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The Grotesque in Literature (01/14)
Although 'grotesque' has become a general adjective for the strange or disturbing, and can be seen in various art forms from literature to architecture, the term also refers to a sub-genre of Southern Gothic literature. This literature utilizes themes of disturbing characters, haunting landscapes, and sinister events (all elements of ...
Animals in Contemporary Literary Fiction (11/13)
Even if the book might not quite be about them, Magnificence, like much of Millet's fiction, features animals prominently. When asked about her use of animals in her novels, Millet said, in an interview with Bookforum:

'We lose the subject of animals when we move out of childhood. In childhood animals are all around us, and then we ...

Body Swap Fiction for Younger Readers (09/13)
David Levithan might take an unusually philosophical approach to the idea of occupying someone else's body in Every Day, but he's hardly the first person to explore it in fiction. Here are just a few other great examples, which run the gamut from light-hearted to more serious:

The classic book in the 'body swap' genre is, of course, ...
The Myths Series (04/13)
A. S. Byatt's Ragnarok is the most recent addition to The Myths series, published in the UK by Canongate and around the world by various publishers. Launched in 2005, The Myths series has brought together remarkably talented authors to put their own stamp on ancient myths from around the world, including many that are familiar to Western ...
Courtroom Drama (02/13)
The thrill of watching a trial unfold - the impassioned speeches, quick-witted lawyers, surprise witnesses, the piecing together of clues, not knowing if justice will prevail - it can all make for exciting, and in some cases legendary, storytelling. 'Courtroom drama', a subgenre of 'legal drama', is a term used to describe dramatic ...
Castaway Literature (01/13)
When human beings are torn from society and forced to fight for survival, our true nature is often revealed. With very clear threats to life and limb, and without any need to account for our actions when laws become irrelevant, we can revert to our primal instincts for personal survival. But to what extent is a person willing to go in ...
Quilting As Hobby and Metaphor (01/13)
In Home, Cee learns to quilt while recovering from a near-fatal run-in with a doctor who used poor, black women as experimental subjects in his research. After returning to her hometown, her neighbors keep her company in her sickroom and, with their help, she makes her first quilt. She also starts to put together the broken pieces of her ...
The Country-House Genre (01/13)
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 ...
Recommended Reading on North Korea (12/12)
Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son introduces many readers to the complex history and multi-layered culture of North Korea. If you'd like to learn more about the political and social climate of this country, allow us to suggest the following books:


Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick: Demick's nonfiction work offers a remarkable ...
Polar Creepiness in Early Sci-Fi Novels (09/12)
Uncharted expanses of polar ice are blank pages for science fiction writers to drool over, and many frozen landmarks spring to mind when trolling the genre. What better place to locate creepy caves, secret lairs, and unexplained phenomena? A closer look through the early literature of science fiction reveals that polar ...
Zombies in Literature (07/12)
They're the undead dreaded monsters that feast on the brains of the living. But what exactly is the origin of the zombie? No one knows for sure - perhaps it's the Haitian belief that animals can be brought back to life via witchcraft; or maybe it's the jiang shi (reanimated dead body) in Chinese folklore that lives off others' qi or life ...
Literature of the American South (07/12)
With her vivid descriptions of 'the old home place,' a hundred-acre farm in Arkansas in the 1950s, and her knack for capturing the local dialect in her writing, Jenny Wingfield's debut novel, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, fits comfortably into the category of 'literature of the American South.'

This genre, also known as 'Southern ...
Southern Gothic (07/12)
A number of reviewers describe A Good Hard Look as 'Southern Gothic'. Gothic fiction generally combines elements of horror and romance, and might include, among many other features, psychological or physical terror, mystery, the supernatural, gothic architecture, darkness, death and madness. One of, if not the earliest ...
The Translation Issue (05/12)
Novels and bestsellers written in English often get translated into many languages, yet the reverse is seldom accomplished in equal volume. According to the founders of Three Percent, a resource for international literature based at the University of Rochester, 'Unfortunately, only about 3% of all books published in the United States ...
Adultery in Literature (04/12)
The subject of Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz is certainly not new to literature. Throughout the centuries, the concept of adultery has provided writers with rich fodder for wonderfully compelling stories.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850): After being abandoned by her husband, Hester Prynne has a secret affair...
The Unreliable Narrator (03/12)
In Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending, Tony Webster admits that he may not be a reliable narrator. He acknowledges that it's probably impossible to tell, objectively, the story of your own life, and that it's therefore up to the reader to question or validate his authority.

The idea of the unreliable narrator has long been ...
Books in Translation (11/11)
In a now-infamous statement preceding the awarding of the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature to French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl remarked that the publishing climate in the United States had grown 'too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big ...
Mental Health and Memoir (11/11)
We live in a memoir-saturated era in which it often seems that nearly everyone has written a story about their experiences with substance abuse, parental neglect, the ravages of fame, and trips to the psychiatric ward. This glut makes it easy to dismiss memoirs as the overheated fabrications of narcissistic attention-seekers, and ...
Books about Midwives and Midwifery (06/11)
Blessing becomes her grandmother's apprentice midwife in Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, becoming part of a long and proud historical tradition in her family, and in the human family.

The word 'midwife,' is from Old English midwif, meaning 'with woman', which frames the idea of midwifery - to be with a woman during the birthing ...
The Inevitable (02/11)
If the subject of the Inevitable piques your interest, may we suggest...

If you're looking for funeral fiction, William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is the king of the canon. Its curious style creates a moving portrait of the Bundren Family attempting to bury its matriarch Addie Bundren. With almost sixty chapters and fifteen narrators, ...
Fiction about Women, Artists and Genius (11/10)
One of the key themes in The Swan Thieves is the challenge of male and female artists who form relationships and must navigate the storms of artistic ...
Banned and Challenged Books in America (03/10)
Some of the most memorable and painful moments in Snow Falling in Spring involve the solace of reading and the loss and destruction of books. American readers might be surprised to know that in America books are frequently challenged and even banned.

The American Library Association explains the difference between a challenge ...
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