Archive for the ‘Thinking through a book world’ Category

THE MYSTERIOUS WOMAN

September 15, 2008

The following ideas are from a talk titled “Understanding the Mysterious Woman–Adventure and Awakening.”   I spoke about this at Ozarks Writers Live, a fabulous annual event hosted  by the Fayetteville, AR, Public Library each fall, and held on Sept. 13 this year.

BUT, before you read this, do scroll down and read the guest post from bookstore owner and deep thinker, Dan Krotz from Sow’s Ear Antiques and Books in Berryville, ARkansas.

Now, about that mysterious woman…WHAT does the female in fiction reveal about the living, breathing, female…about me and you?

Let’s look at a bit of history first.  I think most of you are familiar with the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series by Lucy Maud Montgomery, especially with the first book in the series which covers Anne’s life from ages 11 through 16.  That book came out exactly one hundred years ago, in 1908, and sold 19,000 copies in Canada during the first five months.  (Remember, telegraph was the method of rapid communication in those days.  Radio and telephone were in their beginning stages and weren’t in common use. Talk about books or anything else didn’t zip around the globe!)

But, before long millions of copies of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES were selling around the globe.  What was it that almost guaranteed this book’s success?  Well, of course it had pathos.  It had Victorian virtue.  It had spice, because its appealing protagonist was a bit of a scamp.  But still, why the popularity?  BECAUSE MOST BOOKS AVAILABLE TO YOUNG PEOPLE AT THAT TIME WERE WRITTEN FOR BOYS!  This novel was water in the desert for young girls.

Female readers and writers as well as women generally have faced many literature deserts over time. Often books intended for women were insipid, wordy, and sweetly romantic in nature–not the more lively stories and mystery novels that are popular today.

That’s not to say there weren’t any mysteries that might appeal to women.  The first few mystery novels featuring women protagonists were published in the 1870’s in England.  One of those was by Wilkie Collins, known as the father of the detective novel for THE MOONSTONE.  His book, THE LAW AND THE LADY showcased Valeria Brinton, who made heroic efforts to find enough evidence to clear her husband of a murder charge.  Though the book might seem quaint to us today, at least Valeria managed to bypass or ignore many social rules and restrictions that burdened women of her day.

Next time:  Anna Katherine Green.

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Why read books?

August 8, 2008

How many of you have heard that reading among the population of the United States is declining…that fewer and fewer people, especially young people, read books today?  Well, after all (they say) we have television and the Internet, iPods, Blackberries, cell phones, ( and on and on) to communicate with, learn from, and be entertained by………don’t we?   Why waste time with a book?

I imagine most of you are familiar with at least some of the ‘modern inventions’ above.  You know what e-mail and text messaging is like.  Think about that for a moment.

Now, imagine what holding a baby is like.  Picture the baby.  Feel it.  Soft.  Warm.  A bit heavy, maybe like a ten-pound bag of sugar.  Interesting noises and smells.  Love.  Got that image?

Okay.  Think about being in a tornado.  These days, most of us can at least imagine that.  Furious wind.  That famous freight-train sound.  The crack of splintering wood.  Air sucked out of us.  Fear.

Next, think about watching a Fourth of July parade.  The high school band is marching by, playing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” perhaps with more enthusiasm than talent.  But still…..    Heart beating faster.  Tears?

What have you been feeling?   Emotions!

Humans are hard-wired to express and feel emotions.  Sadness, joy, fear, horror, outrage, pride, compassion, joy.  Empathy.   As humans we feel, we respond, we even make decisions based on emotions.  We may decide what is good and true and what is not based on a “gut feeling” which, frankly, is just another way to use and express emotion.  What would human life be like without emotions?   But to get there, something must have the time to touch us, and the time to get inside us far enough to stir responding feelings.   Humans find satisfaction and fulfillment in that.

Personal relationships, experiencing or viewing disaster or triumph–and much more–can awaken varying emotions.  Reading a book can also give us that.  It offers enough time to create and experience emotions.   I think, because of that if nothing else,  books in some form will endure.

What do you think?      Radine