31 March 2006

World Theatre Day

At a wonderful reading on Wednesday night by Gordon Portman, I learned that Monday 27 March 2006 was World Theatre Day. I'm coming to it late, but I want to write about it anyway. According to the International Theatre Institute/UNESCO site, "World Theatre Day is an occasion for theatre people to celebrate the power of the performing arts to bring people together, it is an opportunity to share with their audiences a certain vision of their art and its capacity to contribute to understanding and peace between peoples." Each year around the world there is a multiplicity of events to celebrate the day, including performances, parades, awards, symposia, and festivals. There is also an annual International Message where "a figure outstanding in theatre or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field, is invited to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony." The first International Message was given by Jean Cocteau; this year the message was written by Mexican playwright Victor Hugo Rascón Banda. Here is an excerpt from Rascón Banda's speech: "The theatre moves, illuminates, disquiets, disturbs, lifts the spirit, reveals, provokes and violates conventions. It is a conversation shared with society. Theatre is the first art to confront emptiness, shadows and silence to make words, movement, lights and life surge forth. Theatre is a living creature that destroys itself as it is created, but always arises from the ashes. It is a magic communication in which all people give and receive something that transforms them. The theatre reflects humankind’s existential anguish and unravels the human condition. It is not its creators who speak through the theatre, but rather the society of the epoch." You can read the entire speech here.

30 March 2006

A Second Interview With Alberto Manguel

Recently I blogged about a great interview with Alberto Manguel. I had the good fortune two days later to run across a second interview with him. This one is an audio file; it was recorded shortly after A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books was published, and it was this book that he came to talk about. However, the conversation was wide-ranging. He did talk about the diary: the concept of it, the historical use of it, the use of a diary to create ourselves, and the notion of reader as voyeur. However, he also talked about the idea of home, the reason his Canadian nationality is so important to him, and Canadian literature. Unsurprisingly, given his vast reading, he managed to mention (among others) Cynthia Ozick, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Katherine Mansfield, and St. Augustine all in the space of a few minutes. Finally, he gives a brief reading from A Reading Diary. Interviewer Robert Gougeon interrupts him a little too often, but Manguel handles it graciously. This site has many other audio interviews with authors, including Gail Bowen, Ian Rankin, Lynn Coady, Neil Bissoondath, Michael Crummey, Tomson Highway, and Alexander McCall Smith.

29 March 2006

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath Moved His Blog

The wonderful Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog has moved, and the new space is definitely better than the old one. Now ad-free, the new blog also has some photos. A wonderful addition to this blog is the link to a source for Chaucer blog t-shirttes with such logos as the following: · I wolde I knewe how of thee I might be quitten · Chaucer: funnier than dante, prettier than boccaccio · Okaye, so sometymes it raineth in Marche; make notte a chancerye case of the whole mattere · I study medieval literature because that's where the money is

28 March 2006

A Double Dose of Olivia

My favourite children's picture book character is Ian Falconer's charming and funny Olivia. I see now that there are two forthcoming books in the series. Atheneum Books will publish the first, called Olivia Forms a Band, in June. The second, due in October 2007, is Olivia's Christmas (it had to happen sooner or later!). Via PW Daily (23 March 2006).

27 March 2006

The Voting Closes Today

If you would like to vote for the British Book Awards, you must get your vote in by today. There doesn't seem to be any restriction as to country; I'm in Canada and I was able to vote with no problem. The categories are as follows: · Best Read of the Year · Book of the Year · Biography of the Year · Children's Book of the Year · Popular Fiction Award · Author of the Year · Crime Thriller of the Year (go, P.D. James!) · Writer of the Year · Newcomer of the Year · History Book of the Year · T.V. and Film Book of the Year · Sports Book of the Year Winners will be announced on Saturday 01 April 2006.

26 March 2006

A Different Kind of News Item About the Da Vinci Code

I haven't read the Da Vinci Code, and don't intend to, but I've certainly read enough about it. Now I've just come across a sad story connected to the book, far-removed from the current courtroom saga. A well-known Welsh monk who suffered from depression has committed suicide, and there's speculation that the trigger was the Da Vinci Code's theory of a conspiracy that the Church covered up the true facts of Jesus' life. You can read the full story here. Via Alternative Religions.

25 March 2006

Grooving on Pico Iyer

I first stumbled across Pico Iyer in Time magazine. He had written his essay on the comma, and I had never before seen an example of punctuation being used so effectively. Later I did a search for that essay and discovered that it could be found in his collection Tropical Classical. I bought it, and when I read another section of the book, I found that travel literature, a genre that had previously held no appeal to me, could in fact be gripping. Here's an excerpt from his piece "Ethiopia: Prayers in the Wilderness" "Yet one Sunday morning, sitting in the corner of a tower and looking over the pieces of rock, suddenly I heard wild chanting and the steady, insistent pounding of drums and a trilling, thrilling ululation of women down below, and when I looked down, I saw them moving all as one, swaying back and forth, with the jacarandas behind them. When I went down, I found myself in a whole avenue of churches, crowded with worshipers, the streets all but palpitant with prayer, and, along the ancient mud walls, long lines of mendicants and beggars. On every side, around the center, people were gathered under trees, and children were scampering around broken gravestones, and petitioners with white crosses chalked upon their foreheads were giving alms. There were golden robes and rows of multicoloured umbrellas and bells tolling constantly and, lined up outside the round churches, a terrible, haggard row of people in rags: the leprous, the lame, the palsied, and the blind. The notion of a savior had never made more sense to me; I half expected to see Jesus and the Apostles walking down these muddy lanes." Once I start to read his work, I am drawn in just by his use of language—even if I have no interest at all in the topic.

24 March 2006

An Interview With Alberto Manguel

Alberto Manguel is a reader's reader. His personal library comprises over 30,000 books, and the authors he mentions casually range from Goethe to Collodi to Sayers to Shaw. It would be impossible for him to hide his erudition—it shines through in all his writing and conversation. But he manages to inspire rather than intimidate. After listening to him speak, or reading one of his works, I want to rush out and discover the books and authors that he loves—especially Jorge Luis Borges. When he's speaking we get the added benefit of being able to listen to his voice, which is musical and beautifully accented. I was very grateful, then, to learn of this interview with Manguel by Robert Birnbaum. I read it, heard Manguel's voice in my head, and had that same sensation I always get of wanting to go out and buy any number of the books that he mentions and then ignore the rest of my life until I've gone through them all, preferably twice. Via The Mumpsimus through Books, Inq.

23 March 2006

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog is one of those sites that, for a medievalist, is a knee-slapper (make sure you check out the blog's tag-line!). Although written in pseudo-Middle English, it's easy to pick up, so those who aren't familiar with Chaucer's language shouldn't hesitate to visit. Here is a sample: "Oh newfanglenesse! Y have learned the privitees of the manye abbreviaciouns ywritten on the internette. OMG: "oh mine ++DOMINUS++". ROFL: "rollinge on the floore laughinge". IRL: "in reale lyfe." WTF: "whatte the swyve?" Here is an excerpt from the "Top X searches in myne networke: 8. discounte ale 7. Kent 6. Macrobius for dummyes 5. howe to thinly veil acquaintences as fictional characteres 4. arabic numerals 3. readynge %(%(%ing chancerye hand" Via Austen-tatious.

22 March 2006

Reading Pen Pals

Here's a great initiative: Reading Pen Pals. The adults who participate are asked, first, to choose a book they love: "Something you’ve read to your children … the best book you read in high school … a book you’ve heard kids talking about that made you curious: any book that you think a reader (up to grade 12) might enjoy." Then they're asked to write a "Dear Reader" letter: "Without giving too much of the plot away, let kids know why you enjoy the book. Ask a few open-ended questions about readers’ reactions to the characters or author or story, or other subjects related to the book." The letter/review is then posted, and students can go to this site, read it, read the book, and then, if they like, write to the author of the review with their own comments about the book. At that point, the adult writes back. Some adult penpals only respond once, and others keep up the correspondence for a few months. It is all done via the site administrators, and no E-mail addresses are revealed. Some of the books that are listed on the site include the following: · Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret · Catwings · The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time · The Diary of Anne Frank · Fast Food Nation · The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (what a great title! Also, according to the review, it's funny enough to make the adult laugh out loud in the subway. Never mind the students, I'm going to check this one out) Via Rebecca's Pocket.

21 March 2006

The Top Five Funniest Novels

Roger Kimball has listed his picks for the top five funniest novels. I haven't read three of his choices, but I look forward to doing so. I've read Lucky Jim, and while I liked and admired it, I don't remember it as being very funny. Maybe I was too deeply immersed in the academic environment it mirrors. The one I'm half-way through (Scoop) I'm not finding funny either. It's a good read, and I can see the irony, but I don't think it's funny. Maybe it's just too subtle for me. In fact, while I've enjoyed all of Waugh's novels that I've read (maybe half?), the humour escapes me—even when the blurb on the back cover assures me that "he's in the peak of his comic form in this novel." To escape my feelings of inadequacy that such statements always produce (to say nothing of the inevitable subsequent serious read on my part), I've created my own list of top five funny novels. Here it is: • Carry On, Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse) (I'm cheating here—they're short stories) • Emma (Jane Austen) (the humour in this one really shines when you re-read it, after you know what's going to happen and can see the ironic foreshadowing) • The Pickwick Papers (Charles Dickens) • What's The Worst That Could Happen? (Donald Westlake) (laugh-out-loud funny) • When In Greece OR A Stitch In Time (Emma Lathen) Now, if the topic were a list of very funny non-fiction books, you'd have a hard time shutting me up . . . . Via Bookshelves of Doom.

20 March 2006

A Great Online Source For Word Information

I've just discovered Oxford Dictionaries' online site of Frequently Asked Questions. There are categories here for dictionaries, grammar, spelling, symbols, the English language, usage, words, word origins, and "other things." They offer a list of popular questions, such as the following: - "What is the longest English word?" - "Are there any words that contain the letter 'q' without a 'u' following it?" - "What is the origin of the dollar sign ($)?" I have to confess to being a little surprised to find that "Is a banana a fruit or herb?" is a popular question. It had never occurred to me to wonder about this, but now it appears that enough debates rage about it that the good people at Oxford have included the answer to it here to defuse tension. When I browsed in the "word" category, I saw that they had answers to such questions as these: - "Is there an eight-letter words with five vowels in a row?" - "Is there a term for the study of love?" - "Is there a word like 'siblings' for nephews and nieces collectively?" - "What is the difference between a 'street' and a 'road'?" - "Apart from 'angry' and 'hungry,' what other words end in 'gry'?" - "Can a DNA string be considered the longest word in the English language?" These questions don't keep me up at night, but now that they're raised, I do have to wonder about the answers. Then there is the charming "Is there a word for a baby hedgehog?". Much as I love hedgehogs, I didn't know this was a common enough question to warrant inclusion here. But I'm glad to see that the collective knowledge about hedgehogs is being raised. Via The Millions.

19 March 2006

What Religion Is Your Favourite Comic Book Hero?

When I was avidly reading super-hero comics as a child, it never occurred to me to wonder about the religions of each of the characters. However, The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters is an extensively researched site about this very topic. I always liked Spider-Man (who turns out to be a Protestant), Thor (Teutonic paganism—surprise, surprise), and Supergirl (Kryptonian religion). There's also a list of the religions of the bad guys. Lex Luthor, for example, turns out to have been a Nietzschian atheiest. This site is a great browse; I've spent a lot of time here already. My only quarrel with it is that the lists aren't alphabetical; it takes time to find your character. But there's so much fun stuff to read along the way that I can't object too strongly. Via memepool.

18 March 2006

Vote For Your Favourite American Poem

10 poems from The Oxford Book of American Poetry are nominated for "Favourite American Poem." Some of those in the running are Frost's "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening," Poe's "The Raven," Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and Stevens' "Sunday Morning." If you would like to vote for your favourite, and see how each is doing, click here. The winner will be announced 01 May 2006. Via Brandywine Books.

17 March 2006

Hamlet's Cat

This wonderful parody of Hamlet's famous soliloquy was written by Jack Kolb, Department of English, UCLA. It's funny even if you're not a Shakespeare fan and have never read Hamlet. All that's required is to have lived with a cat at some time. It's been around for a while, but every now and again I like to go back, dust it off, and smile all over again. Hamlet's Cat To go outside, and there perchance to stay Or to remain within: that is the question: Whether 'tis better for a cat to suffer The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather That Nature rains on those who roam abroad, Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet, And so by dozing melt the solid hours That clog the clock's bright gears with sullen time And stall the dinner bell. To sit, to stare Outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state A wish to venture forth without delay, Then when the portal's opened up, to stand As if transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep; To choose not knowing when we may once more Our readmittance gain: aye, there's the hairball; For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob, Or work a lock or slip a window-catch, And going out and coming in were made As simple as the breaking of a bowl, What cat would bear the household's petty plagues, The cook's well-practiced kicks, the butler's broom, The infant's careless pokes, the tickled ears, The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks That fur is heir to, when, of his own free will, He might his exodus or entrance make With a mere mitten? Who would spaniels fear, Or strays trespassing from a neighbor's yard, But that the dread of our unheeded cries And scratches at a barricaded door No claw can open up, dispels our nerve And makes us rather bear our humans' faults Than run away to unguessed miseries? Thus caution doth make house cats of us all; And thus the bristling hair of resolution Is softened up with the pale brush of thought, And since our choices hinge on weighty things, We pause upon the threshold of decision.

16 March 2006

Londoners Spat Black

I've recently started reading Claire Tomalin's award-winning biography of Samuel Pepys (1633—1703). It's one of the best sources I've found for really understanding the living conditions in England in the 1600s. I hadn't realised, for example, how polluted the London air was. Tomalin writes as follows: "Every household burnt coal . . . . so did the brewers and dyers, the brick-makers . . . the ubiquitious soap and salt boilers. The smoke from their chimneys made the air dark, covering every surface with sooty grime. There were days when a cloud of smoke half a mile high and twenty miles wide could be seen over the city from the Epsom Downs. Londoners spat black. Wall hangings, pictures, and clothes turned yellow and brown like leaves in autumn, and winter undervests, sewn on for the season against the cold, were the colour of mud by the time spring arrived" (page 5). I had forgotten how little attention was paid to personal hygiene: "Hair was expected to look after itself; John Evelyn made a note in his diary in August 1653 that he was going to experiment with an 'annual hair wash'" (page 5). I don't think I'd ever realised the intensity of the smells that were so much a part of daily living: "But every home, every family enjoyed its own smell, to which father, mother, children, apprentices, maids and pets all contributed, a rich brew of hair, bodies, sweat and other emissions, bedclothes, cooking, whatever food was lying about, whatever dirty linen had been piled up for the monthly wash, whatever chamber pots were waiting to be emptied into yard or street. Home meant the familiar reek which everyone breathed" (pages 5-6). I hope that my reading pattern with this biography doesn't follow my usual one: read avidly for the first 50--100 pages and then stop, distracted by a sudden need to reread every Emma Lathen book I can get my hands on. Claire Tomalin. Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self. London: Penguin, 2002. Winner of the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year.

15 March 2006

Long Lists for the ReLit Awards Announced

The Long Lists for the ReLit Awards can be viewed at the ReLit Awards site. There are three categories: novel, short fiction, and poetry. The short lists will be announced in late May. The ReLit Awards site tells us that "The ReLit Awards (Ideas, Not Money) were founded in 2000 as an alternative to the big-money prizes.The awards are open to books published by independent Canadian literary publishers. ReLit is short for Regarding Literature, Reinventing Literature, Relighting Literature..."

14 March 2006

Godot Finally Turns Up

Ben MacIntyre has decided to cheer things up a little in literature classics. In his article "To Cuddle a Mockingbird," he responds to a survey that found that most readers preferred a happy ending. Accordingly, he created happy endings for a number of works of literature. For example, he says, "Macbeth is much too depressing. In my version the gentle, unassuming and monosyllabic thane settles down at Cawdor, where Lady Macbeth develops a profitable line in soap that leaves the hands spotless. Hamlet finds a shrink, marries Ophelia and goes into insurance." On the other hand, he notes that a few people preferred gloomy endings, so he proposes a couple of those too. He gives the following example: "Pride and Prejudice could be rendered less saccharine by introducing the scene where Darcy explains to Elizabeth that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune still in want of a wife is obviously gay, so he is moving to Tangiers to live with Wickham." Read the full story. Via Arts and Letters Daily.

13 March 2006

Blooker Nominees Announced

I see that the nominees for the 2006 Blooker Prize have been announced. The Blooker Prize honours the best book that evolved out of a blog. There are three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and web comics. One of the nominees in the non-fiction category is the intriguing-sounding Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl (from the Belle de Jour blog). In the last category one of the nominees is the fun Dinosaur Comics; see the Wikipedia entry. For the complete list of nominees (plus the blogs the books grew out of), see the short lists. For complete information on the Blookers, see The Lulu Blooker Prize. Via the CBC.

12 March 2006

Another Great Book In the Oxford Series

The Oxford Guide To . . . series keeps producing great titles on a variety of subjects. Now I see that there is The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer. Here's the link to the Publisher's Weekly review. Via Religion BookLine.

11 March 2006

50% Off Everything At Loompanics

After 30 years of publishing subversive materials, Loompanics is closing due to decreased sales. Loompanics is holding a going-out-of business sale: 50% off the retail price. Apparently, books are now going quickly, so if you'd like to buy a book on guerilla warfare, anarchism, conducting investigations, the underground economy, or any one of a number of other areas, order now! To browse the catalogue, click here. If you're not familiar with the sort of books Loompanics publishes, here is an excerpt from the blurb for 21st Centure Revenge: Down and Dirty Tactics for the Millennium by Victor Santoro: "This book not only shows you how to form the ultimate revenge plan, but also how to protect yourself from those seeking revenge on you! You may think you'll never need to take justice into your own hands, get back at a vicious boss or co-worker, or seek vengeance against someone who has wronged you or others. But this knowledge is power, and one day, your peace of mind may depend on it." Via memepool.

10 March 2006

Jane Austen Blogs

Be still my heart! I've just found some blogs dedicated to my all-time favourite author. When I get tired of reading her books (ha!), I can look at Austen-tatious or AustenBlog.

09 March 2006

Winner of Oddest Title of the Year

A while back I blogged about the competition for Oddest Title of the Year and included the website address for people to vote for their favourite. And the winner is . . . What To Do With People Who Don't Know They're Dead. If you voted for this title, pat yourself on the back—it won by only two votes. It beat out Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa. The article about the competition results can be found here. For our enjoyment, the article includes the following list of past winners: 1978 Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice 1979 The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution 1980 The Joy of Chickens 1981 Last Chance at Love--Terminal Romances 1982 Population and Other Problems 1983 The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling 1984 The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today 1985 Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Power: How to Increase the other 90% of Your Mind to Increase the Size of Your Breasts 1986 Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality 1988 Versailles: The View from Sweden 1989 How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art 1990 Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual 1992 How to Avoid Huge Ships 1993 American Bottom Archaeology 1994 Highlights in the History of Concrete 1995 Reusing Old Graves 1996 Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers 1997 The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition 1998 Development in Dairy Cow Breeding and Management: and New Opportunities to Widen the Uses of Straw 1999 Weeds in a Changing World 2000 High Performance Stiffened Structures 2001 Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service 2002 Living with Crazy Buttocks 2003 The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories 2004 Bombproof Your Horse Via The Anomalist.

08 March 2006

How To Write A Bestselling Thriller

When John Baldwin was co-writing The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror (HarperCollins 1998), he studied the plots of a number of best-selling thrillers. Out of that work he developed a list of rules for constructing the plot of a thriller so that it will become a best-seller. He's since shared them with the rest of us. Some of them are as follows: - the hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him - two or more on the team must fall in love - two or more on the team must die I'm not sure how valid these rules are in general, but it certainly worked for them; The Eleventh Plague did hit the bestseller list. You can see the complete list of rules here. Via Cliff Pickover's Reality Carnival.

07 March 2006

Children's Book Under Fire in Ontario

Ontario's York Region District School Board has taken Deborah Ellis's children's book, Three Wishes, out of the running for the Silver Birch Awards. Apparently the Canadian Jewish Congress has raised concerns about the book. Tess Kalinowski, reporter for the Toronto Star, writes that the CJC "says the book lacks historical context and raises issues that children in those grades aren't equipped to understand. It has said Three Wishes portrays Israelis as 'brutal occupiers' and Palestinians as 'murderers who are so intent on killing Israelis that they are prepared to blow themselves to shreds.'" Kalinowski goes on to say, "In the book, Ellis interviews children on both sides of the conflict. They talk about living in a hate-charged atmosphere where suicide bombings and gun-toting soldiers are everyday realities. But they also discuss eating at McDonald's, being annoyed by siblings and what they want to be when they grow up." You can read the full text of the article here. The book remains in contention for the award in other school regions. The Silver Birch Awards feature a selection of 20 books chosen by librarians. Children in grades 4-6 then have the opportunity to vote on them. Via the League of Canadian Poets newsletter.

06 March 2006

A Principled Decision

Author Paul Verhaeghen has turned down the prize money accompanying the prestigious Flemish Culture Award for Fiction. Why? Because he is a U.S. resident, and he doesn't want to support Bush's war in Iraq. Some of the prize money would be diverted to the U.S. government, presumably through income tax. In his speech—in which he accepted the award, but turned down the money—Verhaeghen explains his decision: "I have made the calculation. If I would accept the 12,500 euros associated with this award, about five thousand dollars would flow into the American Treasury. I could pretend that this money will be used to finance public schools or medical care, or will help to alleviate the suffering of the forty million Americans who live below the poverty line. But who would I be kidding? The president just asked Congress for an extra 120 billion in emergency funds for the war. I gladly accept the award, but the money—no, that I cannot accept. This money would be paid for in human blood." Verhaeghen was awarded the prize for the novel Omega Minor, written in Flemish, his native tongue. The English translation of Omega Minor is forthcoming in 2007 (Dalkey Archive Press). The full text of Verhaeghen's speech can be found here (in .pdf format). Via The Elegant Variation.

05 March 2006

Still A Source of Comment After All These Years

Apparently 2006 will see a minimum of three new books about the Beatles. The three I've read about all focus on matters spiritual. The books are as follows: - Steve Turner's The Gospel According to The Beatles (Westminster John Knox, August) - Joshua Greene's Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison (Wiley, January) - Dale Allison's The Love There That's Sleeping (Continuum, October) (a second book about George Harrison) Via Religion BookLine.

04 March 2006

Malcolm Gladwell Joins the Blogosphere

Malcolm Gladwell now has a blog. Gladwell is the author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He also writes regularly for The New Yorker. Via BookLust.

03 March 2006

Which Book Would You Commit To Memory?

I've come across a discussion by Marylaine Block in which she poses the question "What books would you commit to memory to save from the bookburners, if you lived in the nightmare world of Fahrenheit 451?" She provides her answers to the question here and also gives her readers' answers here. I think my pick would be Jane Austen's Mansfield Park—it's my all-time favourite book, and I can't imagine a world without it. Via Book Bytes.

02 March 2006

World's Funkiest Dinosaur

This wonderful comic strip by Ryan North combines humour, dinosaurs, and (from time to time) comments on matters literary. The above sample is reprinted with permission of Ryan North. For more strips, you can go to his website at Dinosaur Comics. Via Maud Newton.

01 March 2006

Books To Read Before You Leave School

The Royal Society of Literature (England) asked seven authors what ten books they would recommend that everyone read before they graduated from high school. The authors (including J.K. Rowling and Ben Okri) came up with a variety of books, ranging from The Tale of Two Bad Mice (Beatrix Potter) to Ulysses (James Joyce). You can see all the lists here. What a task! I'm not sure I could distill essential reading down to 10 books. Ben Okri obviously thought so too. Excerpts from his list (titled 10 ½ Inclinations) are as follows: "Don’t read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously. Read what you’re not supposed to read." I love lists, and this is a fascinating question. Here, unasked for by anyone, is my list: · The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare) · Kim (Rudyard Kipling) · all the Little House books (Laura Ingalls Wilder) · all the Harry Potter books (J.K. Rowling) · To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) · at least one Shakespearean play (Hamlet, Julius Caesar, or Macbeth would be my top choices) · the King James Bible (not for religious reasons, but because the stories and the phrases are so much a part of Western life—and because the language is beautiful) · at least one other major religious work in a faith not your own · several collections of a variety of the world's mythologies (e.g. Greek, Roman, Norse, First Nations) · several good anthologies of poetry, including English language poets and those who write in other languages—ranging from ancient times to very recent works I know that I'll want to revise this list in a few days, as more ideas come to me. Via Rebecca's Pocket.