/what determines which works are recognized from human history?

I was first introduced to the concept of the “canon” in one of my first classes as an undergraduate English major. Every day we discussed what was considered “good literature” or “important works” and how racism, sexism and social issues have been affecting who or what gets included in the canon. A readers I believe it’s important that we’re aware of the prejudices that go into lists of “good books” and try to be critical of such lists. Nowadays there are numerous lists of books to read, which I’m happy to say do tent to include a wider variety of authors. Slowly but surely I think we’re all becoming more aware and more interested in reading works by diverse authors, which I think is a good way to open your mind to new cultures and ideas. To answer the second question, history is always written by those in power, ignoring the voices of the oppressed and powerless. In order to completely understand the world, we need to hear all voices, and literature is one way of doing that.

As for who I believe should be included in the canon, one author comes to mind simply because for so long he’s been denied official recognition of literary society despite his popularity and, in my opinion, the perspective and unique nature of his work. Haruki Murakami is a popular Japanese author whose works have affected me personally for years now. There’s a running joke among his fans about how he’s never received the Nobel Prize for literature, though there’s always a tinge of genuine dismay. Murakami is open with his distaste for literary society and he doesn’t much care about how other people view his work, but as a reader and a fan, I’d like to see him earn the recognition I think he deserves.


Musing Mondays: January 6, 2014

musingmondays51Monday Musings is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Every Monday bloggers should muse about one of the following:

  • Describe one of your reading habits.
  • Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
  • What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
  • Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
  • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
  • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Over the weekend I started reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, and after I finished the first book and started thinking about my review, I immediately started comparing it to other books I’ve read recently. Most of what I read is literary fiction, and it’s very different from books/series like Percy Jackson. The target audience is different and the motivations behind the stories are also different. Percy Jackson is written for older children/young teens, so it’s goal is to entertain that age group. The story is also a series, which means the author wants to create a story that will make his readers want to read the other four books. None of this is meant to be criticism, though. I’ve loved young adult/children’s series ever since I was a child myself and see nothing wrong with enjoying them now. What I started wondering was, if these two genres are this different, how is what I look for in them different when I sit down and write my review?

The answer I came up with was style. To be honest, most young adult/children’s books I read have a very simple writing style which is better suited to its intended age group. That isn’t to say there is no style, but when compared to something like If on a winter’s night  traveler, a novel driven by its writing style, the different is stark. Young adult/children’s authors are more concerned with building an interesting story than crafting original and stylistically beautiful sentences.

Which is absolutely okay, since I know a lot of people who’d look at If on a winter’s night a traveler and get a major headache.

The things I look for in young adult/children’s lit are the same things which I believe the authors focus on themselves: a fun, interesting story, tangible and developed characters, and preferably a little humor. After reading so many long, involved and stylistically heavy novels, I admit it’s a bit of a relief to pick up a series like Percy Jackson and tear through it. I’m so glad I gave this series a chance, and plan to have reviews up of the first two books sometime this week.

WWW Wednesdays: December 18, 2013

www_wednesdays4Christmas is exactly one week away but I am not about to let the holiday insanity interrupt my book memes! This week, anyway.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

What are you currently reading?

This afternoon I started Many Lives by Kukrit Pramoj. The story is set in 1950s Thailand and begins with a passenger boat capsizing resulting in the death of all of its passengers. The novel tells the life stories of eleven of these passengers, all from starkly different backgrounds. It’s a captivating read so far!

What did you recently finish reading?

With If on a winter’s night a traveler now done, I’ve finished all of my Calvino novels. This means a review is in the works and that I really need to invest in more of his writing.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m torn between reading another Thai novel or starting Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Teaser Tuesdays: December 17, 2013

tteThis week has been crazily busy so I’m going to do a little leap into the future for this week’s Teaser Tuesday. I’m on the last chapter of If on a winter’s night a traveler…, but since I’ve already teased it I thought I’d preview the next book on my TBR list instead. One of my new Thai novels arrived late last week and I immediately moved it to top priority. This week’s teaser is from Kukrit Pramoj’s novel Many Lives from a page and paragraph chosen completely at random:

Nori only understood part of what his mother said, but he took in the tears and sobs of suffering, born of hurt and disappointment. The things he saw and felt made Nori deeply sorry for his mother. He thought then, as a child would, that if drink could cause his mother such suffering, he would never touch it.

This is a teaser both for you and for me seeing as I have no idea what the story is about. I really look forward to reading Pramoj’s novel and I hope, if it intrigues you, you’ll check it out yourself!

Do you already know what book you’ll read next? If so, what is it and why did you choose it?

Friday Finds: December 13, 2013

fridayfinds_bringontheinkHappy Friday the 13th, everyone! Today I’ll be sharing my Friday Finds as a part of the weekly meme run by MizB.  Every Friday readers share new books they’ve found and added to their TBR list over the course of the week. In my case these books have been added to my ever-growing wishlist for the new year. I’m trying to catch up on the past few issues of my favorite book review magazine, Bookmarks, which means I have a ton of new books I want to read. These books I selected from Bookmarks‘ November/December 2013 issue (note, these are just a few as I actually found over two dozen, oops):

  • Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell- I’ve been debating reading this for a long time. Part of me is extremely interested in the story, and part of me is extremely hesitant because it might hit a little too close to home for comfort or enjoyment. This month I’ve decided to give in and add it to the TBR list. We’ll see how I feel about it when I get around to reading it.
  • The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan- Amy Tan is an amazing author and I was super happy to see she’s released a new book. Definitely must read!
  • The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez- Vasquez is a Colombian author who’s been getting a lot of attention recently. He’s being compared to Gabiel Garcia Marquez in terms of his effect on Colombian literature, though their styles are utterly different. I really want to try him out, so on the list he goes.
  • The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon- According to Bookmarks the young author of this new young adult novel received a huge advance for all seven books in her series. If that’s not intriguing, I don’t know what is.
  • MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood- I have read only one Atwood novel so far and loathed in (looking at you, Handmaid’s Tale), but I am all for giving an author a second chance, especially when so many people speak so highly of her. I actually plan to read a different Atwood novel first, but I will definitely be checking out this novel, her newest, as well.

I know, this list is entirely influenced by the authors. What can I say? I am very author-driven when it comes to choosing my books. One of my challenges for 2014 is to branch out and try more new authors, though, so I suppose I’ll have to let go of this habit a little.

WWW Wednesdays: December 11, 2013

www_wednesdays4WWW Wednesdays is another weekly meme brought to you by MizB of Should Be Reading. To join, answer three questions:

• What are you currently reading?

If on a winter’s night a traveler… by Italo Calvino. Calvino’s work is postmodern and therefore mind-bending at times, but I love the flow of his language, especially in this novel. I highly recommend this novel to people who love reading and love thinking about reading because the story explores the art of story-making and storytelling while also (kind of) producing an interesting plot. In this book it’s not about the ending; it’s about the journey. Of course I can’t really say that for sure until I reach the end!

• What did you recently finish reading?

A few hours after posting my Monday memes I finished Mo Yan’s Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in this short collection and will be posting a review (my first for this blog!) once I have time (meaning once my Fall semester courses are finally over).

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m torn between going on a Mo Yan binge, seeing as I have three of his novels sitting on my shelf, and hopping to another author to change things up.

Do you enjoy reading a lot of one author at once or do you prefer changing authors with every book? Is there one particular author you could read for months and feel perfectly satisfied?

Teaser Tuesdays: December 10, 2013

tteToday I have Teaser Tuesdays, a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  All you have to do is:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“Reading,” he says, “is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead…”
– If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino

(Calvino’s writing is prone to really long sentences so I kept my teaser at one to compensate.)

What do you think of this speaker’s take on reading? Do you agree?