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Blogging & Musing...

Our 11 Favorite Literary Dogs

Monday, 16 February 2015 12:07

literary-dogs

By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
We recently came across this article on Bustle that celebrates the literary world of CATS, and that got us thinking—what literary DOGS do people love the most?

A few short months ago, we wrote about dogs making great reading companions, (especially for younger readers who may be struggling,) but now that we’re thinking about it, dogs make some pretty memorable characters in our favorite books as well. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Our 11 Favorite Literary Dogs

Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck
Who better to accompany a lone traveler on a 10,000 mile road trip than their faithful dog?
The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Nighttime, Mark Haddon —Though not around for long, Wellington the poodle makes his presence known and sets in motion a monumental chain of events.
The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Is Dorothy’s companion, Toto, a lovable confidant or a sneaky canine hiding his powers of speech? Turns out, he may be a little of both.
Marley and Me, John Grogan
"The World's Worst Dog" ends up teaching his owners about loyalty and unconditional love. Was anyone dry-eyed at the end?
The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
Confirms what we've know all along: dogs know far more about the human condition than they let on. This one sure does!
A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
Direwolves Nymeria, Ghost, Lady, Summer, Shaggydog, Greywind steal the show when found as pups. Though they part ways, they're as much a part of the story as any other character.
Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London
We follow Buck after he's stolen from his comfortable life and sold into sled dog slavery. In White Fang, we thrill to the growing bond between man and his wolf-dog.
; Cujo, Stephen King
Far from lovable, this guy terrorizes the Trenton and Cambers families, to say nothing of readers. A victim of a rabid bat—he was a good dog at heart.
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
A dog as British nanny? This charming twist is the perfect fit for J.M. Barrie’s fantasy about never growing up.
  The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Tock proves to be a great companion for adventure and one who imparts a little wisdom along the way.
  Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
Fang makes recurring appearances thoroughout the series. A Bit of a slobberer, even a coward, he’s still there when Hagrid needs him most.
Now that the contenders have weighed in, what do you think? Are dogs or cats more suited to a literary setting?
 

Gone Girl Marriages—Creeping us out

Tuesday, 03 February 2015 09:17

creepy-marriages-a
Gone Girl (Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck)              Before I Go to Sleep (Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth)

LOOK at them—these gorgeous people with their messed-up marriages—they captivate us! Of course, they're just characters out of BOOKS who now find themselves writ extra large on screen. But still...

creepy-gonegirl1 creepy-beforeigoto creepy-youshould1 creepy-girlontrain2
creepy-silentwife1 creepy-husbandseret creepy-beforewemet1 creepy-howtobegood
Click on each cover for a summary.
By our count, at least six domestic thrillers have hit the shelves since 2013—after the publication of Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep.

Considering the immense attention the books have garnered—both book sales and movie rights—it seems we can't get enough. The question is, why?

Why this morbid fascination? All eight books deal with psychopathically CREEPY marriages; surely, their wide appeal taps into some underlying anxiety on our part. And we haven't even taken TV's Wives with Knives into acccount!

At the very least, the number of books—and their popularity—suggest a new and disturbing attitude toward marriage, what has always been considered the sine qua non of a fulfilling life.

creepy-marriages-cMaybe it's a suspicion of intimacy, a growing fear that genuine connection is unattainable. All the books reflect an innate distrust of "the other"—indeed, their overarching theme is the impossibility of truly knowing another being, spouses especially.

Or perhaps we suspect marriage is no longer up to the task of functioning as a stabilizing or cohesive force in life. Certainly none of the marriages in these books protect against chaos and loneliness. Just the opposite.

But, oh, pshaw! Here we go again, fooling around with mole hills and mountains. As a genre, creepy thrillers have a long history as great entertainment—think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...even Hamlet...or go way back to Oedipus, for that matter. This is probably just one more pop culture phenomenon—like Zombies.

But Dear Reader, it's hard to think all this means NOTHING. After all, isn't literature supposed to be about SOMETHING? (Oh, and the Zombie craze? It's raised similar questions...)

So what do you think? Any ideas?


 

Living Through Fiction

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 19:52

ignore-lifeBy Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers.
We're sure you
saw it—this photo we posted on Facebook a week or so ago. We found it funny because there's a grain of truth to it.

But it's probably more than "a grain" of truth: to be honest—just how much of our reading IS a way for us to ignore life?

You know—we pick up a book after a tough day to shrug off the stress. Or to beat the boredom during a mid-day slump. Maybe to put off chores...or simply to hide from a noisy world.

Of course, we tell ourselves—and everyone else—that our reading isn’t about escaping. No no! We're reading so we can understand the world around us.

And guess what? We're not just blowing hot air when we say that. A study published in the Journal of Science in October, 2013, found correlations between reading and an increase in emotional intelligence. Simply stated, reading helps us understand, and respond to, other’s feelings. (We blogged about this a good year ago. Take a peek here.)

But, okay, say we do read as escapism: even so...how often are we exposed to
ideas we've long opposed but see there might be another side...
troubled characters we come to care about...
alien cultures we've gained some insight into?
An author’s vision can reveal the rich complexity of life—and yield up a new experience for the reader.

So even if we DO read to ignore life, we nonetheless end up engaging with it. WHY we read isn't as important as what we take away from it—which is an enlargement of our understanding and compassion.

So tell us—do you think reading has made a difference in how you understand and react to the world around you? We want to hear what you think!

 

The Gift that Almost Ruined LITLOVERS!!!

Monday, 29 December 2014 12:33

sues-scarfA dear friend gave me one of those gifts that keep on giving...and giving... AND GIVING—a beautiful hand-knit scarf. I was thrilled with it, THRILLED! ...until suddenly I wasn't. So what happened? Well, I sent her a note about the mess she got us ALL into. I wanted to be gentle.

December 28, 2014


Dear Sue,

You ruined my life.

There was a time I could jump out of bed and make it downstairs in an easy 10, get my coffee, and get to WORK.

But NOW, Sue...I jump out of bed and my eyes land on The Scarf. YOUR scarf. And here's what happens...

OOH...I think, that would look good with my new sky-blue blouse (The Limited, 50% off...down to $24.95). So I try it on. No...WAIT...how about the other blouse, the BLUE-GREEN-GRAY one (same 50% off sale). Oh, yes!!!  But no. The collar's wrong.

WHOA! Lookie here...!!! I try on this smart blue (fleecy) vest. But the neck's too high. Okay maybe the beige crew-neck SWEATER: the scarf could dress it up a bit.

two-scarves1So, um...how should I wear this thing? Drape it in front and let it DANGLE? How 'bout a little tie in front? I COULD loop it first and then bring one end up over the shoulder. Or let's see...I could...

But wait, wait...look at this NECKLACE! It picks up the scarf's teal color! Hey, I should try that new turquoise jacket I got from CHICOS (online close-out for only $8.89 with FREE shipping). Yessss!

Nope—right color, wrong fabric. Okay, back to the beige sweater.

You see what's happening, Sue.

So I finally go downstairs to get to work. I've got 3 ponderous book reviews to get out this week.

But, Sue, I CAN'T CONCENTRATE. I'm having troub....

Oh, wait, I've got it! Back upstairs to try on that blue vest again (see above). Actually, it looks pretty good...with the NECKLACE (also above). OKAY...the vest and the necklace and the SCARF.

Back downstairs, Sue. Now to work.

red-vestOops....... UPSTAIRS again. Just noticed there's red in the scarf—a smidgen—and I've got that new Macy's vest in a QUILTED RED pattern ... $17.69 because of a 40% sale, plus another 20% off with my new Macy's charge card, which I opened for that express purpose. Yep. the red vest looks good.


HOLD ON...! 
Just thought of something else. This time it's a black micro-knit top I keep folded in my dresser (center drawer, 2nd row down). Well, damn...that looks good. Oh, and look at this bracelet (top row, 3rd drawer from the left)...the way it picks up the scarf's teal. Ooh, NICE!

Back downstairs. And on it goes.

molly-scarfSue. Your scarf has put MILLIONS OF LIVES at risk. Three, four MILLION lives around the globe.

I think you know, Sue, that I own and operate LitLoversa Massively Important website...for Book Lovers. They depend on our guidance. They look to US for their literary fulfillment...and we CANNOT allow distractions.

But speaking of SCARVES, Sue...think you could you whip me up something...in, say, a taupe? You know, start with a soft GRAY, work it into some BEIGE and then (avoiding brown) bleed it gradually into a lovely tan (but NOT a TAWNY tan...that doesn't do much for me—too much yellow. I'm thinking a sort of mushroomy tan)? That would be lovely.  Those colors would go well with a few THINGS I've got...?

It would fun to see what you could do.

Well, gotta get back to work...for now.

Love and kisses,
Molly

True story (pretty much).

 

A LitLovers Christmas

Monday, 22 December 2014 10:33

booktreeBy Kristie Sphuler for LitLovers
We know what you're thinking...because we're thinking it, too. In the few days you have off for the holidays, wouldn't it be lovely to spend them with a good book? Dream on, dear reader.

That pesky prepwork for the holidays has your free time sliced down to barely nothing...and your books spending more time with your bookmarks than with you.

If you’re book-obsessed, (don’t worry—we are too) your holiday might look a little like this.


Decorations
Yes, that's you, traipsing through rain...sleet...or snow to cut down a tree (or buy it off a corner lot), haul it home and decorate it—all because your personal favorite, the book tree, isn’t up to family standards. That little chore takes up precious reading time.

bookpages Then there's the spectacle of watching people rrrr-i-p pages out of books for decorations. (Books... really?! Books?!) Go ahead (you're thinking), just rip my heart out while you're at it.

Giving
All of your stocking stuffers, and the majority of the gifts you give, come from the book store. It's one-stop shopping—getting it done FAST—so you can get back to that book you're reading. And it's all OK because nothing says love better than the gift of literature.

Receiving
Of course, what you really hope to see under the tree—with your name on it—is a BIG stack of books. Oh, yes, we remember that stab of disappointment from Christmases past...when the gift wasn't lit related. Oh, well, if you don't get books this year, console yourself: you've always got Christmases future.

Holiday Specialsopenbook
Speaking of Christmases past and future: convincing your family that there is more than ONE book with great Christmas themes takes time and patience. Charles Dickens did not corner the market! (Though it’s still a terrific read...and a good one for the entire family. Everyone should read it.)

Cooking
Baking cookiesstovefire1 and doing Christmas dinner can take up more reading time than you want to spare. Just be careful though—don't get too distracted by your fictional life while baking in your real one or... oops....

Safety first, friends. Safety first.


So, yes, all you LitLovers—the holiday struggle is real. But you'll power through. You always do. Remember, there's a good book waiting when all is said and done.

Happy Holidays. And Happy Reading when it's all over!

 

Tortured Authors—The writing process

Thursday, 30 October 2014 08:27

tortured-authors5We're so darn lucky—to have people willing to take on the burden of writing a novel. People who stare at a blank screen and fill it with words.... And more words.... Enough words for the likes of you and me to spend hours reading them.

Philip Roth made the news a year or so ago. He was in a New York cafe when the young barrista approached saying that he, too, hoped to write a lot of really good words one day. Roth's response...in so many words: DON'T DO IT! WRITING WORDS IS SHEER HELL! It will ruin your life!


It so happened
that Hachette publishers (Little, Brown & Co., et al) sponsored a Book Club event in mid-October, and I was lucky enough to attend. The moderator of the fiction writers' panel opened with the Philip Roth incident, asking the three panelists whether they agreed with Roth. Is writing a brutal process?

Joshua Ferris was on the panel,* and he writes excellent words. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, his third novel, was nominated for the 2014 Man Booker Prize; his second, Then We Came to the End, won the 2008 PEN/Hemingway Award.

Ferris talked about the difficulty of starting a novel: making the tough decisions about who tells the story and how it should be structured. He talked about finally settling down to write the first 100 pages of To Rise Again. And then ...

And then ... he realized it didn't work, none of it. So he tossed all 100 pages. The pain of that, he said, was "excruciating." It wasn't just the words, he noted, or even the effort. It was the time, all that time subtracted from his life, time that came to nothing.

So why DO it? What makes authors like Ferris write a second...and a third book? Or in Philip Roth's case 40? We can't know, of course, but I suspect it's a need to to create a separate reality, to articulate a world view, or simply to tell a good story.

Whatever it is, our world is a better place because of that mystifying compulsion. Authors grapple with words, and we're the beneficiaries. So how lucky is that?

For book clubs:
Have any members ever written or tried to write fiction—either a novel or short story. Or perhaps tackled a memoir...or written poetry? How difficult is writing?




* The other fiction panelists were Jean Hanff Korelitz (You Should Have Known, 2014) and Edan Lepucki (California, 2014). There was also a nonfiction panel, which included Maureen Corrigan (So We Read On, 2014), Barbara Ehrenriech (Living with a Wild God, 2014), and Sam Kean (The Tale of the Dueling Neursurgeons, 2014).

 

 

Is Publishing Going To The Crowd?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:07

book-heartBy Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
The way we read, and what we read, has been going through quite a transformation. With publishers focusing solely on what makes a bestseller, many exciting and groundbreaking reads are being passed over in favor of more cookie-cutter options. What’s a writer to do?

To find a way around these roadblocks many budding writers, as well as many previously published authors are turning to alternate methods to get their works published. According to Bowker, self-published titles saw a 59 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. And that number continues to grow.

With so many writers scrounging for the next best way to make sure their work makes it to the eyes of readers, one idea seems to be catching quite a bit of attention—Unbound.

A new groundbreaking method for publishing a work of writing, Unbound offers both established and budding authors the chance to go directly to the source when looking for the funds to publish their books—the readers! Much like similar sites Kickstarter and GoFundMe, Unbound allows writers to appeal to friends, followers and interested parties to pledge donations to see a project through to completion.

Don’t think the project is all one sided! Pledging to a project has its own set of advantages for the contributor as well. Depending on the project and the amount that you agree to contribute to the cause, each individual contributor has access to a set of rewards such as a signed copy of the printed book, or one-on-one meetings with the author.

The process is quite simple. Once you sign up for an account you then have access to author videos pitching their next project. From there you can choose which books you want to endorse and how much you want to contribute. Once the author is fully funded, their work then begins the publishing process. It’s really that simple.

To date, Unbound has helped to publish 54 books and they’ve raised over £1 million in funds from users. In an interview with writer Jason Hesse from Forbes.com, Unbound founder Dan Kieran stated, “Our users love to be involved in the process and have critical taste. They are not passive consumers – they’re micro patrons.” Sounds to us like the perfect opportunity to have a hand in getting the books YOU want to read published

What do you think about giving the power in publishing back to the readers? Would you like to jump in and choose which books are written and published? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!

(Image courtesy of Kate Ter Harr.)


 

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