At BookBrowse, we don't just review books, we go 'beyond the book' to explore interesting aspects relating to each book we feature. Here is a recent "Beyond the Book" feature for The World of The End by Ofir Touché Gafla
Mythic expression is humanity's first language. These myths, or to use a more contemporary synonym, metanarratives, are the stories that give purpose and meaning to a people, a way of understanding the seemingly random occurrences in the lives of individuals and communities. Whether these are expressed in clay statues, paintings on cave walls, or mutually intelligible symbols such as words, each is a vision of the world and of the place of humanity within it.
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.
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.
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.
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.