The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 29 September 2011

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods

Hello Gentle Reader

If memory serves correct – this is the first two things. One this is the first book of Dame A.S. Byatt’s that I have read – she is actually a real Dame, but also the Dame of the English Novel. Second this is the first book in critically acclaimed “Canongate Myth Series,” which has included authors like Margaret Atwood, Victor Pelevin, Phillip Pullman, David Grossman, Klas Östergren, and Natuso Kirino. My first engagement with both Dame A.S. Byatt, and the “Canongate Myth Series,” are both favourable. The first concept of this ambitious project was way back in nineteen-ninety nine, when a publisher and owner of the independent Scottish publishing house Canongate Books, Jamie Byng. The first three titles were then published in two thousand and five. The series and publication has the intention of having a international focus, explaining why Russian novelist Victor Pelevin, Israeli author David Grossman, Japanese noir novelist Natuso Kirino, Chinese transgressive fiction writer Su Tong, the Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić, and the Polish author (whose myth has yet to be translated) Olga Tokarczuk. Jamie Byng hopes when the project is completed (that to me is if the project ever stops) that there will one hundred books, retelling myths from authors from all the over the world.

Dame A.S. Byatt’s short novel is not a retelling of the Norse myth of “Ragnarok.” Its more or less, how a young child perceives this new found world of bloody (very human) gods who fight for pleasure, live to battle, enjoy the warmth of their enemies blood sprayed on their faces, enjoys the hunt, to that of World War II, taking place in the time in which she lives now. In some ways or another the child see’s the book she is reading Asgard and the Gods, as both a fairy tale and slightly different then a fairy tale.

For those who do not think of fairy tales a bloody they certainly are wrong. In the fairy tale of Snow White, the vain and jealous queen is forced to wear a pair of heated iron shoes, and dance until she dies. It is then easy to tell why the “thin child,” does not see much of a difference between the fairy tales, and that of the Norse Myths. However, she can certainly see there is a greater difference then she knows. Though she can only sense it through the pages and the illustrations she knows, there is a difference.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this book is Dame A.S. Byatt’s ability to portray scenes and scenarios with portrait perfect accuracy through the simple and cunning use of precise and complex but also artful words, mixed together to make an celebrant portrait or tapestry of “Ragnarok,” itself.

The concept of the world ending, mixing with the concept of World War II, is an interesting perspective. Surely many, who had lived through World War II, would have though the end was either upon them or close upon them or that hopefully the destruction would eventually stop. The later could be said to a poor little child, rushed from her home – and those familiar surroundings, that she once called home. Her father gone, flying some plane and battling – the same old toast made at Christmas hoping for his speedy return; though the child herself had accepted the fact that her father may as well have already been dead – this however is just simply one part of the entire book.
At a book that is barely two hundred pages long, it is a combination and effort of three books in one. An autobiography of Dame A.S. Byatt in the third person of a person simply known as the “thin child.” Then the child’s personal encounter of the myth. The last part of the entire book is the self-aware essay on the essay and the myths modern relevance to today’s world.

All of them are quite good. The last part of the book – the literary criticism of the myth was particularly not my favourite. My favourite part however is the complete bulk of this book. The entire personal view of the myth itself. The way the entire story of how the Norse Mythology portrays the world first becoming what it is – of course the birth of the world was a savage depiction that is a classical Norse mythological trait if one were to ask me – and there were more battles, and trips and feisty fits of jealousy to go all around. In Norse Mythology from the book “Ragnarok,” the world was brought anew by the death of a giant Ymir – his flesh created the earth, his blood which ran became the oceans, his hallowed out head then became the sky.

This is where the beginning of the retelling or the creation or rather the rewriting and creating a new myth becomes interesting.

This is not really a book, with action. Yes there are descriptions of many violet acts like the death of Ymir or the shackling of Fenrirs-wolf (Fenrisúlfr) and the consequent loss of Tyr’s hand. Not to mention the fishing trip of Thor where first encountered his enemy the world serpent Jörmungandr. There is the death of Baldr the Beautiful. The vengeance of the Norse gods on the shape shifting trickster Loki – who Dame A.S. Byatt has a great fondness for – and may I add I do as well. However the actions of Loki are chaotic and sporadic; he as a personification or a character is also one of the more empathetic characters that I found/find myself able to attach myself too; other than the other gods who I find are more interested in the bloodshed and destruction, of others.

However it is Dame A.S. Byatt’s prose that I found most enjoyable. The fluid descriptions of how the world was created, and changed and existed and then destroyed was something that I found more enjoyable, of the book, therefore the lack of any characterization, or action. The prose would change in such a flexible manner. The descriptions like water colour paint or shadows, changing and shifting, becoming a kaleidoscope of images and scenes. The following passage is a adequate example:

“Mistletoe is a feeble killer. It attaches itself to the boughs and branches of trees and sends fine threads like blind hairworms into the rising columns of water which the leaves in the tree suck up and breathe into the air. The mistletoe has no branches and no true leaves: it is a tangle of waxy stems with, strange key-shaped protrusions and whitish gluey berries with black seeds visible through the translucent flesh, like frogspawn, the thin child always thought, seeing the lumpish globes of mistletoe dense on bare branches in winter. Little twigs of it were pinned to lampholders and over doorways at the turn of the winter, and you kissed one another under it because it was evergreen and clinging, it represented constancy and perpetual liveliness. Next tot the holly in which it was sometimes wound; it seemed ghostly, almost absent. The holly was shiny and scarlet and prickly and strong. The mistletoe was soft, floppy, a yellowish colour that was like dying leaves.”

This is just a small taste or preview of some of the great flowing descriptions and the acute detail that Dame A.S. Byatt is able to present in this short novel. It should come to no surprise that Dame A.S. Byatt is also somewhat (or rather is) an academic of sorts. An academic in what, one would suppose in the academia of all writers are interested in. Literature, history and whatever else comes to mind. Dame A.S. Byatt has written seven books of criticism; and if her novels are much like this one – though each one different then she more or less put a great deal of study and research into each novel. When discussing her last novel (before this one) Dame A.S. Byatt wrote “The Children’s Book,” which she described the research of the book incredibly and intensely pleasurable. She had explained to the interviewer that she knew all about the High Victorians but not much about the Edwardian Era and the turn of the twentieth century; so in which case she found the new knowledge quite enjoyable. However Dame A.S. Byatt’s real academic career, or her scholarly career, was her education. She has studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, Bryn Maw in the United States, and Somerville College in Oxford. Dame A.S. Byatt has lectured at London University in the Department of Extramural Studies, she has also lectured at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design as well as the University College London. In an interview Dame A.S. Byatt had revealed she knew she could be a scholar, but was uncertain about becoming a writer, and writing novels.

The end of the world presented in “Ragnarok,” is an interesting end of the world scenario. Perhaps it’s just me as a reader, but I could not quite comprehend why the end happened – perhaps it is just the order of all that exists and lives – it will one day end. Every sentence ends, with a period. Every breath ends with a exhale. Every life ends in death. The dinosaurs rule ended in their extinction. So too shall the world in human logic. It exists therefore by its own rules and laws of nature it too at some point or another must end. Stars die – and the sun will die, therefore life on earth must certainly end as well. When will it happen? Someone could certainly find out. By simple calculations of the approximant life span of a star, with the added calculation of the sun itself and its grandeur (a substitute for the more appropriate word) and then there is a logical estimated approach as to when the world would end – at least when life on earth would end.

The end of the world though in “Ragnarok,” is much different than other thoughts of the end of the world. Dame A.S. Byatt points out that Christians believe in the end times, of the world, that Christ will come back and judge those that are faithful and those that are not – living and the dead. Those that were faithful would be brought back to heaven, and live in eternal peace, while those that did not, would suffer, in the end times until whatever happens after the end times.

“Ragnarok,” offers no such hope for anything or anyone. The end comes. It comes as a form of everlasting winter. The crops die out. The food store dwindle, people show their true colours. They overtake the other villages – weaker villages, slay it all and take what food and mead they have, and move on to the next place of origins. So it goes. Fenrirs-Wolf (Fenrisúlfr) will brake free from his imprisonment. Sköll and Hati kin of Fenrirs-Wolf (Fenrisúlfr) devour the sun and moon. The sky goes red with the blood of the celestial bodies; and then an inkling black takes hold. As if the entire sky has become enshrouded in the a velvet curtain. Fenrirs-Wolf (Fenrisúlfr) seeks vengeance as does his brother Jörmungandr seek their vengeance and in the end meet their own ends. It’s the end of the world. An end of all that is end. It is the final chapter. Something that some would find more peace in. No redemption. No judgment. Nothing just the end. Just the world – or the world as it is known now, ending. Yggdrasil withers and dies the halls of Asgard fall and crumble, Midgard itself becomes extinct. Nothing remains. Everything in its last sigh or breath of relief finds its own peace. The entire cosmology of the Norse Mythology falls and ends – and in some ways it has. Though in other ways it lives on. In folklore, literature, songs, and films (and television).

Perhaps Dame. A.S. Byatt sees the somewhat frightening end of the world of “Ragnarok,” as a time of peace and to the end of all the suffering and chaos that life itself brings. In all an interesting book. Though at times I wish it was a little bit longer, and a bit more detailed in area’s. However a wonderful first glimpse into the wonderful Myth Series, and also a great starter for me to go out and discover some more Dame A.S. Byatt.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Thursday 22 September 2011

The Short Story Review No. VI

“Birds on the Western Front,” by Saki – From “The Complete Saki,” by Saki – Section: “The Square Egg.”

All of Saki’s works have a bit of a malice streak them. A bit macabre at times. But always evidently malicious. Though any form satire in some way or another is a bit malicious. Within comedy and within satire there is always a victim. The victim is the individual or the society. The abuses, the shortcomings, the failures, the follies, are ridiculed in the ideal that society or the individual is then pushed towards improvement. However satire is a very dangerous double sword. It can be used to make cuts on the one ridiculed, or it can back fire and cut the wielder. Satire can be taken to the opposite degree of humour. It can be taken as a mean spirited attack. A form of viciousness, that is biting and rude; and the effects keep piling on with more salt and vinegar to a deep and already sore wound. This is where problems will come from with satire. Saki satire the Edwardian Era. He satirised the lounging almost carefree but very paranoid upper-high middle class people, who are trying to impress their neighbours and friends. These people are really quite something. Sometimes their failings and misguided judgements and more often than it should have been, their selfish actions guided by their own desires (then again we are all selfish, and we all after something that we want) get them into some rather interesting situations.

“Birds on the Western Front,” is not as much as satirical and humorous as say some of Saki’s other works. “Birds on the Western Front,” is collected in: “The Square Egg,” which was collected after Saki’s death in nineteen-sixteen, in the trenches of World War I. The collection was first collected and published in nineteen-twenty four.

It is no wonder why this particular story had a particularly, biting and bitter dirt like taste to it. One can only picture Saki – a man in his forties, sitting in the trenches with these young men of the ages of eighteen to twenty something, who had such glee and hope in this war. This war to end all wars. However they could now only find themselves in a trench war. Surrounded by scurrying rats, disgusting inhuman conditions, and neither side gaining an upper hand. What had been a war with so much hope riding on its shoulders, had now fallen into the pits of muddy trenches, cold feet, disease infested people, and scavenging rats scurrying about.

Personally myself there is no imagining possible how Saki could write in these conditions. Personally I cannot imagine Saki sitting there in the trench, muddy water sloshing up against his shoes. The sounds of machine guns in the distance, and the whizzing of bullets, flying over head. The cries of the men screaming in the distance and right beside him. The rats, scurrying in and about looking for crumbs, or perhaps some dislodged, and useless body part that had since been separated. The thought of Saki in the wintery forests, shivering to himself, writing pen and paper in hand, but his gun closer then he would hold either of these treasures to him.

However Saki was a brave man himself. An author who took up arms, with his pen. He had taken his pen up to scrutinize and to mock the supposed high society he saw. But he picked up arms to defend the country he loved, against the Germans – even though he was over age at the age of forty-three. Numerous times he went back on the battlefield, still injured and too sick. Finally in nineteen-sixteen Saki himself was shot, by a German sniper. His last words – a fashionably humorous were: “Put that bloody cigarette out!”

It comes to no surprise then, and now, which Saki wrote his last stories the way they did. Taken away from the Edwardian Society and now placed in the barbaric life of a soldier, in the trenches. No longer just a satirical writer.

There is a macabre and unsettling sense of imagery throughout the story though. The discussion of the barn owl’s new nesting grounds – or rather old nesting grounds, being populated by a new desire of mice, parading up and down the war lines. Desolate houses, and even streets and some old barns still standing – all of this is presented, in Saki’s more serious tone.

“In the matter of nesting accommodation the barn owls are well provided for; most of the still intact barns in the war zone are requisitioned for billeting purposes, but there is a wealth of ruined houses, whole streets and clusters of them, such as can hardly have been available at any previous moment of the world's history since Nineveh and Babylon became humanly desolate.”


“The Rainy Station,” by Yasunari Kawabata Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-sixty eight – From “Palm-of-the-Hand Stores.”

Every time, one reads Yasunari Kawabata there is something about his prose. Something so traditional about it, even though he himself was a modernist writer. The way his poetic gentle dream like cloud prose just merges with itself. There comes sentences, there comes scenes, and images that are strikingly Japanese. The delicate way of Yasunari Kawabata’s prose is like the gentleness of the art of folding paper of origami. Or the delicate arrangement of kadō. The prose itself is just strikingly Japanese.

“When their eyes met, her smile made him think of the autumn wind blowing on ripe-coloured fruit.”

Just those metaphors, the delicate way they are composed, like the leaves of a fern; or the blossoms of orchids.

“The Rainy Station,” is one of (the Nobel Laureate) Yasunari Kawabata’s longer short stories in this collection of his “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories,” it’s roughly eight to nine pages long. Longer than other stories like: “Yuriko,” or “Love Suicides,” or “The Hate Incident.” However even though “The Rainy Station,” is longer it holds that same poetic premises that Yasunari Kawabata brings to all of his smaller stories.

There is the echoes through the bones. The soft waxy feel to the way the eyes scan over them. The metaphors are gentle scripts. As if hand painted by a brush, and delicately being painted on the paper.

This is what is attractive of Yasunari Kawabata’s writing. This slow, soft, misty writing. It’s gentle and unique, like every snowflake that touches the ground.

“The Rainy Station,” takes the look at two wives. It appears they meet their husbands at the station when they head home. The narrator of the story explains that the wives themselves are more of prisoners – people isolated from the world, kept hidden in their kitchens. These two wives though are old rivals to each other. It appears that the more outing going one (the one that wishes for the writer to be her husband) stole the love interest of the writer’s wife. However now it appears that the rival has lost, and the writer’s wife had won, in the long run.

It’s an interesting story, missing the same depth that the other stories by Yasunari Kawabata had at times. Still a nice story. It’s no wonder why I enjoy Yasunari Kawabata so much.

“The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-eighty two – From “Leaf Storm and Other Stories.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a writer and practitioner of a form of writing that is known as “Magical Realism.” “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” is a good example of it. The most fantastical and magical elements of the story are presented in the most deadpan expression. They are seen as common events. This plays to the Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s advantage in this story and I am sure all his works. For this allows him to present an interesting view point of reality. This is one of the charms of this particular story.

This is not my first stint with magical realism. Jose Saramago the Nobel Laureate in nineteen-ninety eight novel “Blindness,” is a magical realism text. However this short story and the novel of both authors differ greatly. Jose Saramago presents a dystopian piece of work, while Gabriel Garcia Marquez represents, a reality, and what happens when a strangers dead body washes up on the shores.

Describing the village Gabriel Garcia Marquez, describes the somewhat poverty stricken, but reality of the village. When describing the village, I could not help but picture this small village of just a few houses – maybe twenty, or fifteen at the least ten houses. They are all quite close together – but also a distance a part. Each one has stone fences. But the entire area also has a sense of being very desert in appearance. A bit of wild grass – though its gold or brown in appearance grows in patches throughout the area. Rocks are abundant though of this village. The village stands near a cliff. Where the sea can be seen and where the men have their boats (seven boats) down below in which all of them go out and fish. It is there that the strange drowned man is found by a group of children and from there, the metamorphous of the people of the village and the village itself begins to grow and change.

This fishing village has a way of dealing with its dead. The body is prepared like any other body. The village says goodbye to the deceased and the departed person, and then the body is let go back into the sea. Where it is most likely devoured (and is often common knowledge though I doubt spoken of in public) by sharks.

This village prepares the body as if they were to prepare any other body. However this washed up body they find is a bit more of a handful then they have thought possible. Once they have cleaned him of the mud of the sea. The sea weed that had entangled around him, and the rocks wound up in his air, they find him to be the most handsomest man they have seen. They find him to be a tall giant of a man, and a strong man. All of the women sigh over him, and then they begin to sob over him. Finally the drowned man is given a name: Esteban.

He is too big for the tallest man in the village’s clothes. Even too big for the fastest mans clothes. So the women of the village make him his own clothes of bridal linen and a sail from a ship. As they prepare the man his funeral and his clothes, they discuss how the poor man is too big for the large houses, and his body to large for any chair. All this fantasy begins to envelope into the reality of their work. The men of the village grow tiresome of the women’s preparations of the stranger’s body. How they throw bottles of holy water on him and nails. How they shower him with flowers, and sigh over him as if to withhold their sobs and tears. However once they look at Esteban’s face they too are overcome with an appreciation and love of the man. After Esteban is let go back to the waters, which have first brought him to the insignificant village, all the villagers know their lives have been changed. They make their houses bigger and stronger. The walls are painted brighter. They plant flowers; so that one day when ships pass they will see bright colours of the village, and the fragrant smell of the village, and one day says: “that’s Esteban’s village.”

The entire village is transformed by the kindest of a dead man, who showed no real kindness at all. In fact just the strange mans masculine beauty is all that has gathered such appreciation for him, but also the villager’s villages themselves. This is what transformed the village. The entire metamorphous of the village happened because of the dead man Esteban. It is a sweet tale. One that I had thoroughly enjoyed.


“Some Women,” by Alice Munro – From “Too Much Happiness,” by Alice Munro.

This was not one of Alice Munro’s stronger stories of this collection. Perhaps the ending felt rushed. Perhaps it was because it was spoken of through the first person narration of a child, who was actually an old woman looking back on her life – but came off as more of a child’s view point. It did not have that same lushness that “Dimensions,” and “Free Radicals,” had. “Some Women,” by Alice Munro just appeared to be a story of quaint simplicity – which is not a compliment at this time; of a man who is simply dying of leukemia. His stepmother Dorothy is a crotchety old fossil, and a hag of a creature. Dorothy gets massages from a chipper and false woman by the name of Roxanne; who used to be a nurses aid, and takes care of the man dying of leukemia – or rather Roxanne was scheduled to simply give Dorothy her massages. Kneading that wrinkled old flesh. However Roxanne makes it her responsibility, and duty to take care of the dying man who suffers of leukemia, along with the young narrator. The narrator’s duties however are simple. She fetches the pitcher of water from the fridge, and whatever else, the dying man (Bruce) needs for her. However with Roxanne added into the picture her job becomes a bit more complicated. Roxanne always appeared to be an intruder or interloper on foreign ground. She massages Dorothy but then romps up the stairs, and quickly makes Bruce her new business. This however also comes to an end. Sylvia Bruce’s actual wife soon has the rest of the summer off when summer courses are done. This leads to a fall out between Roxanne and Dorothy. Though it is not unclear why it happened, other than Dorothy – poor old Dorothy; felt her own power of authority was being subjected to a hostile takeover, from an outsider. For once a person – especially a woman of the household, gets to being Dorothy’s age, no longer married but a widow, and a stepson dying, she has an intimate feeling with the household in which she then feels is her duty to keep intact. However someway along the line Dorothy became crotchety and overprotective. The house is hers and hers alone. She despises intruders, and is no wonder why she has very little patience for the meek, shy and otherwise bashful narrator as a child. It itself is seen as a intruder upon her own realm. An outsider; a disease; a carrier of pestilence; a harbinger of the end of her own reign of superiority of the house. Dorothy has very little patience and even a lack of tolerance for her daughter-in-law Sylvia. She once again views Sylvia as a younger lioness, challenging her superiority and authority in her own household. Then why is it she was so quick to accept Roxanne, that odd colourful, chirping chipper bird, of a creature. Who cooed and awed; cawed and squawked with excitement over the smallest of things.

That is really the entire story there. Four female characters – two rival woman Sylvia and Roxanne – it can be seen that Roxanne in some way or another wants what Sylvia had or has; Dorothy that old owl, whose hooting and screeching around the house with her cane, makes everything nervous and unsettling; then there is the narrator; a young canary of sorts; naive and ignorant to the happenings and goings of the house; completely oblivious to the exotic parrot like Roxanne and her conversations, the plain sparrow of Sylvia, but not so oblivious to the ever overpowering force that Dorothy is. In fact out of the entire three adult women, the narrator has more respect for Sylvia then she does for the other two. Not because Sylvia drives her home; or says barely a word – or barely makes an appearance, but she is the most respectable character out of the three women. She is devoted her husband, which can clearly be seen at the end. She is an underdog, at the constant squabbling jibber jabber that the other two women give her; not once giving her the benefit of any doubt at all. Maybe this is why she is given more respect than the other two. She does not flash her flamboyancy and annoyance like Roxanne, nor does she hover over everything with such scrutinizing eyes. Always judging the smallest of details. Making sure that every details work perfectly. She is just doing what she can. Yet Sylvia shows her true side at the end.

It’s not my favourite story by Alice Munro, and in fact is a bit weak, a bit poor really. Maybe this is what happens with short stories, as the collection progresses, they lose more and more of that creative spark, that ingenuity of the first stories, where the narrators or characters figured out what to do when faced with a problem. It all eventually becomes tireless and listless. Like watching rain falling on trees and watching the individual droplets roll off of every individual leaf. That is how it goes, it appears to be. Then again every batch of fruit. Everything has its little sore spots.


“(Spring) Mushrooms in The City,” by Italo Calvino – From “Marcovaldo or The Seasons in The City.”

Italo Calvino at the time of his death, was a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature, was one of the world’s greatest fabulists, and had been lionised in the United Kingdom and the United States, as one of the most translated contemporary Italian writer. When reading this first story from “Marcovaldo or The Seasons in The City,” it’s difficult to see if one sympathises Marcovaldo – the titled character; or if it’s more appropriate to despise this character. However after a while it can be seen that Marcovaldo looks after himself and his family but also after his family, and has a great appreciation for nature. However Marcovaldo does have a great appreciation for nature; though he has a great hatred for the city in which he lives and works in. It is dull, drab, and full of grey. Completely unnatural and disgusting to him. However as Italo Calvino points out, though the main character Marcovaldo has no eye for the appreciation for the city landscape – the traffic lights, the bill boards, neon signs, and shop windows; he has a great attention for the natural detail that sprouts up in the city:

“On the other hand, a leaf turning yellow on a bough, a feather caught up on a tile, never escaped him; there was never a horsefly on the back of a horse, a worm-hole in a table, the peel of a fig squashed on the pavement, which Marcovaldo did not notice and did not reflect upon, observing the changes of the seasons, the longings of his soul and the wretchedness of his existence.”

However upon reading the back of the book of these short stories by Italo Calvino one has a better understanding of whom and what Marcovaldo is:

“An unskilled worker in a drab northern Italian industrial city of the 1950s and 1960s, Marcovaldo has a practiced eye for spotting natural beauty and unquenchable longing to come a little to the unspoiled world of his imagining. Much to the puzzlement of his wife of his wife, his children, his boss and his neighbours, he chooses his dreams, gives reign to his fantasies, tried – with more ingenuousness than skill – to lessen his burden and that of those around him. The results are never the anticipated ones.”

This is certainly the best description of Marcovaldo’s actions in “Mushrooms in the City.” Especially the ending of this story, which certainly reflects the last line of the summary of all the stories from the back of the book: “the results are never the anticipated ones.” However he certainly has his heart in the right place – though he himself is out of place in the industrial city in which he works.

There is a beautiful way of how Italo Calvino writes. Though the short stories are short, there is of course a certain, breathlessness to his work. However though they are breathless in there short work, there is a real depth and beauty to them. Just as the first quotation, remarks on it. How Italo Calvino describes Marcovaldo’s eye for the natural world around him. A world full of life and colour; contrary to the world in which he himself finds himself in the present. Marcovaldo would be happier as a farmer. A man who is able to work and tend to the land. However he himself finds himself working in an industrial factory. A place churning out smoke, and pollution in the air. The start of consumerism, showing itself in the shop windows, neon signs, and bill boards; and yet Marcovaldo is able to find something more in this drab world. He finds tiny moments of natural beauty sprouting up in the world around him.


“Jesus is Waiting,” by Amy Hempel – From “The Collected Stories,” by Amy Hempel – Section: “The Dog of the Marriage.”

This is the classic story of what one would come to expect of Amy Hempel. There was something about Amy Hempels previous short story that was read and review “The Harvest,” which showed Amy Hempel at her strongest form. Her mature state shining. Leaving just enough out, giving just enough information; allowing for just enough amount of reasonable speculation. “Jesus is Waiting,” had that same premise, however what it appeared to be missing is just that spark. That spark that “The Harvest,” had. Though instead of that consistency that “The Harvest,” had this story felt more like sentences, drifting in and out of each other. There never felt to be anything there to grasp. Just as much as this narrator, drifts on the highways. Slipping into hotel beds and then scurrying away just as fast. All the sentences appeared to have flowed away from each other. Becoming nothing more than mere independent fragments in their own right. Their own little islands in an ocean of an ever unclear story.

Realism is often simply portraying reality as it is. Naturalism portrays the same reality that realism presents, however takes a step closer and adds its own determinism philosophy to the whole ordeal and in some “scientific,” way tries to explain that human nature happens based upon the nature and the nurture of its environment. Magical realism is when the most fantastical or the more horrifying become something of a dead pan reality. Minimalism (even though Amy Hempel has often stated she dislikes the term) can be adequately described in these characteristics:

“a reduced vocabulary; a shorter sentence; a reticence towards the expression of a character’s thoughts or feelings; unresolved, even slight narratives which reveal more than they resolve; the use of unadorned language and the rejection of hyperbole; a detached, even ‘absent’ narrator; a more abundant use of dialogue; fewer adjectives and, when used, not extravagant; showing, not telling as a primary means of communicating information; an interest in the accurate depiction of the everyday; and a focus upon the present tense.”

(Thank-you to “An Introduction of Literary Minimalism,” by an author that I cannot find the name of apparently. However the author left her e-mail on the website -- )

In some way or another minimalism (leaving out the technicalities) is the splintering up – or fragmenting; the literary narrative, as it describes the dead pan reality in a short and abrupt way. There is no real easy way to describe minimalism I suppose. Samuel Beckett’s minimalism was absurd and nonsensical. His characters drowning in hopeless, despairs of a grey world of nothing and yet can only make jokes or humour of these poor despicable situations. Amy Hempels minimalism differs greatly. It takes on that more defined approach of minimalism in general. Its dead pan. Abrupt, and short. There is a detached narrative – even though the narrator is a first person; however even though they are driving the car, they act as if they themselves are sitting in the passenger seat, watching all the scenery fade into itself. The grass fades with the wheat. The mountains fade in with the city. Everything just becomes a swirl of detail. But yet what good is all this detail and knowledge if nothing is there. There is no abundant use of dialogue within Amy Hempel’s story either, and at times there does not appear to be anything coherent happening. At time this work. However at other times it does not work. It becomes increasingly difficult, and increasingly more frustrating which then leads to increase feelings of replacing the author, because the ambivalence of the feelings towards the story just makes it quite difficult.

However there are good points. Though in my opinion there is not much of a story told – perhaps at times that is what Amy Hempel means to do with the work. There is no story told, therefore it in itself mimics life itself. It mimics the aimless purposelessness of life. All the story was, was fragments of a narrator drifting in and out of hotels. Zipping up and down highways. Going nowhere fast, and going anywhere within a hurry. Which lead to the speculation of what or who is she running from? What is this restlessness caused by? There are days though that everyone surely has the idea that they are just going to drive. Drive to nowhere in a hurry and go out and find somewhere, anywhere better then where they had left. Yet in the end they always return. They always return to the place they left. It has not changed. Though something about it has changed. Maybe it’s just the perspective that has changed.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

The Short Story Review No. VI Introduction

Hello Gentle Reader

It is that time of month. However this Short Story Review, will be different then one’s preceding it. The short story collections of Patricia Highsmith and that of Will Self have been replaced. With which new short story collection(s), will replace the two old short story collections? Well Gentle Reader you’ll have to read the Short Story Review No. VI. Could it possibly be Italo Calvino? Antonio Tabucchi? Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Bei Dao? You’ll have to wait and find out.

It certainly must be autumn though. The literary prizes are lining up. The (English) Man Booker Prize is coming up to its final conclusion of two thousand eleven in October. The German Book Prize, is going to be announced in October as well. Then the largest literary award nomination will be announced in October, and then it will be awarded in December.

Autumn though is my favourite time of year. The season is cooler, weather wise, it’s clearer; it’s not muddy and disgusting like spring, it is not covered in snow and freezing cold like winter, and not blistering hot like summer. However it should be noted that winter has its perks with snow at Christmas. The Christmas nights are nice and special too. Autumn is nice with the leaves always falling. It is especially nice to see the leaves blowing in the cool autumn wind. The crunching sound of the leaves underneath ones foot. The early dusks. It’s all quite beautiful.

Any How Gentle Reader:

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Thursday 15 September 2011

The German Book Prize 2011

Hello Gentle Reader

The German Book Prize of two thousand eleven has been announced. I have been waiting eagerly to see who wins this prize, but also who passes the long list into the short list. I personally however look forward to " deutschewelleenglish Arts.21 " to make a video of the short listed books and their authors.

The Shortlisted authors are:

Jan Brandt - "Against The World."

Michael Buselmeier - "Wunsiedel."

Angelika Klüssendorf - "The Girl."

Sibylle Lewitscharoff - "Blumenberg."

Eugen Ruge - "In Times of Diminishing Light."

Marlene Streeruwitz - "The Pain-Maker."

The German Book Prize, will be awarded to one of the distinguished author, on October two thousand and ten. Good luck to all the authors.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Thoughts, Questions, Random Musings

Hello Gentle Reader

"I never wanted to be anything else. Well, if there had been a job of being a reader, I would have taken that, because I love to read and I don’t love to write. That would be blissful. Sometimes you meet people who really enjoy their work. Those are the people I am most envious of, no matter what their work is."

-- Fan Lebowitz; when asked by "The Paris Review," in the summer issue of nineteen-ninety three.

When reading this satirical and yet profoundly true, piece of information by a extremely successful person like Fran Lebowitz (and by success I mean someone who does something that they love, and is enjoying it. Which then can be seen as a paradox because Fran Lebowitz herself, despises writing. Therefore she no longer is doing something she loves. Which then leads her to no longer be successful. However for the purpose of the rest of this piece, Fran Lebowitz is successful; at least by the terms of which I measure success. -- Because she does love to talk) it strikes a cord within me knowing that someone ls out there, an author especially; has the sentiment of no longer liking to write, but enjoys reading. On a personal note, there is a great enjoyment in reading. At least for myself there is a great enjoyment in reading. However is there always enjoyment in reading? Not necessarily. Sometimes (once again on a personal note) I do not always read for enjoyment. In all honesty the concept of reading James Joyce's "Ulysses," or "Finnegan’s Wake," either finds great enjoyment in being confused or challenged, or they just want to look really pretentious. People who can read those two books and the books that are like it, are ninety-nine point nine percent a really damn good reader. I am part of the five percent of the reading population who does not waste time with the popular crap. then there is the other ninety-five percent of people who read all the pop stuff. So the concept of reading "Ulysses," to me is unfathomable but the ninety-five percent of people who read the mass market paper bound stuff, would not recognize the name James Joyce or "Ullyses," or "Finnegan’s Wake," at all.

Of course by the wise words of Fran Lebowtiz once again, she sums a better point of view:

"I used to love to write. As a child I used to write all the time. I loved to write up until the second I got my first professional writing job. It turns out it’s not that I hate to write. I hate, simply, to work. I just hate to work, period. I am profoundly slothful. Practically inert. I have no energy. I never have. I just have no desire to be productive. Now that I realize I don’t hate to write, that I just hate to work, it makes writing easier."

Of course Gentle Reader, I do enjoy writing. I however enjoy reading a hell of a lot more to be honest. I don't always read for entertainment. As an aspiring writer, sometimes I read, some profoundly interesting works. Not just interesting works, but some profoundly entertaining works, however, I was interested in how the author wrote. The way the sentences formed. How certain actions are performed within the story. Such as how does Haruki Murakami make a character pour ketchup in his sock drawer, and devour cats hearts or so on and so forth; but what’s interesting is how Haruki Murakami can make this all so much more normal. How does Alice Munro make the most mundane details of house wives, or women, interesting. How does Saki no when to make a satirical punch, and make a giggle and a laugh -- something that is difficult to do in written form in my opinion. How do these authors, make these aspects of their works of literature, work. Then as both a reader, and as an aspiring writer, it becomes apparent that I am reading for the enjoyment of reading but also for the study and observation of wanting to know what is a good author, and how does one become a good author. Why of course study the masters. However, what made the masters masters, and so on and so forth. The entire concept is an open ended question, with no real answer. The masters of literature from Dickens, to Joyce and Woolf, to Kafka, to Kawabata, to Nabokov. What about contemporaries. How does one become a master now. How is one considered a great author among the authors of today’s contemporary literary scene, to become a master like Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, Phillip Pullman, Herta Muller (the two thousand and nine Nobel laureate in literature) Mario Vargas Llosa (the two thousand and ten Nobel laureate in literature) and so on and so fourth. Well now it comes to the attention that these authors are not necessarily masters of the literary form, but are masters of the literary form because others opinions shape them to be masters of the literary form. One can easily say that authors like Tim Nickel's, D. Harlan Wilson, Edgar Oliver, Carlton Mellick III, or Gina Ranalli. The point is if the right people’s opinions count then the person in time becomes a master of the literary form. Or the theatrical arts, or being a artist or composer, or whatever it is they do.

This now take’s me to the random musings of two opinions (simply titled in the small town newspaper in which I read it from "Double Standard,") on the best way to teach kids. One opinion by who knows who cares; on the fact, that the best way to teach children and expand their brains is by encouraging them to read. The opposite opinion though is that expanding children's minds is by letting them watch respectable television like sesame street, where they learn counting, and the alphabet, and are taught whatever else -- because according to the second opinion you have much greater chance of grabbing and captivating the attention of a child with visuals, then you would by shoving a book down their throat.

Both opinions provide great arguments for their cause (though someone certainly enjoys a bit more boob tube time then the other) both however, presented some wonderful opinions. The first opinion is write, when one thinks of books they think of academia, smart people, and cutting down tree's for all the paper. When one thinks of television, they think of celebrities, reality television, glamorous lives, and throwing pies in peoples faces. Both however are right, however. Shoving a book down a young child's throat, or a young adults throat is not going to get anyone anywhere. However neither is letting the child watch six hours of television. Its all about balance. Learning to read -- literacy; but also enjoying television while learning. But most importantly, exploring and experimenting. Let the kid run around in the park, go play on the jungle gym. Be a kid. All of this stuff about crap, about baby geniuses and Einstein’s at a young age, is rather silly. Every parents wants their kid to be destined (stupid word) for greatness, does not mean it happens. All of them however are special, and are able to succeed in their life. They just need to be content with what they have when they have it, and strive for more.

On a personal note, I was a late reader. All my (at the time they were my friends) friends, read fantasy and dragons, knights, and wizards, and little people with hairy feat, kind of books. No matter how hard I tried, there was no way I could get into that kind of stuff. Why does the wizard man have to say magical words? Why can he do spells and the others cannot? There were rules, to that universe, and to that world. As much as they differed on the same basic level they were the same. That I think the writing was terrible. Then I was able to find books that I enjoyed. Being seventeen or sixteen and picking up Jean-Paul Sartre's "The Age of Reason," did I feel smart and pretentious. I decided to learn about existentialism, and all that, and to decide to form my own sense of being an philosophy. Now days I just look at it, as a bunch of French fashion, nothing else. At best Jean-Paul Sartre, was a mediocre fictional writer. Not at all that entertaining and somewhat boring, but he did convey and get his point across. Since those days or those years or those decades, many many moons upon suns, ago, my reading tastes matured and continue to mature, and become more and more interesting and yet at times there are moments when I am more relaxed. Is it odd that I wish to read some Samuel R. Delany? Certainly not. However are there going to be works by Samuel R. Delany that I need to avoid. Yes. Yes indeed. Why because they are overtly erotic from the sounds of it. I am not a prude, I just think to myself keep it to the bedroom, and keep the lights turned off. However there is still some interesting in his works. Same for Mark Z Danielewski, would I like to give his works a try sure why not. Who knows Gentle Reader, there maybe a day when "Finnegan’s Wake,:" will be on my shelf and have read.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Saturday 10 September 2011

Have You ever Wondered . . .?

Hello Gentle Reader

“An Introduction,”

When (and there is also an “If,” in there too; though a much more subliminal if, to say the least, but the “if,” is still there. This therefore does not mean that the “if,” is at all excluded from the entire concept; it’s just not plainly stated – well it is now) one looks through the past blogs – mainly the book reviews, there comes a point where the stumble upon some recognizable patterns, in them. If a Gentle Reader be it yourself, be it someone else; in other words and in a much more simpler way of stating it, anyone – went through the blog, to the year two thousand and nine; there is a blog titled “The Waves Have Crashed,” this is an earlier attempt at a book review, and in the infant or foetal stages of this blog, this particular blog is about a famous author and one of her more famous but challenging and complex novels – depending on how wishes to look at the term novel that is as well. Anyhow Virginia Woolf and her novels are interesting novels. They were written in the early years of the twentieth century. Virginia Woolf herself experienced the First World War – the Great War; and saw its depressive and tragic effects on the world. Those effects, and images, and feelings along with the absolute horror and atrocious realization of what World War II, brought, can still be felt today, if one looks close enough and goes digging through certain areas. From the later nineteen twenties (though Virginia Woolf had been writing professionally since the beginning of the twentieth century, and her first novel “The Voyage Out,” was published in nineteen-fifteen. Her first real departure from the nineteenth century realistic tradition came in the year of nineteen-twenty two, with the novel “Jacob’s Room.” This novel is where Virginia Woolf started to become more and more comfortable with what she was doing. Her experimental style, and linguistic innovation, and also her proficient expansion of writing with her use and development of what is now known as “stream-of-consciousness,” writing, which is a major part of what was and still is, known as Modernist Literature. In nineteen-twenty five, nineteen-twenty seven, as well as in nineteen-thirty one, Virginia Woolf came out with her most mature works, and what some would say are her masterpieces of fiction. “The Waves,” was written in nineteen-thirty one, and true to the modernist style, proves to destroy and break down the barriers of fiction, and the common literary concept that literature can only be objective, and focus on the external world and how it influences the character and their choices. Virginia Woolf is considered a Modernist author. Other Modernist authors that readers may recognize who are consider world class writers: James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Yasunari Kawabata the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-sixty eight; T.S. Eliot Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-forty eight; as well as Knut Hamsun Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-twenty. These authors are considered modernist authors. The rebellious children or youth, who backlashed against the concept of the realistic fiction of the nineteenth century, and the Romanticism of the Victorian Era, and decided to fight back full force, with their own brand of literature, that broke all the rules of literature and writing– literally.

While realist tradition of fiction, had worked on simply describing the realities of their characters, the tradition of Modernist fiction was more interested in the inner workings and consciousness of the characters or their studies. The world was subjective to the inner workings of the individual’s perceptions. Even the traditions of the novels, and the tradition of poetry was switched. Novels could become poetic rather than documenting which can be seen in the case of Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves,” which can be adequately described as a experimental novel or better yet as a prose poem. While poetry can document events, and not always be poetic – but the major part of poetry was its distance from poetry being impersonal and objective, and more focused on the personal and making them intellectual statements, of the human significance in the world and for the cliché measure saying the universe.

Even non-fiction was not always far from the grasps of modernist writers. For example Virginia Woolf wrote a biography titled “Flush,” which is about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and is often classified as a biography; however, the twist of the matter is, the entire subject matter is told from the point of view of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel Flush.

However after a while modernism ran out of steam. It lost its lushness; it lost that lustre, which it once had. It became somewhat more self-indulgent, of the writers themselves, rather than the writers trying to please both the reader and themselves as the writer and author. After the tragic suicide of Virginia Woolf and the death of James Joyce – both large players in the shaping of modernist and in my opinion the unofficial spokespersons for the modernist movement, modernism was declared, in some way or another finished and dead.

Here though is something Gentle Reader you might find rather helpful for what we are about to discuss. The common traits and thematic characteristics of the Modernist literary movement are:

Fragmentation – in plot, characters, theme, images, and overall storyline. Thus, for instance, many modernist works are not in the typical linear sequence.
Loss is a huge theme in modernist works.
The “truth” is questionable, as a common theme, and thus, you cannot always trust the narrator to tell the truth, whereas in traditional literature it is the narrator’s job to make the reader understand what’s going on. Also, there may be more than one narrator, showing the diversity of truth.
The destruction of the family unit.
Characters may be given little or no physical description, and one or more characters is usually an "outcast."
Authority figures are often untrustworthy, reflecting the question of truth.
Movement away from religion.
The reversal of traditional roles (Example: women doing something typically “male” and/or vice versa. Or the changing of customary racial roles).
Ambiguous ending; such works often leave a lot of questions with the reader; they don’t tie everything up for you.
Often setting is more than just the setting (i.e. more meaning to it than just where the story takes place), or, maybe there is no setting at all.
The use of improper grammar to reflect dialect.
More sexuality and the use of intertextuality are often found.
More use of the first person narrative, reflecting the lack of universal truth, i.e. there are only individual truths.

(thank-you to: for this helpful bit of information)

After the end of World War II though another literary movement had begun to take its roots. Like ink swirling around in a pool of water, chaotic flimsy and aimless, this no literary movement was ignored for a long time. However it came to be known as Post-modernism, and was started to be studied seriously as a literary form or movement in the nineteen-eighties.

Now this Gentle Reader is where you’ll be wondering, what the hell is the difference between Modernism and Post-modernism. This question has been baffling people – at least people who give as much a damn about the literary world, and its more confusing moments and parts, then the average reader, or the common reader; since Modernism and Post-modernism, became siblings and somewhat interesting allies, in their fight against the traditional view of how literature should have been, and is still being viewed in that way by some. However though siblings in their fight against the traditional objective ideology of some people (whoever they maybe) and the concept or ideal or philosophy that everything has order, and there is always singular truths, and the somewhat disregard of the individual. However, these two literary movements are quite different also.

One can go back to James Joyce in this scenario, as well. But not entirely James Joyce either. This section we shall call:

“The Student versus The Teacher,”

Samuel Beckett is a Nobel Laureate in Literature. He took the prize in the year of nineteen-sixty nine. Primarily considered a playwright more than anything else, Samuel Beckett, also wrote novels, short stories, and even wrote poetry. However it is Samuel Beckett’s writing of the absurd – adequately described as “Theatre of the Absurd,” with his famous play “Waiting for Godot,” that readers, and viewers will see that Samuel Beckett’s minimalist style, and his humorous look at the meaninglessness and suffering of human beings in general. While James Joyce, was a man who knew, and showed everything and always added on to what he was doing (I mean “Ulysses,” is certainly no summer read!) the student Samuel Beckett realized this and had his revelation embraced his stupidity and ignorance, of his own condition, and attributed it towards his characters. Their minimalist lives. Their comical suffering. Their futile attempts that in the end only ended up to being nothing. In the end Samuel Becket only said the following on the matter:

“I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding.”

(Thank-you to Wikipedia )

This is what makes Samuel Beckett and interesting author though. It is hard to consider Samuel Beckett a modernist for his humour and comical portrayal of the suffering, of his characters. However, at the same time, some consider Samuel Beckett’s career too early to have started to consider him a postmodernist author. It is then that Samuel Beckett is looked at it in the following manner: as one of the last modernists and one of the first postmodernists.

Though Samuel Beckett was not the only one to play with the form of the play in a modernist and postmodernist sense. Nobel Laureate in nineteen-thirty four Luigi Pirandello, whose play “Six characters in Search of an Author,” is considered a precursor to the works of the Theatre of the Absurd, of both Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. However, because Luigi Pirandello is considered a modernist author, it could be fair to suspect that his works, were more or less, more serious in their portrayal then that of Samuel Beckett or Eugene Ionesco.

“The Two Generations,”

If one wanted to split hairs or rather just be detailed or specific in the differences between Modernism and Post-Modernism, one could look at two generations. The Lost Generation of the nineteen twenties, and The Beat Generation of the nineteen fifties. Take a look at the writers of these two generations. The Lost Generation: T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemmingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; while The Beat Generation had: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. The authors of The Lost Generation were modernist authors, the novels of Ernest Hemmingway, the poetry of T.S. Elliot, and the Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. These authors had a much more serious tone in their works. They had seen what the Great War had done, and felt lost and disenfranchised suddenly in the world. While The Beat Generation was much different. Look at the works of Jack Kerouac, the poetry of T.S. Elliot, and the hybrid fiction of William S. Burroughs, and you’ll see a much different approach to their views of the post-World War II world. A lot more playfulness (however playfulness and irony can also be attributed to Modernism) an embracement of the chaos left in the world – rather than the Modernist hopeless feeling of despair at the chaos of the world. There is also of course the sex, the drugs, and the experimentation (both literary and sexual) in their work; but in all there is a great of psychedelic acceptance of the world at face value; but there is still a fragmentation of the world as well.

“The Latin Boom’s Rural Fantasy’s versus McOndo’s Urban Reality.”

Another place to look is at last year Nobel Laureate in Literature of two thousand and ten Mario Vargas Llosa novels. It is said and can of course possibly disputed (but it’s all a matter of opinion, and view) that Mario Vargas Llosa’s earlier work like “The Green House,” and “Conversations in the Cathedral,” are modernist works while “Captain Pantoja and the Special Service,” and “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,” are post-modernist for their lighter tone to the work – which is something that has been attributed to the works of post-modernist writing. However, though as it has been pointed out that modernist can be just as ironic and comical in its tone, as post-modernist; and personally I do not doubt it that post-modernist literature can be serious in its workings, of writing either.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortázar, and Mario Vargas Llosa, are Latin America Boom writers. Those who have read some Salmin Rushdie or any of these three authors work, as well as Carlos Fuentes work, will know what Magical Realism. Magical Realism is usually associated with the post-modernist view of the literary divide. This can be from the fact that the Latin American Boom happened mid-way through the twentieth century so therefore it does not add up with the modernist and postmodernist time line that, is attributed around the World Wars. However for the purpose of this piece, I see the Magical Realism of the Latin American Boom of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortázar, and Mario Vargas Llosa as the modernist works. Simply because, Latin and South America does not play on the same stage, as Europe and North America does in the literary way. While Europe and North America are greatly influenced by each other, though both would not wish to admit it. The literature of Latin America and South American is a little more isolated in my opinion and therefore develops on its own. That is why the Magical Realism of the Latin American Boom, is consider modernist and the new urban development of the McOndo is considered post-modernist. These two literary movements are greatly at odd with each other. This dispute is often called McOndo versus Macondo (Macondo being a fictional village that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had established in his work). Magical Realism and McOndo differ greatly on how they treat the climate of their homelands. While Magical Realism describes the place as a beautiful and exotic place; though with political themes of political oppression, and the dictator novel; McOndo is a bit more gritty in its realism and its dealings with the poverty, sexuality and sexual orientation, caste systems, political environment, crime, violence, and the social class. However despise the McOndo movement being more about the economic failures and the social problems, it is less overtly political then that of the Magical Realist narratives.

Once again there is the same fight with McOndo and Magical Realism as there is with modernism and post-modernism, The Lost Generation, and The Beat Generation, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, both see a very similar world but have a different view of how to express their views of this world, and therefore these two forms, as similar as they are, often disagree on the details.

“Contemporary Post-Modernism,”

Where is contemporary post-modernism today. It can clearly be seen in the works of Thomas Pychon and Don DeLillo in America, and with Martin Amis and Will Self in The UK, as well as Michel Houellebecq in France, Margaret Atwood in Canada, Haruki Murakami in Japan, Orhan Pamuk the Nobel Laureate in Literature of two thousand six, Umberto Eco of Italy and the works of Mark Z Danielwski of America as well – not to mention many other authors, who engage the reader in their avant-garde borderline works such as Milorad Pavić Serbia or Victor Pelevin in Russia. The state of contemporary Post-Modernism is just as confusing as the entire argument itself. However in the in the nineteen-eighties, Post-Modernism was on the verge of extinction as well, with the rise of dirty realism in America which has been attributed as a form of Short Story Renaissance. The playfulness and form experimentation of Post-Modernism was replaced with the realism (classified as dirty realism) of this new short story movement. But Post-Modernism had still survived through the short story movement of the nineteen-eighties, and can be seen in many authors, of the contemporary literary world.

“What is Post-Modernism though Still?”

I wish the question was an easy answer. However if all this research and writing, and wording has proven, it is not. The answer is a complicated one, based on history, based on the differencing of opinions, no clear post-modernist literary movement spokesperson, and the works themselves always varying in degree’s much like the predecessor Modernism. Let’s look at the two literary movements in a different media form though. Let’s look at three film directors. Ingmar Bergman and Krzysztof Kieślowski for the purpose of this piece are considered the representatives of the modernist tradition or the modernist side of literature. They deal with very profound themes. Existentialism, existential crisis’s, in a not so humorous manner (though it could be said that in Krzysztof Kieślowski “Three Colours Trilogy: White,” is an anti-comedy and does deal with the entire manner rather in a comedic fashion to a degree.) Now compare these two film makers with the contemporary film maker Quentin Tarantino. All three of these directors deal with the same themes, in just different manners of style, and how they treat the subject matter. While Ingmar Bergman deals with the entire ordeal in a much more serious tone, Quentin Tarantino will deal with the story in a non-linear, fragmented way but also in a way with humour. Also the post-modernism of today throws a lot of pop cultural references. So as a reader one could be reading lines from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” and then all of a sudden find Brittney Spears being quoted two paragraphs down. Modernism from what I have read does not usually mix high culture with low culture.

“Are you still wondering . . . ?”

In the end it doesn’t matter how much one can read the work of a modernist author or a post-modernist author, it’s still a finicky slippery slope to deal with. The truth can be easily stated that Modernism and Post-modernism are very different in how they deal with the same subject matter. Both deal with subjective inner consciousness of the individual, but both just go around in dealing with the matter in entirely different ways. Both share a distrust of anything that is declared a universal truth – because truth is subjected to the whims of the individual; neither one is fond of institutions like government or churches; and it is certainly fair to say that both were shaped by the world wars. The largest and main difference (but paradoxically a large similarity) is both recognize the chaos and meaningless of the contemporary world; however Modernism views the chaos as distressing, while Post-Modernism views the chaos as amusing, and embraces it.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

(If you have any comments or corrections or questions let me know.)

Thursday 8 September 2011

New Short Story Collections Comming Soon and New Novel as well

Hello Gentle Reader

It is September again. Even though it is September the seventh of two thousand and eleven, and it is also lunch time, and even though I need to eat my lunch, not mention make my lunch, not mention before that, I have to decide what i want for lunch, then have to make the lunch, then eat the lunch, then clean up after lunch -- but before all that its time to make a blog. There are new short story collections on their way, to replace those of Patricia Highsmith's "Selected Stories: of Patricia Highsmith," and that of Will Self's "Grey Area." The short story collections, will be named and listed by their author with the corresponding author and the country, shortly. There are also two novels that have been bought and will both soon be read and reviewed hopefully, depending on the time, that is given to the reading, fitting in with the rest of the schedule. But no worries of course Gentle Reader, these two novels will be read and reviewed shortly. The two books that have been bought, are Nobel Laureate in two thousand and three and two time Booker Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee's fictionalised autobiography, that was short listed for the Booker Prize in two thousand nine "Summertime." The next novel that had been bought -- and was it ever bought for a steal of a deal; is the Japanese novelists new English translated novel "Real World," by Natsuo Kirino, a contemporary Japanese author who shows a much darker side of Japanese society, and takes a darker, look at how Japanese society views and treats woman.

In other news (or rather speaking of the Booker Prize) the Booker Prize of two thousand and eleven short list was announced this Tuesday. The short listed authors are:

A.D. Miller "Snow Drops,"
Esi Edugyan "Half Blood Blues,"
Patrick deWitt "The Sisters Brothers,"
Stephen Kelman, "Pigeon English,"
Julian Barnes, "The Sense of an Ending,"
Carol Birch, "Jamrach’s Menagerie."

It does come as a bit of a pity that the author Patrick McGuinness novel "The Last Hundred Days," was not one of the short listed novels for this years Booker Prize. However, this does stop myself from going out and buying the book and enjoying it; win or lose, all the novels were placed on the long list and the short list for a reason, that they struck a chord with the jury. However this novel by Patrick McGuiness, reading of the synopsis strikes a chord with me.

September fourteenth of two thousand eleven Gentle Reader, is win the Short list of the German Book Prize will be announced.

It certainly must be autumn Gentle Reader, the literary awards, are just rolling out. The real prize though is coming to one lucky author in October who wins this years Nobel Prize for Literature.

Any how Gentle Reader before this blog is all wrapped up, here are the new short story collections:

Gabriel Garcia Márquez (Columbia) (Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature of nineteen-eighty two):

"Leaf Storm: and Other Stories,"
"Strange Pilgrims: and Other Stories,"
"No One Writes to the Colonel,"

Italo Calvino (Italy):

"Marcovaldo: or the Seasons in the City,"

Antonio Tabucchi (Italy):

"Little Misunderstandings of no Importance,"

Bei Dao (China):

"Waves: Stories."

There you have them Gentle Reader, to find out which two new short story collections, replace the already existing short story collections, tune later this month.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

I am not sure why gentle reader but the spaces between the paragraps and lists are not working.

Monday 5 September 2011

Mondays With Mr. K (No. IX)

Hello Gentle Reader Well it’s only the ninth “Mondays With Mr. K,” but I am afraid, that it is in dire need of going into hiatus. With a lot of my time, being taken up work and other aspects of my life, I find that there is just not enough time to write the “Mondays With Mr. K,” once a month. Which sounds pretty silly, and it is, but it’s rather straining at times, trying to come up with new ideas for the quirky odd, and other wise plotless and pointless, drifting character. There is just not enough time, between working and reading the required amount of short stories in order, to get everything to work; it’s unfortunate, but also the truth. For now, Mr. K, will sit locked away for a bit, but also vows for a second round with you Gentle Reader. But for now, the odd number nine, will be the one for a while. __________________________________________________________ Autumn had approached Mr. K’s apartment, as it did elsewhere in the city. Already had he pulled out extra blankets, and had begun preparations for the immovability of winter, that was surely coming his way. As the wood hit the cobble stone stress, with that usual dull thud, thud – the sound of an axe’s heavy blade, ripping through the wood splinters, Mr. K could only shutter at the very prospect at being the wood. However, people still came over to his small apartment. The cats – one, and two and three – but not four; have become more acquainted with their places by the stove, and the fireplace, to gather the warmth. Though they kept their distances from Mr. K, always watching him with suspicious eyes; and yet there small little pointed triangular mouths with the upside down y that connected the lips with their nose; would betray their somewhat secondary feelings of Mr. K. There was that small hint of a content smile, and a thank-you. Though a cat would never, admit to those feelings. Certainly the three of them – but no more; would never admit to it. Though as their pointed little fangs, stick out of their slumbering mouths, like little blood sucking beasts, Mr. K would smile to himself, as he himself – much like a cat; though he would never admit it; would sit by the stove or the fire place, covered in a blanket dosing off. He knew just as autumn came, and the rest for a while would begin, there would soon be invitations to go to places to eat supper with families in merriment; ghastly little ghouls and ghosts would soon be shouting out for treats, and then shortly winter would follow, then there would be even more strange behaviour of people inviting to celebrate, and exchange gifts. However in all Mr. K would be forced to turn all of it down. Instead of course to head down to the pub or some place of a community, and share his stories with listeners, would desire to hear his tales; for the winter months, until spring and summer rolled around and people go lazy in the haze, and came to visit him more frequently.