Interesting Literary Facts for Halloween

Have a spooky, booky Halloween!

Interesting Literature

‘It was a dark and stormy night…’ as Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton began his 1830 novel Paul Clifford (and, in doing so, gave us perhaps the most famous – or infamous – opening line of them all). Since Halloween is looming, we at Interesting Literature thought we’d blow the dust off some mouldy tomes in the Gothic library here at the Castle, in order to bring you some of the most eye-watering literary facts and fancies from the season.

Halloween – or Hallowe’en, as in ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ – is a Scottish term, first recorded in print in 1556 (where it’s spelled, almost unrecognisably, ‘Halhalon’). This Scottish origin of the specific word ‘Halloween’ was continued when Robert Burns wrote a poem titled ‘Halloween’ in the late eighteenth century, which can be read here. The first reference to a Jack-o’-lantern (or pumpkin lantern), however, is, unsurprisingly, American: it’s found in a short…

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REVIEW: Memoirs of a Geisha

LIKES:
Landscape

DISLIKES:
Lack of action

Reading for about a week only got me nearly 150 pages into the story. Still, I have no real feelings for Chiyo/Sayuri (our main character). At this point, it’s pretty clear that I won’t be developing any either. The most exciting thing that has happened is that she fell off a roof and broke her arm. Even that wasn’t too exciting.

I really wanted to like this, but I don’t. I can’t. Memoirs of a Geisha is one of the most anticlimactic books I’ve ever read. How Arthur Golden managed to get this to #1 International Bestseller status is beyond me. I’m going to assume that it managed to do that well because it’s a book about pre-WWII, and during the war, Japan and the life a geisha. Two things I imagine many people, particularly Americans, would be more than curious about.

In all honesty, there’s not too much I feel the need to say about the novel. With the lack of action, each time I thought that something “exciting” was about to happen I was let down. The amount men of power were willing to pay for a geisha’s virginity was astounding, and the thought of people bidding on a teenage girl is also a bit disgusting. But it was a different place, in a different time…culturally speaking.

Memoirs of a Geisha isn’t a book I’d recommend to anyone. As much as one would like to feel sympathy for Sayuri, or any of the geisha, it never happens. There isn’t enough depth to any of the characters to make the connections so many book lovers I know look for in a good story, or book.

Neil Gaiman: Let children read the books they love

Neil Gaiman is spot on! Books will never die, at least not for me. If I hadn’t been allowed to read just what I wanted, I wouldn’t have a degree in English/Creative Writing; I would let my family’s opinions of the “boring” books I choose to read (think Russian history) and how I read to affect me and stop my reading.

Book Expectations

Wonderful article. I couldn’t agree more. And I truly hope he is right about paper books.

Let children read the books they love

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Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

New York Times Bestselling authors, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett”

LIKES:
Cover art
Motif
Personification/humanization of otherworldly creatures

DISLIKES:
Occasionally confusing

Purchased after reading American Gods a few years ago. And under the assumption that Terry Pratchett, who was highly recommended by a trusted book friend,  would suit my tastes as well as Neil Gaiman, unexpectedly, had. Good Omens did not disappoint.

Pratchett and Gaiman are seamless. If I had to pick the pieces written by whom, I wouldn’t be able to. The story, characters, and plot flow so well together that it’s as if they shared the same brain, writing space, and vision. Lucky for me, the edition I own has a section at the end where each writer talks about working with the other and a little Q&A.

Collaboration in writing can be daunting. As a “writer” myself, I have other writer friends, but only one or two I would trust to help me complete anything. Mostly because I don’t fear that they’ll steal my idea(s) or try to pawn their work off as my own. It’s a sort of mutual respect and understanding that exists between writers who work together. That we’re all brilliant and a little insane; and just because you thought up this crazy idea before I did, doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of it.

Good Omens is beautifully written, funny, and thoughtful. An angel and demon who have come to love this Earth over 4000 years aren’t looking forward to the coming Rapture. The Antichrist is an eleven-year-old boy who has no idea he’s the Antichrist, or anything other than an eleven-year-old boy. And when he does begin to realize there’s something different, he can’t pinpoint it and is nearly sucked in by the darkness that lives within.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are right on target with the consumerist world we live in (even if Gaiman and Pratchett wrote it 1985). Famine is a brilliant businessman who has created a food enterprise that could easily be a satirical McDonald’s; honestly, the description isn’t too far off as far as I’m concerned. Pollution is a boy who rides a scooter and just makes a hot mess wherever he goes. War is a beautiful journalist, war correspondent to be exact, who is always in the thick of it before anyone even knows tensions exist. Death is a Hell’s Angel.

In the end, the world that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett managed to create is merely a farce of the real world. Things are bit more extreme, perhaps, but ultimately relatable. While both are genre writers through and through, in my humble opinion, their scifi/fantasy isn’t really a leap for the imagination. And unlike some SciFi writers/novels the sense of disappoint in humanity isn’t just disappoint or disdain, it is gently cradled in a nice, warm, snuggly blanket of hope.