Tag Archives: literature

1774. The Perfect Book Tag

Imagine my excitement in having just returned from taking the dog for an extended walk (and in the process collected a bucketful of wild mushrooms) to discover that someone has challenged me to complete The Perfect Book Tag (even though I’m a free spirit and not taggable). That someone blogs at Dumbest Blog Ever; a blog that is self-described as Stu(pidity) on Stareoids. The postings range from the erudite to the enjoyably stupid, from the sublime to the cor blimey. The blog is well worth the visit (I reckon).

This posting sees a departure from the daily story, and is a bit longer than usual. Of course nothing is perfect, not even myself when I was eleven, but these are some literary works I have enjoyed over the years.

Some snippets of these reflections you may have heard before. I’m not averse to repeating myself. I’m not averse to repeating myself. I hope the selection (which borders on the classic and boring) doesn’t show me up to being a tedious snob. I’m not averse to repeating myself.

The Pretty Good Genre
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

This is the title of O’Connor’s collection of short stories, and contains the best short story ever written – also entitled A Good Man is Hard to Find. Even though you know from the start what’s going to happen your hair stands on end as it happens. The writing is both funny and horrifying. I’ve always been a fan of Flannery O’Connor and a big fan of the short story genre.

“She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”

The Perfect Setting
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and the Yorkshire Moors are the perfect setting for this extraordinary novel – which surprisingly a lot of people haven’t read. The plot IS the setting. The setting IS the characters. The setting IS the theme. Everything in this novel is integrated into the one thing. Perfectly constructed. I guess I’ve read it maybe 50 times or so.

“I said his heaven would be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk.”

The Pretty Good Main Character
The Book of Thel by William Blake

Thel is the character in this longish poem by Blake. She is too afraid to come into existence, because that begins the journey towards death. Thel is ephemeral.

Ah! Thel is like a watry bow, and like a parting cloud,
Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water,
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s face,
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air.

The Pretty Good Best Friend
A Certain Age by Cynthia Jobin

Many readers will be familiar with the poetry of the late Cynthia Jobin. She took a keen and positive interest in so many bloggers and posted her brilliant poetry on her blog. Her final poem Night Draws Near, Brother Ass is heart-rending. I was unaware she had died when I received in the mail from her a collection of poems by William Stafford called Even in Quiet Places.

Let me down easy
the way hints of winter
fall exquisitely today
scattering icy lacy flowers
from a cloud bouquet

The Pretty Good Love Interest
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

I’m not heavily into love stories, although I have read a great number of novels by Danielle Steel and enjoyed every bit of them. Shhh! But I chose Richardson’s Clarissa because it’s one of the earliest books written in English and I got through the hundreds of pages of love letters never once being able to work out if “they were doing it”. It was all insinuation. Clarissa Harlowe is abducted by Robert Lovelace. That was the gist of it, and I found it pretty riveting really. Besides, I had to read it for exams at university.

“Love gratified, is love satisfied — and love satisfied, is indifference begun.”

The Pretty Good Villain
Richard III by William Shakespeare

I know it’s predictable but it’s inevitable. Richard III is one of my favourite plays. That horrid movie with Ian McKellen missed the point because the film omitted Queen Margaret’s great cursing scene. Each curse comes true, bit by bit.

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!
Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell!
Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb!
Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins!
Thou rag of honour! thou detested—

The Pretty Good Family
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My sisters adored this novel in my childhood. Once I grew up I was old enough to be seen reading it. When I studied in Boston, USA, I would go to Walden Pond in New Hampshire. The Alcotts, Hawthorne, and Thoreau lived within walking distance from one another. It must’ve been something in the water.“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”

The Pretty Good Animal
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter

I loved this story as a kid – and still do. I think it was because Jemima wanted to hatch out baby ducklings and I kept ducks as a kid and was forever hatching out babies. I didn’t mind the fox in the story because in New Zealand we don’t have foxes. There is something quite magical about a bird’s egg!

“Quack?“ said Jemima Puddle-Duck, with her head and her bonnet
on one side.

The Pretty Good Plot Twist
The Leader by Eugene Ionesco

This short ten minute play by Ionesco is one of my favourites. Mind you, all of Ionesco plays are my favourites! The leader off stage is watched by fans on stage. They go ape-shit over him/her. They go goo-gar. “He’s patting a pet hedgehog! He spits a tremendous distance.” (Incidentally, the actor who said those lines in a production I once directed became the Prime Minister of New Zealand in reality!) When the leader does appear at the end he/she is headless. “Who needs a head when you’ve got charisma?” Ionesco used to write to me but his letters stopped once he died. Strange.

“Shut up! Shut up! You’re ruining everything”

The Pretty Good Trope
Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame

Janet Frame was a New Zealand novelist and this was her first novel. It tells the story of a women with mental problems, who gets shut away in a mental hospital and watches the mountains through the keyhole in her cell. (The story is a lot better than that). Throughout the novel, Frame creates associations with images, so at the end of the novel she only has to mention all these jolly images and you burst into tears! (At least I did).

“She grew more and more silent about what really mattered. She curled inside herself like one of those … little shellfish you see on the beach, and you touch them, and they go inside and don’t come out.”

The Pretty Good Cover
A Guide to Folk Tales in the English Language by D.L. Ashliman

I bought this book for about $250 around 25 years ago. It has a summary of 2,335 folk tales. Back then I earned a living writing for children to perform on stage so such a book came in handy! I don’t care too much about covers, although for a novel I don’t appreciate an artist showing me what a character should look like. That’s the writer’s task. It’s why I’ve never seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies – they ruin the imagination. I like this cover. It’s plain, and in another life I learnt the skills of a book binder and could create plain covers like this!

The Pretty Good Ending
The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge

I think this is my favourite all-time play (at least for today). At the end Pegeen Mike whispers: “Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.”

“… it’s great luck and company I’ve won me in the end of time – two fine women fighting for the likes of me – till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by.”

Thanks for reading!

1522: Secret code

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was frothing at the mouth. She was spitting tacks. Ms Zimmermann had spent two and a half months working out a complex, secret code. She would use it with her teenage literature class. They would decipher the code over a period of several weeks. She would help them bit by bit; a hint here and a hint there. The overriding question to answer was: What poem is hidden in the code? How exciting is that?

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann handed out the beautifully printed sheets. She had taken such care; the manuscripts were almost gilded. “This,” said Ms Zimmermann, “is the poem in code that together we shall decipher over the coming weeks.”

Willie Barros put up his hand. “The poem is obviously Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth.”

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was shocked beyond belief. She was thunderstruck. She was gobsmacked. Months of planning and several weeks of planned pedagogy had gone down the gurgler in seconds. To make matters worse, she would have to give the upstart student a high mark for his know-all insolence. She’d never liked him. He was one of those nerdy students – a goody-two-shoes with no personality. He had pimples and absolutely no dress sense. He was one of those completely yucky adolescent boys whose half broken voice squawked up and down like a clucky chicken.

“That’s very clever of you, Willie,” said Ms Zimmermann sweetly. “How did you know that?”

Willie Barros explained the code in detail. “The answer just came to me, almost without thinking,” he said. He was particularly pleased with himself, although he didn’t say so, because Ms Zimmermann was always nasty to him, although she pretended to be kind. In fact, at times she was downright cruel. Tyrannical even. She preferred the better-looking students.

That’s why, over the last few months, Willie Barros had hacked into her computer and knew everything there was to know.

1129. True recognition at last!

Stanislaus had heard (why do people keep things so close to their chest?) that he had been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. With fifteen plays under his belt, four novels, and over three hundred poems he thought it wasn’t before time! And surely he stood a chance.

To be truthful he had already prepared his acceptance speech. It was full of witticism and wise adages. It was quite critical in parts, especially of publishers. He’d never been able to find one who would accept him for publication.

1122. Alien classics

(This is the fourth of the Science Fiction stories to commemorate Science Fiction Day. Science Fiction Day is celebrated each year on Isaac Asimov’s birthday: January 2nd. Ok ok – haven’t you heard of a Time Warp?)

Fred was an aspiring poet. He wrote his poetry and sent it off to magazines like it was going out of fashion. Not a single one had ever been published, and rightly so.

He was about to give up when an alien appeared.

“Hi!” said the alien.

“Hi!” said Fred.

“Look,” said the alien, “we come from a far, far distant planet, in fact in another universe altogether. Here is an entire library of our greatest literary classics. There will never be contact again between your planet and ours, so we would like to share these profound treasures with you once and for all. In fact, you would be welcome to publish them under your own name if you so wished. If you did that, you would become the greatest writer in the history of your world. They’re already in translation for you.”

The alien handed over three large boxes of books and left.

Fred would have none of it. “It’s deceitful,” he said, and went out and threw the tomes into the incinerator.