Category Archives: Literature

A Sci-Fi feast for the eyes

penguinscifi

Am I superficial if I have a weakness for book covers? I love the art/graphic design enveloping the story. Yes, I will choose a book by its cover. Yes, I buy magazines for their visual beauty. So, feast your eyes on Penguin UK’s gallery of science fiction book covers.

Particularly pleasing is the real art on the covers by artists such as Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Yves Tanguy, Wassily Kandinsky and others. Of course, you can get a cover designed by Joan Miro, or you can get a section of magnified finger skin.

2scifi

Maybe I’ll do some reading…

Thanks to Articulate.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

2 Comments

Filed under art, Literature

Dr Seuss on Google

googleseuss

Today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of  Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. Google has a little tribute.

Random House has a Dr Seuss website for kids. Amongst the fun stuff, there is also a biography.

seusseville

Many children learn to read through Dr Seuss stories. I can’t say I did, although we did have a copy of The cat in the hat. Most children would have read some Dr Seuss, I think, and adults remember the stories fondly.

What is less known is the fact that Theodor Geisel’s early political cartoons demonstrate a passionate opposition to fascism, and that he urged Americans to oppose it, whereas his cartoons tended to regard the fear of communism as overstated. He also denounced discrimination in America against African Americans and Jews (Wikipedia).

Many of Geisel’s books are thought to express his views on a myriad of social and political issues: The Lorax (1971), about environmentalism and anti-consumerism; The Sneetches (1961), about racial equality; The Butter Battle Book (1984), about the arms race; Yertle the Turtle (1958), about anti-fascism and anti-authoritarianism; How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), about anti-materialism; and Horton Hears a Who! (1954), about anti-isolationism and internationalism.

However, I don’t think that’s what Dr Seuss is remembered for. That would most likely be his rhythmic and catchy verse, and his quirky characters.

I’ll leave you with a video of Green eggs and ham to enjoy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's books, Literature, poetry

Shakespeare on Facebook

This made me laugh. Some of my favourite Hamlet statuses:

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.
Hamlet added England to the Places I’ve been application.
Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers, flowers, flowers. Oh look, a river.

I wonder if other versions exist. This could be a creative writing idea. You actually do need to know about the play to be able to write the statuses.

Photo courtesy of Sakypaky on Flickr

 

Our Head English teacher is using Facebook in the hope that it will allow boys who don’t usually contribute in class to have a voice in front of their peers. How do you explain to cynics your choice of Facebook as a platform for learning?

Adolescents have moved to Facebook for networking and communication. I’ve become a Facebook addict myself. One of its offerings is a non-threatening form of communication with a potentially large group. Another is the satisfaction of belonging to a group. It’s more accepting and democratic than face-to-face interaction – it doesn’t judge you by your appearance, age or abilities. You can choose your own hours. You can stand back and observe, or you can jump in and lend your voice.

Transfer all this to a learning environment, and you have a potentially brilliant scenario. Those who are slower to respond to discussion will not be pushed out. There’s time to think, respond, edit. The teacher can set the stage and then creep back to give control to the students. Hopefully, students will feel more comfortable to ask questions, give suggestions.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog will know that I believe we should use technology and social media in creative ways to facilitate learning and engage students. Not for its own sake, and never without good reason. Recently my webpage on the school library intranet has evolved into a blog ‘What’s new in fiction?’ I’m so over people saying things like ‘Oooh, a blog! You’re really into all that technology stuff!. Well, no… I’m not. I’m not into it. I’m just looking at what possibilities it has for engaged and creative learning and teaching. Here is a list of things I appreciate about the fiction blog when talking to classes about books and reading:

It evolves nicely; each post introduces a new book, author, series, etc.
I can use casual, relaxed language, with even some humour
I can include pictures (book covers, author photos, etc.) and videos (book or film trailers, interviews, etc.)
Colour, font size, layout make a difference
I can include links to author and series websites, transcripts, extracts, maps, etc.
There is choice in what the students read, how much, when, etc. Compare that to a teacher’s talk;
Authors become real people as students link to interviews, blogs that reveal everyday chat or writing processes, weaknesses, personality, background, musical tastes, etc.

(OK, the above points are not unique to blogs)
Here come the blog-specific points:

The students read and write comments, ranging from the non-threatening two-word comment, to the more elaborate or passionate response;

Reading peer comments is more satisfying than listening to teachers’ views (hence Facebook idea);

Other people in the school community can write a post or book review, eg. non-librarians (leading the students to the realisation that it’s not just librarians who read, and that reading is ipso facto not solely a librarian’s past-time;

These other people could be students of all ages, teachers, teachers who wouldn’t normally be associated with reading by students (don’t take offense, but I’m thinking sport teachers, science and maths teachers, male teachers…)

The combination of different readers, each with their own reading preferences, their own way of writing, provides students with a kaleidoscopic view of what’s interesting to read;

Students take ownership of the blog by writing or commenting, by suggesting content, and the school community becomes involved in what was previously a librarian’s domain.

Reading is actually discussing, arguing, agreeing and disagreeing, thinking, wondering, escaping; and you know all this because of the discussion;

Reading becomes collective, cool, broader (you realise that tastes vary greatly and it’s okay to have your preferences; reading can be student-directed and even fun.

What I regret is that my fiction blog is a closed blog on the school intranet. It serves its purpose, but misses out on further possibilities and connections.

What are your views about using Web 2.0 tools like blogs and Facebook in teaching and learning?

4 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, author, creativity, Education, learning, Literature, networking, reading, Teacher librarians, technology, Web 2.0

1000 books you must read

malcolm-mcdowell-as-alex-001

Malcolm McDowell in A clockwork orange directed by Stanely Kubrick. Photo from The Guardian.

 

 

The Guardian has created the definitive list of must-reads: 1000 novels everyone must read.

Selected by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.

What I like most about this massive fiction recommendation are the genre synopses which make me want to start reading right here and now and not stop until I’m finished. To give you an example, here’s what you’ll read about science fiction and fantasy:

It is sometimes assumed that science fiction, fantasy and horror must mean spaceships, elves and vampires – and indeed, you’ll find Iain M Banks, Tolkien and Bram Stoker on our list of mind-expanding reads. Yet these three genres have a tradition as venerable as the novel itself. Fiction works through metamorphosis: in every era authors explore the concerns of their times by mapping them on to invented worlds, whether they be political dystopias, fabulous kingdoms or supernatural dimensions. JG Ballard, the writer who brought SF into the mainstream, has remarked that “Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” Ballard’s visions of “inner space”, Orwell, Huxley and Atwood’s totalitarian nightmares, Kafka’s uneasy bureaucracies, Gibson’s cutting-edge cool – all are examples of a literature at the forefront of the collective imagination. Every truly original writer must, by definition, create a new world. Here is a whole galaxy of worlds to explore.

What follows is a truly impressive list of synopses under genre headings. Here’s an example:

Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)

One of the first attempts to write a comprehensive “future history”, the trilogy – which also includes Foundation and Empire (1952) and Second Foundation (1953) – is Asimov’s version of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, set on a galactic scale. Hari Seldon invents the science of psychohistory with which to combat the fall into barbarianism of the Human Empire, and sets up the Foundation to foster art, science and technology. Wish-fulfilment of the highest order, the novels are a landmark in the history of science fiction.

You’ll also find Susanna Clarke’s article on Imagined worlds, including these authors – Lewis, Tolkien, Pullman, Pratchet and Le Guin. Her introduction is enough to draw me in:

The children’s author Anthony Horowitz recently pointed out that all books are doors – when we open them we expect to be somewhere else. All books are doors; and some of them are wardrobes.

Michael Moorcock reviews the best dystopias:

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)
Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Frederik Pohl & CM Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)
Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
Thomas M Disch: Camp Concentration (1968)
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)

Top 10 novels that predicted the future is an interesting read. Don’t hesitate, go to this website and run off and read!

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, reading

Reading in the margins with others

goldennotebookproject

I’ve been involved in a discussion lately about different types of reading. Most people have agreed that reading a novel is very different to reading a website or anything else online. Some people think that deep thinking and understanding are becoming extinct since reading online has distracted a large part of the population. People are concerned that online reading is superficial, and that commenting revolves around less than challenging subject matter.

Well, today I discovered a very interesting project which combines serious literature with the trappings of online interaction. It’s called The Golden Notebook project.

Doris Lessing’s The golden notebook was digitised by HarperCollins. The book was allowed to be reproduced in digital form in its entirety without any cost.

Here is some information from the website:

What is this?
It’s an experiment in close-reading in which seven women are reading the book and conducting a conversation in the margins. The project went live on Monday 10 November 2008.

Why are you doing it?
It’s part of a long-term effort to encourage and enable a culture of collaborative learning.

What do you hope to learn?
We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn some of what we need to do to make this sort of collaboration as successful as possible.

How come only the seven women can comment in the margins?
Good conversations are messy, non-linear and complicated. The comment area, a chronological scrolling field just isn’t robust enough to follow a conversation among an infinite number of participants. Seven may even be too many. [Note: the forums are open to everyone and we do hope that readers beyond the initial seven will join the fray there both as regards the text and the process. We really want to know what you think works and what doesn’t.

The seven women authors are profiled on the homepage. Towards the bottom of the page you can see recent comments, pages with the most comments, and recent discussions.

A reading schedule is included

We’ve developed a reading schedule; so for the next six weeks, you can follow along with the readers and discuss the same passages that they’re dissecting.

The blog, a collaborative one amongst the women, is fascinating. Here’s part of a post on reading by Nona Willis Aronowitz

For me, what is inspiring and magnificent about reading is the sense of communion with one single other human mind. No other artform, I think, is so direct, so unmediated, so simple. There’s no need for lighting, makeup artists, camera operators or directors. There’s no studio or network calling the shots. No orchestra or actors have to interpret the work. I don’t even have to be in the presence of the artist’s personal handiwork. A scattering of printed characters on a page or a screen and I am in the presence of another person’s creation.

Here’s a short section from Naomi Alderman’s post

A recent story in The NY Times asked if stories have a future. If we’re blogging, texting, doing rapid response communicating, who cares about the narrative, tortoise slow and painfully digressive? Naomi’s comment that she needs to come up for air now and then from TGN to overcome the characters’ depressive tendencies makes me wonder WHY DO WE READ? What do we get from books; what are we getting from Lessing? I have just moved from NY to Portland, Oregon with 140 book boxes, the collected treasures of a life spent in books. In each box I am finding approximately one book per 30 worth saving. Looking at them all with fresh west coast eyes, I’m not sure what these books have given me. I can tell you what they’ve taken away: an ability to live a good life OUTSIDE of books.

I’m thinking about the possibilities of a pared down project for students. How would this look?

Fascinating… fascinating….

2 Comments

Filed under Literature

Different kinds of reading – internet and literature

noteasytostayfocussed

 Photo courtesy of imago2007

I’m aware that my reading behaviour on the internet is different from when I read a book, in particular fiction. In addition, I think that my book reading focus has altered since I’ve discovered hyperlinked online reading.

I’ve included a paragraph from a piece written by Sven Birkerts on Britannica blog, Reading in the open-ended information zone called cyberspace.

Again, I’m not saying good or bad, I’m just saying. When I am online I am perpetually aware of open-endedness, of potentiality, and psychologically I am fragmented. I make my way forward through whatever text is in front of me factoring in not just the indeterminacy of whatever is next on the page, I am also alert, even if subliminally, to the idea of the whole, the adjacency of all information. However determined I am to focus on the task at hand, I am haunted by this idea of the whole. Which is different than what I might experience sitting in a library chair knowing that I’m in the midst of three floors of stacks. The difference has to do with permeability, with the imminence of linkage, and it is decisive.

 Here is the complete article.

I’d like to explore this topic to gain an understanding of something that affects our students and us as teachers.

What do others think about the author’s views? What are your thoughts about the different kinds of reading? Do you think our generation of online students are affected, and is this positive or negative?

2 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, learning, Literature, reading, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Gaiman gives away ‘The graveyard book’ one chapter at a time

 

Neil Gaiman has given away his new book, ‘The graveyard book’, one chapter at a time, reading a chapter across 9 cities, starting October 1 and finishing yesterday. Fans are also able to access the readings at Gaiman’s website for young readers, Mouse Circus, where the readings are on video.

‘The graveyard book’ was conceived when Gaiman used to take his son into the cemetery to ride his bike, not having anywhere else to ride. The story is about an orphaned boy called Nobody, who is raised by cemetery inhabitants – not the human kind. Gaiman was inspired by Kipling’s ‘The jungle book’, only Gaiman’s protagonist is raised by dead people instead of animals.

Wired.com has filmed Gaiman talking about his childhood and ‘The graveyard book’ – a fascinating insight.

On his blog, Gaiman comments on his videos being free to those who missed the readings, as he talks about his idea of sharing the story:

As far as I’m concerned, the videos exist to allow people who weren’t there to experience the readings, to taste the story, to enjoy it. I’d love it if libraries used them. I’m happy if bookstores use them, or if schools use them for that purpose, in the US or out of it.

Another reader comments on the advantage of the streamed reading:

Watching you read, your face taking on the myriad expressions of your characters, is so much better than just an audio. Stray noises and all. Thanks for giving us the experience.

 For the latest news and articles about Neil, the Universe, and Everything, go and bookmark Lucy Anne’s The Dreaming at del.icio.us.

It would be fun to run sessions for students to watch the video of Neil Gaiman reading his own work, either as a marathon, or splitting it up by chapter. I love the way the book takes on a life of its own, with the author turning the book into an event, and giving of himself, and  with the follow-up videos. Another idea that comes to mind is a student-created video where they read a chapter from their favourite book or a story they have written themselves. They could do a straight reading or add costume and effects.

  

Leave a comment

Filed under author, Literature