Five Things You Might Not Know About Neil Gaiman

  1. Sandman #1Before he began to write novels that would earn him public recognition, Gaiman wrote comic books and graphic novels. The Sandman graphic novels (1989-1996), initially published by D C Comics and later by Vertigo, were particularly popular with a total of 75 issues. The Sandman is about an all-powerful being called Dream, also named Morpheus. He is one of seven god-like siblings who have always existed, and who exert their influence on our world. The series follows Morpheus, who has been the prisoner of a group of wizards for 70 years. Once he escapes, he must find several powerful objects that will allow him to exact revenge upon his enemies. Along the way he must also face up to his mistakes, and find a way to reclaim his kingdom of dreams. Norman Mailer once described The Sandman as "a comic strip for intellectuals." Among its many awards it was included in Entertainment Weekly's list of 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008, and issue 19 won a World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction in 1999 (the only graphic novel to have ever won the award). It is also one of a very few graphic novels to have been on The New York Times bestseller list.

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A Short History of Chechnya

Chechnya has been much in the news this past week due to the two alleged Boston bombers being ethnic Chechens. On the assumption that many of us will be a little rusty with the goings on of this small country in the Caucuses, below is BookBrowse's "beyond the book" article written for Masha Gessen's The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012).

Though it seems that the Tsarnaev brothers had not lived in Chechnya, although the older brother is thought to have visited last year, an understanding of the history of Chechnya is relevant as it explains why hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chechens currently live in countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Dagestan, as did the Tsarnaev family before coming to the USA.

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What is Metafiction?

Metafiction is an elastic concept covering a wide range of fiction but in essence boils down to stories in which the book blurs the line between reality and fiction by drawing attention to itself in some shape or form. To boil it down even further, you could say that it is fiction about fiction.

William H. Gass is attributed with establishing the term metafiction in a 1970 essay titled "Philosophy and the Form of Fiction". Commenting on American fiction of the 1960s, he pointed out that a new description was needed for the emerging genre of experimental texts that openly broke with the tradition of literary realism still dominant in post-WWII American literature.

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The Country-House Genre

Readers and viewers seem endlessly fascinated by the English country-house genre. From classic and award-winning novels such as The Remains of the Day,

Howards End, or Mansfield Park, to the mysteries of Agatha Christie and P.D. James, to television epics such as Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey, they offer both the writer and the reader a concentrated glimpse into a rarefied social milieu, one that often prompts both romantic intensity and social commentary. Although many of these works are historical in nature, they nevertheless seem relevant to contemporary society, especially when (as in The Uninvited Guests) the author obliquely or explicitly comments on historical behavior and attitudes through a modern lens.

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Big on Books in Boston by Poornima Apte

We might not see each other very often during the year but my friend Barbara and I always make it a point to go in to the Boston Book Festival together. Our kids are in the same grade in high school and Barbara and I share a love of books so the train ride in and back is a chance for us to reconnect, complain about the kids, and talk books. This year, Hurricane Sandy was a blot on the horizon but the day of the festival was a crisp fall day in Boston.

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How Sam Wanamaker rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe, with a little help from Joe McCarthy

Globe Theatre ExteriorA few weeks ago, while visiting family in England, we took a long overdue visit to see a production at London's new Globe Theatre. Located in the heart of London's South Bank close to the Thames (just 750 feet away from the location of the original Globe), the Globe plays to a capacity crowd of 1600 twice a day and has, in the fifteen years since it opened, become one of London's most popular tourist destinations. Considering the pride that the British have in Shakespeare you might have thought that a reconstruction of the Globe would have been a "no brainer" project supported by people across the United Kingdom - but that was far from the case. In fact, I hope it will warm the cockles of BookBrowse's mostly American readers to know that the modern-day Globe Theatre would not exist if it wasn't for the vision and determination of one singular American - Sam Wanamaker.

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Sunshine on Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Aftermath