Monday, June 30, 2008

This Week in Reading June 29 - July 5

We get a holiday this week because it's the Fourth of July and the freedom to read and write what we want to is an essential American civil right. That said, it's a week that gives us both the Declaration of Independence and the birth of Spam(tm), both the bikini and the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, both Wal Mart(tm) and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act , as well as Walden Pond and cloned animals. So responsibility and perspective is also in order. Read whatever you want but don't set off any wayward fireworks.

Among the notable names this week are some actually born on the Fourth of July, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Neil Simon, Stephen Foster, Rube Goldberg, and the twin sisters with advice columns, Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers.

Other literary names of note in the week are three Nobel prizewinners, Herman Hesse with no less than two Polish poets Wislawa Szymborska and Czelaw Milosz, as well as Franz Kafka, Jean Cocteau, George Sand, M.F.K. Fisher, and Tom Stoppard.

This Week's Question: An author born this week wrote of the lack of depth and complexity in contemporary novels and that is why this author wrote "romances" instead. Today, however, the term 'romance novel' would suggest the opposite. Said the author: "It will be very long, I trust, before romance writers may find congenial and easily handled themes, either in the annals of our stalwart republic, or in any characteristic and probable events of our individual lives. Romance and poetry, ivy, lichens and wallflowers need ruin to make them grow." Who is it?

Answer to Last Week's Question: The other Nobel prizewinner last week was Italian playwright and novelist, Luigi Pirandello, who won the prize in 1934. His novellas are rarely read today, but his plays continue to be performed, some of which led to the beginnings of postmodernism by breaking conventions.

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