Posts Tagged ‘nobel prize winner’

23rd April
2011
written by Steph

Doris Lessing is one of those authors who intimidates me. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but somehow I got it into my mind that she’s one of those smart difficult authors (her winning the Nobel Prize probably has something to do with it), and so I’ve been terrified to try her. Do any of you know what I mean? You pick up an author with a “scary” name and you start to read and even though you find the text is actually really accessible, there’s this part of your brain telling you that it’s going to get hard so you slam on the brakes and pick up Bridget Jones’s Diary instead. In this case, I think the fear that coursed through me stemming from the knowledge that I was finally reading something by Lessing worked in my favor since The Fifth Child is a very creepy book by its own rights. Reading the back cover you’d be forgiven if you assumed it would be very similar to Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, but I promise you, The Fifth Child is very much its own book and is a very different look at the whole “evil child” trope. (more…)
29th July
2010
written by Steph

When Tony and I were preparing for our Puerto Rican adventure, I agonized over what the perfect vacation read would be. I knew I’d be reading it on my Sony eReader, but that didn’t limit the field much. I dug deep and realized I was in the mood for a love story and something that was tropical in setting, since I figured my reading experience would only be ameliorated by being in the exotic haven that is Puerto Rico. And with that, the clouds parted and it became clear it was finally the time to read Love in the Time of Cholera. I read my first Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, just before I started blogging and it was love at first read. I could feel my mind expanding as I read that glorious novel, and I found Marquez’s way with words intoxicatingly seductive. It was a book I read slowly and carefully, anxious to savor each bit of it, determined to absorb all of its brilliance. It was a book that rocked my world, and I soon began to collect other books by this genius author so that I could work my way through his back catalog and revel in his brilliance. But I was also scared, because I’d heard many people state that none of his other books lived up to the transcendence of One Hundred Years. I worried that Marquez wouldn’t be able to capture that magic more than once, so as much as I craved more of his writing, I held off until now. (more…)
26th July
2010
written by Steph

A few weeks (months?) ago, I had the good fortune to be asked to join Claire from Kiss A Cloud, Claire from Paperback Reader, and Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot in a little group read-along of Love by Toni Morrison. I was thrilled for the opportunity because Toni Morrison is an author whom I feel I can always stand to read more of, but rarely feel confident enough to do so on my own prodding. Still, I’ve dutifully gone out and procured as many copies of her various books that I can find (my only requirement being that they are not horrifically ugly, because there are some less than covet-worthy editions of her books floating about out there) during my frequent bookstore visits. I then proceed to stockpile these books, happy in the knowledge that I have more Toni Morrison ahead of me. But of course, books are meant to be read, and it’s always good when others remind me of this, so this was the push I needed to get back on the Morrison love train (no pun intended, as I didn’t capitalize the “L” in “love”). I’m not sure that if given my own druthers that Love would have been the next Morrison I would have attempted, simply because I still haven’t read Beloved, which is Morrison’s masterpiece and I know I need to read it. So I always say it will be my next read, and then, well, as you can see, it isn’t! That said, I’m really glad that I did read Love because it was a really interesting and compelling novel, and it certainly broadened my notion of who Toni Morrison is as an author in several ways. (more…)
26th April
2010
written by Steph

A year ago, Marie Arana wrote a piece for The Washington Post in which she argued that the Nobel Prize was merely a political instrument that was less interested in honoring quality literature and thus, it was time to get rid of it. She cited many of the authors that the prize has overlooked in favor of authors she personally considered to be far lesser writers.  One such example given was John Steinbeck, whom she described as being “merely average”. No, you read that right.  By Arana’s estimation Steinbeck was “merely average”. Color me stunned.  I think there are a lot of ways in which once could describe Steinbeck, but “merely average” is not necessarily the choice I would make. I’ve by no means read his entire back catalog, but I remember being completely enthralled by East of Eden during a summer in highschool, and if Of Mice and Men isn’t the saddest thing I’ve ever read, then I don’t know what is.  True story: My dad gave the book to my brother and asked him to read it, when my brother was maybe 12 or 13.  My brother wasn’t really a reader, but the length of the book was such that even a non-reader like himself wouldn’t feel all that intimidated.  A few hours later he came out of his room and said he had finished it, but neither my dad nor I believed him since he was so calm and collected.  My dad told him to go back and really finish it… and bang!  20 minutes later, Ty came out bawling, totally distraught.  That’s when we knew he had finished it.  Honestly, Of Mice and Men is one of those books that can be your trusted litmus test to see if someone has working human parts.  If you can read it and not be moved to the sharpest pinnacles of grief, well… you scare me. (more…)
22nd April
2010
written by Steph

Elizabeth Costello is a strange novel.  In fact, some might argue that it is not really a novel at all; there were certainly times when I thought so.  It is probably as far from a conventional narrative as one can get, taking the form instead of a series of essays, linked in many ways only by the recurring eponymous Elizabeth Costello figure.  Through Elizabeth, Coetzee is able to examine various different philosophical quandaries, such as animal rights, consciousness, goal of literature, censorship, culture as a formative factor in identity, and sexuality, just to name a few. Needless to say, it’s an ambitious work, one that requires an inordinately skilled author in order to carry it off successfully. (more…)
22nd March
2010
written by Steph

I don’t write about it very frequently on this blog, but many of you know that by day (and sometimes by night) I am a PhD student in Psychology.  My research interests have fluttered about over the years as can only be expected in a five-year program, but within the expansive field of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, I’ve always focused on examining cognitive processes related to visual perception (read: how the brain processes things that we see).  The department I’m in is great for all things vision, perhaps to the detriment to the four other senses, which is something visiting speakers and researchers ALWAYS joke about… what can I say: in academia, the jokes are rarely good. Anyway, all of this preamble is simply meant to establish that when it comes to the topic of vision, I may be slightly more passionate than the average person. I didn’t know much going into this novel, other than the obvious – a mysterious plague besieges humanity, causing everyone to go blind.  Other than that, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or where the story would go, and I’m kind of glad for that, so I don’t think I’ll say much more, other than the fact that one person is saved from this blindness and it is through her eyes that we see the devastation that results when humankind is robbed of sight. (more…)
24th September
2009
written by Steph

This book is anything but.

Another double header! We're aiming to make this a regular feature on the old blog. This time we didn't read the feature out loud to each other (though we do have another title slated for that), nor did we read it at the same time. Steph read this and passed it along to me and we decided that we needed to discuss it with each other in order to get the most out of our readings. With out further ado... Steph’s Take Every once in a while, we as readers are lucky enough to have truly magnificent books pass through our lives, books that make us think, and even more importantly, ones that make us feel.  Often times I find that upon finishing a truly great book, I have to take a bit of a breather from reading so that time can cleanse my literary palate.  Finishing a great book results in me spending a few days thinking about what I’ve read, working through all of the emotions it has stirred up within me; in such a state, any book picked up in haste is sure to be a disappointment, my reading of it irrevocably colored by the previous Great Read, looming large in my mind.  And is so often the case with great books, they frustratingly defy description.  Disgrace, is one such book. (more…)
31st March
2009
written by Steph
Have mercy on yourself and read this one!

Have mercy on yourself and read this one!

After quite the hiatus (in part due to self-imposed restrictions, but largely influenced by long waiting lists at the public library), I return to reading contenders in this year’s Tournament of Books.  In a way, my reading of A Mercy couldn’t have come at a better time, as today it was named champion in the 2009 Tournament of Books. Reviews of A Mercy have been largely positive, but it has not gone unscathed.  Some have criticized it as being “Toni Morrison lite”, perhaps a function of its relatively small heft (weighing in at a scant 167 pages), but it may also have something to do with the format of the novel as well.  A Mercy is a series of chapter-long character sketches that alternate with a stream-of-consciousness style narrative from the ostensible lead character, Florens (I call her the lead, simply because she is devoted multiple chapters, whereas all other individuals in the novel only get a solitary chapter to each tell their tales).  The story takes place in the late 1600s/early 1700s in the South East (Virginia and Marlyand), revolving around a Dutch farmer, his wife, and the three slaves they keep (Florens, Sorrow, and Lina), but also features a good deal of flashback and retrospective narrative as well.  Through each character’s story, we are given the opportunity to reflect on the shackles of slavery, the various ways one can become a slave, as well as what it means to be free. (more…)
12th February
2009
written by Steph

In honor of February being Black History month, I decided to read my first Toni Morrison novel.  I knew very little about her or her writing going into this, as the most salient trivia I had catalogued on her was that she had been featured multiple times in Oprah’s book club.  Let’s not hold that against her though, as she’s also been awarded the Nobel prize for Literature.  Also, I’m secure enough in my reading habits to admit that the real reason I picked this up at the used bookstore is because President Obama named it as one of his favorite books.  Ostensibly Beloved is Morrison’s best known book, but since Obama picked this one, so too did I.  What is it about all these O named people and their huge sway on reading habits? (more…)
25th December
2008
written by Steph
awesome!

Here's a name for this book: awesome!

As I mentioned in my recent entry regarding obsessive book buying, after our latest trip to McKay’s, we found ourselves in the position of owning three Saramago novels, even though neither of us has ever read any of his writing.  I’m sure I’m not alone in finding this a rather peculiar circumstance, since generally it intuitively makes sense to buy a single book by a given author and read that in order to decide if you want to read anything more by said author.  Clearly something beyond reason motivates me when I’m in bookstores. I decided to rectify this situation by vowing to read a Saramago novel after finishing Fieldwork.  Rather than hemming and hawing over which one to commit to, I selected All The Names off the shelf, using the fact that we’ve owned it the longest as justification.  That it was shorter than both Blindness and The Double was also likely a contributing factor, but let’s not focus on that niggling point. (more…)