Tag Archives: fiction and literature

Light in August

Light in August: A novel (1932) by William Faulkner (1898-1962), following the tragic career of the mixed-race central character, Joe Christmas. Faulkner’s working title had been Dark House, but when he heard his wife comment on the unique quality of the light in August in the American South he was taken with the phrase, and used it as the final title.

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Osamu Dazai

Osamu Dazai: (1909-1948) Japanese author. Although chiefly known for his fiction, Dazai also wrote personal essays and memoirs, children’s stories, and historical narratives. His work has attracted a large and dedicated readership, for whom the author’s deeply troubled life, and its brilliant retelling, have struck a responsive chord. In masterpieces such as Shayo (1947; tr The Setting Sun, 1956), and Ningen shikkaku (1948; tr No Longer Human, 1957), Dazai captured the postwar crisis of Japanese cultural identity and the travail of a lost generation of youth. The characteristic Dazai protagonist, in his addictive, womanizing, self-indulgent excess, artfully mirrors the life of the author, who, following numerous failed suicide attempts, eventually succeeded. This final act of self-dramatization is reminiscent of Akutagawa and Mishima.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Jayanta Mahapatra

Jayanta Mahapatra: (1928-) Indian writer, translator, and educator, Born in Cuttack, India, he continues to live and work in his native Indian state. Mahapatra has taught college physics for most of his life, He came to writing late, publishing his first book at the age of forty. He is best known for his poetry in English, which is often characterized by a brooding tone and a mixture of concrete images with metaphysical abstractions. In the 1970s he began to achieve an international reputation. In addition to his many volumes of poetry, he has published juvenile fiction and English translations from Oriya.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Rotten Reviews: The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey 

The author of this book should be neutered and locked away forever.”

San Juan County Record

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998. 

Mark Twain

OK, folks, on this sad morning, here is a reading on Mark Twain and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. It’s a nice little biography and should serve as a concise but informative introduction to this great American writers for young readers.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Lu Hsun

Lu Hsun: (also romanized as Lu Xun; pseudonym of Chou Shu-jen, 1881-1936) Generally regarded as modern China’s finest writer. Born to a family of traditional scholars, because of the death of his father and a decline in the family fortunes, he was sent to a school that taught Western technical subjects. He later studied Western medicine in Japan, but soon realized that his people needed more than physical healing. He quit his medical studies and turned to literature, returning to China to use his writing to expose the superstitions and injustices of the early Republican period. He his best known for his two collections of short stories, Nahan (generally translated as Call to Arms), published in 1923, and Panghuang (Wandering) published in 1926. His story “A Madman’s Diary” (“K’uang-jen ji-chi) vividly and painfully chronicles the growing realization of the cannibalistic, “dog-eat-dog” nature of Chinese society. “The New Year’s Sacrifice” (“Chu-fu”) is an account of a modern intellectual’s disturbing and eye-opening return to his traditional home for the New Year’s festivities. Painfully aware of the limitations of literature for effecting real change, in 1926 he stopped writing fiction altogether. Translations of his works include Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (1990), The Complete Stories of Lu Xun (1956-60), and Selected Stories of Lu Xun (1980), as well as his seminal scholarly work, A Brief History of Chinese Fiction (1959).

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Kyokutei Bakin

[Over the years in my classrooms, it was hard to miss the fact that students who struggled with reading, particularly the students of Asian Pacific descent I served, would nonetheless exhaust my school library’s supply of anime. In researching this post, I learned that Bakin’s best-known book, Hakkendenhas been adapted to anime. For that reason, I have tagged this as high-interest material.]

“Kyokutei Bakin: (1767-1849) Japanese fiction writer of the late-Tokugawa period. Bakin was among the most gifted writers of his time, and succeeded in establishing himself as a serious writer in an age dominated by the lowbrow entertainment genre of Gesaku. Bakin is best known for an extraordinary tour-de-force, Hakkenden (1814-1832), whose title translates, improbably, as “Eight Canine Biographies.” This high-flown historical romance of noble vengeance, with its thickly applied Confucianist morality of virtue rewarded and vice punished, ranks as Japan’s longest literary narrative. Hakkenden has retained its popularity in contemporary Japan, albeit in abridged modern editions.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.