‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘news

Jodi Picoult and the Tragic:

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reynold47Reading an article in the New York Times about Jodi Picoult and the Anxious Parent, a look at a recent book trend:

THE ENDANGERED OR ruined child has emerged as a media entity within a culture that has idealized the responsibilities of parenthood to a degree, as has been exhaustively noted, unprecedented in human history. The more we seek to protect our children, the more we fear the consequences of an inability to do so. Increasingly over the past decade, writers of crime fiction — Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane among many others — have made a recurring subject of children violated by predation, abandonment, neglect.” […] ““I think I gravitate toward these subjects because I’m looking for answers and I don’t have them,” Picoult told me. “But mostly I think it is superstition. There is a part of me that believes that if I think about these issues, if I put myself through the emotional ringer, I somehow develop an immunity for my own family.”

Picoult’s thoughts on putting herself “through the emotional ringer” is something that I often think about when reading literature. I’ve had many different discussions with my friends, most of whom are as passionate as I am about literature and one thing that consistently comes up is how the stories that resonate the most with us, as people, are the ones that are often the most violent, most emotionally crippling, or tragic.

There is no doubt that we all enjoy light comic reads from time to time, but personally, the stories that I re-read over and over again center on the tragedy. Two books that I can read over and over again, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas & The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien both rely heavily on tragic and often destructive story lines that take characters into intense and often destructive places. Yet, I turn to these books whenever I seek comfort because I take comfort in these characters and their ability to face these situations, whether they win or lose.

It seems that literature often depends on the Tragic, a way of working through these issues. Random thoughts.

Written by thebeliever07

June 23, 2009 at 8:48 am

The Complete New Yorker

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If you’re a liberal lit. snob such as myself then “Eustace Tilley” is an image that you are most likely familiar with, but for those unawares, this character has become the mascot of The New Yorker magazine, a cultural arts and news magazine that provides a host of information, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. new yorker

If there is one thing I love more than literature and pretentious snobbish behavior, it is getting a deal. The Indian in me screams for joy when I can get something at half cost. Sadly, bargaining is not as popular here in North America as it is in my own country back home where everything on the street can be haggled and bartered and reduced if one has the right amount of patience and fortitude. I digress though, back to the subject at hand.

I recently purchased The Complete New Yorker: a complete digital archive of back issues from 1925 to 2005representing more than 4,000 issues and half a million pages) available on nine DVD-Roms. This thing retailed at $130 and I picked it up for $30 on-line at Chapters.

The primary reason I picked this up is thanks to J.D. Salinger. There are a number of short stories that he released only through this magazine that are no longer in print and now I have full access to them, along with so many others.

pressThe amount of information in this archive is overwhelming and I find myself at a loss of where to begin, so at the moment I’ve simply taken to jumping around with various years and reading different short stories and editorial comments. If you have some money, I would suggest investing and picking up a copy, so much information and history. It will be nice to throw this on in the future at some point and show the next generation significant moments in history as catalogued through this media: 9/11, President Obama, etc.

Now all I need is The Complete New Yorker Cartoon, here’s hoping for cheapness in two years. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

June 22, 2009 at 7:43 am


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I just updated some of the “Sites I Frequent” located on the lower right of this page and I thought I’d push a site/blog that I’ve been reading recently that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. 

DoubleX – a spin-off site from the Double X Factor, a blog on slate.com that focuses: conversation among women—about politics, sex, and culture—that both men and women listen in on. Double X takes the Slate and XX Factor sensibility and applies it to sexual politics, fashion, parenting, health, science, sex, friendship, work-life balance, and anything else you might talk about with your friends over coffee. We tackle subjects high and low with an approach that’s unabashedly intellectual but not dry or condescending. The blog is at the heart of the site, but we also publish essays, reporting, and other features.feminism

The site is amazing in that it actively engages in intelligent conversation about culture, politics, and art and examines the ways that these issues impact people (men and women of all sexes and orientation). My only complaint is not with the site but an effect of the articles presented on the site, more often than not I find myself outraged at the idiocy of society. 

As long as you’re prepared to be shocked and dismayed at the civil injustices and trampling of rights that occurs so frequently on women and men of all sexes and orientations, it’s something worth reading and exploring. 

Recent Articles of Interest:

Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?

Sotomayor, Latino KKK?

Playboy.com Microscandal

Written by thebeliever07

June 2, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Don’t blame us, we only report the news.

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The Guardian is hilarious, and so too is the way the media attempts to protect itself from mistakes it is at fault for making. 

Last week, the One Hundred Years of Solitude author’s literary agent Carmen Balcells told a Chilean newspaper that she didn’t think he would write anything else (somewhat galling for her, given that she also revealed García Márquez represented 36.2% of her agency’s income). García Márquez’s biographer, Gerald Martin, agreed, adding that this wasn’t “too regrettable, because as a writer it was his destiny to have the immense satisfaction of having a totally coherent literary career many years before the end of his natural life”. – Guardian

It is amazing that the blame is shifted onto the literary agent, and the Chilean newspaper for reporting this issue. Is it not the job of a newspaper to check their sources? I think that The Guardian should take a bit of the blame as well for using unsubstantiated rumors as a source for their reporting.

Written by thebeliever07

April 8, 2009 at 11:04 am


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This weekend I was listening to Rex Murphy on the CBC and the topic was NEWS.

This week on Cross Country Checkup: cbp1055831_veer

The business of news is changing. Blogs, podcasts, online aggregators are all nibbling at the heels of mainstream media such as TV, radio, newspapers and magazines …and the recession is weakening them further.

Newspapers all over the U.S. are downsizing, some are closing their printshops and moving online. In Canada, several broadcasters are struggling and they’re cutting back.

What do you think? What effect will it have on the news? How do you get your news?

I tried calling in but the show is far too popular and as a result the lines were clogged. But I will throw in my two cents here.

I think the internet is wonderful and that it has made news much richer and easier to consume. Think about the old days, sorry to those who would rather re-live those times. 10 Years ago if you wanted news in your city you were most likely limited to a finite number of newspaper and media outlets. A handful of television stations and then your local newspaper, at most two or three in a city. But in today’s modern world, what with all the doo dads and internets and such… we are not as limited.

I consume my news from a variety of sites: CNN, NYTIMES, SLATE, CBC, The Guardian, Mefi (Metafilter), and various other blogs. I also consume a number of blog aggregators that link up with specific themes and topics I am interested in: BritLitBlogs (exactly what it purports to be a site devoted to British Literature Blogs). Some of these sites lean politically to the left and others to the right. And almost all of them contain sections that allow for discussion or commentary on various news or media that is being reported on.

Now of course there are some drawbacks to having this much media bombardment. It is far too easy now to only consume news or media that is associated with the politics that individuals prefer and this can marginalize and estrange people from the real world into thinking that news only has one particular filter or lens. Also, how does a person wade through this mess of the internet with so much to read and stay caught up on. Also, we now have the horror that is 24/7 news, an endless cycle of meaningless reporting on news that is not actually news.

Still despite these drawbacks the internet has brought the news to us in our homes at a very low cost. I can read the TimesofIndia from my couch at home, something that was unfathomable just years ago (cost and accessibility).

I am still a bit weary of the fact that people are now consuming news from sites like facebook or twitter. Yes, it is amazing that people now have the ability to report first hand accounts of news or action that is occurring in front of them, and it does provide other readers the ability to step beyond filters of corporations and media groups that regulate and restrict certain types of news, but then again this also allows joe-blow idiot to spout his inane commentary and views in unintelligent non-academic professional ways. [ The irony that I am doing just such a thing. ]

So what are your thoughts on the changing face of news? Is newsprint dead, should we just let that go the way so many large newspapers have been doing the past few years and shifting online. Is this shift online more problematic? Are we becoming too obssessed with consuming news and the fact that we can now tune in at any moment and be informed of everything and anything, does this provide us with too much content, content that is not edited properly or screened for idiocy???

Written by thebeliever07

March 25, 2009 at 7:37 am


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The past few days have seen a resurgence of violence and death in the middle east. I was listening to two different perspectives on NPR last night and both offered up their views on the conflict. Both claimed peace and a desire for their children to grow up in a healthy and safe environment, yet both also stated that they would defend themselves by whatever means were necessary. It is a conflict that I do not see ever ending. So rather than go on an extended political rant of these issues and this side versus that side I will offer up another way to understand their points of view.

The two poems  below are from two poetry collections written by respective individuals from each culture: Jewish and Islamic. Yuhuda Amichai, one of Israel’s most popular literary figures & Mahmoud Darwish considered to be the Palestinian national poet. Incidentally, Mahmoud Darwish read Amichai in Hebrew growing up and also wanted to write a history and culture of his people into his own works of poetry. Even though both men are of different faith and have different politics it is fascinating to read their works and see that through their literature and poetry they wish to achieve and create the same things. One hopes that more people will read their works and see that it is possible for people of different faith and culture to co-exist peacefully and work towards a common goal.

I Belong There

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a bird's sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to
   her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a
   single word: Home.
- I Belong There - Unfortunately, It was Paradise - Selected Poems - Mahmoud Darwish - 

A Quiet Joy

I'm standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.

I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what's possible.

I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,

and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.

Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.

And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that's discovered too late:

just a little time left now for quiet joy.
- A Quiet Joy - The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai - Yehuda Amichai -

Written by thebeliever07

December 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm


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I just want to document this moment. As I sit here eating my Japanese Oranges, reading Lorca, Mumbai is under siege, with people being held captive as hostages. I am ashamed to admit but I often forget how sheltered and safe a life I have here in North America. When I wake up in the morning I worry about upcoming assignments or my work schedule. People waking up in Mumbai this morning are concerned about avoiding gunshots or grenade launchers.

Written by thebeliever07

November 27, 2008 at 10:04 am

Posted in history, news

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R.I.P. – David Foster Wallace

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David Foster Wallace is an American writer, artist, culture critic/junkie. If you’re wanting comparisons, let’s put him alongside of J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon. He has only written two novels and a few short story collections. He received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant at the age of 35, a brilliant essayist, accomplished tennis player, and professor at Pomona College, in Claremont Califnornia. His book Infinite Jest was a Times Magazine 100 Best English Speaking Novel.

On September 12, 2008 D.F.W. was found dead at the age of 46 as a result of a suicide hanging.

I’m quite torn and depressed by this news. To lose such brilliance in such a way, is something that will never cease to shock and disturb me. I will never know what causes an individual to give up on themselves and those around them, and I hope to never know this.

In honor of Mr. Wallace, I’ve posted a few links to some of the essays and writings he has scattered around the net. I urge you to take the time and enjoy a few of his works in his remembrance.

Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage

Reprint of Consider the Lobster, 2004 essay on lobsters for Gourmet magazine

New York Times “Play Magazine” article on Roger Federer, “Federer as Religious Experience”

Commencement speech at Kenyon College, May 21, 2005 (excerpt)

This American Life Episode 160 broadcast May 19, 2000 “Character Assassination” Act 2 ‘Sonny Takes a Fall,’ 19 minute radio where David Foster Wallace “reports on a turning point in 2000‘s Presidential primaries: the moment when John McCain failed to respond well to an attack by George Bush“. Description of broadcast from thislife.org

Charlie Rose Show: An interview with Wallace following the publication of Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

Charlie Rose Show: A roundtable discussion on fiction with Wallace, Jonathan Franzen and Mark Leyner

The Writer’s Almanac highlights Wallace on the February 21, 2007 broadcast.

And make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us. The reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to pin down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicit “I don’t really mean what I’m saying.” So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it’s impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it’s too bad it’s impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: “How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.”

  • E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction
  • Written by thebeliever07

    September 14, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    “As a Canadian Citizen who are you voting for: Obama or McCain?”

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    I wonder how many Canadians are aware that a Canadian Election is immenent. You would be hard pressed to know this fact by glancing at the front cover of today’s Globe & Mail. It makes sense that I know more about the current U.S. Presidential Election than most, I grew up in the U.S., but the majority of my friends who were raised Canadian, are also more informed about this current Presidential Race than they do about the current goings on of their own political system, and that to me is a sad fact.

    Let me be clear, I fully admit and accept that this particular election is quite historic. The first female contender for a Democratic nomination, and the first nomination of an African American for the potential Presidency, these are indeed amazing times for the U.S.

    When is the last time you heard someone discuss Canadian soldiers fighting over in Afghanistan, or the ebbing economy? I’m willing to bet that if you were to walk into any Tim Hortons, you are more likely to hear people discussing Barak Obama’s latest speech or Michael Phelps’s Olympic feats.

    I’m just as guilty as you, my blog reader. I too, as a Canadian Citizen should be more aware of the politics, and cultural events of my country, yet too often I am distracted by the sparkle of the U.S.

    It just seems to me that a Canadian newspaper should lead with Canadian headlines. I am sure that there is something of concern to Canadians that affects Canadians. I am pretty sure that the Globe & Mail has a section devoted to WORLD NEWS and that U.S. issues are discussed there amongst other nations.

    The Toronto Star was a bit better than the Globe & Mail, as it’s secondary story on their main page was devoted to the recent Maple Leaf Foods lysteria outbreak, with the Canadian Election a third.

    While Canadian Politics are for the most part dull and banal affairs for my own tastes, and I am sure the same feeling for most of you my fellow Canadian readers, it’s still sad that we promote a U.S. Election over our Canadian.

    I guess all I can do is try to pay attention a bit more to the politics of my own country and be a more informed citizen.

    Vote Green. j/k. Seriously though, vote however you wish, just vote.

    Written by thebeliever07

    August 29, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Oh BEHAVE!

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    An email arrives from the Society of Author’s Children’s Writers And Illustrators Group. Apparently, a well-established, enormous publishing house has decided to insert the following clause into its standard contract for children’s books: “If you act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children, and consequently the market for or value of the work is seriously diminished, and we may (at our option) take any of the following actions: Delay publication / Renegotiate advance / Terminate the agreement.”

    The publisher’s name? Ooh, that would be giving it away. Really? Oh go on then: Random House.

    – Courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk/books


    I am unsure as to which side I should land on. On the one hand, I can understand some parents being concerned. Children are very impressionable and in a society where Miss J.K. Rowling is a celebrity for having written a children’s novels, well I can see that if Miss J.K. behaved in a rather boorish or uncivilized manner, say posing on you tube with crack or making a racist comment, well I can understand the fear of such things, not something I’d want my children being exposed to.

    But then, it’s a parent’s responsibility to do just that…PARENT! I believe it’s that one part of their contract that is disconcerting: “suitable“, well.. suitable for what, or whom?

    What’s wrong with our society? I find it sad that our society has become so sensitive, so worried about being politically correct. There is this fear that we seem to have, that if we offend any one individual, that this is some sign of attack on that person and their culture. So rather than risk having any one individual feel hurt or god forbid, having that person face some criticism that maybe a choice they’ve made in life is not perfect, what does our society do, we sugarcoat everything so that we do not offend anyone. UGH!@$%$

    Written by thebeliever07

    August 1, 2008 at 8:23 am