Tag: Novels

Novels and Movies with an Industrial Theme or Setting?

 

An increasing number of Americans seem to be recognizing the downsides of deindustrialization, with its malign implications ranging from national security vulnerabilities to ‘deaths of despair’ and reduced social cohesion.  I was wondering what novels and movies we can think of that (a) have an industrial theme or setting, and (b) do not portray industry in a totally negative way.  Here are a few to start with:

In the Valley of Decision, a 1942 book by Marcia Davenport that inspired a 1945 movie starring Greer Garson and Gregory Peck. The story centers on a Pittsburgh steel mill and the family that owns it.  I saw the movie and then read the book; both are excellent.  My review, which I just put up a few days ago, is here. It was Valley of Decision that got me thinking about the subject matter of this post.

Simulation, Revelation

 

The surest way to appreciate a work is to try to recreate it.

Toddlers help us to appreciate the difficulty of drawing or painting by their laughable scribbling. One might first pity the child’s lack of eye-hand coordination, lack of patience, or lack of barest attention to detail (“Is it an airplane? Oh, a cat! Of course, it is. It looks great!”). But few adults can sketch anything worthy of pride either. The more we advance in skill, the more we recognize the full challenge. 

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John Steinbeck is featured in my favorite news story this week. People are urging the Steinbeck estate to release the third novel the writer wrote. The first two, he destroyed. But the third one, written under the pen name, Peter Pym, was submitted to a publisher and rejected. Speculation is that it was just too […]

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‘A Gift to Humanity’

 

If we are to be unified, then we must be able and willing to share life. Bill Whittle and company offer a timely reminder of the tremendous good that social media can achieve when people are free to associate across boundaries and to enjoy life together as fellows.

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When I was growing up, I read so much that it was basically the same thing as breathing. Unfortunately, classic lit wasn’t usually what I reached for, so I’ve missed out on a lot of great novels along the way. I’m now 30, and I’ve decided to start a new long-term project – catching up […]

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Once upon a time, I had two books that I never finished reading. They were two halves of the same novel, published in separate volumes and numbered so that the second took up, page number wise, just where the first ended. And then I lost them. So, as I have spent the last four years […]

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What novels, memoirs, and films with a business setting do you like? Most fiction seems to be about people who are lawyers, policemen, criminals, soldiers, spies, students, politicians, and noble but struggling writers. But there are indeed some works of fiction, and some vivid personal memoirs, in which business plays a central role without being […]

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I’m reading some vintage Peter Mayle this summer. I just finished Hotel Pastis. It’s a treasure – crime, romance, humor, wine, a new career, what’s not to like? It would be a great movie. It seems some famous married producer/director couple almost made it a movie, but didn’t – so there’s still an opportunity. I […]

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I got an idea for a sci-fi novel the other day. But it relies on wormholes and I am not the astrophysics junky, nor sci-fi aficionado, that some of you are. So perhaps you can answer a couple questions. Bear in mind, because this regards a fictional setting, I am more concerned with believability than […]

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“At that moment, coming from the East, Lord Surya, mounted on his crystal chariot pulled by a thousand stallions, skirted Mount Meru, axis of the world, and went to the West following the circle of the constellations. When the chariot turned and was hidden by the enormous mountain, the Lord’s brilliant light dimmed and came […]

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“Oh, I liked the book better.” “The movie was better than the book.” Yes, we hear that all the time. We say it all the time. We just can’t help it. Any time a book is adapted into a movie or vice versa, we immediately begin to compare. It makes sense, really. Any time you […]

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I Don’t Do Novels

 

I write professionally. I have over twenty published books and nearly one thousand pieces printed in magazines, newspapers and online sites (counting only online stuff I have been paid to write). I can write fiction. I even have perhaps four short stories published. I think my fiction is not half-bad. (Read The Cards and tell me if you agree.) But I do not write novels. All my published books are non-fiction. All my planned books are non-fiction.

It is not that I am opposed to writing novels. I have the outline of three series of novels drafted. Not three novels – three novel series. (A set of mysteries set in East Texas, a series about an Age of Fighting Sail naval officer, a la Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubrey, and a series rooted in Arthurian legend – ending in 1940.) Plot outlines, lists of characters, scenes.

So why not write them?

Traditional Khmer Novels

 

The Khmer word for narrative fiction is lpaen. It is defined as works for pleasure. And before the arrival of the French in the mid-19th century, all traditional Khmer novels were written in verse. The French were the ones to introduce prose to Khmer fiction. That is not to say that Khmers did not write in prose before then. Prose was exclusively used for technical writings, medicinal treatises, astrology treatises, political and religious treaties, and for the translation of Buddhist literature. A new word was coined for prose novels when the first one was published in 1938 to differentiate between verse and prose fictions. Anyway, let’s ignore prose fiction for now because this post is all about traditional Khmer fiction, the verse-novels.

Lpaen or verse-novel has always been a popular genre in Khmer literature. French colonists in the 19th century would gather around the village halls in the evenings to listen to a recitation of a lpaen. Recitation is sometimes accompanied by a string instrument. Some of the verse-novels are quite long, as long as 9,000 stanzas. And they would take at least two nights to recite. A few could be mistaken for epics because of their length and subject matter.

Verse-novels emerged in the mid-17th century with Hang Yont (Mechanical Swan) thought to be the first novel. Most of these novels were sometime alleged to be Jātaka (tales of the Buddha’s previous lives) because some were written in the style of Jātaka with the usual preface benediction in Pali to the Buddha, the Dhamma (Buddha’s teaching), the Sangha (ordained monks and nuns), and the epilogue that includes the future lives of the characters. But the majority of these novels had nothing to do with Buddhism; the link to Buddhism was very minor. If anything, they had everything to do with Brahmanism even when Theravada Buddhism had replaced Hinduism permanently by the 16th century. For example, in Preah Ko Preah Keo, the main character Preah Ko was the manifestation of Nandi the Bull, Lord Shiva’s mount. Several of these stories were folktales rewritten in verse forms. Vorvong and Sourivong was based on a popular folktale, which itself was based on the adventures of two condemned Khmer princely brothers.

Why Study Novels in English Class?

 

When we love literature, and reading comes easily to us, we tend to assume that the purpose for studying novels is self-evident. We’d be missing out on the romance of Jane Eyre, the brilliance of Achebe, and the wit of Twain. Besides, how could one object to reading stories as a required activity for school? We may as well get credit for eating cookies or binge-watching our favorite shows.

But not all students are eager to crack open that musty Gothic work, especially when there are friends to text and movies to watch at the touch of a screen. Besides, some students find reading to be laborious, a limitation that isn’t necessarily their fault. Because reluctant readers tend to be the exception and not the rule, English teachers need to establish a clear case for the benefits of novel reading. (They should also provide tools to help students get the most out of what they read, but that’s a different discussion.) At the beginning of the school year, all students should understand the “why” of literature:

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I had a peripatetic childhood, and by the time I finished high school I’d attended well over a dozen schools on three different continents, with time off for good behavior during a glorious year (in about third grade) where there wasn’t a school anywhere in sight. My mother, who was largely disinterested in her parenting […]

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What is it? Why do many people like to be scared? Why do many people like gruesome tales or stories that revel in darkness and/or filth? These days, serial killer stories are a dime a dozen. Then there are monster stories, ghost stories, psychological thrillers, and gothic tales, among other subgenres. Some horror stories are […]

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A sensitive, scholarly Spaniard brooding under a vow of chastity. A fiery redhead, feral and untamed, raised by Africans, confounding the local villagers with her hot, exotic ways. He was trained for sainthood. She is rumored to be possessed by demons. Both are haunted by the same dream. What happens when their dream becomes reality? […]

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Summer is almost here, even if it still feels like spring (rain, wind, clouds). What’s on your summer reading list?  Do you even have a “summer reading list”?  Do your reading tastes change in the summer versus the rest of the year?   I know the conventional wisdom is that you read the heavy stuff […]

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