Tag Archives: Books

Suffering and Literature

“In Molotov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey into Russian History (Faber), which is history-cum-travelogue, Rachel Polonsky, a Cambridge academician, asks whether “there is a set of secret maps to be found among a person’s books, a way through the fortifications of the self” that would explain why a person’s deep love and apparent appreciation of literature (and culture in the larger sense) can be responsible for the execution of so many writers during the purges. Is this because, as the Russian scholar Dmitri Likhachev said, “the Russian people perish from an excess of space” that makes its literature “the most significant, the most tragic, the most philosophical”? These are the underlying questions, often asked about the relationship between suffering and literature, that Polonsky pursues in her book as she travels around the former Soviet empire to revisit the ghosts of great Russian writers of the past.”

From: business-standard.com/india/news/v-vjourney-into-russian-history/418671/

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When the Sword is Mightier than the Pen

“PEN’s survey allowed participants to ofer long-form comments on surveillance; PEN also invited members to share their thoughts and personal experiences via email. In reviewing the responses, themes emerged centering on writers’ self-censorship and fear that their communications would bring harm to themselves, their friends, or sources:

1. PEN writers now assume that their communications are monitored.
2. The assumption that they are under surveillance is harming freedom of expression by prompting writers to self-censor their work in multiple ways, including:
a) reluctance to write or speak about certain subjects;
b) reluctance to pursue research about certain subjects; and
c) reluctance to communicate with sources, or with friends abroad, for fear that they will endanger their counterparts by doing so.”

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Book censorship in America

“Under the First Amendment, the U.S. government cannot outright ban literature in the United States, but [...]  books can be hidden from public view or written off as conspiracy theory in order to prevent people from reading them.”

“While censorship is often conducted by corporations and governments to prevent words, images or ideas from entering the mainstream, censorship of literature has been around as early as 399 B.C. and has affected intellectuals and philosophers such as Socrates.” [...]

“The urge to censor is hardly the monopoly of any political group. But the greatest threat today comes from the fundamentalist right, with its ideological hostility to other religious or philosophical systems, to homosexuality, to sex education, and indeed to the basic idea of secular education.”

“Whether in print or digital format, books are a precious resource, providing us with information, entertainment, opinions, ideas, and a window on lives far different from our own,” wrote Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association, in a piece to remind Americans that censorship still exists, even with the existence of the Internet.”

“Free access to books and ideas is the foundation of our government and our society, enabling every person to become an educated participant in our democratic republic.”

From: mintpressnews.com/banned-forgotten-book-censorship-u-s/193202/

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Bestsellers Bad for Reading Culture?

“Michael Dirda wrote about book best-seller lists for BookForum, calling them “bad for readers, bad for publishing, and bad for culture. Above all, despite appearances, the best-seller list isn’t populist; it’s elitist. If there are a dozen slots, six are filled by the same old establishment names. For every James Patterson novel on the list, that’s one fewer novel by someone else.” He continued:

The best-seller list functions, in essence, as a restraint of trade, a visible hand that crushes the life out of the literary marketplace. If one were to magically eliminate every form of the list, in print and online, as well as all those best-seller tables in Barnes & Noble, what would happen? People would spend more time browsing a bookstore’s stock, they would skim a page or two of various interesting-looking titles, and eventually they would plunk down their twenty dollars. In short, they would actively engage with a greater portion of our literary culture. Customers might even discuss their tastes with the shop’s owner or staff, who would actually recommend a few appropriate titles. Friends, neighbors, and colleagues might also suggest beloved novels, biographies, and poetry collections.

Without a best-seller list, authors would compete on something like a level playing field, while readers would buy the books that spoke most meaningfully to their particular interests and tastes rather than settling for the one-size-fits-all titles found in the back pages of the New York Times Book Review.”

From” salon.com/2014/06/22/casey_kasem_ronald_reagan_and_musics_1_percent_artificial_popularity_is_not_democracy/

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Writers as Activists

“If [...] creative writers, researchers, playwrights, artists and film-makers care more for how the posterity is going to judge their work and their times, then they should not care for publishers of the Establishments, funding agencies, interviews to corporate media, acceptance by ‘refereed journals’ and the so-called international awards, but should consciously orientate their work for directing the struggle to face its due target and for giving confidence and optimism to the masses”…

From:  tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=37252

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Warning: Literature Will Stir Your Mind

In “some American universities, novels such as The Great Gatsby and Mrs Dalloway are being tagged with “trigger warnings” alerting students to potentially disturbing material.”

“Why would anyone take an English literature course if they were so fragile they could not cope with the emotions great literature deals with? That is not the main issue, however. The problem with such tagging is that it grossly insults the book itself and literature in general. All other arguments against such overprotective coddling are as nothing to the sheer ignorance such a process displays for the art of writing.”

“Almost all first-class fiction revolves around painful issues of some sort. Trying to protect readers from the corrosive aspects of life is akin to sending a child out into the world without their vaccinations.”

…”writers are mirrors of their times, and a saintly novelist does not and never will exist. We read not to encounter perfect, politically correct or sanitised characters, but to enter the author’s imagined worlds, warts and all. Strip out all conflict or fear, prejudice or unpleasantness, violence, death or heartbreak, and you’d have nothing but Janet and John storybooks.”

From: heraldscotland.com/mobile/books-poetry/comment-debate/good-literature-can-disturb-get-over-it.24094002

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Political Will can Build Cultural Prosperity

“It should be noted that while one’s willingness to read is important, forging a reading-friendly environment is also crucial. From this viewpoint, efforts should be strengthened to build more libraries across the country ― hopefully to put every resident within walking distance of the facilities ― and to organize various events and programs aimed at establishing a strong reading culture. It may also serve this purpose to offer tax deductions on book purchases or provide book vouchers for low-income families, who put aside much less to spend on books.”

The “President [...] has advocated cultural prosperity as one of her key policy goals. Encouraging people to read more books will be the foundation for achieving it and building a society in which all people feel happy and find meaning in their lives.”

From: m.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140501000391

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Deep Reading a Cure for ADD

“Reading fiction, the researchers found, provides a chance to think things through “without concern for urgency” and lets readers think in ways not their own.

Reading, especially the reading of great literature, said Michael Sexson, MSU emeritus Regents Professor in English, is a kind of cure for the attention deficit disorder that seems to afflict everyone in our society, including himself.

“I’m not a Luddite by any means,” said the veteran professor and devoted tablet user. “I’m fascinated by technologies, in particular, communicative technologies.

“At the same time, I don’t think it’s amiss to be severely critical of the ways in which electronic technologies have provided us with so many more options than we’ve ever had before, to the point that these options become the choices of distractions.”

The kind of deep involvement, concentration and the ability to be informed on a productive level are, in his view, largely the result of reading books.”

From: montana.edu/mountainsandminds/article.php?article=12599&origin=news

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Books bring more happiness than money

“A new study by the UK’s Department for Culture Media and Sport shows that people can be just as happy going to the library as getting a £1,359 ($2,282) pay rise. The study, which examined the way in which our cultural engagement can affect overall wellbeing, found that frequent trips to the library gave us a similar feeling of wellbeing to things like the prospect of a pay rise, dancing, swimming and going to theater shows.

It’s unclear whether happy people go to the library or whether the library actually makes people happy. Either way though, it seems the library is where the happy people are at. Given that the UK, like the U.S., has seen many of its libraries closed over the past few years, perhaps this research should prompt a rethink about the worth of our libraries.”

More ways books make our lives better:

http://www.care2.com/causes/5-ways-books-improve-our-lives-and-make-us-better-people.html

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Reading = Personal Growth

“According to psychologists, there are two types of mindsets in the world; one, fixed and the other, growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities are all pre-determined and they tend to live proving their stagnant beliefs instead of disapproving or building the possibility for a positive change in their talents, behaviours or attitudes. A growth mindset is one that accepts failures as well as challenges without losing hope. It believes that intelligence is not decided at birth but cultivated over time.”

Reading books opens minds.

More on the mamy benefits of reading, including weight loss, creativity, mind flexibility: http://www.onlymyhealth.com/reading-reduces-waistline-no-kidding-1397729297

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