Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Fancies

I've been saving up links for a few weeks now, so I have lots to share today, offering a little bit of everything.

One of several recent articles I've seen about how women undermine themselves with their choice of words. A few of these really resonated with me, especially the point about the use of "just". I'm constantly starting out work emails with "Just checking in about..."and am making a conscious effort to curb that.

Speaking of word choices, here's an in-depth look at who vs. whom.

Ten tips for becoming a better reader. (Note the mention of Slightly Foxed in #9...perhaps a sign that I really need to start subscribing to that.)

The teeny, tiny ad that announced The Great Gatsby's publication 90 years ago.

A new literary website worth checking out.

A preview of a new Eric Ravilious exhibit.

For Mad Men fans: an illustrated chronicle of Don Draper's women (not mention the evolving fashions of the series).

For Broadchurch fans: David Tenant makes up lyrics to the opening theme.

And it was just announced that Reese Witherspoon will narrate the audiobook of Go Set a Watchman. Sounds like a good choice to me--something about her voice seems like it will evoke Harper Lee's South really well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Touch Not the Cat

And now for a complete change of pace from Flannery O'Conner:  Touch Not the Cat, Mary Stewart's awkwardly named novel that I enjoyed probably a bit more than I should have! Stewart is one of those mid-century British writers whose work I've discovered through blogging. I've read several of her novels over the past few years and have found them to be generally pleasant reads filled with cozy English settings, gentle characters, and hints of magical happenings here and there. In this book, though, Stewart seems to pull out all the stops. The story is crammed with every type of silly supernatural element you can imagine: a suspicious death, a crumbling estate, illegitimate family connections, a maze, a love story involving a telepathic connection with a mystery man, a pair of evil twins that have their own telepathic connection...all as depicted very literally on the 70's-era cover of my used copy.

I would be the first to admit that all of these elements seem way too over the top to come across as anything other than really cheesy, but somehow Stewart manages to make it all really fun. I was more than happy to just suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the pot as it unfolded. I think this might actually be my favorite Mary Stewart novel to date! 

Are there any novels that you've enjoyed even though they might sound silly on paper? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Discovering Flannery O'Connor

I don't know how she alluded me for so long, but prior to this year, I had never read anything by Flannery O'Connor, apart from maybe one story included in an anthology that I read for a class once. I had actually never been that interested in her, but this book, loosely based on her correspondence with Robert Lowell, piqued my interest. I finally worked my way through her Complete Stories over the past couple of months, then followed that up with her first novel, Wise BloodNow I have a new addition to my list of all time favorite authors.

One of the main things that struck me about O'Connor's stories was their haunting quality, for lack of a better description. Each one offered up new images that stuck with me long after I had finished reading it. This is partly due to the Southern Gothic style she writes in. Her darkly eccentric characters are very flawed, but they're fascinating and hard to look away from. Equally fascinating are the reactions that these characters draw from the reader. Many of them are sanctimonious, self-described "good country people" who sit in judgement of others of different classes or backgrounds. Their hypocritical prejudices are readily apparent to the reader (especially to the modern day reader). Yet even though we might not like or share their feelings, they do evoke a certain sympathy. O'Connor seems to have a knack for making us feel a connection to the most unexpected characters, ranging from the irritating to the unsavory to the downright evil. Her ability to make us question and reassess our feelings about her characters is possibly the most shocking aspect of stories that are already filled with shocking things.

(image via here)

O'Connor was well know for her devotion to her Catholic faith and her morally ambiguous characters serve to personify the religious themes that lurk behind much of her writing. At first glance, the combination of religious themes with weirdly dark characters doesn't exactly seem like it would make for page-turning reading, but in O'Connor's hands it does. I think this is because she grounds these elements with a very traditional style of fiction writing. Her short stories are very classically structured and filled with small but vivid details about mundane things that create a realistic portrait of characters who might otherwise seem unrealistic, resulting in a very believable fictional world that makes readers want to find out what will happen next while allowing her deeper themes to settle in more subtly once the plot has unfolded.

Have you read Flannery O'Connor? What do you think of her style?


Related Posts with Thumbnails