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The Incendiary Politics of Michel Houellebecq

By Audrey Golden. Sep 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

Like many other readers, we’re not quite sure what to make of Michel Houellebecq. And if we enjoy reading one of his works of fiction, or if we find his work inspiring, do those sentiments reflect somehow upon our own politics? These are complicated questions, of course, and if you’re not familiar with Houellebecq, you might be wondering why we’re even asking them in the first place. To give you a quick primer: a recent headline in The Guardian* read: “Michel Houellebecq: ‘Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes.’” The writer has been described as “the ageing enfant terrible of French literature,” and The Guardian tells us that he “has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack.” At the same time, Iggy Pop has found musical inspiration in Houellebecq’s work and, well, we think Iggy Pop is cool. Want to decide for yourself? We’ll tell you a little bit more about Houellebecq first.

     
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Past and Future in Han Kang's Fiction

By Audrey Golden. Sep 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, History

You might have heard of Han Kang, and maybe you’ve read the English translation of her novel The Vegetarian (the book was published in the original Korean in 2007 with the English translation by Deborah Smith following eight years later in 2015). We’re guessing you might have at least heard of The Vegetarian since it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The novel feels, in some ways, like a work of dystopian fiction in that it follows a woman who becomes a vegetarian after experiencing violent, bloody impulses all through a narration by her husband. Threads of futuristic writing may run through Han Kang’s fiction, but her work is also deeply permeated by the past. Her most recent novel, Human Acts, reflects upon the Gwanju massacre and its meaning for Korea in the present.

     
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Why Ernest Shackleton's Thrilling Story Still Captivates Us

By Matt Reimann. Aug 30, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History

As Ernest Shackleton left to explore a new land, a new world was being formed. A few days before the Endurance left England, on August 8, 1914, Europe had entered the Great War. Shackleton volunteered his ship and his men for service, but he was told to proceed on his voyage to the Antarctic. His crew reached Buenos Aires, then the south Atlantic island of South Georgia. By New Year’s Eve, Shackleton and his crew of 28 reached the continent. They were met by conditions that would have probably killed anyone else.

     
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Immigrant Fiction in England

By Audrey Golden. Aug 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, History

Britain has a very long literary history, indeed. Yet when we think about British literature, the recent and rich supply of British immigrant fiction doesn’t immediately jump to mind for most readers. We’d like to change that. What does British literature in the twenty-first century look like? In large part, it reflects the harms of British imperialism and the effects of decolonization in the twentieth century. At the same time, works of immigrant literature from England also reflect the advantages of a globalizing world and the possibilities of movement to, from, and around the metropole of London.

     
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Eileen Chang and Chinese Modernist Fiction

By Audrey Golden. Aug 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

Why hasn’t Eileen Chang become a household name in modern literary studies? We’re not entirely sure, and we want to remedy that. She was born in 1920 in Shanghai, China, and passed away in her Los Angeles apartment in 1995. Chinese readers know the novelist and short-story writer as Chang Ai-Ling. In The New York Times obituary*, the newspaper described Chang as “a giant of modern Chinese literature.” She enrolled at the University of Hong Kong in 1939, but was unable to continue her studies as a result of the Japanese invasion during World War II. In 1941, following the Japanese invasion, the University of Hong Kong shut down. Chang’s experiences in Hong Kong during the war played a part in shaping one of her best-known texts in the West, “Lust, Caution,” made into a film of the same name by Ang Lee in 2007. In 1952, Chang returned to Hong Kong only to leave a few years later for the United States. She spent the remaining years of her life in Los Angeles, and largely as a recluse. We love her fiction, and we want you to discover it, too.

     
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Best Books from Iran

By Audrey Golden. Jul 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

During various periods of repression throughout the twentieth century, Iranian writers haven’t been read as widely as they should have been. Certainly, Iranian novelists and poets are not the first to be subjected to the heavy hand of censorship from a tyrannical government. However, since the Iranian Revolution, prejudices and other forms of sociocultural censorship have excluded, in various ways, significant works of Iranian literature. While we can’t list all of the best books from Iran, we have a handful for you to explore.

     
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A Brief History of the Thriller Genre

Thrillers are characterized by suspensea feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement over what is to come next, mixed in with apprehension, anticipation, and sometimes even, fear. These feelings develop throughout a narrative from unpredictable events that make the reader or viewer think about the consequences of certain characters’ actions. The suspenseful feelings build towards a climax that is sure to be memorable.

With suspense and crime, with conspiracies and revenge, the thriller genre has been keeping audiences on their toes with tension and excitement for centuries. When it comes to thrillers, many think of Alfred Hitchcock and his movies, like Psycho (1960) and Frenzy (1972), that contain storylines of embezzlement, murder, wrong accusations, and more. However, the thriller genre began much before these movies ever hit the big screen. Let's take a look at a brief history of the thriller genre.

     
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Vorticism: The Movement That Tried (and Failed) to Lead the Modern World

By Matt Reimann. Jun 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Art

The beginning of any artistic movement is typically unclear and shaky. Few have ever announced themselves with the audacity and verve of Vorticism. Discontented with tradition and inspired by the avant-garde spirit spreading across Europe, a group of young English artists assembled to create their own movement. It was dedicated to dynamism, machinery, abstract art, movement, and everything exciting about the future.

     
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Prohibition and the Writers Who Tried to Get America to Stop Drinking

By Matt Reimann. Jun 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, History

Part of the joy of being an proper, democracy-protecting American is getting to tell people what to do. The founders told the prominent how to govern, Evangelists told their parishioners how to behave, Emerson told his readers to be self-reliant, and Theodore Roosevelt told the nation’s men to be manly (whatever that may mean). Yet out of these many, bloviating camps, few have been more dedicated or influential than those who told us to be sober.

     
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The Versions of Anne Frank's Diary Explained

By Matt Reimann. Jun 1, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History

In 1945, Otto Frank came to Amsterdam after surviving the torments and traumas of Auschwitz. His return home confirmed the unimaginable. He was the sole survivor of his family. His daughters, including 15-year-old Anne, who had been separated from him and transported to Bergen-Belsen, had died. But soon he was greeted by a glimmer of hopeful news: Miep Gies, a secretary and aid to the Franks during their hiding, had preserved Anne’s diary.

     
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