literature meme | 10/10 books | Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
He’d found that even the people whose job of work was, so to speak, the Universe, didn’t really believe in it and were actually quite proud of not knowing what it really was or even if it could theoretically exist.
literature meme | 4/4 plays | Richard III by William Shakespeare
literature meme | 5/5 poets | Langston Hughes
In Hughes’s own words, his poetry is about “workers, roustabouts, and singers, and job hunters on Lenox Avenue in New York, or Seventh Street in Washington or South State in Chicago—people up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten, buying furniture on the installment plan, filling the house with roomers to help pay the rent, hoping to get a new suit for Easter—and pawning that suit before the Fourth of July.”
Although Hughes had trouble with both black and white critics, he was the first black American to earn his living solely from his writing and public lectures. Part of the reason he was able to do this was the phenomenal acceptance and love he received from average black people. A reviewer for Black World noted in 1970: “Those whose prerogative it is to determine the rank of writers have never rated him highly, but if the weight of public response is any gauge then Langston Hughes stands at the apex of literary relevance among Black people. The poet occupies such a position in the memory of his people precisely because he recognized that ‘we possess within ourselves a great reservoir of physical and spiritual strength,’ and because he used his artistry to reflect this back to the people. He used his poetry and prose to illustrate that ‘there is no lack within the Negro people of beauty, strength and power,’ and he chose to do so on their own level, on their own terms.” (via the poetry foundation)
literature meme | 8/8 poetry and verse | My Life by Lyn Hejinian
From here each day seems like a little boat and all the days are swept and tilted back and forth across an immense and distant bay of blue, gray, green. We were like plump birds along the shore, caught by the mortal breaks. Dimension, longevity, color, and pleasure.
literature meme | 9/9 short stories | The Wall by Jean Paul Sartre
My life was in front of me, shut, closed, like a bag and yet everything inside of it was unfinished. For an instant I tried to judge it. I wanted to tell myself, this is a beautiful life. But I couldn’t pass judgment on it; it was only a sketch; I had spent my time counterfeiting eternity, I had understood nothing.
literature meme | 9/10 books | The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row.
literature meme | 8/9 short stories | Big Two-Hearted River by Ernest Hemingway
The mosquito was on the canvas, over his head. Nick moved the match quickly up to it. The mosquito made a satisfactory hiss in the flame. The match went out. Nick lay down again under the blankets. He turned on his side and shut his eyes. He was sleepy. He felt sleep coming. He curled up under the blanket and went to sleep.
literature meme | 7/8 poetry and verse | If—— by Rudyard Kipling
literature meme | 8/10 books | Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
"I remember a story once," said Ridcully, "where these two children were lost in the woods and a lot of birds came and covered them with leaves." Hope showed in his voice like a toe peeking out from under a crinoline.
"Yes, that’s just the sort of bloody stupid thing a bird would think of," said Granny.
literature meme | 6/6 prose writers | Oscar Wilde
His letters show that the perception of Wilde as the lightweight author of society comedies, a few memorable poems and some fairy stories must finally make room for Wilde as a hard-working professional writer, deeply interested by the issues of his day and carrying in his intellectual baggage something that we all too frequently overlook, a quite extraordinary classical, literary and philosophical education.
Here, for example, is Wilde, expressing to the manager of Casell’s publishing firm his ideas on its magazine The Lady’s World, which Wilde was to edit: ”It seems to me that, at present, it is too feminine, and not sufficiently womanly. We should take a wider range, as well as a high standpoint, and deal not merely with what women wear, but with what they think, and what they feel.”
Which is not to say that he didn’t care for fashion: “The modern, high-heeled boot is, in fact, merely the clog of the time of Henry VI, with the front prop left out, and its inevitable effect is to throw the body forward, to shorten the steps, and consequently to produce that want of grace which always follows want of freedom.” (NYT)
literature meme | 7/9 short stories | Nipple Jesus by Nick Hornby
I was disappointed, to be honest. I was hoping she’d talk about how beautiful the picture was — how holy, sort of thing. And I wanted her to explain that if you wanted to see the nipples you really had to get up close, like the vicar had to, and what kind of vicar you were if you wanted to do that. And I wanted to hear why she’d done it, too. I mean, there had to be an idea behind it, didn’t there? A meaning, kind of thing. It’s not just something you’d wake up in the morning and do, is it? You know, ‘What am I going to do with all these pairs of breasts I’ve been cutting out? Oh, I might as well turn them into a picture of Christ on the cross.’
Maybe they should have interviewed me. Like I said, maybe I’ve thought more about this picture than anyone. Because she doesn’t know, Martha. She hasn’t seen it in action, like I have. And she hasn’t spent any time standing in front of it, watching people looking at it. Perhaps she should; then she’d be able to say things about it in interviews.
literature meme | 5/6 prose writers | Terry Pratchett
Six years ago, Pratchett was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease, and since then he has become a passionate advocate for the right to die. Asking someone why people should buy their new book is one thing. Asking them what it feels like to have their personality eaten away by their own malfunctioning brain, and at what stage they will want to end the process, is another. I’m nervous, not because Pratchett is frightening, but because I am an enormous fan; his most famous creation, the Discworld, is 30 years old this year, and I have been reading it for 20 of them.
In its early years, the series was fantasy in the classic mould; fantasy with a sharp, wild sense of humour, and a sly line in social commentary, but fantasy none the less. There were trolls and dragons, barbarian warriors and implausibly breasted Amazons in scanty armour, and wizards with staffs with knobs on the end; it took these tropes and subverted them, but that was its source material. But as the series – and its author – have matured, it has changed. It has become less about magic, and more about people, and ingenuity, and technology. “But technology is magic!” he cries, when I put this to him. “I mean, on my wrist, this will tell me the time if I ask it.” He prods a button on his watch, and it speaks in a prim little voice: the time is 11.43am, on Wednesday the so on and so forth. “And this is all magical, but we don’t think so. Well, we know it’s not magic – we know the fairies aren’t doing it, but for most of us they might as well be.”
Death, as well as something Pratchett faces in the not-too-distant real-life future, is a regular character in the Discworld books: a grandfatherly figure who loves cats and curry and who speaks in SEPULCHRAL SMALL CAPS. I get embarrassed, at this point, asking a man about his own, presumably relatively imminent, death, and change the subject. “You’re far too nice to be a journalist,” Pratchett tells me, not unkindly. “Don’t worry about depressing stuff. I quite like depressing stuff occasionally.” (the telegraph)