Tag Archives: fiction/literature

Cultural Literacy: Jorge Luis Borges

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Jorge Luis Borges. This is a half-page worksheet with a two-sentence reading and three comprehension questions–a spare but reasonably effective introduction to a major figure (whom, to my deep chagrin, I have not read) in world literature.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Magic Realism

Magic Realism: (Sp, lo real maravilloso) A term introduced by Alejo Carpentier, in his prologue to El reino do este mundo (1949; tr The Kingdom of This World, 1957). The Cuban novelist was searching for a concept broad enough to accommodate both the events of everyday life and the fabulous nature of Latin American geography and history. Carpentier, who was greatly influenced by French surrealism, saw in magic realism the capacity to enrich our idea of what is ‘real” by incorporating all dimensions of the imagination, particularly as expressed in magic, myth, and religion.

In the hands of [Gabriel] Garcia Marquez and other writers of the Boom period, magic realism became a distinctly Latin American mode, an indigenous style for their explorations of history, culture, and politics. This narrative technique has influenced writers around the world.”

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

The Weekly Text, 30 September 2022, Hispanic Heritage Month Week III: One Hundred Years of Solitude

On the third Friday of Hispanic Heritage Month 2022, here is a reading on One Hundred Years of Solitude, the masterpiece of Magical Realism from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Have you read it? When I was a high school senior, my somewhat older but infinitely more sophisticated girlfriend gave me a copy. I read it, and as you can imagine, understood none of it. I keep meaning to get back to it.

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.

Mario Vargas Llosa with a Rhetorical Question

“At what precise moment had Peru fucked itself up?”

Mario Vargas Llosa, Conversation in the Cathedral ch. 1 (1969)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Cultural Literacy: Miguel de Cervantes

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Miguel de Cervantes. This is a half-page worksheet with a reading of two short sentences and two comprehension questions. A nice little symmetry that includes mention of Don Quixote.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

The Weekly Text, 9 September 2022: Common Errors in English Usage, Imply (vt), Infer (vi/vt)

This week’s Text is a worksheet on the use of the verbs imply and infer. This is a full-page worksheet with a reading of three longish compound sentences, and ten modified cloze exercises. The text derives from Paul Brians’ fine book Common Errors in English Usage–to which he allows cost-free access at his Washington State University website.

I myself was uncertain about the use of these two words until I saw the 1988 remake of the estimable 1959 film noir D.O.A. Dennis Quaid plays Professor Dexter Cornell (Edmond O’Brien played this character as Frank Bigelow in the original). At one point in the film, Professor Cornell is dealing with a preternaturally cheap hoodlum named Bernard. Bernard says to Cornell, “I don’t think I like what you’re inferring Mr. Cornell.” Cornell sneers at Bernard, “Implying. When I say it, that’s implying. How you take it, that’s inferring.” Bernard replies, “I see. Infer this.” Then true to form for a knuckle-dragger like Bernard, he punches Cornell in the mouth.

Lawrence Block, in his novel Small Town (page 301 in the William Morrow hardcover edition), which I believe was his last, Block has the august New York Times commit a similar error, using infer where imply is required. True to its form, the Times prints a correction the next day.

Why am I on about this, as they say in Great Britain? Because these are two important conceptual words which describe an extremely common, if elliptical, form of communication. In fact, if you want to teach literature at all, these are two words students must understand well, and therefore be able to use well–and, for heaven’s sake, accurately. One more time: so much of human communication occurs by implication and inference (to trot out the nouns) that it seems to me unlikely to overstate the importance of understanding these words and the concepts in communication they represent.

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.

Rotten Reviews: A Moveable Feast

“Judging by this memoir, it would seem the Hemingway estate is prepared to dribble out some very small beer indeed in the name of the master. This book was apparently completed in Cuba in 1960 and, for all the good it is likely to do Hemingway’s reputation, it could very well have stayed there—permanently.”

Geoffrey Wagner, Commonweal

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

The Algonquin Wits: Edna Ferber’s Storied Riposte to Noel Coward

Miss Ferber, who was fond of wearing tailored suits, showed up at the Round Table one afternoon sporting a new suit similar to the one Noel Coward was wearing. ‘You look almost like a man,’ Coward said as he greeted her.

‘So,’ Miss Ferber replied, ‘do you.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Dorothy Parker, Famously, on Katherine Hepburn

Mrs. Parker once said of a Katherine Hepburn performance: ‘She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

The Algonquin Wits: Alexander Woollcott’s Riposte in a Moment of Immodesty

“Ever conscious of his weight problem, Woollcott installed a steam cabinet at his ‘Wit’s End’ home on the East River. The cabinet had a large window in front, through which an outsider could see anyone sitting inside. One afternoon Peggy Pulitzer, while a guest at Woollcott’s, wandered by the cabinet and beheld Aleck’s stark-naked form. Later she advised him, ‘You should cover that window with an organdy curtain.’ Woollcott corrected the lady’s phrasing, however” ‘Curtain de organ.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.