William Faulkner is the latest pick for Oprah's Book Club -- and not just one, but three books: As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury and A Light in August. A veritable Faulkner-palooza. But wait -- there's more! As a part of her Very Faulkner Summer, Oprah's launching a cornucopia of lessons and information -- including lectures on Faulkner and Q&A sessions with professors.
Oh, that Oprah -- what a scamp! Having the audacity to ratchet up her influence to get people into Faulkner! Can you imagine?
"I am a writer from the Balkan Fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness - armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and so on.
My firm hope is that European and world opinion may henceforth realise that this region, to which my country, Albania, belongs, can also give rise to other kinds of news and be the home of other kinds of achievement, in the field of the arts, literature and civilisation."
You can find a sample of Ismail Kadare's poetry online here or read more literature from the Balkans in the January 2004 issue of Words Without Borders.
Meanwhile in Texas, it seems fitting that the Lone Star State has selected a cowboy poet -- Red Steagall -- as its 2006 poet laureate.
And that concludes this week's edition of Poet Laureate Watch 2005.
Developers plan to build a retail and residential complex on the seafront that inspired James Joyce's Ulysses. Historians, preservationists and Joyce fans are campaigning against the development -- which proposes shops, apartments, restaurants and even a concert venue to be constructed along Scotsman's Bay, Dun Laoghaire, outside Dublin.
Also, the Godrevy lighthouse -- made famous by Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, is slated to be decommissioned by the lighthouse authority for England and Wales. Protesters argue that the change could endanger fisherman in the area. There are no known plans to dismantle the lighthouse completely.
From 'Shakespeare Wallah' in 1965 to 'The Golden Bowl' in 2000, the team of Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala produced films steeped in the greatness of Victorian and modern literary traditions, often adapted from books by authors like E. M. Forster and Henry James.
'A Room With A View' was their first breakthrough success, though in my opinion the team hit its peak in 1992 and 1993 with the wonderful 'Howards End' followed by the soaring, sublime 'Remains of the Day', featuring Anthony Hopkins as a repressed butler in a grand mansion. This film contained a smaller cast and fewer costumes than most Merchant-Ivory productions, but was probably their most thrilling work of all.
Well, okay. Yes. But also no. Let me explain my reasoning to you by outlining my testing method:
Step 1: Arrival -- When I first got to Storycode.com, I was a little preoccupied, because the American Idol finale was going to be starting in a few minutes (shut up, it's awesome). Even so, I had work to do in the name of science. Or literature. Or literary science. Or something. So, I created an account and looked at the screen which listed some books to review (or, excuse me, code). This leads me to...
Step 2: Coding -- I picked A Clockwork Orange because even though I read it about eight years ago, the title was familiar, and I didn't have time to deliberate because American Idol, people! Seriously.
So I set about coding the story. You'd think coding a story would be something intense that involved charts and graphs and blood tests, or something, but I was pretty disappointed to find that all I had to do was rate the story on a sliding scale according to questions about plot and characters. Whatever.
Step 3: Recommendations -- After I finished coding A Clockwork Orange, I was taken to a page with a lot of books listed on it, such as House of Leaves and American Psycho. Interesting. I decided I would code the one by Bret Easton Ellis, since I hated that book. Then I had to go watch American Idol, after which I came back and clicked around the site some more, trying to figure out why exactly it was in any way necessary to anything ever.
Step 4: Perplexity -- (Is "perplexity" even a word? Of course it is, and I totally knew that.) The thing is, I was beginning to wonder why this site was in any way better than having a friend who reads books and talks about them or, um, going to the library and browsing the shelves (I hear people do that sort of thing). It was at this point that I finally decided to read the FAQ.
Basically, the site stores all this coding information so that users will always have a list of books to read. (Great. My list of books to read is already so long that if all I did was read all the time for the rest of my life, I still wouldn't get through the whole thing before I died.) It's kind of like the way Amazon.com gives you recommendations while you're browsing, except without seeming like it's just blatantly trying to sell you stuff you're not even looking for under the pretense of being nice enough to give you the Super Saver Shipping. I think I may have just digressed a little bit there, but anyway, I came to see that the site could be for some people useful and (dare I say) fun.
Because really, anyplace that recommends a book called A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian to me when I click on a link for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is interesting, to say the least.
Step 5: Verdict -- My personal method for picking reading material has always been haphazard and random, and I very rarely ever read things because someone recommends them to me, choosing instead to read things for reasons that are so illogical and pointless that I couldn't even begin to decipher them. Be that as it may, I think the site has an interesting concept and could very well introduce people to reading material they'd never think of picking up if they were just wandering the aisles of their local bookstores.
I'd say that's a good thing.
But enough about me. How do you pick what you read?