Welcome to the inaugural “meeting” of the Literary Transgressions Book Club! This book club is actually the digital counterpart of Corey’s real book club, featuring a wonderful kaleidoscope of women with mixed tastes, strong opinions, and a yen for delicious food. While the actual club is based in New York City, the LT version is geographically unlimited and open to all.
The Book Club alternates months between “classics” and newer titles (ah, my constant quest for contemporary classics continues!), as will the LT Book Club. Sometimes I’ll add particularly interesting points of discussion that were brought up at the “real world” club or supplemental reading, but otherwise I’ll focus on the book selections and menus.
To help others join in the fun, I will be posting once a month with this month’s book and a sample menu for your own meeting. One of the most fun parts of the club (apart from the reading itself, of course!) is the remarkable creativity of my fellow readers in coming up with delicious and thematic menus to go with each book. The value of food for a book club simply cannot be understated and I hope to share some of our yummy eats here with you.
Our first book up is Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856). (more…)
Robert Goodwin writes an interesting, if a bit disjointed, account of the “first African-American” in Crossing the Continent 1527-1540: The Story of the First African-American Explorer of the American South. It’s interesting simply because of its general topic: one of the many failed Spanish attempts to explore Florida and the American southwest. Add the “first African-American” into the mix and you’ve got something particularly unique.
What makes the book a tad disjointed is its organization and style. (more…)
Thank god for Giles Milton! I can’t even tell you how much I fretted over the fate of those poor colonists on Roanoke for years, but suffice it to say that it was one of those burdens you don’t notice is terribly heavy until it is lifted. And suddenly you feel free.
In this case, free to worry about other abandoned colonists throughout the Age of Exploration, most of whom I hadn’t even thought to fret over until reading Giles Milton’s excellent Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America. (more…)
To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa by Pat Shipman is a excellent example of why non-historians should not write history books. Or perhaps why non-historians interested in history should confine themselves to writing historical fiction since, apparently, there are people out there who fail to understand some basics of nonfiction. These include, but are not limited to:
1. No dialogue.
There is simply no way to verify conversations between historical figures and a biography should not attempt to “recreate” them.
2. No first names.
When referring to your subjects, it should be by last name, or first and last to save on confusion when dealing with a family who all have the same last names.
2a. Certainly never, ever use nicknames.
3. Support your statements. Quote your sources whenever possible.
Don’t just say so-and-so was much taken with something if there is no evidence to support such a statement. If you’re assuming or imagining, say so. (And then delete the whole sentence, because you really shouldn’t be imagining in a nonfiction book. That’s for novels.)
4. Correctly assess your sources.
If there isn’t enough source material to write a book on a topic or person, don’t write it. You should under no circumstances attempt such a book with spotty source material and just fill in the rest with what you imagined probably took place or was felt by your subject.
5. Leave feelings out of it. Both yours and the subject’s.
Tell us what happened, postulate on why it happened, discuss the aftermath, but please don’t ever assume to know how everyone felt about it happening. And don’t get carried away by your own feelings on the matter to project onto your topic.
I just found reading this book extremely trying, obviously. (more…)
In the continuing adventures of “The Grimms be crazy,” I present their story “The Dog and the Sparrow.” I should note that this would more aptly be named “The Narratively-Pointless Dog, the Loyal and Vengeful Sparrow, and the Enraged, Totally Idiotic, Comeuppance-for-you-mister Man.”
This version translated by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes from the Grimm’s original Kinder- und Hausmärchen.
A shepherd’s dog had a master who took no care of him, but often let him suffer the greatest hunger. At last he could bear it no longer; so he took to his heels, and off he ran in a very sad and sorrowful mood.
On the road he met a sparrow that said to him, ’Why are you so sad, my friend?’
’Because,’ said the dog, ’I am very very hungry, and have nothing to eat.’
’If that be all,’ answered the sparrow, ’come with me into the next town, and I will soon find you plenty of food.’ (more…)
This review should start with the bald fact that Neil Gaiman may just be the most naturally creative person on the planet. He writes good stories. They’re totally unique, even when he’s retelling something, and they’re all frustratingly inventive.
But, even though his apparently bottomless well of creativity is plenty impressive, that isn’t actually my favorite part of reading Gaiman’s short story collections. Instead, I really enjoyed that oft-skipped part of books: the author’s preface. Because, however interesting the stories themselves are, it’s marvelous to be given the inside story of where they came from, what their original context was, and, in some cases, how pleased the author is (or isn’t) with the outcome. And unsurprisingly, Gaiman is just as good at explanatory notes as he is at stories. (more…)
I’ve always been struck by how affected we are by books we read (or, more likely, read to us) in our early years. The ones we read ourselves in our remembered childhoods are less surprising; of course they resonated—they were the first books we actually, personally devoured. But the ones I find truly shocking in their emotional and psychological effect are the ones we don’t necessarily remember. The ones read to us before we have particularly firm memories of anything, let alone books.
I think fairy tales often fall into this category since they are so commonly (and strangely, considering much of their content) read to children. There’s plenty of opportunity for subconscious internalization with stories like these, but even I didn’t know how much until some recent chance book encounters. (more…)