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Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (02/21)
In My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, a much-older teacher begins his seduction of 15-year-old Vanessa Wye with poetry. One of the works he uses to draw her in is the 1962 Vladimir Nabokov novel Pale Fire. Specifically, a section of verse describes how a fictional poet, John Shade, met his wife on an outing to New Wye Falls. ...
The Disappearance of Agatha Christie (02/21)
In Kate Weinberg's The Truants, the main character, Jess Walker, suggests to her professor, Lorna Clay, that famed author Agatha Christie's 'hardest to crack' mystery may have emerged not in her writing, but in her life. Jess is referring to the time that Christie disappeared for 11 days, later claiming to have suffered memory loss, an ...
A Selection of Writing by Robert Jones Jr. (01/21)
The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. is a work of historical fiction that follows the relationship between Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men in love on a plantation in the Antebellum South. While the book is Jones' debut novel, he is an established essayist, blogger and cultural critic. Below are a few notable examples of his published work...
Fireborne: Rosaria Munda's Influences (01/21)
Fireborne, the first book in The Aurelian Cycle trilogy, features a society that is restructuring after a political revolution, in which a select few citizens become dragon-riding warriors that protect the nation. This is the debut novel for author Rosaria Munda, who first conceived of the idea while listening to an audiobook about the ...
Bernardine Evaristo's Booker Prize Win (12/20)
In October of 2019, Bernardine Evaristo took home the Booker Prize in a win that garnered special attention for multiple reasons. Specifically, Evaristo was the first Black woman to win the prize, and she didn't have the win all to herself; the judges split it between Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other and Margaret Atwood for The Testaments....
Gerard Manley Hopkins (12/20)
In Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom, Gifty, a PhD student of neuroscience, recalls a college course she took to fulfill a humanities requirement that focused on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. While Gifty didn't care for Hopkins' poetry, she felt a 'strange sense of kinship' with the man himself when she reflected on the struggles he...
Anne Hathaway and Hamnet Shakespeare (12/20)
Little is known about Shakespeare's family, names and birth dates aside — and even names are tricky. Though commonly referred to as Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife may have actually been named Agnes, according to a will left by her father. O'Farrell makes the decision to use the name Agnes in her novel Hamnet, but she references ...
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) (11/20)
Born in 1940 in Leningrad, Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky, known to English speakers as Joseph Brodsky, was a Russian-American poet and Nobel Prize laureate, whose works and life feature heavily in Lara Vapnyar's novel Divide Me By Zero.

Brodsky was raised in poverty; his father had lost his position with the Russian Navy for being ...
Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and the Writing of Frankenstein (11/20)
Great art frequently evolves among talented people who share ideas with each other and who challenge themselves to greater and greater heights in the presence of fellow creatives. This was the case with one of the most famous works of Western literature, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Devised among her literary companions (including Lord ...
A Brief History of A Christmas Carol and its Adaptations (11/20)
A Christmas Carol, the first and best known of Charles Dickens' five Christmas Books, was published on December 19th, 1843. On publication, it was considered a critical and commercial success and served to bolster Dickens' reputation among his peers and the public at a time of creative and financial uncertainty.

The book drew on the ...
Graham Greene's The Quiet American (11/20)
The Quite Americans by Scott Anderson takes its name and inspiration from a highly popular 1955 spy novel by Graham Greene called The Quiet American.

Henry Graham Greene (1904-1991) was an English novelist, short story writer, journalist and playwright whose writing often focused on moral ambiguities set within political contexts. ...
Henry Darger (10/20)
In Curious Toys, the main character, Pin, investigates the murder of a young girl in the Riverview Amusement Park in Chicago in 1915. Only one other person witnessed the girl's disappearance, a strange, shambling man named Henry Darger. Pin is fictional, but Darger is based on a real person who became famous posthumously as an artist and ...
The Impact of The Handmaid's Tale (09/20)
Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939. Although best known for her speculative fiction, she's the author of more than 40 books, including works of fiction, poetry, short stories, children's works and critical essays.

Atwood's desire to be a writer stems from a revelation she had at the age of 16. As she was walking across ...
Contemporary Ghanaian Women Writers (09/20)
In her novel His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie captures the clash of tradition and modernity in present day Ghana. Medie belongs to a long line of talented women writers who show the country's rich culture and history to be bountiful sources of inspiration. Here are just a few of the most exciting Ghanaian women on the current literary ...
Ann Cleeves' Five Mystery Series (08/20)
Ann Cleeves (b. 1954) is best known for her mystery novels set in rural Britain, which have sold over five million copies in the thirty-plus years she's been writing. Cleeves has penned four series before releasing The Long Call, the first entry in her new Two Rivers series:

George and Molly Palmer-Jones (8 books)
Published from 1986 ...
Griots and a New Direction for Fantasy (08/20)
In Jordan Ifueko's fantasy debut Raybearer, Mbali, one of the Emperor's Council of Eleven, is identified as a griot – 'a singer of histories and stories, the most sacred of Arit priests.' Griots are not a literary invention, but an incorporation of Ifueko's Nigerian heritage into her fantasyscape, along with tutsu sprites and ...
Janeites: Austen Fans Past and Present (06/20)
According to literary scholar Claudia L. Johnson, 'Janeism' is a 'self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for 'Jane' Austen and every primary, secondary, tertiary (and so forth) detail relative to her.' The devotees who share this enthusiasm, also known as 'Janeites,' are in the simplest sense fans of Jane Austen and her writings. Today, ...
Reading the #MeToo Movement (05/20)
A large part of the later chapters of Susan Choi's Trust Exercise revolves around the publishing of a female narrative of past sexual assault, forcing other characters in the story to reckon with their own complicity in the event (or lack thereof). The empowerment of survivors telling of their own stories is a concept that today's public ...
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) (05/20)
A number of real historical figures play tangential roles in The Paris Hours, which is set in Paris in 1927. One of these is Gertrude Stein, a writer known for her poetry and the quasi-fictional memoir she penned about her life in Paris with her longtime partner, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). But Stein may be even better ...
An Interview with JP Gritton (11/19)
I took some time to ask the author about his background, and the origins and themes of his unique and tightly-crafted debut novel, Wyoming.

Q: Could you tell me a little about yourself? Where are you from originally, where are you now, and how did you come to write this novel?

I was born in Boulder, Colorado, which was a funky,...
The Corruption of Home in Gothic Literature (04/20)
Marina Kemp's Marguerite operates on several thematic levels; not least as an homage to classics of gothic literature. Like Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw before it, the novel opens with a young woman arriving at a large, secluded country house, before documenting ...
The Life and Career of Yūko Tsushima (04/20)
Born in 1947 in the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka, Yūko Tsushima was one of the most accomplished Japanese novelists of her generation at the time of her death from lung cancer in 2016. The author remains lesser known outside of Japan, but with the recent translations of Territory of Light and Of Dogs and Walls, there has been a small wave ...
20 Years of Speak (03/20)
Released in 1999, Speak was Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel and also her most controversial. Melinda Sordino, the protagonist, is raped the summer before her freshman year of high school at a house party. She calls the police but is unable to verbalize what happened, leaving the scene before they arrive. The police bust the house ...
Roland Barthes and "The Death of the Author" (10/19)
In DeWitt's story 'Famous Last Words,' two characters argue over the interpretation of an essay by Roland Barthes called 'The Death of the Author,' and whether its message is still relevant for writers.

Roland Barthes was a French philosopher and literary critic. He was born in 1915 in Cherbourg, France and attended the Sorbonne where ...
Simone de Beauvoir (10/19)
Lucy Adler, the teenage protagonist in The Falconer, is influenced by her older cousin, Violet, a painter and feminist who provides a model of independent womanhood (albeit an imperfect one). In one scene, Violet takes Lucy to a bookstore and buys her copies of French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir's seminal texts, The Ethics of ...
Gothic Romance and the Rise of the Lady Sleuth (10/19)
Gothic novels typically have a few common elements: a haunted setting, an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, supernatural (or seemingly so) occurrences, a tortured hero, a heroine in distress and high emotions. The genre's origins are generally traced back to Horace Walpole's 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, which features a medieval ...
Melmoth the Wanderer: Inspiration for Sarah Perry's Melmoth (10/19)
Though the story encapsulated in Sarah Perry's Melmoth is entirely her own, it derives its name and legend from Irish playwright, Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer. Published in 1820, Melmoth the Wanderer follows John Melmoth, a young student in Dublin, as he visits his dying uncle. Upon his arrival, he discovers an old ...
The Bard of the Yukon (10/19)
The Great Alone takes its title from a line in 'The Shooting of Dan McGrew,' a poem composed by Robert W. Service, whose work inspires the main character throughout the book.

Robert W. Service (1874-1958), known as 'The Bard of the Yukon,' was born in Lancashire, England, the son of a banker and an heiress. He was sent to Kilwinning,...
Famous Writers Who Have Plagiarized (09/19)
The main character in John Boyne's novel A Ladder to the Sky plagiarizes others' work to gain his fame and fortune.

Many famous authors have been accused of 'borrowing' the writings of others and claiming it as their own work, sometimes even ending up in court. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, creator of the ...
Literary Resistance in Sudan (05/19)
Leila Aboulela's books, including the story collection Elsewhere Home, illuminate modern life in Sudan, sharing bits of culture and geography alongside the experiences of faith and human relationships. The author joins in the tradition of Tayib Saleh and other fiction writers who've brought the Sudanese diaspora experience into Western ...
Cozy Mysteries (08/19)
The mystery is one of the most popular genres of literature, and the 'cozy mystery,' a term coined in the late 20th century, holds steady as a favorite subset of crime fiction.

Cozy mysteries are marked by compelling, yet relatable characters. The 'detective' is an amateur, thrown into an unexpected, undesired situation. Most often ...
John Milton and Paradise Lost (08/19)
In 'The Killer of Kings,' the short story in Anjali Sachdeva's collection All the Names They Used for God, John Milton (1608-1674), secluded in the English countryside after being charged and fined for publishing a tract that contemplated regicide, writes his epic poem Paradise Lost with the help of a muse, an angel the blind poet can ...
Green Tries to Erase the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health (07/19)
John Green has never shied away from weighty issues. From depression and potential suicide in his debut novel, Looking for Alaska, to terminal illness in The Fault in Our Stars, and now obsessive-compulsive disorder in his latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, it seems that Green is at his strongest when he is exploring such meaty and ...
Can Nonfiction Be Too Revealing? (07/19)
On May 24, 2013, Tiffany Sedaris, sister of writer David Sedaris, died by suicide. Shortly after, David penned an essay for the New Yorker, entitled Now We are Five. In true Sedaris fashion, the essay doesn't focus entirely on Tiffany or the circumstances of her death, but instead looks at the situation through the lens of ...
Literary and Pop Culture References in Southernmost (07/19)
In Silas House's Southernmost, Asher's estranged brother Luke sends him postcards with quotations from books, poems, and songs that serve as secret messages passing between them. Here's a closer look.

'Sandpiper': Asher's most recent communication from Luke is a postcard of a sandpiper with a line of poetry appended...
Samuel Pepys's Diary (07/19)
In The Judge Hunter, Balty's brother-in-law, Samuel Pepys, an important historical figure in 17th century London, plays an integral role.

Written in shorthand, Pepys recounts his experience on the ship that returned Charles II to England as well as the king's coronation. The diary also contains his accounts of both the 1665 Great ...

Climate Fiction: A Glimpse into the Growing Genre (07/19)
In Midnight at the Electric, it is the year 2065, and teenager Adri is part of a carefully selected group departing Earth forever to live on Mars. Although the story takes place less than 50 years from now, massive planetary destruction has already taken place. As Adri puts it early on, 'there's no Miami and hardly any Bangladesh and no ...
Emphasizing Stories by Indigenous Writers (06/19)
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 5.2 million Native Americans currently live within the United States. But their stories are largely ignored by mainstream literature. In a world where literature is dominated by white male-driven narratives, it is even more important that we popularize and appreciate indigenous stories. I'd like to ...
The Man Booker Prize Controversy (03/19)
While frequently framed as a challenging novel, Milkman has resonated with critics and readers alike since the work won the Man Booker Prize in October 2018. Expressing the thoughts of many book reviewers, Ron Charles of the Washington Post branded Anna Burns' third book 'the best last novel of [last] year' and 'something strange and ...
Intersectional Representation in Young Adult Narratives (05/19)
Intersectionality is a term coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw almost three decades ago to explain how the oppression of African-American women was compounded by both race and gender. Essentially, she described the intersection of identities as affecting how much or how little power someone has within a society. It is a once-primarily ...
Unreliable Narrators and Ourselves (05/19)
American literary critic Wayne C. Booth coined the term 'unreliable narrator' in 1961 in his most famous book, The Rhetoric of Fiction, and the concept was later refined by Hamilton College professor and narrative theorist Peter J. Rabinowitz: whether it is clear from the outset or revealed at the end, the unreliable narrator causes ...
The Mercy Seat: Historical Background (05/19)
The Mercy Seat is inspired by true events. In the acknowledgements, the author, Elizabeth H. Winthrop, says that the character Willie Jones is based loosely on two men: Willie McGee and Willie Francis.

Willie McGee, a young black man, was arrested in 1945 in Laurel, Mississippi when a white woman accused him of breaking into her house ...
The Importance of Diverse Fantasy Spaces (03/19)

'Children have a right to books that reflect their own images and books that open less familiar worlds to them…for those children who had historically been ignored – or worse, ridiculed – in children's books, seeing themselves portrayed visually and textually as realistically human was essential to letting them ...

A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies (02/19)
Sadness is a White Bird's cryptic title is actually a direct quotation from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's 1967 poem, 'A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies,' which forms part of his collection The End of Night.

Did you feel sad? I asked.
Cutting me off, he said, Mahmoud, my friend,
sadness is a white bird that does not come near a ...

Literary Inmates (01/19)
'Strangler Bob', one of the more memorable stories in The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, is set entirely within the squalid confines of an American prison. As far as we know, Johnson himself never spent any time in jail; the story is a testament to the power of imagination shorn of experience.

Throughout history though, there have been ...
Nature Writers Who Also Write Fiction (12/18)
Before she wrote Where the Crawdads Sing, Idaho-based Delia Owens co-authored three nature books (with her former husband, Mark Owens) based on wildlife research in Africa: Cry of the Kalahari (1984), which won the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing, The Eye of the Elephant (1992), and Secrets of the Savanna (2006). She's ...
The Hunt That Came First: Moby Dick (11/18)
And the Ocean Was Our Sky is a re-imagining of Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. Ness's text is a very experimental adaptation of Melville's, and one need not know Melville's text to understand it. However, some background on this American classic – recognized widely as a Great American Novel – may well ...
Helen Dunmore (10/18)
Helen Dunmore was born in Yorkshire, England in 1952. In a career spanning three decades she published fifteen novels, three short story collections, prize-winning children's fiction and twelve collections of poetry. Her final novel, Birdcage Walk, was published in 2017, as was her last poetry collection, Inside the Wave. Dunmore ...
Fairy Tales and Fiction (09/18)
I noted in my review of Joy Williams' Ninety-Nine Stories of God that it felt like a compilation of fairy tales. But then I began to wonder why I felt that way. On closer inspection, I perhaps learned why.

Warwick GobleFiction, of course, is not factual, even if the writer uses known facts in order to mirror reality. Writers make things up; they ...
Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (09/18)
It would be hard to dispute that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita mirrors the true story of Sally Horner. Nabokov's character Humbert Humbert is quite similar to Frank LaSalle, the real kidnapper, and Dolores 'Lolita' Haze bears similarities to Sally. Both men spirited the young girls away across the country. Yet Nabokov's fictional story has ...
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