Tag Archives: fiction/literature

Juan Jose Arreola

“Juan Jose Arreola: (1918-2001) Mexican short-story writer and dramatist. Arreola had a vivid imagination, a pointed, wildly comic humor, and an extraordinary command of the Spanish language and of short forms of literature. Arreola’s workshops have trained a flock of Mexico’s new writers, and he hosted a popular TV show that analyzed literary subjects. Though he began in theater, his fame rests on his stories, fables, and vignettes which are often only a page long. Confabulario (1952; tr Confabulario and Other Inventions, 1964) is perhaps his most important prose work; it features rueful and hilarious meditations on the battle between the sexes, politics, religious hypocrisy, and the frustrations of daily life. His only novel, La feria (1963; tr The Fair, 1977) depicts, through and impressive array of colloquial nuance, the daily life of a small town as a collective portrait instead of focusing on a few protagonists. Among his other collections of short fictions is Palindroma (1971), which includes a remarkable play, “Tercera llamada,” a meta-theatrical reworking of the Adam and Eve myth that moves between the human and archetypal levels with great skill and humor. Arreola’s influences (Camus, Kafka, Borges) do not diminish his brilliant contribution to the modern Latin American short story, which places him alongside Rulfo, Quiroga, Borges, and Pinera. Arreola won the Juan Rulfo Prize in Literature in 1992.”

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

Isabel Allende

“Isabel Allende: (1942-) Chilean novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. Touted as the first major female figure in Latin America’s book of narrative fiction, she has become one of the continent’s best known and bestselling authors, but has been dismissed by some as an epigone of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his school of Magic Realism. Born in Lima, Peru, she worked as a journalist in Chile. After President Salvador Allende, her father’s cousin, was deposed in 1973, she emigrated to Venezuela and then to the U.S. Her best-known novel is her first book, La casa de los espiritus (1982; tr The House of the Spirits, 1985); set in a nameless Latin American country, it is the story of several generations of the upper-class Trueba family. It was followed by the novels De amor y de sombra (1984; tr Of Love and Shadows, 1985) and Eva Luna (1987; tr 1988), and the short-story collection Cuentos de Eva Luna (1990; tr The Stories of Eva Luna, 1991). Later books include El plan infinito (1991; tr The Infinite Plan, 1993), the story of a Chicano lawyer in San Francisco, and Paula (1994; tr 1995), a moving account of her daughter’s illness and death.”

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

On the Road

Here is a reading on Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Kerouac, and particularly this novel, influenced me greatly as a very young man. I probably read On the Road five times, and The Dharma Bums another five.

I recently listened to some recording of William S. Burroughs on the streaming music service I use, and some of Kerouac’s recordings popped up as recommendations. So I listened, and realized that Jack Kerouac (and all the Beats, really) will probably always be in my life.

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.

Prolixity

“Prolixity (noun): Speech or writing that is wordy or lengthy, sometimes tediously; a tendency to long-windedness; verbosity. Adjective: prolix; adverb: prolixly.

Mann writes in a manner inimitable by anyone else; the density and prolixity of his novels would be intolerable in a writer who did not also possess his extraordinary sweep and complexity of mind.’ Robertson Davies, One Half of Robertson Davies.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

 Rotten Reviews: 10:30 on a Summer Night

“…has the proud air of saying in her every painful, glottal line, ‘Hup for prose.’”

Hortense Callisher, The Nation

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

Book of Answers: Dr. Seuss’s First Book

“What was the first book published by Dr Seuss (Theodore Geisel)? And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street was published in 1937 by Vanguard Press, after being rejected by twenty-three other publishers.”

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

The Algonquin Wits: Robert Benchley

“Benchley spent a short, highly unsuccessful apprenticeship in the advertising department of Curtis Publishing Company, about which he recalled: ‘When I left Curtis (I was given plenty of time to get my hat and coat) I was advised not to stick to advertising. They said I was too tall, or something. I forget just what the reason was they gave.’”

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

Ambiguity

“Ambiguity (noun) The state or quality of having more than one possible meaning; unclear or unresolved sense; a double meaning or equivocal word or expression. Adjective: ambiguous; adverb: ambiguously; noun: ambiguousness

‘Disraeli has a standard reply for diplomatic ambiguity for people who sent him unsolicited manuscripts to read: “Many thanks; I shall lose not time in reading it.”’ Robert Hendrickson, The Literary Life.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Tour de Force

“Tour de Force: (French, ‘Turn of Force’) As a literary term it may be applied to a work which provides an outstanding illustration of a writer’s skill and mastery; a sort of ‘one-off’ brilliant display. Among modern examples one might suggest: Hemingway’s short story The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1938); Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon (1940); Orwell’s fable Animal Farm (1945); Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange (1962); Daniel Keyes’s short story Flowers for Algernon (1965); and Vikram Seth’s extraordinary ‘novel’ The Golden Gate (1986)—a narrative which consists of 590 sonnets in rhyming tetrameters.”

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

Cultural Literacy: The Grapes of Wrath

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on The Grapes of Wrath. This is a half-page worksheet with a three-sentence reading and three comprehension questions. In other words, a concise introduction to the novel’s basic plot, with an excursus on the origins of its title.

If you’re looking for something longer on this book, you’ll find it here. If you want something on John Steinbeck himself, here that is as well.

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.