Tag Archives: Novels

Literature Can Bind a Split Nation

The “lack of meaningful connections among citizens is a complex problem. It contributes to the crippling partisanship”. …

“If the root of our problems … is a breakdown in communication and connection, literature has some incredibly powerful tools to help.” …

“learning how to engage with literature and, by extension, with others, is a very practical, widely-applicable skill.” …

“Reading a novel, you experience the perceptions, values and quandaries of a person from another epoch, society, religion, social class, culture, gender or personality type. … Great literature allows one to think and feel from within how other cultures think and feel”.

“It’s not necessarily about the specific content of what you read; it’s the underlying practice of putting yourself inside another person’s head, inhabiting a narrative that is not your own, and considering perspectives that you do not share. Time spent actually exercising these skills and improving your capacity to connect and empathize with people – actually reading literature – is time well spent. It’s a concrete step to making you a more effective leader, better positioned to address the crises in our country today and cross the fault lines that have distanced us from each other.

Reading a book won’t singlehandedly bring about the end of American conflict – but it may make you better equipped to start.”

From, and read more: blog.acton.org/archives/80087-literature-empathy-and-american-prosperity.html

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Storytelling Hightens Moral Reasoning

Intriguing new evidence “shows a positive correlation between literacy and moral reasoning, most particularly between reading fiction and being able to take the perspective of others. Perspective-taking in novels requires a matrices-like rotation of relational positions combined with an understanding of what it would feel like if X happened to you, even though the “you” in this case is a character in the novel.”

“In a 2011 study, for example, the Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson and his team scanned the brain of a woman while she told a story out loud that the scientists recorded and subsequently played back for other subjects while their brains were being scanned. When the reader’s emotional brain region called the insula lit up during a certain portion of the story, so too did the listeners’ insulas; when the woman’s frontal cortex became active during a different part of the story, the same region in listeners’ brains was also activated. It’s almost as if the fictional story synchronized the reader’s and listeners’ brains.”

“This experiment is important because it nails down the direction of the causal arrow from reading literary fiction to perspective taking, eliminating the objection that perhaps people who are interested in and good at interpreting the mental states of others just happen to be people who read novels.”

From: reason.com/archives/2015/02/17/are-we-becoming-morally-smarte

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Infinite World Awaits Your Discovery

When we read books our world becomes infinite:

“We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books…. in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” C. S. Lewis, in: An Experiment in Criticism

From: lifehacker.com.au/2014/11/cs-lewis-on-reading-literature-those-who-dont-inhabit-a-tiny-world/

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The Last Untamed Medium: the Novel

“A novel can change lives. Reading fiction is a more intimate – and as a result a more potentially profound – experience than watching a film, or a television series, or even hearing new music.

It is one person talking to another. If it is the right book at the right time, it can convey an important message of comfort and reassurance: you are not alone.

However determinedly schools and universities instil the importance of reading critically, a novel can break through society’s carefully erected barriers of respectability, responsible behaviour and correct thinking. For this reason, it is unlikely to have been tamed and institutionalised by being included on a reading list for exams.”

From: belfasttelegraph.co.uk/debateni/news/no-it-is-not-fiction-a-novel-certainly-can-change-lives-30535160.html

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Cold War and the Battle of the Pens

“Were there similarities between the literature on both sides of the Iron Curtain?”

“Definitely. And the phrase itself is an interesting place to start. It is commonly assumed that the term was first used by Winston Churchill in a speech in Fulton, Missouri on March 5th 1946, but in Patrick Wright’s book “Iron Curtain” (2009) he traces the origin to 18th-century theatre. The iron curtain was a safety curtain that came down between the stage and the audience in case of fire. It was the divide between stage and audience and the whole political rhetoric of cold-war literature and its narrative discourse was marked by this profound opposition between self and other, good and evil, democracy and tyranny.”

“The idea of theatricality was the very essence of cold-war literature and discourse—the manipulation of language and information, the difference between appearance and reality, and the way the information was projected to the audience didn’t necessarily have roots in reality.”

[…]

“There wasn’t a definitive “end of cold war” response in Soviet literature because the dissident literature, samizdat (self-published) and tamizdat (published over there), proliferated gradually. In the 1980s the Western spy novels all featured good guys from the West and bad guys from the East and they were still very popular. Margaret Thatcher read Frederick Forsyth’s “The Fourth Protocol” (1984) four times. But by this time there was also a huge influx of “real” fiction, serious literature reflecting on the reasons for the cold war and near nuclear disaster, the metaphysical opposition of East and West—post-modernism. This was a natural response to the cold-war situation, given the manipulation of language and the pervading atmosphere of counter-intelligence.”

Read More: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/03/quick-study-olga-sobolev-cold-war-literature

Reading Novels = Body-shifting

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns.”

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” Berns says.”

“The neural changes were not just immediate reactions, Berns says, since they persisted the morning after the readings, and for the five days after the participants completed the novel.”

“It remains an open question how long these neural changes might last,” Berns says. “But the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.”

Source: http://esciencecommons.blogspot.ca/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html?m=1

How writers come up with novel ideas

How do writers come up with story ideas and turn them into novels?

“If one idea in particular seems attractive, and you feel you could do something with it, then you toss it around, play tricks with it, work it up, tone it down, and gradually get it into shape. Then, of course, you have to start writing it. That’s not nearly such fun – it becomes hard work. Alternatively, you can tuck it carefully away, in storage, for perhaps using in a year or two years’ time.”  Agatha Christie

Understand the real world through fiction

“People do not read fiction or watch films as observers. Rather they are drawn to participate in the story, making it reality. This has several benefits. It lets them experience how others deal with problems – how their dilemmas confuse them, engage them rationally and emotionally, challenge their values, and force them to balance competing issues. Reading fiction nurtures skills in observation, analysis, diagnosis, empathy, and self-reflection – capacities essential for good customer experiences, for caring about others, and for promoting good leadership practices. Fiction helps its readers to develop insights about people who are different from themselves. As they ponder what they might have done if confronted with a character’s situation, fiction helps its readers to gain insight about themselves as well.”

“Literary fiction, in contrast to popular fiction, focuses on the psychology of their characters and their interrelationships in the story. The authors of literary fiction reveal their character’s minds only vaguely, leaving out important details. The omission requires the reader to fill in the gaps if the character’s motives are to be understood. Literary fiction is rarely explicit about the internal dialog running inside each character’s mind, which consequently forces the reader to imagine it. This is the way the real world works.”

From: patriotpost.us

Novels define morality

“Now, in the modern age, the novel is the way we discover what we really believe.  If we tell a story, and it seems true and the characters seem real, and the resolution is correct, we are able to say that we are certain, or more certain than before about what we think is true.

The novel in the modern age is the answer or the response to a line in Camus’ notebook, which is, “That wild human longing for clarity….”  It is this wild longing that the novel satisfies, and as long as it does that, and as along as a novelist is honest about what it is like to be human, it will not only survive, but thrive.

It will become the method by which we judge our morality.”

From: salon.com

Agents of Change – Jesuits and Liberation Theology

The people and the revolution that sent tremors through the United States and the Vatican:

The 1960s sparked revolutionary changes that swept the secular and religious world. At the forefront of the battle for a new – better – world was the most powerful Catholic Order.

Progressive Jesuit priests started a movement that would turn the archaic religious institution into the leading force for change, and in the process put them at odds with the United States.

These Agents of Change saw the need to do away with antiquated political and banking systems, with murderous military-industrial complexes, and flawed educational systems.

They became the biggest threat to U.S. interests…

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SpyWriter Jack King: Agents of Change,