Books

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Outraged fans announce "death" of J.K. Rowling

<div class="post_body_wrapper"> <div class="post_body"> <div class="body_text "> <p>J.K Rowling's new book called <em>Troubled Blood</em> has made fans furious, as it features a male serial killer who dresses as a woman while on violent killing sprees.</p> <p>Rowling has previously made controversial comments about the transgender community, including a range of tweets comparing hormone therapy to gay conversion therapy.</p> <p>Hormone therapy is where transgender people take sex hormones to align their bodies more closely with their gender identity and gay conversion therapy refers to the discredited practice of trying to change sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual means.</p> <p>Fans have had enough and have declared her "dead" by sending the hashtag #RIPJKRowling to the top of the Twitter trending charts. </p> <p>“In memory of jk rowling. she ain’t dead, but she killed her own career by proudly hating trans people &amp; no one would really miss her that much anyway,” wrote one Twitter user.</p> <p>“#RIPJKRowling she (ain’t) dead but her career is,” added another.</p> <p>“Imagine getting cancelled so hard, we have to pretend that you died,” chimed in someone else.</p> <p>J.K Rowling has published five books under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith and <em>Troubled Blood</em> is the latest.</p> <p>In <em>The Silkworm</em>, the second novel in the series, Rowling portrays a trans character as being “unstable and aggressive.”</p> <p>“The meat of the book is the investigation into a cold case: the disappearance of GP Margot Bamborough in 1974, thought to have been a victim of Dennis Creed, a transvestite serial killer,” wrote the <em>Telegraph</em> in a review of the novel.</p> <p>“One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”</p> <p>Rowling defended her past comments in an essay.</p> <p>“I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility,” she wrote.</p> </div> </div> </div>

Books

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Why you should always get children picture books for Christmas

<p>The end of the year is slowly approaching. If you’re wondering what to get your child, your friends’ children, your nieces and nephews for Christmas –  I highly recommend picture books.</p> <p>Many people can remember a favourite book when they were a kid. Some of my favourites were the Berenstain Bears with Papa Bear trying, unsuccessfully, to teach his children how to ride a bike or gather honey.</p> <p>Sadly, a 2011 report from the UK showed the number of young people who say they own a book is decreasing. The report also showed a clear relationship between receiving books as presents and reading ability.</p> <p>Children who said they had never been given a book as a present were more likely to be reading below the expected level for their age.</p> <p>Most people can remember a favourite book when they were kids. The Berenstain Bears/Screenshot</p> <p>There are lots of benefits of reading aloud to young children, including developing children’s language and print awareness. These include knowing that the squiggles on the page represent words, and that the words tell a story.</p> <p>Such knowledge gives children a head start when they go on to reading at school.</p> <p><strong>1. Reading to kids increases their vocabulary</strong></p> <p>Research shows books have a greater variety of words than conversations. But it also suggests the conversations had during reading matter most.</p> <p>Adults should discuss ideas in books with children, as they occur, as opposed to just reading a book from start to finish. Talking about the pictures, or what has happened, can lead to rich conversations and enhance language development.</p> <p>The more words you know, the simpler it is to recognise them and comprehend the meaning of the text. Children who read more become better readers and more successful students.</p> <p><strong>2. Books can increase children’s maths and science skills</strong></p> <p>Picture books show children maths and science concepts through a story, which helps kids grasp them easier.</p> <p>Some books (like How Many Legs and How Big is a Million) explicitly explore concepts such as numbers. Other stories, like the Three Little Pigs, have concepts embedded in them. Children can learn about the properties of materials when adults talk about the strength of hay, sticks and bricks.</p> <p>A study in the Netherlands found kindergarten children who were read picture books, and were engaged in discussions of the maths concepts in the books, increased their maths performance, compared to a control group of children who weren’t read these books.</p> <p>Early Learning STEM Australia has created a booklist which gives parents and teachers ideas for books that contain STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ideas. These include:</p> <ul> <li>They All Saw a Cat, which shows the perspectives of different animals</li> <li>Lucy in the City, where a cat loses her way home and an owl helps her</li> <li>Dreaming Up, which contrasts children’s constructions with notable works of architecture.</li> </ul> <p><strong>3. Books are mirrors and windows</strong></p> <p>Nearly 30 years ago, children’s literature professor, Rudine Sims Bishop, wrote how books can be windows, through which we see other worlds. These windows can become sliding doors when we use our imaginations and become part of them.</p> <p>Books can also be mirrors, when we see our own lives and experiences in them. In this way, they reaffirm our place in the world.</p> <p>Children need both types of books to understand people come from different cultures and have different ways of thinking and doing things. Books can show that children of all cultures are valued in society.</p> <p>Children who never see themselves represented in books may feel marginalised. Unfortunately, the majority of books feature white children or animals, so many children only experience books as windows.</p> <p>Examples of books that show the lives of Indigenous children include Big Rain Coming and Kick with My Left Foot (which is also a great book about left and right).</p> <p><strong>4. Books can counter stereotypes</strong></p> <p>Children learn gender stereotypes from a very young age. Research shows by the age of six, girls are already less likely than boys to think girls are “really, really smart” and they begin to avoid activities thought to be for “really, really smart” children.</p> <p>Picture books can challenge these and other stereotypes. Reading books that portray atypical behaviours such as girls playing with trucks or with girls in traditional male roles such as being doctors, scientists or engineers, can change children’s beliefs and activities.</p> <p><a href="https://www.rif.org/literacy-central/book/iggy-peck-architect">Iggy Peck, Architect</a>; <a href="https://storytimefromspace.com/rosie-revere-engineer-2/">Rosie Revere, Engineer</a>; and <a href="https://www.abramsbooks.com/product/ada-twist-scientist_9781419721373/">Ada Twist, Scientist</a> are very popular. And <a href="https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/79329-andrea-beaty-and-david-roberts-welcome-a-new-questioneer.html">Sofia Valdez, Future Prez</a> have been released more recently.</p> <p>The City of Monash in Melbourne has created a list of children’s picture books that promote gender equality and challenge gender stereotypes. This includes one of my favourite books, The Paperbag Princess, who saves herself from a dragon and decides not to marry the prince after he complains she is a mess.</p> <p><strong>5. Just having more books makes you more educated</strong></p> <p>A study that looked at data from 27 countries, including Australia, found children growing up in homes with many books got three years more education than children from bookless homes. This was independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class.</p> <p>Adults need to model good reading habits and their enjoyment of reading. Giving children a love of reading can be the best present we ever give.</p> <p><em>Written by Misha Ketchell</em><em>. This article first appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/5-reasons-i-always-get-children-picture-books-for-christmas-127801">The Conversation</a></em><em>. </em></p>

Books

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Powerful books that predicted the future

<p>As we were told by countless teachers and school librarians during our childhoods, a good book can transport you to another time and place, letting you briefly inhabit another world – or a different version of the one you’re living in. And whether the books are set in the past, present or future, the authors of fiction can create their own societies, and the rules, technologies, and social and political situations that come with it. Given how much literature has been written throughout history, it makes sense that some of it would include events or inventions that were not around (or maybe even possible) when the author wrote about them. Here are nine examples of books that predicted the future.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The Parable Series</strong></p> <p>Though she died before completing the third book in the trilogy, science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler created a dystopian world in Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998) that featured the rise of a populist demagogue. While the books were well-received when they were published, they have struck a chord with readers more recently, given some stark similarities between the society Butler created and our reality today, including global warming, extremely influential corporations, and social inequality. But the strangest parallel came in Parable of the Talents, where she writes about a conservative evangelist who runs for president using the slogan “Make America Great Again”.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>1984</strong></p> <p>George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 predicted so many aspects of the future that referring to it has become shorthand for any situations where technology threatens to control aspects of society. In fact, the term ‘Big Brother’, which refers to abuse of government power – specifically involving surveillance – originated in the book. Though it was published in 1949, Orwell described multiple technological advancements that now exist in some form. An article in Insider published in June 2019 discusses two of his sci-fi creations that are eerily similar to technology that exists today. The first example is the ‘telescreen’, which is essentially a large television used to monitor people’s private lives and is able to identify a person based on their facial expressions and heart rate: ie facial recognition software. The second example is the ‘Versificator’: a machine that can automatically produce music and literature – much like some of the artificial intelligence technology used today.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The Machine Stops</strong></p> <p>In his 1909 book The Machine Stops, E.M. Forster imagined a future in which people live and work exclusively in their own rooms, communicating with each other entirely through electronic means, says professor of humanities and legal studies, Kenneth Schneyer. The people in the book create and sustain their ‘friendships’, ‘groups’ or ‘teams’ entirely through electronic communications, and eventually become positively phobic about leaving their rooms or meeting other people in the flesh.</p> <p>And while the telephone did exist at this point, radio was virtually unknown and television not yet invented, Schneyer explains. “Until the internet and social media, I don’t think anyone thought of Forster’s novella as prophetic,” he says. “But by the time I first taught it to students five years ago, I was able to say with a straight face, ‘We are all living the nightmare that Forster is dreaming in Hell.’ In the world of commerce-via-Zoom, it’s even more true.”</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>When the Sleeper Wakes</strong></p> <p>Science-fiction writer H.G. Wells had a knack for predicting the future of warfare – including the atom bomb – in his 1914 novel The World Set Free, according to Professor Andrew Peck, an interdisciplinary researcher and educator.</p> <p>“Wells’ habit for seeing the future of armed conflict extends to his visions of the use and importance of airpower in warfare in his 1899 story When the Sleeper Wakes,” says Peck. “[This was] a feat of foresight some 12 years before the first military aerial reconnaissance mission (1911, Italians over Turkey) and four years before the Wright brothers first got off the ground with a manned, heavier-than-air, plane.”</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Fahrenheit 451</strong></p> <p>When Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953, television was already a form of entertainment. At that time, most of the programming consisted of scripted comedies and mysteries, game shows, news programmes and variety shows. But the book featured what sounds a lot like modern reality TV. “Bradbury, who was more interested in the way humans would react to technology than technology itself, imagined a world in which wall-sized televisions involved viewers directly in the action of the programs, anticipating not only our widescreen media but also reality TV,” Schneyer explains. “More than this, he foresaw how people would become increasingly devoted to their television programmes even in preference to their home lives and personal relationships. Although this book did not imagine the election of a reality TV star as president, I doubt that Montag (its protagonist) would be surprised.”</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The Wreck of the Titan</strong></p> <p>Even though The Wreck of the Titan is one of the most well-known examples of books that predicted the future, it’s still hard to believe. Written by Morgan Robertson and originally published under the title Futility in 1898, the novella tells the tale of a massive passenger ship named the Titan that hit an iceberg and sank in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean, killing thousands of people.</p> <p>“Like the Titanic, the Titan was also described in Robertson’s book as ‘the largest ship of its time,” says Lewis Keegan, creator of the online course resource website SkillScouter. The Titan was also glorified and called ‘unsinkable’ before it sank, he says – just like the Titanic.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>A Song for a New Day</strong></p> <p>A more recent, and tragically timely example, is Sarah Pinsker’s novel A Song for a New Day. Published on September 10, 2019 – and written two or three years earlier – the book takes place in a society dealing with a combination of domestic terrorism and a lethal pandemic. “That causes the government to outlaw gatherings beyond a certain size, and to radically alter the economy, such that nearly everyone works full-time from home, wearing protective gear at all times when away from home,” Schneyer explains. “One of the two protagonists is a singer/songwriter whose livelihood depends on live gatherings of audiences, and who is now unable to do what she was born to do. Another protagonist is a young woman – a child during the pandemic – who is terrified of any other person or any public space.” This one hits a little too close to home right now.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The Foundation trilogy</strong></p> <p>First published in the early 1950s, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy predicted a science called ‘psychohistory’, in which the future could be predicted by accurately measuring current developments and trends in human behaviour and life, says professor of communication and media studies, and non-fiction and science-fiction author Paul Levinson.</p> <p>“Although statistics as a way of gauging the public existed back then, they were very rudimentary in comparison to today’s surveys and statistics, which are used every day to measure and predict everything from consumer behaviour and voting preferences to the impact of COVID-19,” he explains. “In other words, the psychohistory in Asimov’s science fiction has become a crucial way of life in our world.” The Foundation series is being brought to the small screen by Apple TV as a major television series for streaming in 2021.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The Sultana’s Dream</strong></p> <p>In her 1905 book The Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain – a Muslim feminist social reformer from Bengal – described a place called ‘Ladyland’ in which men were locked away so women could actually get stuff done without having to deal with annoying distractions like violence and war. Though that part hasn’t happened (yet), Hussain does predict a variety of technological developments, including solar power and video calls. With so much additional time in their schedules, thanks to the lack of men, the women of Ladyland have the opportunity to invent other useful things, like flying cars, weather control, and labour-less farms.</p> <p><em>Written by </em><strong><em>Elizabeth Yuko</em></strong><em>. This article first appeared on </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/book-club/powerful-books-that-predicted-the-future"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.co.nz/subscribe"><em>here’s our best subscription offer</em></a><em>.</em></p>

Books

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The $22 item behind Adele’s stunning new look

<p>UK singing superstar Adele hasn’t just transformed her body over recent weeks and months – she’s completely changed her entire way of thinking.</p> <p>The revelation came after she showed off her amazing 45kg weight loss on Instagram to her millions of followers.</p> <p>But at just 32 years of age, Adele has now gone on to share the fact that her mind has been changed as much as her body – and she credits that transformation to just one book.</p> <p>Called <em>Untamed, Stop Pleasing, Start Living</em> by Glennon Doyle, the self-help book that Adele has been relying on can be purchased at Kmart or BigW stores for a mere $22.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CD4-gPAgkDl/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CD4-gPAgkDl/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">If you’re ready - this book will shake your brain and make your soul scream. I am so ready for myself after reading this book! It’s as if I just flew into my body for the very first time. Whew! Anyone who has any kind of capacity to truly let go and give into yourself with any kind of desire to hold on for dear life - Do it. Read it. Live it. Practice it. We are a lot! But we are meant to be a lot! .. “A good life is a hard life!” Read this book and have a highlighter on hand to make notes because you’ll want to refer back to it trust me! I never knew that I am solely responsible for my own joy, happiness and freedom!! Who knew our own liberation liberates those around us? Cause I didn’t!! I thought we were meant to be stressed and disheveled, confused and selfless like a Disney character! ProBloodyFound!! You’re an absolute don Glennon ♥️</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/adele/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Adele</a> (@adele) on Aug 14, 2020 at 5:43pm PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p><br />"If you're ready – this book will shake your brain and make your soul scream," Adele shared with her Instagram followers.</p> <p>"I never knew that I am solely responsible for my own joy, happiness and freedom!!</p> <p>"Who knew our own liberation liberates those around us? Cause I didn't!! I thought we were meant to be stressed and dishevelled, confused and selfless like a Disney character!"</p> <p>According to book reviews, <em>Untamed, Stop Pleasing, Start Living</em> by Glennon Doyle is designed to help women question who they were before "the world told you who to be", helping guide readers to dare to say "no" when they are expected to say "yes".</p> <p>Images: Adele / Instagram</p>

Books

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5 must-read novels on the environment and climate crisis

<p>Since the start of <a href="https://theconversation.com/volunteering-mutual-aid-and-lockdown-has-shifted-our-sense-of-happiness-141352">lockdown</a>, more of us have taken to our bicycles, grown our own vegetables and baked our own bread. So it’s not surprising it has been suggested we should use this experience to rethink our approach to the climate crisis.</p> <p>Reading some environmental literature – sometimes called “eco-literature” – can also give us the opportunity to think about the world around us in different ways.</p> <p>Eco-literature, has a long literary tradition that dates back to the writings of 19th-century <a href="https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199827251/obo-9780199827251-0206.xml">English romantic poets and US authors</a>. And the growing awareness of climate change has accelerated the development of environmental writings.</p> <p><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Animals-People/Indra-Sinha/9781416578796"><em><strong>Animal’s People</strong> </em></a></p> <p><strong>by Indra Sinha</strong></p> <p>Indra Sinha’s <em>Animal’s People</em>, looks at the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/dec/08/bhopals-tragedy-has-not-stopped-the-urban-disaster-still-claiming-lives-35-years-on">Bhopal gas explosion</a> in India – one of the most horrific environmental disasters of the 20th-century. A poisonous gas leak from a US-owned pesticide plant killed several thousand people and injured more than half a million.</p> <p>The main character in the novel, Animal, is a 19-year-old orphaned boy who survives the explosion with a deformed body. This means he must “crawl like a dog on all fours”. Animal does not hate his body, but embraces his animistic identity – offering an unconventional <a href="https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195394429.001.0001/acprof-9780195394429-chapter-11">non-human perspective</a>.</p> <p>With this wounded “human-animal” figure, Sinha puts forward his critique of India’s postcolonial conditions and demonstrates how Western capitalist domination continues to damage people and the environment in contemporary postcolonial society.</p> <p><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/330739/my-year-of-meats-by-ruth-ozeki/9780140280463/readers-guide/"><em><strong>My Year of Meats</strong></em></a></p> <p><strong>by Ruth Ozeki</strong></p> <p>Ruth Ozeki’s novel intermingles themes such as motherhood, environmental justice and <a href="http://dspace.unive.it/handle/10579/15557">ecological practice</a> to explore the appalling use of growth hormones in the US meat industry from a feminist ecocritical perspective.</p> <p>The novel employs <a href="https://academic.oup.com/isle/article/24/3/457/4036100">a “documentary” narrative mode</a> and begins with a TV cooking show – sponsored by a meat company. While filming the show, Jane Takagi-Little, the director, encounters a vegetarian lesbian couple who reveal the ugly truth about the use of growth hormones within the livestock industry. The encounter motivates Jane to undertake a documentary project to uncover how growth hormones poison women’s bodies.</p> <p> </p> <p>Through a deliberate choice to make all her main characters female, Ozeki draws her readers’ attention to nonconforming, atypical female figures who rebel against social or cultural norms inherent in patriarchal capitalist society.</p> <p><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/103/1031506/disgrace/9780099540984.html"><em><strong>Disgrace</strong> </em></a></p> <p><strong>by J.M. Coetzee</strong></p> <p>In <em>Disgrace</em>, J.M. Coetzee, a celebrated Noble Prize laureate, who is also <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/nobel-laureate-jm-coetzee-animal-death-camps/">known for his outspoken defence of animal rights</a>, interweaves a brutal dog-killing scene with the gang-rape of a white South African woman by three black men.</p> <p>Praised as one of the South African postcolonial canons, the novel explores complex issues of white supremacy and anticolonial resistance as well as racial and gender violence. It ties these issues with humans’ domination and exploitation of the animals and further challenges our ethical position.</p> <p>The combination of these two acts – the killing of dogs and the rape of a woman – can be read as Coetzee’s ecocritique of the colonial violence against nonhuman beings and the natural environment.</p> <p><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/221242/the-man-with-the-compound-eyes-by-wu-ming-yi/"><em><strong>The Man with the Compound Eyes</strong> </em></a></p> <p><strong>by Wu Ming-yi</strong></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/climate-change-novels-allow-us-to-imagine-possible-futures-read-these-crucial-seven-124216">Climate fiction</a> or the so-called “<a href="https://theconversation.com/cli-fi-novels-humanise-the-science-of-climate-change-and-leading-authors-are-getting-in-on-the-act-51270">cli-fi</a>” takes on genuine scientific discovery or phenomenon and combines this with a <a href="https://theconversation.com/cli-fi-literary-genre-rises-to-prominence-in-the-shadow-of-climate-change-25686">dystopian or over the top twist</a>. This approach underlines the agency of non-human beings, environments or even phenomena – such as trees, the ocean, or a tsunami.</p> <p>Wu Ming-yi’s novel is composed of four different narratives: a Taiwanese university professor, a boy from the mythical Wayo Wayo island and two other city-dwelling indigenous characters. Their stories are viewed in fragments from the multiple perspectives of the “compound eyes”. At the backdrop is a tsunami which causes <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/">the Great Pacific garbage patch</a> to crash on to the eastern coast of Taiwan and the fictionalised Pacific island of Wayo Wayo that brings together all their stories.</p> <p>Wu blends this unrealistic event with the real-life trash vortex to draw our attention to the severe environmental problems of waste dumping and our unsustainable lifestyles.</p> <p><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/111/1115230/the-overstory/9781784708245.html"><em><strong>The Overstory</strong> </em></a></p> <p><strong>by Richard Powers</strong></p> <p><em>The Overstory</em> is praised by critics for its ambition to bring awareness to the life of trees and its advocacy to an <a href="https://www.unive.it/pag/fileadmin/user_upload/dipartimenti/DSLCC/documenti/DEP/numeri/n41-42/13_Masiero.pdf">ecocentric way of life</a>. Powers’ novel sets out with nine distinctive characters - which represent the “roots” of trees. Gradually their stories and lives intertwine to form the “trunk”, the “crown” and the “seeds”.</p> <p>One of the characters, Dr Patricia Westerford, publishes a paper showing trees are social beings because they can communicate and warn each other when a foreign intrusion occurs. Her idea, though presented as controversial in the novel, is actually <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/12/peter-wohlleben-man-who-believes-trees-talk-to-each-other">well supported by today’s scientific studies</a>.</p> <p>Despite her groundbreaking work, Dr Westerford ends up taking her own life by drinking poisonous tree extracts at a conference - to make it clear humans can only save trees and the planet by ceasing to exist.</p> <p>These are just a few books with a specific focus on environmental issues – perfect for your <a href="https://theconversation.com/three-things-historical-literature-can-teach-us-about-the-climate-crisis-127762">current reading list</a>. To everyone’s surprise, this global lockdown has given us some eco-benefits, such as a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/19/lockdowns-trigger-dramatic-fall-global-carbon-emissions">sudden dip in carbon emissions</a> and the huge decline in our reliance on <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/renewable-power-surges-pandemic-scrambles-global-energy-outlook">traditional fossil fuel energy</a>. Maybe then if we can learn from this experience we can move towards a greener future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/139437/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ti-han-chang-602361">Ti-han Chang</a>, Lecturer in Asia-Pacific Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-central-lancashire-1272">University of Central Lancashire</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-must-read-novels-on-the-environment-and-climate-crisis-139437">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Prince William and Prince Harry’s “devastating breakdown” revealed in new book

<p>The rift between Prince William and Prince Harry is the most “profound” among the recent generation of the royal family, royal author Robert Lacey said.</p> <p>The biographer, who serves as a historical consultant for the Netflix series <em>The Crown</em>, is set to release the book <em>Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – the Friendships and Feuds </em>in October.</p> <p>“Raised to be the closest of brothers, the last 18 months has seen a devastating breakdown of their once unbreakable bond,” the book’s synopsis reads.</p> <p>In the book, Lacey explains “what happened when two sons were raised for vastly different futures and showing how the seeds of damage were sown as their parents’ marriage unravelled”.</p> <p>Lacey said he had been “astonished” by the information he had uncovered for the book.</p> <p>“I have been astonished and sometimes moved to tears by the fresh details and insights I have discovered in researching this story of family conflict,” he said in a press release.</p> <p>“These two brothers — once inseparable and now separated by much more than mere distance — have been acting out the contradictions that go back into their childhoods and even before that: into their parents’ ill-fated marriage.</p> <p>“We have seen conflicts between heir and spare in every recent generation of the royal family — but nothing so profound as this.”</p> <p>In the 2019 documentary <em>Harry &amp; Meghan: An African Journey</em>, the Duke of Sussex shared a glimpse into his relationship with his older brother.</p> <p>“Part of this role and part of this job, this family, being under the pressure that it’s under, inevitably stuff happens,” he said. “But look, we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I’ll always be there for him and I know he’ll always be there for me.”</p> <p>Another book on royals, <em>Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family</em>, will be released in August. The biography, authored by journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durnad, promises to go “beyond the headlines to reveal unknown details of Harry and Meghan’s life together, dispelling the many rumours and misconceptions that plague the couple on both sides of the pond”.</p>

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5 trendy words that are actually ancient

<p><span>Hip dudes have been friending each other for centuries. Legit!</span></p> <p><strong>1. Legit</strong></p> <p>Legit as a shortening of legitimate has been around since the 1890s. It started as theatre slang for things associated with legitimate drama (versus vaudeville or burlesque). From the 1920s on, it referred to authenticity. If you were ‘legit,’ you were being honest.</p> <p><strong>2. Friend (as a verb)</strong></p> <div class="slide-image">When did friend become a verb? The answer is sometime in the 1400s. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb friend means ‘to make friends or to help someone out.’  One example of its usage from 1698: ‘Reports came that the King would friend Lauderdale.’</div> <p><strong>3. Unfriend</strong></p> <p>If you could friend someone, it was only natural, according to the productive rules of English word formation, that you could unfriend her too. The word appears in Thomas Fuller’s 1659 book <em>The Appeal of Injured Innocence</em>, ‘I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.’</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/5-trendy-words-that-are-actually-ancient"><strong>4. Hipster</strong></div> <div class="tg-container categorySection detailSection"> <div id="primary" class="contentAreaLeft"> <div id="page4" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide listicle-slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>Hipster shows up in a 1941 dictionary of hash-house lingo, meaning ‘a know-it-all.’ The word hip appeared in the 1900s and referred to being up on the latest trends.</p> <p><strong>5. Dude</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <div id="page5" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide listicle-slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>In the 1880s, dude had a negative, mocking ring to it. A dude was a dandy, someone very particular about clothes, looks, and mannerisms, who affected a sort of exaggerated high-class British persona. As one Brit noted in an 1886 issue of Longman’s Magazine, “Our novels establish a false ideal in the American imagination, and the result is that mysterious being ‘The Dude.’”. By the turn of the century, it had come to mean any guy, usually a pretty cool one.</p> <p><em>Source:<span> </span><a href="https://www.rd.com/funny-stuff/funny-trendy-words-ancient/">RD.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Brandon Spektor</span>. This article first appeared in <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/5-trendy-words-that-are-actually-ancient" target="_blank">Reader’s Digest</a>. </em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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JK Rowling reveals history of domestic abuse and sexual assault

<p><span>JK Rowling has opened up about her experience with domestic abuse and sexual assault for the first time, in a lengthy and highly personal essay written in response to criticism of her public comments on transgender issues.</span></p> <p><span>In a 3,600-word statement published on her website on Wednesday, Rowling went into detail about how she became embroiled in an increasingly bitter and polarised debate around the concept of gender identity.</span><br /><span>The author said she was a “domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor”, citing this alongside her belief in freedom of speech and experience as a teacher as reasons behind her position.</span></p> <p><span>“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>The note came after the author took to Twitter to share a series of messages over the weekend about people who identify as trans.</span></p> <p><span>One tweet read: “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives.”</span></p> <p><span>Since then, prominent figures have come out against Rowling, including Daniel Radcliffe and Eddie Redmayne, who both worked in the hugely successful Harry Potter franchise.</span></p> <p><span>Rowling said she was motivated to share her thoughts after reading about proposed “gender confirmation certificates” in Scotland, which allows trans people to change their sex on their birth certificates based on how they identify and not medical and psychiatric reports.</span></p> <p><span>She accused those who disagreed of “groupthink” and “relentless attacks”, saying that even though she believes trans people deserve protection due to the high rates of domestic and sexual violence they face, she did not agree that trans women who have not undergone hormone therapy or surgical transition to have access to single-sex spaces.</span></p> <p><span>“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>She also confirmed that she was in her 20s when she dealt with physical abuse for the first time. “If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>Citing an unnamed poll, Rowling claimed that those who did not support preserving single-sex spaces were “only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is”.</span></p> <p><span>She said she had been contacted by “huge numbers” of women who were afraid to speak publicly about trans reforms, and decried institutions and organisations she once admired for “cowering before the tactics of the playground”. She said she believed misogyny and sexism were reasons behind the 4,400% increase in the number of girls being referred for transitioning treatment in the past decade.</span></p> <p><span>“I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. </span></p> <p><span>It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class … It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>The essay sparked a heated debate on Twitter, with Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, tweeting: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.”</span></p> <p><span>In a second tweet, she said: “I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”</span></p>

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Duchess Camilla makes acting debut in charity project

<p>The Duchess of Cornwall has performed her first ever character role since joining the British Royal Family as she joined Oscar winners for a charity reading.</p> <p>Appearing alongside Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi and actors Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad, Duchess Camilla took part in the sixth episode of<span> </span>James and the Giant Peach, with Taika and Friends<span> </span>on YouTube.</p> <p>“I’m not much of an actor but I’ll do my best,” Camilla told Waititi, a New Zealand filmmaker, before she began reading the Roald Dahl classic from her Birkhall residence.</p> <p>The Duchess played the part of the Ship’s Captain in the story. One of her lines read: “Holy cats! Send a message to the Queen at once! The country must be warned!”</p> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4g1wRIMNV9M"></iframe></div> <p>The project is an initiative from the Roald Dahl Story Company to raise funds for Partners in Health, who are working on the front line amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>The Duchess, who is royal patron of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, said in a statement: “I hope this campaign will raise vital funds to support those most in need at this very challenging time – as well as helping families and children currently in lockdown to find a moment of comfort through the joy of reading.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">The Duchess of Cornwall has joined <a href="https://twitter.com/TaikaWaititi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TaikaWaititi</a> and The <a href="https://twitter.com/roald_dahl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@roald_dahl</a> Story Company for her first character reading in Episode 6 of James and The Giant Peach with <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TaikaAndFriends?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TaikaAndFriends</a>. 📖 <a href="https://t.co/lMcITcoDb7">https://t.co/lMcITcoDb7</a></p> — Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) <a href="https://twitter.com/ClarenceHouse/status/1265629629194416130?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 27, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>The readings have also been joined by a number of other celebrities, including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Chris Hemsworth.</p>

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5 novels with a real sense of place to explore from your living room

<p>Everybody knows the concept of “desert island books”, the novels you might pack if you were going to be marooned on a desert island. Thanks to the pandemic, many of us are indeed now marooned, except that instead of lazing on palm-fringed beaches, we’re in lockdown – in urban apartment blocks, suburban terraced houses or village homes.</p> <p>A good book can help us forget about the world around us and also substitute our longing for pastures greener. It can take us from our sofa to the beaches of Thailand (as in Alex Garland’s <em>The Beach</em>) or to the streets of New York (as in Paul Auster’s <em>City of Glass</em>).</p> <p>So, as someone who researches and teaches literature, I’ve chosen five novels that allow me to be elsewhere in my mind, whether that’s a glorious English countryside setting, the streets of a European metropolis, or the urban sprawl of an unnamed Indian city.</p> <p><strong>Kazuo Ishiguro: <em>The Remains of the Day</em></strong></p> <p><em>The Remains of the Day</em> tells the story of Stevens, the aged butler of Darlington Hall, and his ill-judged life choices that saw him being involved, albeit only on the fringes, with British fascism in the interwar years.</p> <p>This allusion to British fascism in particular is something that makes this novel stand out: it is a subject matter not often discussed or even taught.</p> <p>But at the moment, I can particularly take solace in Ishiguro’s beautiful descriptions of the countryside that Stevens – unused to the freedom of travel – encounters during his journey across south-west England:</p> <blockquote> <p>What I saw was principally field upon field rolling off into the far distance. The land rose and fell gently, and the fields were bordered by hedges and trees … It was a fine feeling indeed to be standing up there like that, with the sound of summer all around one and a light breeze on one’s face.</p> </blockquote> <p>As the lockdown drags on, this is a feeling I am longing for.</p> <p><strong>W.G. Sebald: <em>The Emigrants</em></strong></p> <p>This collection of four novellas is predominantly set in England and Germany but also offers glimpses of the US, Egypt, Belgium and Switzerland. Focusing on a different protagonist in each novella, Sebald portrays how the long shadows of the second world war have affected individuals – but also how Germany has engaged with its troubled past.</p> <p>His descriptions of the town of Kissingen’s illuminated spa gardens, with “Chinese lanterns strung across the avenues, shedding colourful magical light” and “the fountains in front of the Regent’s building” jetting “silver and gold alternately” conjure up images of times gone by and a town as yet untroubled by the scourge of antisemitism.</p> <p>Sebald’s narrative is a collage of fiction, biography, autobiography, travel writing and philosophy. His prose is so full of quiet beauty and eloquence that it always helps me forget my surroundings and enter a quiet and contemplative “Sebaldian” space.</p> <p><strong>Patrick Modiano: <em>The Search Warrant</em></strong></p> <p><em>The Search Warrant</em> pieces together the real-life story of Dora Bruder, a young Jewish girl who went missing in Paris in December 1941.</p> <p>Modiano attempts to retrace Dora’s movements across Paris and his book is full of evocative descriptions of quiet squares and bustling streets where she might have spent some time.</p> <blockquote> <p>In comparison with the Avenue de Saint-Mandé, the Avenue Picpus, on the right, is cold and desolate. Treeless, as I remember. Ah, the loneliness of returning on those Sunday evenings.</p> </blockquote> <p>From the first page it is clear that the city of Paris assumes the status of a character – and as readers we can follow the narrator’s (and Dora’s) movements on a map.</p> <p>If we are familiar with Paris, we can picture where they are. By tracing Dora’s possible steps, Modiano evocatively recreates the twilight atmosphere of Paris under occupation.</p> <p><strong>Rohinton Mistry: <em>A Fine Balance</em></strong></p> <p><em>A Fine Balance</em> is a sprawling narrative that takes the reader all the way to the Indian subcontinent.</p> <p>Set initially in 1975 during the emergency government period and then during the chaotic times of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Mistry’s novel focuses on the lives of four central characters whose lives are on a downward spiral, from poverty to outright destitution and, ultimately, death.</p> <p>Mistry does not whitewash the reality of urban poverty in India. His narrative does not hide away from disease or overcrowded slums with “rough shacks” standing “beyond the railroad fence, alongside a ditch running with raw sewage”. His are not places where we might want to be. But as readers, we become utterly engrossed in his characters’ lives – we hope with them, we fear for them and, at the end, we cry for them.</p> <p><strong>Elena Ferrante: <em>My Brilliant Friend</em></strong></p> <p>Elena Ferrante’s novels take me straight to my favourite city of Napoli. Starting with My Brilliant Friend, the four novels chart the intensive relationship between two girls, Elena “Lenù” Greco and Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo, who grow up in a poor neighbourhood in the 1950s.</p> <p>Reading Ferrante’s sprawling narrative conjures up images of Napoli and makes me feel like I am standing in the Piazza del Plebiscito or having an espresso in the historic Caffè Gambrinus. Together with Lenù, I can see Vesuvio across the Bay of Naples, the:</p> <blockquote> <p>delicate pastel-colored shape, at whose base the whitish stones of the city were piled up, with the earth-coloured slice of the Castel dell’Ovo, and the sea.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can feel, hear and smell Napoli around me. Reading about the city might not be as good as being there in person; but, at the moment, it is a close second.</p> <p>Of course, books can’t stop a global pandemic. But, for a short while, they can let us forget the world around us and, instead, transport us to different places, allowing us to at least travel in spirit.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/135367/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-berberich-319477">Christine Berberich</a>, Reader in Literature, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-portsmouth-1302">University of Portsmouth</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-novels-with-a-real-sense-of-place-to-explore-from-your-living-room-135367">original article</a>.</em></p>

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A beginner’s guide to reading and enjoying poetry

<p>One of the things you get asked most when people find out that you’re a poet is whether you can recommend something that could be read at an upcoming wedding, or if you know something that might be suitable for a funeral. For most people, these occasions – as well as their schooldays – are the only times they encounter poetry.</p> <p>That feeds into this sense that poetry is something formal, something which might stand to attention in the corner of the room, that it’s something to be studied or something to “solve” rather than something to be lounged with on the sofa. Of course, this needn’t be true.</p> <p>We’ve seen over the past couple of months how important poetry can be to people. It’s forming a response in advertisements and marketing campaigns, it’s becoming a regular part of the public’s honouring of frontline heroes and, for people who write poetry more often, it’s becoming a way to create a living historical document of these unprecedented times – this latter point was the aim of the new <a href="https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/write/">Write where we are Now project</a>, spearheaded by poet Carol Ann Duffy and Manchester Metropolitan University.</p> <p>In years to come, alongside medical records and political reporting, historians and classes of schoolchildren will look to art and poetry to find out what life was like on a day-to-day basis – what things seemed important, what things worried people, how the world looked and felt and was experienced. Write where we are Now will, hopefully, be one such resource, with poets from all over the world contributing new work directly about the Coronavirus pandemic or about the personal situations they find themselves in right now.</p> <p><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/407507872" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>So the crisis has perhaps brought poetry – with its ability to make the abstract more concrete, its ability to distil and clarify, its ability to reflect the surreal and strange world we now find ourselves in – back to the fore.</p> <p>Many of you might be thinking now is the time to try and get to grips with poetry, maybe for the first time. A novel might feel too taxing, watching another film just involves staring at another screen for longer, but a poem can offer a brief window into a different world, or simply help to sustain you in this one.</p> <p><strong>How to enjoy poetry</strong></p> <p>If you’re nervous around poetry or are scared it might not be for you, I wanted to offer up some tips.</p> <p><strong>1. You don’t have to like it</strong></p> <p>Poetry is often taught in very strange ways: you’re given a poem and told that it’s good – and that if you don’t think it’s good then you haven’t understood it, and you should read it again until you have, and then you’ll like it. This is nonsense. There are poets and poems for every taste. If you don’t like something, fine. Move on. Find another poet. Anthologies are great for this, and a good place to start with your poetry journey.</p> <p><strong>2. Read it aloud</strong></p> <p>Poetry lives on the air and not on the page, read it aloud to yourself as you walk around the house, you’ll get a better understanding of it, you’ll feel the rhythms of the language move you in different ways – even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on.</p> <p><strong>3. Don’t try and solve it</strong></p> <p>This is something else that goes back to our educational encounters with poetry – poems are not riddles that need solving. Some poems will speak to you very plainly. Some poems will simply move you through their language. Some poems will baffle you but, like an intriguing stranger, you’ll want to step closer to them. Poems aren’t a problem to be wrestled with – mostly poems are showing you one small thing as a way of talking about something bigger. Poems aren’t a broken pane of glass that you need to painstakingly reassemble. They’re a window, asking you to look out, trying to show you something.</p> <p><strong>4. Write your own</strong></p> <p>The best way to understand poetry is to write your own. The way you speak, the street you live on, the life you’ve lived, is as worthy of poetry as anything else. Once you begin to explore your own writing, you’ll be able to read and understand other people’s poems much better.</p> <p>I would say this as a poet, but poetry is going to be even more central to how we rebuild after this current crisis. Poetry, especially the teaching of how we might write it, has this wonderful ability to create a new language, to imagine new ways of seeing things, to help people to articulate what it is that they’ve just been through. The way we move forward, as a community, as a society and, in fact, as a civilisation, is to push language to new frontiers, to use language to memorialise, reimagine and rebuild, but also to remember that poetry can be an escape, something to be enjoyed, something to cherish.</p> <p>With that in mind here is a poem I wrote for Write where we are Now.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/137321/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/331106/original/file-20200428-110779-1fegtkr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption"></span></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-mcmillan-535042">Andrew McMillan</a>, Senior Lecturer, Department of English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/manchester-metropolitan-university-860">Manchester Metropolitan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-beginners-guide-to-reading-and-enjoying-poetry-137321">original article</a>.</em></p>

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JK Rowling unveils new book and will donate all royalties

<p>JK Rowling has unveiled a new children’s book, which she is releasing in chapters each weekday for children to enjoy during these “strange, unsettling times”.</p> <p>The author announced the news on Twitter, saying the upcoming book – titled <em>The Ickabog</em> – is not a spin-off of her best-selling <em>Harry Potter </em>series.</p> <p>Rowling said she wrote “most of the first draft” more than 10 years ago, while she was still writing the <em>Harry Potter </em>books.</p> <p>“A few weeks ago at dinner, I tentatively mooted the idea of getting <em>The Ickabog</em> down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown,” Rowling said in a statement on Tuesday.</p> <p>“Over the last few weeks I’ve done a bit of rewriting and I’ve decided to publish <em>The Ickabog</em> for free online, so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”</p> <p>Chapters of <em>The Ickabog </em>are being published every weekday until July 10 on <em><a href="https://theickabog.com/">The Ickabog website</a></em>.</p> <p>Rowling also invited young readers to draw illustrations for the story in an official competition being run by Scholastic. Winners will see their artwork in the book, which will be published in print, eBook and audiobook in November.</p> <p>“Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: we aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!” she said.</p> <p>Rowling is pledging all author royalties from the book to “projects and organisations helping the groups most impacted by COVID-19”, she wrote on Twitter.</p>

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Creating writing: 3 tips to start

<p>Always wanted to write, but had no clue where to begin? It can be daunting to get started and put the first sentence on that blank page. Author and creative writing lecturer Ronnie Scott shared some tips to help you get on track to writing your first novel.</p> <p><strong>Start where you are</strong></p> <p>Looking for inspiration? Take notes – the best ideas might just be waiting in plain sight.</p> <p>Scott advised aspiring writers to carry a notebook and get into the habit of writing down what they see in their surroundings. “It gets you into the habit of thinking, thinking visually, and then translating that into words,” he said.</p> <p>Apart from improving your writing skills, these notes can also help spark ideas and develop the seed for your future stories.</p> <p><strong>Allocate time for research</strong></p> <p>Research is important to provide your story with rich details and authenticity – but it can also distract you from writing the story itself. Scott recommended separating the research stage from the creative parts of the work.</p> <p>“Allocate yourself an hour of research, for example,” he said.</p> <p>“Then for the next days of your work, you are absolutely just going to play in the document … you’re going to write down anything that comes into your head.”</p> <p><strong>Challenge yourself</strong></p> <p>If you have a great story idea but don’t know how to put it into writing, take on small challenges. For example, you can try creating a 200-word version of the story or allocate an hour to get as many words as possible on the page.</p> <p>Even if the end result isn’t satisfactory, the exercise could yield new learnings. “You [might] have something bad on the page,” Scott said.</p> <p>“You can come back to it tomorrow. You can read it critically, you can think, ‘Okay, what was I trying to do here? Why didn’t it work out?’</p> <p>“You unfortunately have to probably go through a bit of creative discomfort to get yourself to finish something, but once you do that, there are really great things waiting on the other side.”</p>

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How the Queen came to hold 7 Guinness World Records

<p>It’s been 68 years since Queen Elizabeth II took over the British throne, and ever since, the 94-year-old monarch has made history many times over.</p> <p>Among her many accomplishments are Guinness World Record titles, which the Queen holds quite a few of.</p> <p>From longest-reigning queen to the wealthiest, here are some of the Queen’s Guinness World Records.</p> <p><strong>Oldest British Queen</strong></p> <p>On 21 December 2007, Queen Elizabeth II was given the title of oldest British queen at the age of 81 and 244 days old.</p> <p>The record was previously held by the monarch’s great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria.</p> <p>Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on 6 February 1952 following the death of her father King George VI.</p> <p>Her reign surpassed Queen Victoria’s on 9 September 2015, after ruling for over 63 years.</p> <p>As of the Queen’s 94th birthday on 21 April 2020, she has ruled uninterrupted for 68 years and 75 days.</p> <p><strong>Oldest current monarch</strong></p> <p>In 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the world’s oldest monarch when the former title holder, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, died at the age of 90.</p> <p><strong>Longest-reigning living monarch</strong></p> <p>While the Queen currently is the fourth-longest reigning monarch in the world, she does hold the title of the longest-reigning living monarch.</p> <p>The top three longest-reigning monarchs include King Louis XIV of France, who ruled for 72 years and 110 days, followed by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who ruled for 70 years and 126 days and King Johann II of Liechtenstein, who was ruler for 70 years and 91 days.</p> <p><strong>Most countries to be head of state simultaneously</strong></p> <p>The Guinness World Records revealed Queen Elizabeth holds the record “in terms of the number of independent nations for which the same person is lawfully Head of State at the same time” with 16.</p> <p>Acknowledging that this makes her “possibly the most powerful woman in the world,” the book of records states: “While the Queen's role is nominal and ceremonial (exercising no political powers), more than 139m people in 15 Commonwealth states (plus the UK) recognise her as their monarch.”</p> <p><strong>Most currencies featuring the same individual</strong></p> <p>Queen Elizabeth’s profile is featured on the coinage of at least 35 different countries, while Queen Victoria’s image appeared on currency from 21 countries and King George V appeared on 19.</p> <p><strong>Wealthiest Queen</strong></p> <p>In 2012,<span> </span><em>The Sunday Times</em><span> </span>estimated the Queen’s total wealth including fine art, jewellery and property, to be £310m (AUD 579m).</p>

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How to read Shakespeare for pleasure

<p>In recent years the orthodoxy that Shakespeare can only be truly appreciated on stage has <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11956151/Sir-Ian-McKellen-Dont-bother-reading-Shakespeare.html">become widespread</a>. But, as with many of our habits and assumptions, lockdown gives us a chance to think differently. Now could be the time to dust off the old collected works, and read some Shakespeare, just as people have been doing for more than 400 years.</p> <p>Many people have said they find reading Shakespeare a bit daunting, so here are five tips for how to make it simpler and more pleasurable.</p> <p><strong>1. Ignore the footnotes</strong></p> <p>If your edition has footnotes, pay no attention to them. They distract you from your reading and de-skill you, so that you begin to check everything even when you actually know what it means.</p> <p>It’s useful to remember that nobody ever understood all this stuff – have a look at Macbeth’s knotty “<a href="https://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/if-it-were-done-when-tis-done/">If it were done when ‘tis done</a>” speech in Act 1 Scene 7 for an example (and nobody ever spoke in these long, fancy speeches either – Macbeth’s speech is again a case in point). Footnotes are just the editor’s attempt to deny this.<span class="attribution"><a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/" class="license"></a></span></p> <p>Try to keep going and get the gist – and remember, when Shakespeare uses very long or esoteric words, or highly involved sentences, it’s often a deliberate sign that the character is trying to deceive himself or others (the psychotic jealousy of Leontes in <a href="https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-plays/winters-tale/">The Winter’s Tale</a>, for instance, expresses itself in unusual vocabulary and contorted syntax).</p> <p><strong>2. Pay attention to the shape of the lines</strong></p> <p>The layout of speeches on the page is like a kind of musical notation or choreography. Long speeches slow things down – and, if all the speeches end at the end of a complete line, that gives proceedings a stately, hierarchical feel – as if the characters are all giving speeches rather than interacting.</p> <p>Short speeches quicken the pace and enmesh characters in relationships, particularly when they start to share lines (you can see this when one line is indented so it completes the half line above), a sign of real intimacy in Shakespeare’s soundscape.</p> <p>Blank verse, the unrhymed ten-beat <a href="http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/sonnetstyle.html">iambic pentamenter structure</a> of the Shakespearean line, varies across his career. Early plays – the histories and comedies – tend to end each line with a piece of punctuation, so that the shape of the verse is audible. John of Gaunt’s famous speech from Richard II is a good example.</p> <blockquote> <p>This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,<br />This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars.</p> </blockquote> <p>Later plays – the tragedies and the romances – tend towards a more flexible form of blank verse, with the sense of the phrase often running over the line break. What tends to be significant is contrast, between and within the speech rhythms of scenes or characters (have a look at Henry IV Part 1 and you’ll see what I mean).</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6u009U1q69A?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>3. Read small sections</strong></p> <p>Shakespeare’s plays aren’t novels and – let’s face it – we’re not usually in much doubt about how things will work out. Reading for the plot, or reading from start to finish, isn’t necessarily the way to get the most out of the experience. Theatre performances are linear and in real time, but reading allows you the freedom to pace yourself, to flick back and forwards, to give some passages more attention and some less.</p> <p>Shakespeare’s first readers probably <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/apr/01/reading-shakespeare-book-plays-emma-smith">did exactly this</a>, zeroing in on the bits they liked best, or reading selectively for the passages that caught their eye or that they remembered from performance, and we should do the same. Look up <a href="https://shakespeare.folger.edu">where a famous quotation comes</a>: “All the world’s a stage”, “To be or not to be”, “I was adored once too” – and read either side of that. Read the ending, look at one long speech or at a piece of dialogue – cherry pick.</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pjJEXkbeL-o?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>One great liberation of reading Shakespeare for fun is just that: skip the bits that don’t work, or move on to another play. Nobody is going to set you an exam.</p> <p><strong>4. Think like a director</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, thinking about how these plays might work on stage can be engaging and creative for some readers. Shakespeare’s plays tended to have <a href="https://www.shakespeareswords.com/Public/LanguageCompanion/ThemesAndTopics.aspx?TopicId=37">minimal stage directions</a>, so most indications of action in modern editions of the plays have been added in by editors.</p> <p>Most directors begin work on the play by throwing all these instructions away and working them out afresh by asking questions about what’s happening and why. Stage directions – whether original or editorial – are rarely descriptive, so adding in your chosen adverbs or adjectives to flesh out what’s happening on your paper stage can help clarify your interpretations of character and action.</p> <p>One good tip is to try to remember characters who are not speaking. What’s happening on the faces of the other characters while Katherine delivers her long, controversial speech of apparent wifely subjugation at the end of The Taming of the Shrew?</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ti1Oh9imI8I?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>5. Don’t worry</strong></p> <p>The biggest obstacle to enjoying Shakespeare is that niggling sense that understanding the works is a kind of literary IQ test. But understanding Shakespeare means accepting his open-endedness and ambiguity. It’s not that there’s a right meaning hidden away as a reward for intelligence or tenacity – these plays prompt questions rather than supplying answers.</p> <p>Would Macbeth have killed the king without the witches’ prophecy? Exactly – that’s the question the play wants us to debate, and it gives us evidence to argue on both sides. Was it right for the conspirators to assassinate Julius Caesar? Good question, the play says: I’ve been wondering that myself.</p> <p>Returning to Shakespeare outside the dutiful contexts of the classroom and the theatre can liberate something you might not immediately associate with his works: pleasure.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/136409/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-smith-221714">Emma Smith</a>, Professor of Shakespeare Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oxford-1260">University of Oxford</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-read-shakespeare-for-pleasure-136409">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Why rereading Harry Potter might be the next best thing after your friendships

<p>Humans are innately social creatures. But as we stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, video calls only go so far to satisfy our need for connection.</p> <p>The good news is the relationships we have with fictional characters from books, TV shows, movies, and video games – called parasocial relationships – serve many of the same functions as our friendships with real people, without the infection risks.</p> <p><strong>Time spent in fictional worlds</strong></p> <p>Some of us already spend vast swathes of time with our heads in fictional worlds.</p> <p>Psychologist and novelist <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22yoaiLYb7M&amp;t=122s">Jennifer Lynn Barnes</a> estimated that across the globe, people have collectively spent 235,000 years engaging with Harry Potter books and movies alone. And that was a conservative estimate, based on a reading speed of three hours per book and no rereading of books or rewatching of movies.</p> <p>This human predilection for becoming attached to fictional characters is lifelong, or at least from the time toddlers begin to engage in pretend play. About half of all children create an <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Imaginary-Companions-Children-Create-Them-ebook/dp/B000TTVQAU/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?dchild=1&amp;keywords=marjorie+taylor%27s+imaginary+friend&amp;qid=1586910704&amp;sr=8-1-fkmr0">imaginary friend</a> (think comic strip <a href="https://calvinandhobbes.fandom.com/wiki/Hobbes">Calvin’s tiger pal Hobbes</a>).</p> <p>Preschool children often form attachments to media characters and believe these <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-28765-005">parasocial friendships</a> are reciprocal — asserting that the character (even an animated one) can hear what they say and know what they feel.</p> <p>Older children and adults, of course, know that book and TV characters do not actually exist. But our knowledge of that reality doesn’t stop us from feeling these <a href="https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/soco.2008.26.2.156">relationships are real</a>, or that they <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333748971_Parasocial_Interactions_and_Relationships_with_Media_Characters_-_An_Inventory_of_60_Years_of_Research">could be reciprocal</a>.</p> <p>When we finish a beloved book or television series and continue to think about what the characters will do next, or what they could have done differently, we are having a parasocial interaction. Often, we entertain these thoughts and feelings to cope with the sadness — even grief — that we feel at the end of a book or series.</p> <p>The still lively <a href="https://twitter.com/reddit/status/1128051192288796672">Game of Thrones discussion threads</a> or social media reaction to the <a href="https://www.popsugar.com.au/celebrity/Offspring-Season-5-Preview-34780442">death of Patrick</a> on Offspring a few years back show many people experience this.</p> <p>Some people sustain these relationships by writing new adventures in the form of <a href="https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Harry-Potter/">fan fiction</a> for their favourite characters after a popular series has ended. Not surprisingly, Harry Potter is one of the most popular fanfic topics. And steamy blockbuster <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/hayleycuccinello/2017/02/10/fifty-shades-of-green-how-fanfiction-went-from-dirty-little-secret-to-money-machine/#58583ef3264c">Fifty Shades of Grey</a> began as fan fiction for the Twilight series.</p> <p><strong>As good as the real thing?</strong></p> <p>So, imaginary friendships are common even among adults. But are they good for us? Or are they a sign we’re losing our grip on reality?</p> <p>The evidence so far shows these imaginary friendships are a sign of well-being, not dysfunction, and that they can be good for us in many of the same ways that real friendships are good for us. Young children with imaginary friends show more <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630910">creativity</a> in their storytelling, and higher levels of <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1131670?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents">empathy</a> compared to children without imaginary friends. Older children who create whole imaginary worlds (called <a href="https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cdev.13162">paracosms</a>) are more creative in dealing with social situations, and may be better problem-solvers when faced with a stressful event.</p> <p>As adults, we can turn to parasocial relationships with fictional characters to feel less <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103108002412">lonely</a> and boost our mood when we’re <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2008.00197.x">feeling low</a>.</p> <p>As a bonus, reading <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377">fiction</a>, watching high-quality <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-44293-001">television shows</a>, and playing pro-social <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21171755">video games</a> have all been shown to boost empathy and may decrease <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jasp.12279">prejudice</a>.</p> <p><strong>Get by with a little help</strong></p> <p>We need our fictional friends more than ever right now as we endure weeks in isolation. When we do venture outside for a walk or to go the supermarket and someone avoids us, it feels like <a href="https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/why-social-distancing-is-so-difficult-how-research-explains-our-behavior/?article_id=728360">social rejection</a>, even though we know physical distancing is recommended. Engaging with familiar TV or book characters is one way to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550612454889">rejuvenate</a> our sense of connection.</p> <p>Plus, parasocial relationships are enjoyable and, as American literature professor Patricia Meyer Spacks noted in <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/are-rereadings-better-readings">On Rereading</a>, revisiting fictional friends might tell us more about ourselves than the book.</p> <p>So cuddle up on the couch in your comfiest clothes and devote some time to your fictional friendships. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/apr/08/rereading-favourite-books-pleasure">Reread an old favourite</a> – even one from your childhood. Revisiting a familiar fictional world creates a sense of <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08824096.2017.1383236">nostalgia</a>, which is another way to feel less <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-20034-013">lonely</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23163710">bored</a>.</p> <p>Take turns reading the Harry Potter series aloud with your family or housemates, or watch a TV series together and bond over which characters you love the most. (I recommend <a href="https://ir.ua.edu/handle/123456789/3189">Gilmore Girls</a> for all mothers marooned with teenage daughters.)</p> <p>Fostering fictional friendships together can strengthen <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.160288">real-life</a> relationships. So as we stay home and save lives, we can be cementing the familial and parasocial relationships that will shape us – and our children – for life.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/136236/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/elaine-reese-1027041">Elaine Reese</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/missing-your-friends-rereading-harry-potter-might-be-the-next-best-thing-136236">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 books to keep young people happy during lockdown

<p>Stories can be mirrors that help young people express feelings about a given situation. They give children a vocabulary for what is happening. But, because of how <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html">fiction works in the brain</a>, stories can also be windows. When we read fiction, we inhabit other bodies and feel the concerns of other people. This helps young people to develop empathy – but has another profound effect. Reading stories makes us feel experienced and increases resilience.</p> <p>I’ve chosen some wonderful books that all function both as mirrors and windows for children as the world faces the effects of Coronavirus. They are beautifully written and/or illustrated and should fire young imaginations, while comforting the whole family.</p> <p><em><strong>The Red Tree</strong></em></p> <p>This is a beautiful picture book – sparse of text – with lush landscapes in <a href="https://www.famousauthors.org/shaun-tan">Sean Tan’s</a> magical style. The reader loses themselves in pages that are achingly evocative of yearning, loss and wonder in a kind of heady cocktail of intense emotion, boredom and stoicism.</p> <p>Dark leaves fall in our character’s bedroom, but by the end, they have coalesced into a beautiful red tree.</p> <p>There is space here for even a very young reader to express what they think is happening page by page. The art could stimulate imitation. I can also imagine making a little red tree trunk and branches and adding a leaf to it, day by day.</p> <p>There is very little reading to be done, so a slightly older child could also “read” it to a younger one.</p> <p><em><strong>The Mousehole Cat</strong></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/antonia-barber/">Antonia Barber</a> sets her classic story on the Cornish coast. The narrative is about a cat who saves the day when her community is threatened. It is wordier than many picture books, but narrated by the cat in clear, beautifully written prose – it’s a pleasure to read aloud.</p> <p><a href="https://www.booksillustrated.com/artist.php?id=5">Nicola Bayley</a>’s illustrations are engaging and immersive – who wouldn’t like to go to the seaside right now? – and the characters easily inspire affection.</p> <p>Touching on concepts of scarcity and sacrifice, this is a very empowering story for a young listener or reader. The smallest character in the story is the hero who saves everyone – by singing. It would be easy to live in this story for a while, going fishing from the laundry basket, practising storm singing, repeating some of the turns of phrase.</p> <p>The illustrations are inspiring for young artists and could also be the basis of remembering visits to the seaside, pretend beach picnics or natural history lessons.</p> <p><em><strong>Comet in Moominland</strong></em></p> <p>A trip to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/tove-jansson">Tove Jansson’s</a> Moominland always makes everything better. Here, the family flee from an approaching comet, meeting many favourite characters on the way.</p> <p>The much-beloved Moomins are eccentric hippo-like people, very accommodating of difference and otherness. That said, many of the characters have their little ways, and being accommodating isn’t always comfortable. The realism of the relationships gives even the silliest of Jansson’s stories the texture of real life.</p> <p>Quirky line drawings are immensely endearing and the story, while exciting with elements of real fear, never feels as if it will end badly. The language is fun, with word play and characters’ attitudes and, again, the child is the hero. It’s not hard to draw a Moomin, and there are endless opportunities for drama. Year twos or threes can probably read it to themselves, with someone on hand for the tricky bits, but it’s fun enough to engage older children, and silly enough for littlies.</p> <p><em><strong>The Wee Free Men</strong></em></p> <p>Tiffany Aching comes from chalkland, where nobody has it easy, and everyone works hard. When a rift opens on her doorstep and her despised little brother is taken, she discovers she’s not ordinary, after all. Armed with a cast-iron frying pan, she takes on the full force of Fairyland.</p> <p>This is a riotous out-loud read from the late <a href="https://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/about-sir-terry/">Terry Pratchett</a>, featuring a tribe of “pictsies” who speak in a Scottish accent that sounds a lot like the stand-up comic Billy Connolly. Tiffany’s gran has recently passed away – and the danger feels quite real – but we know that Tiff will get us through. She certainly does, battling forces of depression and self-doubt to do so – another young leader in a time of community danger. Even hardened teenagers might smile at the best bits and tweens will devour it whole. Children as young as six or seven can follow along.</p> <p>The narrative is a role-play bonanza and there are opportunities to investigate British folklore, identities in the United Kingdom and gender roles. Illustrations in the text might inspire art and mapping the settings would be an interesting exercise. Further adventures of some of the characters could be written, and geography lessons about chalk grassland would be easy to work in.</p> <p><em><strong>The Book Thief</strong></em></p> <p>For resilient older children and teens, <a href="https://www.chipublib.org/markus-zusak-biography/">Markus Zusac’s</a> story is set in a time of many lives lost – Germany during the second world war – and narrated by Death. It is gorgeously written (an international bestseller, adapted for film) and, while the subject matter is difficult, the narrative pulses with life and hope.</p> <p>For a young person engaged with current events, questioning authority and impatient of parental efforts to shield them from the grimmer elements of our current reality, this book could be a lifeline.</p> <p>Liesel Meminger is illiterate when the story begins, but takes a book that has been dropped at her brother’s graveside. As she begins to read and to leave childhood behind, she steals many more books. Love, death and the importance of even futile actions inform the story of Liesel’s coming of age and provide ways of thinking about what it means to be human.</p> <p>This could be read together silently, perhaps taking chapters in turn, rationed out as a treat for discussion or not. It’s a natural accompaniment to history lessons, geography, or some <a href="https://www.duolingo.com/">online German instruction</a> and watching the film could lead to a discussion of adaptation. But perhaps you could just leave a copy of it out for anyone who needs it to find and make their own.</p> <p>Many of these titles are available electronically, but local bookshops are delivering and posting orders. After all, there’s nothing more comforting than snuggling behind the protective embrace of an open book.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/134260/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mimi-thebo-1002534"><em>Mimi Thebo</em></a><em>, Reader in Creative Writing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-five-books-to-keep-young-people-happy-during-lockdown-childrens-author-134260">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Guide to the Classics: Albert Camus' The Plague

<p>Some weeks ago, I got an email from a student who had returned to Northern Italy over Christmas to see family.</p> <p>Unable to return to Australia, they were in lockdown. The hospitals were filling up fast, as COVID-19 <a href="https://epidemic-stats.com/coronavirus/italy">began to spiral out of control</a>. Sales of Albert Camus’ 1947 novel <em><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11989.The_Plague?from_search=true&amp;from_srp=true&amp;qid=lkEWcCTf5p&amp;rank=1">The Plague</a></em> (<em>La Peste</em>) were <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/28/albert-camus-novel-the-plague-la-peste-pestilence-fiction-coronavirus-lockdown">spiking</a>. Everyone was buying it.</p> <p>Rereading <em>The Plague</em> over these past weeks has been an uncanny experience. Its fictive chronicle of the measures taken in the city of Oran against a death-dealing disease that strikes in 1940 sometimes seemed to blur into the government announcements reshaping our lives.</p> <p>Oran is a city like anywhere else, Camus’ narrator tells us:</p> <blockquote> <p>Our citizens work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich. Their chief interest is in commerce, and their chief aim in life is, as they call it, ‘doing business’.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like people anywhere else, the Oranians are completely unprepared when rats begin emerging from the sewers to die in droves in streets and laneways. Then, men, women and children start to fall ill with high fever, difficulties breathing and fatal buboes.</p> <p>The people of Oran initially “disbelieved in pestilences”, outside of the pages of history books. So, like many nations in 2020, they are slow to accept the enormity of what is occurring. As our narrator comments drily: “In this respect they were wrong, and their views obviously called for revision.”</p> <p>The numbers of afflicted rise. First slowly, then exponentially. By the time the plague-bearing spring gives way to a sweltering summer, over 100 deaths daily is the new normal.</p> <p>Emergency measures are rushed in. The city gates are shut, and martial law declared. Oran’s commercial harbour is closed to sea traffic. Sporting competitions cease. Beach bathing is prohibited.</p> <p>Soon, food shortages emerge (toilet paper, thankfully, is not mentioned). Some Oranians turn plague-profiteers, preying on the desperation of their fellows. Rationing is brought in for basic necessities, including petrol.</p> <p>Meanwhile, anyone showing symptoms of the disease is isolated. Houses, then entire suburbs, are locked down. The hospitals become overwhelmed. Schools and public buildings are <a href="https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/comment/excel-convention-centre-covid-19/">converted</a> into makeshift plague hospitals.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/L8Dyf-wules?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class="caption">A convention centre in London has been transformed into a 4,000-bed hospital.</span></p> <p>Our key protagonists, Dr Rieux and his friends Tarrou, Grand and Rambert, set up teams of voluntary workers to administer serums and ensure the sick are quickly diagnosed and hospitalised, often amongst harrowing scenes.</p> <p>In these circumstances, fear and suspicion descend “dewlike, from the greyly shining sky” on the population. Everyone realises that anyone – even those they love – could be a carrier.</p> <p>Come to think of it, so could each person themselves.</p> <p>The failure of the governors to consistently impose “social distancing” is shown up spectacularly in the novel’s most picturesque scene. The lead actor in a rendition of Gluck’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EENw_ptgGcg">Orpheus and Eurydice</a> collapses onstage, “his arms and legs splayed out under his antique robe”.</p> <p>Terrified patrons flee the darkened underworld of the opera house, “wedged together in the bottlenecks, and pouring out into the street in a confused mass, with shrill cries of dismay”.</p> <p>Arguably the most telling passages in <em>The Plague</em> today are Camus’ beautifully crafted meditative observations of the social and psychological effects of the epidemic on the townspeople.</p> <p>Epidemics make exiles of people in their own countries, our narrator stresses. Separation, isolation, loneliness, boredom and repetition become the shared fate of all.</p> <p>In Oran, as in Australia, places of worship go empty. Funerals are banned for fear of contagion. The living can no longer even farewell the many dead.</p> <p>Camus’ narrator pays especial attention to the damages visited by the plague upon separated lovers. Outsiders like the journalist Rambert who, by chance, are marooned inside Oran when the gates shut are “in the general exile […] the most exiled”.</p> <p>Today’s world knows many such “travellers caught by the plague and forced to stay where they were, […] cut off both from the person(s) with whom they wanted to be and from their homes as well”.</p> <p><strong>Multiple allegories</strong></p> <p>Camus’ prescient account of life under conditions of an epidemic works on different levels. <em>The Plague</em> is a transparent allegory of the Nazi occupation of France beginning in spring 1940. The sanitary teams reflect Camus’ experiences in, and admiration for, the resistance against the “<a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-brown-plague/?viewby=title">brown plague</a>” of fascism.</p> <p>Camus’ title also evokes the ways the Nazis characterised those they targeted for extermination as <a href="https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/defining-the-enemy">a pestilence</a>. The shadow of the then-still-recent Holocaust darkens <em>The Plague</em>’s pages.</p> <p>When death rates become so great that individual burials are no longer possible – as in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFy3_hEBcy8">scenes we are already seeing</a> – the Oranaise dig collective graves into which:</p> <blockquote> <p>the naked, somewhat contorted bodies were slid into a pit almost side by side, then covered with a layer of quicklime and another of earth […] so as to leave space for subsequent consignments.</p> </blockquote> <p>When this measure fails to keep up with the weight of these “consignments”, as with the genocidal actions of the <em><a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Einsatzgruppen">Einzatsgruppen</a></em>, “the old crematorium east of the town” is repurposed. Closed streetcars filled with the dead are soon rattling along the old coastal tramline:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thereafter, […] when a strong wind was blowing […] a faint, sickly odour coming from the east remind[ed] them that they were living under a new order and that the plague fires were taking their nightly toll.</p> </blockquote> <p>Camus’ plague is also a metaphor for the force of what Dr Rieux calls “abstraction” in our lives: all those impersonal rules and processes which can make human beings statistics to be treated by governments with all the inhumanity characterising epidemics.</p> <p>For this reason, the enigmatic character Tarrou identifies the plague with people’s propensity to rationalise killing others for philosophical, religious or ideological causes. It is with this sense of plague in mind that the final words of the novel warn:</p> <blockquote> <p>that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Ordinary hope</strong></p> <p>There is nevertheless truth in the description of Camus’ masterwork as a “<a href="https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books/article-the-hope-at-the-heart-of-albert-camuss-plague-novel-la-peste/">sermon of hope</a>”. In the end, the plague dissipates as unaccountably as it had begun. Quarantine is lifted. Oran’s gates are reopened. Families and lovers reunite. The chronicle closes amid scenes of festival and jubilation.</p> <p>Camus’ narrator concludes that confronting the plague has taught him that, for all of the horrors he has witnessed, “there are more things to admire in men than to despise”.</p> <p>Unlike some philosophers, Camus became <a href="https://www.pdcnet.org/philtoday/content/philtoday_2017_0999_10_2_177">increasingly sceptical</a> about glorious ideals of superhumanity, heroism or sainthood. It is the capacity of ordinary people to do extraordinary things that <em>The Plague</em> lauds. “There’s one thing I must tell you,” Dr Rieux at one point specifies:</p> <blockquote> <p>there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.</p> </blockquote> <p>It is such ordinary virtue, people each doing what they can to serve and look after each other, that Camus’ novel suggests alone preserves peoples from the worst ravages of epidemics, whether visited upon them by natural causes or tyrannical governments.</p> <p>It is therefore worth underlining that the unheroic heroes of Camus’ novel are people we call healthcare workers. Men and women, in many cases volunteers, who despite great risks step up, simply because “plague is here and we’ve got to make a stand”.</p> <p>It is also to these people’s examples, <em>The Plague</em> suggests, that we should look when we consider what kind of world we want to rebuild after the gates of our cities are again thrown open and COVID-19 has become a troubled memory.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/134244/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-sharpe-125260">Matthew Sharpe</a>, Associate Professor in Philosophy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/guide-to-the-classics-albert-camus-the-plague-134244">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Love and a happy ending: Romance fiction to help you through a coronavirus lockdown

<p>Romance fiction has two <a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">defining features</a>.</p> <p>First, it centres on a love story. Secondly, it always ends well.</p> <p>Our protagonists end up together (if not forever, then at least for the foreseeable future) and this makes the world around them a little bit better, too.</p> <p>In times of uncertainty, upheaval and chaos, readers often turn to romance fiction: during the second world war, Mills &amp; Boon was able to maintain its paper ration <a href="https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198204558.001.0001/acprof-9780198204558">by arguing</a> its books were good for the morale of working women.</p> <p>The books the company was producing in this period were not about the war. Most never even mentioned it. Instead, they provided an escape for readers to a world where they could be assured everything was going to turn out all right: love would conquer all, villains would be defeated, and lovers would always find their way back to each other.</p> <p>Today, romance publishing is a <a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">billion-dollar industry</a>, with thousands of novels published each year. It covers a wide range of subgenres: from historical to contemporary, paranormal to sci-fi, from novels where the only physical interaction between the protagonists is a kiss, to erotic romance where sex is fundamental to the story.</p> <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_34_(Internet_meme)">Rule 34</a> of the internet states if you can think of something, then there’s porn of it. The same, I would argue, is true for romance fiction.</p> <p>But where to begin? As both a scholar of romance fiction and an avid reader of it, I’ve put together this list of five great reads for people who might want to start exploring the genre.</p> <p><strong>If you like Jane Austen, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42279630-the-austen-playbook">The Austen Playbook</a></em> by Lucy Parker</strong></p> <p><em>The Austen Playbook</em> is the fourth book in Parker’s London Celebrities series (all only loosely connected, so you can jump in anywhere).</p> <p>Heroine Freddy is an actress from an esteemed West End family, trying to balance her desire to perform in musicals and crowd-pleasers over her family pushing her towards serious drama. Hero Griff is a theatre critic and his family estate is playing host to a wacky live-action Jane Austen murder mystery, in which Freddy is playing Lydia.</p> <p>Parker is a gifted author, and this book is a light, bright and sparkling delight.</p> <p><strong>If you like (or hate!) dating apps, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863092-the-right-swipe"><em>The Right Swipe</em></a> by Alisha Rai</strong></p> <p>Many people now find partners on dating apps, but these apps are often <a href="https://theconversation.com/right-swipes-and-red-flags-how-young-people-negotiate-sex-and-safety-on-dating-apps-128390">not exactly friendly</a> for women.</p> <p>Rai addresses that to great effect in <em>The Right Swipe</em>, where heroine Rhiannon is the designer of a dating app designed specifically for women.</p> <p>She meets hero Samson the first time as a result of swiping right, and then the second time, months later, when he’s teamed up with one of her primary business rivals…</p> <p><strong>If you’re fascinated by psychology, try …</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35852829-the-love-experiment"><em>The Love Experiment</em></a> by Ainslie Paton</strong></p> <p>Paton is one of Australia’s smartest and most underrated romance authors. <em>The Love Experiment</em> draws on the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167297234003">36 questions</a> developed by psychologist Arthur Aron to explore whether intimacy could be generated or intensified between two people if they exchanged increasingly personal information.</p> <p>The 36 questions were popularised in Mandy Len Catron’s 2015 New York Times essay <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/style/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html"><em>To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This</em></a>. Here, journalist protagonists Derelie and Jackson undertake the experiment in Paton’s book, only to find love is more complex than 36 questions.</p> <p><strong>If you think we need to save the oceans, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42016094-project-saving-noah"><em>Project Saving Noah</em></a> by Six de los Reyes</strong></p> <p>This book emerges from <a href="https://romanceclassbooks.com/about/">RomanceClass</a>, a fascinating community of English-language romance writers and readers based in the Philippines. One of their distinctive features is their collaboration with local actors in Manila to perform excerpts from the books (including <em>Project Saving Noah</em>) at their <a href="https://romanceclassbooks.com/live-reading/aprilfeelsday2019/">regular gatherings</a>. I was privileged enough to attend one of these last year.</p> <p>Protagonists Noah and Lise are graduate students in oceanography competing for one spot on a research project, while simultaneously being forced to work together. Their romance is conflicted and compelling, but what stands out about this book is the vividness with which their environment – natural and academic – is constructed.</p> <p><strong>If you like your protagonists to have some maturity, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44084867-mrs-martin-s-incomparable-adventure"><em>Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure</em></a> by Courtney Milan</strong></p> <p>If Milan’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she was at the centre of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-the-romance-writers-of-america-can-implode-over-racism-no-group-is-safe-130034">recent scandal</a> engulfing the Romance Writers of America, which penetrated through romance’s usual cultural invisibility.</p> <p>When she’s not standing up against systemic racism, Milan writes excellent, mostly historical, romance. Mrs Martin is a delightful historical romp, as our two heroines Bertrice (aged 73) and Violetta (aged 69) team up against Violetta’s terrible nephew, and fall in love and eat cheese on toast together.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/133784/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jodi-mcalister-135765">Jodi McAlister</a>, Lecturer in Writing, Literature and Culture, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/love-and-a-happy-ending-romance-fiction-to-help-you-through-a-coronavirus-lockdown-133784">original article</a>.</em></p>

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