The Awakening of Joyce’s Lust for Beauty


For those soul-searching, here is an excerpt from  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manthe first novel of Irish writer James Joyce (1882 – 1941). This autobiographical Künstlerroman is unprecedented in literature for its use of free indirect speech prefiguring Joyce’s stream of consciousness technique. American modernist poet Ezra Pound had the novel published in book format for the first time by B. W. Huebsch in New York, on the 29th of December 1916. The following passage captures one of the Joyce’s best-known epiphanies, his youthful infatuation with beauty – the seed of creativity:

A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird. Her long slender bare legs were delicate as a crane’s and pure save where an emerald trail of seaweed had fashioned…

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues

Kristen Lamb's Blog

To prologue or not to prologue? That is the question. The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.

Because of the steady misuse of prologues, most readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.

So without further ado…

The 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues

Sin #1 If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump…

This is one of the reasons I recommend writing detailed backgrounds of all main characters before we begin (especially when we are new writers)…

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Copyright, Corporate Greed, and Books You Can’t Get

pigeon weather productions

This very interesting study illustrates quite clearly how copyright and corporate greed have resulted in the unavailability of books over the past few generations. There are more books from 1910 in print today than there are from 1990. Astonishing when you think about it, because far more books were published in 1990 than in 1910, but the books published more recently are not in the public domain, won’t be for decades, and because of how the corporate publishing world operates, most of those books will never be in print in our lifetime.

Self-publishing will change this, to some extent, as more and more authors take ownership of their own copyrights and keep their books in print in perpetuity, but authors of the past few generations are shit out of luck for the most part. Their books, if they were lucky enough to get them published in the first place, remain…

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Call for Papers for LASA 2014 Panel—”Aesthetics of the Abyss: Memory and Visual Culture in the Postcolonial Caribbean”

Repeating Islands


Natalie Belisle and Marcela Guerrero invite you to submit abstracts for a LASA 2014 panel entitled “Aesthetics of the Abyss: Memory and Visual Culture in the Postcolonial Caribbean.” The deadline for submissions is August 21, 2013.

Description: In Poetics of Relation, Édouard Glissant describes the “memory of the abyss” as a productive metaphor for both death and life, loss, and the possibility of newness in the wake of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. From the “abyss” a shared knowledge of the Caribbean (Relation) emerged. Moreover, this “memory of the abyss” becomes the creative matrix for the genesis of the Caribbean.

Parting from this framework, we seek to organize an interdisciplinary panel of papers for LASA 2014 that explores how visual culture from the postcolonial Caribbean is mediated by a memory of the abyss (in its negative or affirmative sense).

Please send an abstract, of no more than 250 words…

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The call for more dynamic and interesting female characters in literature

Milam's Musings


In Kelsey McKinney’s article for The Atlantic, she questions Western literature canon and even modern books that are being published inasmuch as they not only lack females as the main character, but even when they are the main character, they’re seeking love from men or are otherwise guided by men. Admittedly, I am not as well-versed in Western literature cannon or the literature of today as I should be, so I defer to her appraisal of the situation.

That said, just taking a gander at my own books on my shelves, I’d be hard-pressed to find many books that featured a female character as the lead. There’s Twilight and the Hunger Games, but both Bella and Katniss, respectively, seek love; although, I would contend Katniss is a bit more nuanced about it. In fact, I believe Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee is the only contender…

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Summer 2013 Focus on Anxiety: John Cheever, Rollo May, Goce Smilevski, Susanna Clarke, Carson McCullers

I’ve come across much discussion of anxiety lately in media, books: paranoia, fears, the existential questions that are the bane of our modern existence. I checked out all of the below selections independently of one another, yet there are connections. Each writer is able to tap into the inner struggles of the self, as the self rationalizes (or does not) its place in the world.

I’m finally returning The Stories of John Cheever to the library. I’m always intensely interested in his characters while reading–their emotions, complexity. His stories are rich and captivating. Yet, for many of them, the emotional resonance I initially feel dissipates after reading. I think something such as “What a bunch of whiny rich fops!” And, I don’t much care if the character dies at the end. This might just be an effect of reading a near 700-page Cheever collection, but it seems he does kill off a bunch of these whiny rich fops at the end. It’s a kind of crass despair for the world in which these malnourished souls circulate.

Rollo May’s The Meaning of Anxiety might shed some light on the issues these Cheever people have, that all of us have on some level. My description of May’s book is nothing less than cliche: landmark, seminal, necessary. It is. Thank you, Bookslut, for recommending the read. A good portion of the beginning of the book focuses on modern interpretations of anxiety: in literature, in social studies, in politics, in philosophy, in theology, and in psychology. This first section of the book is an excellent analysis I think I’ll add to the optional reading list for my World Literature II course, for the mid-twentieth century unit. This book should be required reading for everyone–maybe everyone should have to read it at ages 18, 25, and 35, just to make sure they have some perspective at appropriate intervals.

For a completely different style and scope as compared to Cheever, yet continuing with this theme of anxiety, check out the more recent Freud’s Sister by Goce Smilevski. The small novel is incredibly poetic and tightly shaped by repetition, parallelism of themes, images, and language. The poetry of the prose makes me marvel at the ambitious work of translation, as the novel was originally penned in Macedonian. The novel won the European Union Prize for Literature. Amazon reviews for it are not stellar, but I believe these responses come from readers unable or unwilling to immerse themselves in the intense poetry of the prose, or perhaps the intensely singular point of view. Maybe the nature of translation has something to do with it, but it as if Smilevski is writing from another time.

Speaking of writing from another time, we could also consider the perfectly entertaining pastiche of Susanna Clarke’s alternative history, where magicians suffer immense anxiety over what has changed, what may be lost, what to do now. I started a re-read of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, though I’m not very far along. I just about suffered entry into a mid-life crisis when I realized it had almost been a DECADE since I read the book. It was originally released in 2004. Details have faded from memory, and left me with the dreaded “cocktail party trap” described in this recent New Yorker article: “The Curse of Reading and Forgetting”.

My excitement over the Collected Stories of Carson McCullers has not abated a bit. I nearly fell out after finishing The Member of the Wedding–if it’s not an intense focus on adolescent anxiety, then I don’t know what is. Also, if you love Welty or O’Connor, pick this book up. It has 19 stories, in addition to The Member of the Wedding and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

If you’ve already clicked through and read the above New Yorker article, you should now be fairly anxious about forgetting what you’ve read and fearful of experiencing the “cocktail party trap.” I’d suggest picking a couple of your old favorites to re-read this summer. It might be a shame for a decade to have passed since that read, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you enjoy any of the above recommendations, please let me know.

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