Tag Archives: Reading

Literature will set us free

“Nothing can defend us better against ignorance, prejudice, racism, nothing better than good literature. […] good books are the best defense that we have against prejudices, against distorted views of people of different languages, different beliefs, different customs. We discover that in spite of all differences, the common denominator among men and women of different traditions is much more important, because we are all humans and we are all challenged by very similar kinds of problems and obstacles that we have to overcome in order to survive, in order to live.

If free and democratic societies are to carry on as such, it is imperative that their citizens be trained by reading good literature not only for the great pleasure the activity affords, but also for its great potential to stimulate the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty.”

From: cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/literature/2016/11/09/mario-vargas-llosa.html

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Literature’s Greatest Contribution to the World

“Reading and writing are subversive acts by default. […] this activity develops in societies a critical spirit about the world as it is.

Why do you think that all dictatorships have tried to control literature? […] They have established systems of censorship. They have given special laws to put limits to the fantasy world that literature creates—because they mistrust very much this activity that is producing stories to replace the real world with the fantasy world of literature.

[…] writers don’t need to be politically inclined to make a criticism. Literature itself is critical of the real world.

The critical spirit […] is developed by presenting readers with worlds that are better, more coherent, more rich—in which life has possibilities that real life, the real world, doesn’t have.

And the greatest contribution of literature to the world, is when it gives us ideas that are very critical of the world as it is.”

Mario Vargas Llosa

From: gmanetwork.com/news/story/587427/lifestyle/dictators-like-marcos-are-right-to-fear-writers-mario-vargas-llosa

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Reading Books vs Watching TV

Research shows “The more a child watched television or was exposed to television, even if it was playing in the background, the weaker their understanding of their parents’ mental state. Ultimately, if the television was on in the vicinity of the child, it impaired their theory of mind, which is defined as the ability to recognize their own and another person’s beliefs, intents, desires, and knowledge.”

…”watching too much TV could actually alter the composition of the human brain.  […] the more time spent in front of the TV, the thicker the frontal lobe region of their brains developed. It’s the same area that is known to lower language processing and communication, which researchers suspect is also why [test subjects] had a lower verbal IQ. But that wasn’t all; the hypothalamus, septum, sensory motor region, and visual cortex were all enlarged — these are where emotional responses, arousal, aggression, and vision are processed.”

Meanwhile, “aside from pleasure and practicality, reading [books]  strengthens the neural pathways like any muscle in your body. Even at a young age, children who are read to by their parents develop five enhanced reading skills, which include an advanced vocabulary, word recognition in spoken words, ability to connect written letters to spoken sounds, reading comprehension, and the fluency to read text accurately and quickly.”

More on TV watching and the benefits of Reading Books:
medicaldaily.com/neural-pathways-watching-tv-human-brain-reading-book-389744

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If Writers Were Taken Literally

“Raven locks, arched eyebrows, eyes like stars, rosy cheeks, sea-shell ears, pearly teeth, cherry lips, swan-like necks, lilly white hands, and a Grecia nose”…

If writers were taken literally, the heroines of fiction would look like this:

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The Literary Industrial Complex

“The MFA isn’t about developing a unique style at all, but about learning how to sound like already published writers. It’s about gaining entrance to the club. Look closely at the promotional materials of creative-writing programs and you’ll almost invariably see a host of proper names—these are the people with whom you can expect to rub shoulders, if not directly, then by association through the former graduates that have passed through the program or the mentors of your mentors whose influence will surely rub off on you. It’s about having the opportunity to insert yourself, however virtually, into that literary social network.

While something may happen in MFA programs, perhaps that thing is more behavioral than artistic. When we look at the data, the MFA seems to be helping people sound like everyone else. To put a positive spin on it, we could say the degrees help writers fit into the literary landscape. Like the universities to which these programs belong, the MFA may offer a way of gaining entrance to an elite club. You learn the rules of the road, at least as defined by the publishing industry and literary reviews. At its worst, it doesn’t do anything at all.

From: theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/mfa-creative-writing/462483/

The CIA + the MFA = https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Shared Reading For Mental Health

“This one-year research study concluded that shared reading groups helped patients suffering from depression in terms of their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being. The clinical data indicated that statistically significant improvements in the mental health of depressed patients had occurred during the 12-month period in which they had attended reading groups.

It found that there were four significant ‘mechanisms of action’ involved in the reading group intervention, three of which were essential to its success, the fourth influential:

– A rich, varied, non-prescriptive diet of serious literature
– The role of the group facilitator in making the literature ‘live’ in the room
– The role of the group in offering support and a sense of community
– The creation of stimulating, non-pressurised, non-judgemental atmosphere (‘not like school’, as one participant emphatically put it) overrode considerations of physical environment

The report also established what types of literature work, why they work and how they work in the specific context of depressive illness.”

From, and Download the report (PDF): http://www.thereader.org.uk/media/72227/Therapeutic_benefits_of_reading_final_report_March_2011.pdf

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Noxious Vermin

“What is this curse that makes us all so inert and cowed that we cannot pull ourselves together and deprive the generals of their grants? We are oafs, most of us, lazy and ignorant, and we nod our heads and are satisfied when we hear a lot of profound nonsense about “balance of power” and “interplay of forces” and all the rest of the jargon. Balance of power? If every Tom, Dick and Harry were to exert himself and demand that the money should be spent on making him better off instead of on arms and war there would be no war and we should all be better off. But the Toms, Dicks and Harrys must first bang their fists on the table and let it be known who holds the power and how that power is to be used. […]

“I still see red when I think of, let alone meet, those who incite to war, all the idiots who directly or with treacherous insinuations fan dissension and belligerent instincts. I have seen the result of the infamous activities of these propagandists, commentators, fanatics, cold business brains and lusting politicians. They are noxious vermin and, as such, should be destroyed.”

Sven Hassel, Wehrmacht, WWII; author of WWII novels.

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What is Literature

What is literature? — It Is the personal preference of a writer (or a reader) for the works of certain writers: his idea of what should be described for a larger circle of readers as worthwhile reading. Ford Madox Ford says so in almost as many words:

“Let us then sum up literature as that which men [and women, presumably] read, and continue to read for pleasure or to obtain that imaginative culture which is necessary for civilisations. Its general characteristic is that it is the product of a poetic, an imaginative, or even merely a quaintly observant, mind. Since the days of Confucius, or the earliest Egyptian writers a thousand years before his time, there have been written in stone, on papyrus, wax, vellum, or merely paper, an immense body of matter — innumerable thousands of tons of it. This matter is divisible into that which is readable and that which is unreadable except by specialists in one or another department of human knowledge. The immediate test for one’s self as to what is literature and what is not literature — the ‘biblia a-biblia,’ as the Greeks used to call this last — is simply whether one does or does not find a book readable. But if a book has found readers for 2000 or 500, or merely 80 or 2O years, you would be rash, even though you could not read it yourself, to declare that it was not literature — not, that is to say, a work of art. . . . But for the judging of contemporary literature the only test is one’s personal taste. If you much like a new book, you must call it literature, even though you find no other soul to agree with you, and if you dislike a book, you must declare that it is not literature, though a million voices should shout to you that you are wrong. The ultimate decision will be made by Time.”

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Read to Tell Better Stories

“Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives—a form of existential problem-solving. In a 1944 study conducted by Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel at Smith College, 34 college students were shown a short film in which two triangles and a circle moved across the screen and a rectangle remained stationary on one side of the screen. When asked what they saw, 33 of the 34 students anthropomorphized the shapes and created a narrative: The circle was “worried,” the “little triangle” was an “innocent young thing,” the big triangle was “blinded by rage and frustration.” Only one student recorded that all he saw were geometric shapes on a screen.”

“The more stories you read, the better you’ll be at telling your own story. Chances are, you’ll also become a bit better at filtering the noise of the world and understanding it for yourself. It might sound like a stretch, but the better you are at telling your own story, the more persuasive and interesting you’ll be to others.”

From: lifehacker.com/how-reading-fiction-can-help-you-live-a-better-life-1666696457

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The Price of Literary Glamour and Glitz

Glamour and glitz of literary festivals comes with a price, “And the most expensive item on the bill is the transformation of writers into performers, authors into salesmen. […] For them it is promote or perish. Writers these days have to have their own websites, be active on Facebook, send off tweets every few hours and generally be as visible as possible. Lest the reader forgets him and goes off with whoever is grabbing their attention at that moment.

However

, “The best expression of a writer’s thoughts has to be in his writings, not in his spoken words. That is why he or she has chosen the lonely, uncertain life of a writer.”

We readers too can be like them, by opting to walk the solitary path of reading. If we are content to judge authors by their works and not their personalities, if we are ready to put substance over style, then Lit Fests would lose their relevance. Honestly, how can something as intimate as a novel be turned into a successful live event?

From: firstpost.com/living/literary-festivals-are-anti-reading-why-lit-fests-are-for-performers-not-writers-2542596.html

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