A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today. LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, NPR, Time, San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Town & Country, The Rumpus, Electric Lit, Thrillist, BookPage • “[A] worship song to writers and readers.”— Oprah Daily For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain , he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times. In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

January 12, 2021
George Saunders
Literary Criticism
Random House Publishing Group
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Women Who Run with the Wolves

"Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of wildish nature come to us at birth, society's attempt to 'civilize' us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become overdomesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped." In her now-classic book that spent 144 weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, and is translated into 35 languages, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., shows how woman's vitality can be restored through what she calls "psychic archaeological digs" into the ruins of the female unconscious. Dr. Estes uses her families' ethnic tales, washed and rinsed in the blood of wars and survival, multicultural myths, her own lyric writing of those fairy tales, folk tales, and stories chosen from her life witness, and also research ongoing for twenty years - that help women reconnect with the healthy, instinctual, visionary attributes of the Wild Woman archetype. Dr. Estes collects the bones of many stories, looking for the archetypal motifs that set a woman's inner life into motion. Her "La Loba" teaches about the transformative function of the psyche; in "Bluebeard," we learn what to do with wounds that will not heal; in her literary story "Skeleton Woman," we glimpse the mystical power of relationship and how dead feelings can be revived; "Vasalisa the Wise" brings our lost womanly instincts to the surface again; "The Handless Maiden" recovers the Wild Woman initiation rites; and "The Little Match Girl" warns against the insidious dangers of a life spent in fantasy. These and other stories focus on the many qualities of Wild Woman. With them, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand her, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine. In Women Who Run With the Wolves , Dr. Estes has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., is an internationally known poet, post-trauma recovery specialist, senior training psychoanalyst [Jungian], and cantadora [keeper of the old stories] in her mestizo Latina tradition. Her doctorate is in ethno-clinical psychology / indigenous history from The Union Institute. She is an award-winning author both performance art and spoken word.  PRAISE FOR WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES "I am grateful to Women Who Run With the Wolves and to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The work shows the reader how glorious it is to be daring, to be caring, and to be a woman. Everyone who can read should read this book." - MAYA ANGELOU "A deeply spiritual book . . . She honors what is tough, smart, and untamed in women. She venerates the female soul." - The Washington Post " Women Who Run With the Wolves isn't just another book. It is a gift of profound insight, wisdom, and love. An oracle for one who knows." - ALICE WALKER "An inspiring book, the 'vitamins for the soul' [for women] who are cut off from their intuitive nature." - San Francisco Chronicle "Millennia of humans have gathered around fires to hear words that transferred hard-won wisdom and allowed dreams of unlimited possibilities. In a modern world that limits wisdom to 'facts,' and women's access even to those, Dr. Estes has restored the fire - for us all." - GLORIA STEINEM "Stands out from the pack . . . This book will become a bible for women interested in doing deep work. . . . It is a road map of all the pitfalls, those familiar and those horrifically unexpected, that a woman encounters on the way back to her instinctual self. Wolves . . . is a gift." - Los Angeles Times

January 31, 2017
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD
Literary Criticism
River Wolf Press
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The Conspiracy against the Human Race

In Thomas Ligotti's first nonfiction outing, an examination of the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life through an insightful, unsparing argument that proves the greatest horrors are not the products of our imagination but instead are found in reality. "There is a signature motif discernible in both works of philosophical pessimism and supernatural horror. It may be stated thus: Behind the scenes of life lurks something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world." His fiction is known to be some of the most terrifying in the genre of supernatural horror, but Thomas Ligotti's first nonfiction book may be even scarier. Drawing on philosophy, literature, neuroscience, and other fields of study, Ligotti takes the penetrating lens of his imagination and turns it on his audience, causing them to grapple with the brutal reality that they are living a meaningless nightmare, and anyone who feels otherwise is simply acting out an optimistic fallacy. At once a guidebook to pessimistic thought and a relentless critique of humanity's employment of self-deception to cope with the pervasive suffering of their existence, The Conspiracy against the Human Race may just convince readers that there is more than a measure of truth in the despairing yet unexpectedly liberating negativity that is widely considered a hallmark of Ligotti's work.

October 2, 2018
Thomas Ligotti
Literary Criticism
Penguin Publishing Group
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A Dictionary of Tolkien

Arranged in a handy A-Z format, A Dictionary of Tolkien explores and explains the creatures, plants, events and places that make up these strange and wonderful lands. It is essential reading for anyone who loves Tolkien's works and wants to learn more about them. This book is unofficial and is not authorised by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers.

August 17, 2015
David Day
Literary Criticism
Octopus
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Medio siglo con Borges

Uno de los escritores más extraordinarios del siglo XX, Jorge Luis Borges, a través de la mirada del Premio Nobel de Literatura Mario Vargas Llosa. «La perfección absoluta no parece de este mundo, ni siquiera en obras artísticas de creadores que, como Borges, estuvieron más cerca de lograrla.» «Esta colección de artículos, conferencias, reseñas y notas da testimonio de más de medio siglo de lecturas de un autor que ha sido para mí, desde que leí sus primeros cuentos y ensayos en la Lima de los años cincuenta, una fuente inagotable de placer intelectual. Muchas veces lo he releído y, a diferencia de lo que me ocurre con otros escritores que marcaron mi adolescencia, nunca me decepcionó; al contrario, cada nueva lectura renueva mi entusiasmo y felicidad, revelándome nuevos secretos y sutilezas de ese mundo borgiano tan inusitado en sus temas y tan diáfano y elegante en su expresión. »Siempre leí a Borges no solo con la exaltación que despierta un gran escritor; también, con una indefinible nostalgia y la sensación de que algo de aquel deslumbrante universo salido de su imaginación y de su prosa me estará siempre negado, por más que tanto lo admire y goce con él. »El puñado de libros que escribió, libros siempre breves, perfectos como un anillo, donde uno tiene la impresión que nada falta ni sobra, han tenido y tienen una enorme influencia en quienes escriben en español.» Mario Vargas Llosa Reseñas: «Si quieres ver a Borges, sigue a Vargas Llosa. [...] Un pequeño libro memorable, que deja claro el amor de quien lo firma no sólo por su personaje, sino por la cultura en general. Y claro, hay que reconocer que él lo tenía más fácil que cualquier otro para mirarle a los ojos y de tú a tú: los dos son de la misma estatura.» Benjamín Prado «Un festín literario de la inteligencia que une a dos comensales extraordinarios y casi antagónicos.» Rafael Narbona, El Cultural «Un libro único y excepcional no solo para los que gustan de la obra de uno y otro sino también para todo aquel que desee disfrutar de un festín literario.» Adrián Sanmartín, El Imparcial «Cuando uno pensaba que sobre Borges ya se había escrito, reflexionado, investigado o difundido todo sobre su obra, tiempo o persona, [...] este libro nos depara una copiosa recopilación de ocurrencias aforísticas y agudos y sutiles pensamientos intemporales. [...] Borges en estado puro y más vigente que nunca y sin pedestal.» José Manuel Martínez Cano, La Tribuna de Albacete «El libro de Vargas Llosa aborda las debilidades de Borges, así como su condición de intelectual sumergido en su universo de libros y ajeno al mundo y a las pasiones. Pero Medio siglo con Borges constituye ante todo un homenaje lleno de admiración y cariño; el homenaje de un Nobel de Literatura a otro escritor a quien juzga merecedor de ese mismo premio y de todos los honores.» Fernando García, La Vanguardia «No es frecuente que un genio admire a otro genio contemporáneo suyo. Y mucho menos que lo escriba y lo publique. Pues bien: éste es el insólito caso de [este] libro.» Javier Polo, La Verdad «En el abanico de predilecciones y debilidades [de Vargas Llosa], Jorge Luis Borges ocupaba el espacio reservado para las tentaciones y admiraciones calladas.» Javier Ors, La Razón «La escritura de Mario Vargas Llosa ha dado forma a nuestra imagen de Sudamérica y tiene su propio capítulo en la historia de la literatura contemporánea. En sus primeros años, fue un renovador de la novela, hoy, un poeta épico.» Per Wastberg, presidente del Comité Nobel

June 18, 2020
Mario Vargas Llosa
Literary Criticism
ALFAGUARA
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Lost Names

In this autobiography, Richard E. Kim paints seven vivid scenes from a boyhood and early adolescence in Korea at the height of the Japanese occupation during WWII, 1932 to 1945. Taking its title from the grim fact that the occupiers forced the Koreans to renounce their own names and adopt Japanese names instead, the book follows one Korean family through the Japanese occupation to the surrender of Japan and dissolution of the Japanese empire. Examining the intersections of Japanese and Korean history that influenced Korea-Japan relations at the time, Lost Names is at once a loving memory of family, an ethnography of Zainichi Koreans in 1930s Japan, and a vivid portrayal of human spirit in a time of suffering and survival.

January 24, 2014
Richard E. Kim
Literary Criticism
University of California Press
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Pop Goes the Weasel

From the international bestselling author of Red Herrings and White Elephants —a curious guide to the hidden histories of classic nursery rhymes. Who was Mary Quite Contrary, or Georgie Porgie? How could Hey Diddle Diddle offer an essential astronomy lesson? Do Jack and Jill actually represent the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette? And if Ring Around the Rosie isn’t about the plague, then what is it really about? This book is a quirky, curious, and sometimes sordid look at the truth behind popular nursery rhymes that uncovers the strange tales that inspired them—from Viking raids to political insurrection to smuggling slaves to freedom. Read Albert Jack's posts on the Penguin Blog.

September 29, 2009
Albert Jack
Literary Criticism
Penguin Publishing Group
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Keats's Odes

“ When I say this book is a love story, I mean it is about things that cannot be gotten over—like this world, and some of the people in it.” In 1819, the poet John Keats wrote six poems that would become known as the Great Odes. Some of them—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “To Autumn”—are among the most celebrated poems in the English language. Anahid Nersessian here collects and elucidates each of the odes and offers a meditative, personal essay in response to each, revealing why these poems still have so much to say to us, especially in a time of ongoing political crisis. Her Keats is an unflinching antagonist of modern life—of capitalism, of the British Empire, of the destruction of the planet—as well as a passionate idealist for whom every poem is a love poem. The book emerges from Nersessian’s lifelong attachment to Keats’s poetry; but more, it “is a love story: between me and Keats, and not just Keats.”  Drawing on experiences from her own life, Nersessian celebrates Keats even as she grieves him and counts her own losses—and Nersessian, like Keats, has a passionate awareness of the reality of human suffering, but also a willingness to explore the possibility that the world, at least, could still be saved. Intimate and speculative, this brilliant mix of the poetic and the personal will find its home among the numerous fans of Keats’s enduring work.  

February 10, 2021
Anahid Nersessian
Literary Criticism
University of Chicago Press
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The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes

Essays about the famed fictional detective and the mysteries of life: “Both elegantly erudite and consistently entertaining” (E. J. Wagner, Edgar Award–winning author of The Science of Sherlock Holmes ).   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective has stood as a unique figure for more than a century with his reliance on logical rigor, his analytic precision, and his disregard of social mores. A true classic, the Sherlock Holmes character continues to entertain twenty-first-century audiences on the page, stage, and screen.   In The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes , a team of leading scholars uses the beloved character as a window into the quandaries of existence, from questions of reality to the search for knowledge. The essays explore the sleuth’s role in revealing some of the world's most fundamental philosophical issues, discussing subjects such as the nature of deception, the lessons enemies can teach us, Holmes’s own potential for criminality, and the detective’s unique but effective style of inductive reasoning. Emphasizing the philosophical debates raised by generations of devoted fans, this intriguing volume will be of interest to philosophers and Holmes enthusiasts alike.

September 28, 2012
Philip Tallon & David Baggett
Literary Criticism
The University Press of Kentucky
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"Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys as a postcolonial response to "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

Wide Sargasso Sea is one of the best-known literary postcolonial replies to the writing of Charlotte Bronte and a brilliant deconstruction of what is known as the author's "worlding" in Jane Eyre. The novel written by Jean Rhys tells the story of Jane Eyre's protagonist, Edward Rochester. The plot takes place in West Indies where Rochester met his first wife, Bertha Antoinette Mason. Wide Sargasso Sea influences the common reading and understanding of the matrix novel, as it rewrites crucial parts of Jane Eyre. The heroine in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette Cosway, is created out of demonic and bestialic Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre. Rhys's great achievement in her re-writing of the Bronte's text is her creation of a double to the madwoman from Jane Eyre. The heroine of Wide Sargasso Sea, the beautiful Antoinette Cosway, heiress of the post-emancipation fortune is created out of the demonc and bestialic Bertha Mason. The author transforms the first Mrs Rochester into an individual figure whose madness is caused by imperialistic and patriarchal oppression The vision of Bertha/Antoinette as an insane offspring from a family plagued by madness is no longer plausible to the reader. In this essay I would like to focus the factors which led to the madness of the protagonist. Although Bertha Mason and Jane Eyre seem to be enemies and contradictory characters in the Victorian novel, many critics find several similarities between the two heroines, their life and finally between Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. Seeing Jane Eyre and Antoinette Cosway as sisters and doubles is very popular with some critics who dealt with the works of Charlotte Bronte and Jean Rhys. Nevertheless, I would like to focus in this essay on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's criticism on viewing and interpreting the two heroines. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in her essay "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism" values also Jean Rhys for telling the story of Bertha Mason through the Creole perspective, but she criticises the author for marginalising the native inhabitants of West Indies.

April 18, 2011
Malgorzata Swietlik
Literary Criticism
GRIN Verlag
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Study Guide for Book Clubs: Klara and the Sun

Looking to improve your book club discussions? Wish you had time to prepare for your reading group meetings more thoroughly? Then try this essential book club companion. Study Guides for Book Clubs provide all the information you need for your book club meeting. Each easy-to-follow guide gives an accessible, comprehensive overview of a recommended book club read. This useful resource will help you to: Recap on finer plot pointsUnderstand themes, characters & literary contextAnalyse the text in a more effective wayStimulate a lively, dynamic discussion Inside this informative guide to  Klara and the Sun  by Kazuo Ishiguro you'll find: A full plot summaryAuthor biographyDiscussion of genre & styleDiscussion of themes & symbolsDetailed character notesUseful literary & historical contextThought-provoking discussion questionsA quick quizFurther reading recommendations Study Guides for Book Clubs are the ideal resource for reading group members or book club discussion leaders. They keep your book group meetings interesting by enhancing understanding and enjoyment of your chosen novel. Armed with these guides, your discussions will be more in-depth, focussed and rewarding. ⚠ PLEASE NOTE: This is an unofficial and independent companion guide to  Klara and the Sun  by Kazuo Ishiguro. It does not contain the original text of  Klara and the Sun  and is meant to be read in conjunction with this novel. Please read the original novel first as this guide contains spoilers. About the Author Kathryn Cope is a lifelong book lover and book club enthusiast. She has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Contemporary Fiction. Kathryn is the author of Study Guides for Book Clubs and the HarperCollins Official Book Club Guides.

September 13, 2021
Kathryn Cope
Literary Criticism
Kathryn Cope
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Louise Erdrich

Leading scholars critically explore three leading novels by Louise Erdrich, one of the most important and popular Native American writers working today.

September 1, 2011
Deborah L. Madsen
Literary Criticism
Continuum
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