Tag Archives: fiction/literature

The Algonquin Wits: Dorothy Parker Eavesdrops

“Sitting next a table of visiting Midwestern governors in a New York nightclub, Mrs. Parker summed up their conversation: ‘Sounds like over-written Sinclair Lewis.’”

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

The Devil’s Dictionary: Agrarian

“Agrarian, n. A politician who carries his real estate under his nails. A son of the soil who, like Aeneas, carries his father on his person.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Book of Answers: Sam Spade’s Partner

“What was the name of Sam Spade’s partner in Dashiell Hammett’s (1930) The Maltese Falcon? Miles Archer. He was killed early in the novel by Brigid O’Shaughnessey.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Cultural Literacy: Thriller

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the thriller as a literary genre. This is a half-page worksheet with a reading of two sentences and two comprehensions questions. In other words, a basic, but solid, introduction to this literary genre.

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.

Rhetorical Irony

“Rhetorical Irony: A form of irony in which the attitude and tone of the speker or writer is the exact opposite of what is expressed. Such irony is common in the work of Swift, Voltaire, Samuel (Erewhon) Butler, and Antatole France.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Rotten Reviews: Doris Grumbach on Mary McCarthy

“On television I see Mary McCarthy taking about her Vassar friend, the poet Elizabeth Bishop. I notice Mary’s instant icy smile, so often present when I interviewed her in Paris in 1966 for a book. George Grosz saw the same smile on Lenin’s face. ‘It doesn’t mean a smile,’ he said. I am fascinated by it. It represents, I think, an unsuccessful attempt to soften a harsh, bluntly stated judgement. Last summer, twenty-two years after the book I wrote about her, which she so disliked, appeared, I encountered Mary for the first time in an outdoor market in Blue Hill.

 ‘Hello Mary,’ I said. ‘Do you remember me?’

 Her smile flashed and then, like a worn-out bulb, disappeared instantly.

 ‘Unfortunately,’ she said.

 It didn’t mean a smile.”

 Doris Grumbach

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

The Thin Man

The Thin Man: A comedy-mystery film (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the ever-bantering and happily tippling husband-and-wife team Nick and Nora Charles, who, with the aid of their wire-haired terrier Asta, investigate the disappearance of the tall, eccentric inventor Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis), who is the ‘Thin Man’ of the title. The screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich based their sparkling script on the novel The Thin Man (1932) by Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961), who is said to have based the wisecracking and mutual teasing of Nick and Nora on his own relationship with the playwright Lillian Hellman (1905-84). There were several more Thin Man films, generally less successful than the first.”

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

Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer: A semi-autobiographical novel (1934) in experimental form by the US writer Henry Miller (1891-1980). Unashamedly exhibitionistic, the book reflects Miller’s bohemian life and sexual activities during the 1920s and 1930s. Tropic of Capricorn (1939) is a companion volume, recalling his childhood and earlier life in the United States. Both books were banned in the United States until the 1960s. Of Tropic of Cancer, the poet and critic Ezra Pound (1885-1972) commented: ‘At last an unprintable book which is readable.’ The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are two parallel lines either side of the Equator between which the sun can be directly overhead at noon. Miller commented that

‘Cancer is separated from Capricorn only by an imaginary line… You live like a rock in the midst of the ocean; you are fixed while everything about you is in turbulent motion.’

A film version (1970) was directed by Joseph Strick.”

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

Book of Answers: The Abbey Theater

“When did the Abbey Theater open?  The Dublin theater dedicated to presenting Irish drama opened in 1904. Its directors included William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory. Destroyed by fire in 1951, the theater reopened in 1966.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Motif

“Motif: One of the dominant ideas in a work of literature; a part of the main theme. It may consist of a character, a recurrent image, or a verbal pattern.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.