Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 9

Good day everyone, and welcome back for the 9th edition of Gliding Over the World of Literature, where curious news from the vast world of books flow aplenty. This time around we will turn our attention to a secret cache of J.D. Salinger’s letters, how the FBI developed an unhealthy interest in legendary author Carlos Fuentes, and a surprisingly-detailed museum dedicated to none other than one of literature’s most recognized characters, Sherlock Holmes.

Salinger’s Trials

After his newfound fame following the publication of Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger became increasingly reclusive, to the point where the second part of his life came to be labeled as the Silent Years, reflecting his lack of desire to communicate with the world around him. Recently though, a cache of letters was discovered in which Salinger addressed the swamis, revealing plenty of interesting details about his state of mind as well as his work during that period we know so little about.
Salinger, the Swamis, and the Secrets

"I’m standing outside an imposing four-story graystone townhouse. Located on a leafy, blossoming block of East 94th Street in Manhattan, it’s the headquarters and worship center of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Society, the spiritual home to J.D. Salinger during his mystifying Silent Years. The home to his late guru, Swami Nikhilananda, a name I’m sure you know but one I only just learned from reading some Salinger letters recently donated to the Morgan Library by the swamis from the Center here.

Not those letters—the ones that got the most media attention recently—a cache of charmingly flirtatious missives Salinger wrote to a young woman in Toronto in the early ’40s, when he was just getting his stories published, before he shipped out for infantry combat in Europe. They got most of the attention for their gossipy content (inside stuff about The New Yorker!).

No, I’m speaking of the other cache of newly acquired letters at the Morgan, which the Times didn't even mention: the deeply serious, spiritually oriented letters Salinger wrote to the swamis here, donated to the library just a month before the flirty ones. They didn’t make as much of a splash, but to my mind they go to the heart of the matter, the heart of Salinger’s mind. They testify to the state of Salinger’s soul in his Silent Years: the half-century or so following the explosive mid-’50s success of The Catcher in the Rye, when he retreated from the world, secreted himself on a hidden hilltop cottage above a tiny New Hampshire town, stopped responding to an ever more demanding and feverish fanhood and press.

Read full article: Slate - Salinger, the Swamis, and the Secrets

Author J.D. Salinger poses for a portrait as he reads from his classic American novel The Catcher in the Rye on Nov. 20, 1952, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Carlos Fuentes: FBI’s Most Wanted

Carlos Fuentes is arguably one of the most influential writers of the century, penning remarkable and thought-provoking novels such as The Death of Artemio Cruz and Terra Nostra. Despite all of his contributions to literature, the release of recent documents confirmed that the FBI saw him as a communist threat, leading the organization to spend a lot of resources on monitoring him for years and years on end.

Book News: The FBI Monitored Mexican Writer Carlos Fuentes

"A recently released FBI file calls legendary Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes a "communist writer" and refers to a "long history of subversive connections." The dossier, which starts in the 1960s and spans decades, also reveals that the FBI had informants track his movements while in the U.S., and details the agency's attempts to delay and deny his visa applications. Asked whether Fuentes, who died last year, was a communist, his biographer and former colleague Julio Ortega told NPR via email: "Not at all! He was critical of Communism, and a close friend and supporte[r] of [Milan] Kundera [a writer whose works were banned in communist Czechoslovakia] in difficult times for him.

It is true that Fuentes supported the Cuban revolution as well as the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, but because both were rooted in Latin American history of utopian will and emancipatory ideals." Fuentes became a vocal critic of Fidel Castro after the poet Heberto Padilla was arrested in Cuba, and he once called the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez a "tropical Mussolini." Fuentes was no less harsh toward the U.S. — he once turned down a teaching position at Columbia University in protest of American air attacks in Vietnam, writing that it would be "impossible to talk serenely about literature while American imperialists murder women and children." But in a 2006 interview, Fuentes said, "To call me anti-American is a stupendous lie, a calumny. I grew up in this country. When I was a little boy I shook the hand of Franklin Roosevelt, and I haven't washed it since."

Read full article: NPR - Book News: The FBI Monitored Mexican Writer Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes at a 2008

A Tribute to the Greatest Detective

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for detective novels, and so it is with great joy that I bring to you all news of a museum dedicated entirely to Sherlock Holmes. It was actually put together by two of Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest fans, Mark and Joann Alberstat, and is filled to the brim with various pieces of memorabilia relating to each one of the detective’s great stories.

Local Sherlock society pays homage to 'larger-than-life superhero'

"The "Colonel" of the Spence Munros opens the door in jeans and a golf shirt. I feel a slight twinge of disappointment. Which, of course, is idiotic.
I’m a grown man. I know it’s unrealistic to expect the guy who heads the only Sherlock Holmes society east of Montreal to walk around his house in a deerstalker cap, puffing on a calabash pipe.

Except a fella can dream, can’t he? When it comes to Holmes — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous literary creation, who, if the stories about him were true, would turn 160 next year — I’m like all those other people who tend to lose some of their grip on reality.

I've been hinting for some time to Mark Alberstat’s wife, JoAnn — my colleague at The Chronicle Herald, where she is also the paper’s mystery books columnist — about how nice it would be to get a peek at the “Sherlock Room,” which houses their collection of Holmes memorabilia.

Read full article: The Chronicle Herald - Local Sherlock society pays homage to 'larger-than-life superhero'

Mark and Joann Alberstat

Friday, June 28, 2013

"The Overton Window" by Glenn Beck – Illusions of Freedom in the Human Mind

The Overtone Window by Glenn Beck (Book cover)
Those of you who have at least one eye open know that the United States are undergoing a period of changes, many of which seem extreme to large chunks of the population (just look at the recent fiasco surrounding the NSA).

It seems only fitting that The Overton Window by Glenn Beck would be released during such a time, dealing with the topic of making radical ideas feel like common sense in order to bring change to a country.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

“The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury – Mysteries from the Red Planet

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (Book cover)
Man has long dreamed to explore the deepest reaches of space, but before we can even think of going that far we should at least explore our own galaxy, and we are actually preparing a one-way mission to Mars that will send off some fortunate volunteers to build and live in a colony.

The so-called Red Planet has fascinated us for a very long amount of time, an interest fueled by incredibly interesting discoveries, which includes a set of pyramids which, geographically-speaking, are the perfect mirror image of the ones in Giza.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

“The Magic of Reality” by Richard Dawkins and David McKean – The Whole World Explained with Science

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins and David McKean - book cover
Richard Dawkins is quite a famous evolutionary biologist, advancing many interesting theories, some of which served to create the landscape of his profession. In The Magic of Reality, which he co-wrote with David McKean, Dawkins sets aside all of his complex thoughts and hypotheses in favor of something simpler, and dare I say, funner. He chose to put his knowledge to use in order to explain countless phenomenon that humans encounter on a daily basis. For instance, he provides an explanation as to why our continents look like jigsaw puzzles that would fit together, he attempts to answer the question as to who the first man or woman was, and even the real age of the entire universe. Of course, you cannot expect all of your questions to be answered beyond doubt by Dawkins and McKean; if no one really knows who the first person on Earth was, I wouldn't expect Dawkins to either.

However, he does formulate many interesting ideas and theories on how and why some things could be occurring, and I especially enjoyed the fact that he doesn’t deviate from his bread and butter (science) when attempting to explain many of nature’s wonders, some of which remain a mystery to us. He doesn’t dawdle on small and unimportant details, nor does he stray from the topic or make for a dull read in any way; he is very direct, concise and simple in his manner of writing, allowing for practically any reader to enjoy his teachings.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

“The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright – The Rise of Al-Qaeda and Fall of the Towers

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright (Book cover)
After the tragic events of 9/11 took place, pretty much everyone became focused on the direct cause and the aftermath, and it was quite understandable as the time wasn’t right for a history lesson.

However, years after when things began to calm down in the United States many people started digging as deep as possible so as to uncover the whole story behind 9/11, in terms of what actually sparked the chain of events that led to it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

“American Assassin” by Vince Flynn – The Origins of a Killer

American Assassin by Vince Flynn (Book cover)
Though we have seen Mitch Rapp countless times, travelling around the world leaving trails of bodies and soiled pants behind him, not much has been unveiled about his first operations, his recruitment, training program, or even his life before becoming a CIA agent.

Vince Flynn though of rectifying that, and so he wrote American Assassin, wherein Rapp is first presented as a talented college athlete without a damn to give about anything. However, the Pan Am Lockerbie attack changes the whole landscape of his life, as more than two hundred and seventy perished in it, leaving countless people to grieve and yearn for revenge, Mitch being one of them. The story details how he then got recruited by the CIA, trained for six months, and then sent on his first missions, making him travel between Europe and the Middle East.

I have to admit I'm not the biggest Mitch Rapp fan there is out there, but I always enjoy good origin stories, and this is one of them. The atmosphere is already very different because of the fact that Mitch hasn't yet established his reputation; he is a simple nobody with six months of training and a desire to kill.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson – Finding the Rainbow in the Dark

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - book cover
Let’s admit it, when we were kids most of us only wanted to be normal and fit in with the majority and nothing else; being on the outside of social circles was considered to be the mother of all failures. However, as we grow up we start to realize that being normal is just an illusion created by a large number of people; in the end, there are more of us who don’t fit in than we realize.

That’s something Jenny Lawson learned a bit later in her eccentric life, though it seems it was all for the best as her experiences gave us the delightful little book that is Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Basically, the book is a chronicle of Jenny Lawson’s life, focusing on the weird, disturbing, shameful and dark moments of her life more than anything else. Though she does provide plenty of examples and details about herself, she also leaves certain things for the reader to decide; in other words, she paints the picture, and we can connect the dots if we feel like it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 8

Hello everyone, I would like to officially welcome you all for the eight issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature, and as is the custom at this point, we have three new interesting stories from around the web revolving around the world of books.

These include a peculiar display at the Rosenbach Museum, the erection of a special Moroccan museum for the Little Prince aviator, and an interesting look at how Stephen King is adapting himself to life on Reddit.

The Doppleganger

The Bay Psalm Book written in 1640 is arguably one of the rarest and most famous books to be printed in America, with there only being a total of eleven copies remaining in circulation, and as luck would have it, two of them are going on a tour to rake in some money for The Old South Church down in Boston. They are going to be displayed side-by-side at the Rosenbach Museum, it’s going to be free, and you’ll actually be able to list it yourself.

Rosenbach Museum To Show Very Rare Book Right Next To Very Rare Book Just Like It

"The Bay Psalm Book of 1640 is literally going on a book tour. It is one of the 11 remaining copies of the first book ever printed in America, and like all the best American things, it’s for sale. The Old South Church up in Boston owns two copies and is selling one of them “to finance maintenance of its building and to expand programs” or maybe to pay its bar tab, who knows. The point is, they are sending the book on tour to gin up some excitement.

And who wouldn’t be excited looking at two pages of an opened book in a thick glass case? Rosenbach Museum Visitors, that’s who. “One book? open to two pages? You expect me to take time out of my busy day for that?” Well, no they do not. You see, the Rosenbach actually has its own copy of the book, and will be displaying it side by side with the OSC copy. “Well, two books, side by side? Why didn’t you say so? Now you got my attention, boychick! When and where can I get a gan

Read full article: - Rosenbach Museum To Show Very Rare Book Right Next To Very Rare Book Just Like It

The Man Behind the Prince

Antoine Saint-Exupery is arguably the most famous author in the world for his deceptively mature chef d’oeuvre, Little Prince. Translated into God knows how many languages, the book marked billions of people across generations in different ways, and so it seems that opening a museum for Saint-Exupery was a bit overdue, but nevertheless, it happened in Tarfaya, Morocco, where the author spent a total of eighteen months in isolation. One of the great highlights of the museum is Saint-Exupery’s life detailed on the walls, from his birth all the way to his mysterious death.
Moroccan desert museum for Little Prince aviator

"TARFAYA, Morocco: Battling the wind in his biplane, a French pilot landed on a sandy Moroccan airstrip. Nearly 90 years on, a museum honors his stay and the world-renowned book it inspired.“Antoine de Saint-Exupery the writer was partly born here, in Tarfaya, where he spent two years as station manager of Aeropostale,” says Sadat Shaibat Mrabihrabou. “It’s here that he began writing his books,” he says, “under the stars.”

Saint-Exupery is a name inseparable from “The Little Prince.” First published almost 70 years ago, the pilot’s book is a series of self-illustrated parables in which a boy prince from a tiny asteroid recounts his adventures among the stars to a pilot who has crash landed in the desert.

Flying a Breguet 14 biplane, Saint-Exupery was a pioneer aviator posted to Tarfaya in 1927, a wind-swept outpost that served as an important refueling station for the Aeropostale aviation company, linking France to its African colonies.

Read full article: The Daily Star - Moroccan desert museum for Little Prince aviator

Saint-Exupery died mysteriously in 1944, during a reconnaissance mission in the Mediterranean.

Stephen King Opens up to the World

Reddit is a website that has gained an immense following ever since it went online, being something akin to the most expansive forum on the internet combined with certain characteristics of a blog where anyone can post about anything.

Naturally, ever since Stephen King created his profile many have been following it, and not without reason; we can learn plenty of fun and interesting factoids about what’s happening in his head. For instance, we now know for sure that he would like to have re-written some of his earlier books now that he quite abusing substances, and he doesn’t like Led Zeppelin.

14 Things We Learned From Stephen King’s Reddit AMA

"Last night, everyone’s favorite multitasking, hyper-prolific author/producer/actor/director/screenwriter Stephen King joined the folks over at Reddit for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) in support of his new series Under the Dome – and, ostensibly, also in support of his just-released novel Joyland. After the jump, 14 things we learned about the contemporary legend from the session. Food for thought while you read: where do you suppose he is in that picture?"

Read full article: Flavorwire - 14 Things We Learned From Stephen King’s Reddit AMA

And so as usual, the world of literature has plenty of interesting, inspiring and even entertaining factoids for us to learn. I mean, we learned about a very peculiar type of book display that happens once in a blue moon, about how one of the world’s most celebrated authors is finally getting his due (in a certain sense at least), and how technology can help people open themselves up to the world. See you all on the next

Friday, June 21, 2013

“John Wayne: The Genuine Article” by M. Goldman, E. Wayne and J. Carter – Ugly, Strong and Dignified

John Wayne: The Genuine Article - book cover
If you have been living in North America for a few years, have in interest in Hollywood and/or Wild West movies, then you are undoubtedly acquainted with John Wayne, one of the greatest cowboys of his time, being right up there with Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as the fastest guns in the West.

He became such an incredible star not only for his manly and rugged in-movie antic, but also for the life he led outside the movie studios. We may already know much about him, but the truth may stretch farther than we can see, and that’s precisely why John Wayne: The Genuine Article was written by Michael Goldman, Ethan Wayne (preface) and Jimmy Carter (foreword).

Basically, the book has for aim to show the life of John Wayne as it really was, to separate the truth from the lies and make the whole world see what kind of man he really was. In order to reconstruct Wayne’s life, the book’s authors made use of a veritable gold mine of stories, anecdotes, souvenirs, letters, telegrams, photographs and interviews, some of which are completely new discoveries.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

“A Darkness More than Night” by Michael Connelly – The Tables have Turned

A Darkness More than Night by Michael Connelly (Book cover)
As many of you know, Harry Bosch is without a doubt Michael Connelly’s most-prized creation, being a detective who cracked some of the world’s most intricate and complex plots, which makes it that much more interesting when in A Darkness More than Night, Harry finds himself under investigation by formerly-retired FBI agent, Terry McCaleb (who he operated with in Blood Work).

Why exactly is Harry Bosch being investigated? According to McCaleb, who is far from being a slouch at his job, Harry is the one who best fits the psychological profile of the murderer, who by the way, already slaughtered a number of victims in a very ritualistic manner.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

“Joyland” by Stephen King – Ghosts, Lovers and Murderers

Joyland by Stephen King (Book cover)
Though Stephen King may very well be known as the master of horror around the entire world, many forget that he has written novels that strayed from the stereotypical image we have of him.

Some of those novels include The Dead Zone, Stand by Me, and more recently, Joyland. It is very different from his other works in the sense that he combines three of his favorite topics together: romance, ghost stories, and murder mysteries.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

“Three Comrades” by Erich Maria Remarque – The Other Side of the Barricade

Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque (Book cover)
The two World Wars have been documented, discussed and depicted from virtually every perspective imaginable, ranging from small children caught in a crossfire all the way the leaders of each country.

However, it seems that here is a startlingly small amount of attention dedicated to the small hiatus period between the two wars, a time during which many changes came to pass in Germany in a very short amount of time.

Monday, June 17, 2013

“Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir” by Amanda Knox – Beccaria’s Nightmare

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox (Book cover)
Cesare Beccaria is perhaps one of the most famous thinkers of the 18th century, writing numerous books about the law which are still referenced today; most of the principles he proposed have actually come to be considered as common sense. For instance, he approved of the idea of victimless crimes, claiming that only actions which harm other people or their property ought to be treated as crimes (drug abuse, for instance, should instead be regarded as a medical condition). All in all, he was about bringing justice to people and letting them live their lives, and I believe he turned seven times in his grave when the trial of Amanda Knox happened in 2007.

For those who haven’t heard about it, in 2007 U.S. student Amanda Knox went to study abroad in Italy, only to be accused of her roommate’s murder. A laborious and very questionable trial was then held, at the end of which Amanda was found guilty. Four years later, the verdict was overturned and the murder charge vacated. Up until now, Amanda hasn’t spoken of her experience; on April 30th her autobiography of the event was published, titled Waiting to be Heard.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

“Silken Prey” by John Sandford – The Consequences of Power

Silken Prey by John Sandford (Book cover)
In Silken Prey by John Sandford we are following once again Lucas Davenport on one of his tumultuous investigations, and this time around he is made to investigate the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of a Minnesota political fixer.

At first, it seems as if the case is nothing extraordinary and will find a logical resolution quite soon. However, as Davenport uncovers more and more clues, he makes some unsettling discoveries.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

“Bad Monkey” by Carl Hiaasen – An Eccentric Murder

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen - boook cover
Tropical climates and beachside paradises have always been favorite locations of Carl Hiaasen, and so it shouldn't come as a surprise that his latest chef-d’oeuvre, Bad Monkey is set in Florida and the Bahamas. As is typical with Carl Hiaasen, the story emanates of ridiculousness at an alarming rate, and I’ll try not to spoil it too much for you (pretty much anything you learn about the book could qualify as a spoiler, but more on that later). Basically, we are presented with Andrew Yancy, an ex-Miami cop who is forced to work as a health inspector because of a scandal involving a vacuum cleaner. Also, he has a frozen arm in his freezer, with its middle finger extended. Yancy is downright determined to get down to the truth of the matter and regain his status as a Miami police officer, but the road is paved by a number of eccentric obstacles, including the titular bad monkey.

Those afore-mentioned eccentric obstacles come in the form of characters, and you can bet the house there are no "normal" people to be found here. The many people Yancy will have to plough his way through include a twitchy widow, his ex-lover, a fugitive from Kansas, a Voodoo witch, a kinky coroner, and many others. Despite first impressions, each of the characters serves an important purpose in advancing the story, even the monkey (some people will argue "especially the monkey"). I want to say more, but I feel like telling you how the characters interact with each other and how Yancy deals with them would spoil the plot for you.

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 7

Good day everyone, and welcome back for what this time is the seventh issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature. Just like in all previous editions, we have three more interesting stories from the book world: grandiose book architecture, an undiscovered collection of James Joyce’s books, and a look at the underrated literary prowess found in Odessa, Ukraine.

Books as Building Blocks

Many regard books as being the foundation of knowledge, there are some architects out there who have taken to heart a variation of the saying, perceiving books as being actual foundation for a building. With the ongoing trend of making sculptures and buildings out of everyday items, it shouldn’t be surprising that a number of amazing pieces of architecture were erected from literature, with some of them being truly eye-catching.

Books as Bricks: Amazing Architecture Made From Literature

"It's official: architecture from boring old bricks is totally passé. First there was the architect known for his functional cardboard structures, then there was the house made from plastic bottles, the abode constructed with car parts, the coffee shop made from shipping containers, and some pretty awesome ice architecture.

And, of course, there's the unforgettable woman who makes castles out of human hair. But never fear, today's strange-building-material news is something much less gross and much more awesome.

These last few years, artists and architects have been using books to create some mindblowing structures, and topping the list of striking tome towers is this aptly named Book Mountain (above), unveiled by Rotterdam-based architecture firm MVRDV just last week. Architecture buffs and book lovers alike were immediately smitten with the project, a library for the small town of Spijkenisse in the Netherlands. With an eye-popping 100,000 square feet and a reading room and cafe at the pinnacle of the 150,000-book heap, it seems that every "ooh" and "aah" is actually pretty well-deserved.

Read full article: - Books as Bricks: Amazing Architecture Made From Literature

The “Last” Joyce Mystery

James Joyce has always been a bit of an enigmatic writer, one who could seldom stop working. He liked his profession to such a point that even to this day unreleased books and stories penned by him are being dug up, as it recently happened in Ireland where a small press is publishing ten undiscovered short pieces by the famous writer.

James Joyce's 'last undiscovered' collection to be published

"A small Irish press is publishing what it is calling "almost certainly the last undiscovered title by James Joyce" – 10 short pieces by the author, written six months after he completed Ulysses – igniting a row over the author's intentions.

Penned by Joyce in 1923, and described by the author as "epiclets", the pieces range from vignettes or sketches to more substantial short stories or fables, said Ithys Press, which publishes the work as Finn's Hotel this weekend – just in time for Bloomsday, the annual global celebration on 16 June of Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses.

The majority of the stories were discovered decades ago, and included in A First-Draft Version of Finnegans Wake, edited by David Hayman, in 1963.

But scholar Danis Rose, who has edited and arranged Finn's Hotel for Ithys, believes this is a "misunderstanding", and argues that the work is distinct in itself – if abandoned by Joyce – and not just a draft of Finnegans Wake, which was published in 1939.

Read full article: The Guardian - James Joyce's 'last undiscovered' collection to be published

 James Joyce in Paris, 1937. Photograph: Josef Breitenbach/PA

The Charms of Odessa

Odessa Literary Museum
Living in Western society it is understandable that most of the writers we look up to are either American, British or French. However, there is a whole world of literature beyond the West, especially when it comes to Odessa, Ukraine.

The magnificent city has served as a home (at least temporarily) to some of the world’s most celebrated writers and poets, including Kuprin, Pushkin, Bunin, and many others.

It is a city with which writers (even ones from the West) have been strangely infatuated with over the centuries, adding to the charm of what many describe as being the capital of art in the East.

Odessa: City of Writerly Love

"Walking along Pushkin Street on the kind of dazzling spring day the Odessan writer Aleksandr Kuprin warned visitors to avoid—the smell of acacias in bloom, he wrote, can induce newcomers to fall in love and take foolish steps, like getting married—I crossed Bunin Street, named for the Nobel Prize-winning short-story writer, then Zhukovskogo, a street named after the romantic poet said to have been Pushkin’s mentor. Near the opera, a golden sign announced the Odessa Literary Museum.

Writers fall in love with cities all the time. But ever since Pushkin spent thirteen months here in 1823, Odessa has been a city infatuated with its writers. At the Odessa Literary Museum—housed in a dilapidated palace in the city center, it is one of the largest shrines of its kind in the world—docents can tell you the number of days a given writer was here (Chekhov, who once spent half his paycheck on Odessan ice cream, came four times and stayed a total of sixteen days) and who wrote which chapters of their greatest works while in residence (Pushkin completed the second chapter of “Eugene Onegin” and half of the third here, but despite the popular claim that he began “Onegin” in Odessa, the poet actually rewrote the first chapter here, which more or less counts).

Read full article: The New Yorker - Odessa: City of Writerly Love

Isaak Babel

Friday, June 14, 2013

“Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann – The Grandeur of New York

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – book cover
It’s August 1974, and the summer has been very hard for the people of New York, not only melting them alive but also bringing the Watergate scandal as well as the unforgettable and senseless Vietnam War. However, on one day the entire city stood still, as Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker, performed his craft on a cable suspended between the World Trade Center towers. In Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Philippe Petit’s apparition in trial marks the point where we are taken on a sort of odyssey through New York, looking into the lives of ten different people, including a Priest, heroin-addicted prostitutes and grieving mothers.

Though my summary of the plot really doesn't do the book justice, it is all I can offer for fear of spoiling the book. This is one of those works of writing that wants you to actually become the characters, see what they see, and feel what they feel, instead of just sitting on the sidelines and watching them.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

“Escape from Camp 14” by Blaine Harden – Born and Raised in Prison

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden - book cover
Though we tend not to pay too much attention to North Korea (after all, they are decades and decades behind in their technology), we forget that it is one of the most repressed places on Earth, with one of the most violent regimes there is.

Though the government has continuously denied, satellite images have provided irrefutable proof of there being political prison camps in North Korea, and it is estimated that somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people are held in them.

It is even quite common for people to be born and raised in those prisons, even spending their entire lives inside of them. To date, only a single person with such a destiny has managed to escape and find freedom in the West: Shin Dong-hyuk. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden chronicles his harrowing life and his daring escape.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque – No Winners in War

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Book cover)
Throughout the twentieth century many breathtaking war novels saw the light of day, and I think we can all guess why (the two World Wars).

Though naming one novel above all the others ones would be foolish, many people hold All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque in much higher regard than other pieces of writing on the same subject. Indeed, the novel truly does offer a very powerful and moving meditation on the utter futility of war, through the eyes of a young German by the name of Paul Baumer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

“TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann – The Irish Connection

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Book cover)
Though many of you may not be familiar with him, Colum McCann is one of the most celebrated authors on an international scale, even winning the National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin. He is known as being one of the most profound and enthralling storytellers out there, and I believe he confirms that line of thinking in his latest work, TransAtlantic.

Basically, it tells three separate stories, set in different countries and different time periods. The first one takes place in Newfoundland in 1919 as two pilots try to fly across the Atlantic Ocean without stopping, plotting their course for Ireland. The second story takes place in Dublin in 1845 and 1846, as Frederick Douglass tries to recruit people to his cause during one of the worst famines that ever ravaged the country. Finally, the last story takes place in New York in 1998, as a man leaves his life for Belfast where he must oversee North Ireland’s peace talks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

“Attempting Normal” by Marc Maron – The Dark lines of Life

Attempting Normal by Marc Maron book cover
Release date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Pages: 240
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

Those of you who have heard of Marc Maron probably know him as the host of WTF with Marc Maron, his own podcast show. Though it may seem to you that he lives a plentiful life while practicing a number of hobbies and just being himself, not too long ago Marc Maron faced a very specific set of circumstances that would make most people curl up in the fetal position and cry, and Attempting Normal is his autobiography in regards to the darkest time of his life.

What exactly did he have to endure? Well, on a day like any other he woke up, only to discover he had been fired from the radio job he loved so much, on top of which the woman he though loved him all this time was divorcing him and syphoning all his money away. In other words, he was devastated financially, emotionally, and psychologically.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 6

Greetings everyone, and welcome back for yet another issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature, where the most notable news from the book world are being given the spotlight. Just to give you a brief summary of what we are going to discuss, it will start with the resurgence of The Great Gatsby with this generation of readers, then move on to an interesting depiction of Tolkien’s relationship with Ireland and his views on Celtic myths, finishing off with a reminder of the fate suffered by many books in 1933 Germany, a bit more than eighty years ago.

The Gatsby Resurrection

Though I am sure many of you remember reading The Great Gatsby as part of a school assignment (I know I was), but surprisingly few young readers of the new generation had any idea it existed. Well, that is until recently when The Great Gatsby (2013) starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the main role.

Though I admit I was never a big fan of DiCaprio’s work, he did play the part quite convincingly here, leading to a sudden resurrection of interest in the book on which it was based, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald through the Eyes of Fellow Authors

"The Great Gatsby premiers in the United States. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, the movie has been long awaited in circles of moviegoers and readers alike. The film brings a classic novel to a new audience, giving us a fresh perspective on the book that's often considered Fitzgerald's magnum opus. Fitzgerald, a member of "the Lost Generation" and a contemporary of legendary authors, thinkers, and artists like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso, held a peculiar place among his peers. He continues to captivate us - sometimes in surprising ways.

A Tumultuous Relationship with Ernest Hemingway

Born only three years apart, Hemingway and Fitzgerald traveled in the same literary circles. They met in 1925, just after Fitzgerald had published Great Gatsby. Hemingway, still unknown, admired Fitzgerald's success. The two were initially good friends - until Fitzgerald's carousing got out of hand. The two fell out, eventually developing a rivalry so bitter and public that Scott Donaldson actually documented it in a book.

Read full article: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) - The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald through the Eyes of Fellow Authors

Tolkien and Ireland – The Odd Couple

Those of you who are Tolkien fans probably see him as the kind of man who liked Celtic tales and Ireland, because let’s face it, his depiction of Middle Earth and its inhabitants seems to have been inspired by it. However, when assembling all the pieces of the picture together and looking at it as a whole, it seems the famous author had a bipolar connection with Ireland, filled with both admiration and disdain.
Muddled Earth

"It’s hard to decide whether JRR Tolkien would be pleased that the Burren is holding a festival in his honour (Irishman’s Diary, May 10th), or if – on the contrary – the news would have him spinning in his grave.

But before wrestling with the question, a confession. I have never read a word of The Lord of the Rings , nor have I any immediate plans to do so. Furthermore, I somehow missed the entire film series. So the Tolkien oeuvre is known to me only third-hand, through the enormous popular-culture phenomenon it has become.

The subject of the author’s relationship with Ireland is nevertheless fascinating. And to say it was complex is an understatement. He was himself born in South Africa, but of English parents temporarily exiled, so that England was where he grew up and the country to which he developed a profound allegiance.

Read full article: The Irish Times - Muddled Earth

‘In one letter, Tolkien admitted “a certain distaste” for Celtic myths. They were like broken, stained-glass windows, reassembled at random, he thought. “Colourful”, in other words, but “mad”.’ Above, the grave of Tolkien and his wife Edith, in Oxford, England. Photograph: Graham Barclay/BWP Media/Getty Images

The Book Hunt of 1933

Though today the mere idea of burning a book may cause an outcry of rage to pour out from people all around the world (as it happened with the pastor who, in 2010, declared he would burn 200 copies of the Quran), only eighty years ago it was the norm, at least back in 1933, Nazi Germany. The mere act of burning a book is a symbolic on The People’s freedom to learn, know, challenge and dissent from authority, and such an affront to humanity should not be forgotten, at least for the sake of preventing history from repeating itself, as much as that is possible.

Nazi Book Burnings Anniversary: Why Does It Mean So Much To Burn A Book?

"Where they burn books, eventually they will burn people.

Today marks 80 years since the mass burnings of books written by Jewish, communist and pacifist authors across university towns in Germany.

Heinrich Heine could have written those words to describe the Nazi ascent to power. In fact, they appeared more than a century before Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor, but they are now engraved on the site of the mass Nazi student burnings of books on Berlin's Opernplatz.

In 2013, Heine's sentiment is still as relevant, especially if you consider their context in Heine's 1821 play Almansor, the line actually refers to the burning of a Koran.

Book burning, for cultural, religious or intellectual reasons, is one of the final taboos, a base act of desecration. It is more than turning ink and paper to ash, but to show contempt for thought, to stifle dissent.

Even eighty years since the Nazi book burnings, as printed books are threatened not by flames but by advanced technology, burning a book can cause the most visceral of emotional reactions.

Read full article: The Huffington Post - Nazi Book Burnings Anniversary: Why Does It Mean So Much To Burn A Book?

A group of Nazi troops and students gather seized papers and books to burn, in the Opernplatz, Berlin

And so there you have it folks, as we have seen today, forgotten classic books can be easily brought back to life in the blink of an eye, Tolkien’s relationship with Ireland and Celtic myths was probably more complicated than the one with his wife, and after all these years we still haven’t forgotten what books truly represent for all humans: freedom.

“American Rust” by Philipp Meyer – The Remnants of Economic Decay

American Rust by Philipp Meyer - book cover
Though America may have always portrayed itself to the world as being this free and economically-prosperous land, the truth is that the fate which befell many small towns was conveniently left out of that portrayal. There were many small towns established for the sole purpose of exploiting natural resources, such as steel, and when those ran out, the towns started to die.

The events unfolding in American Rust by Philipp Meyer take place in such a town, following the adventures of two friends bound to it by family who, nevertheless, decide to embark on a cross-country trip in hopes of finding a better life. However, a chance encounter that leaves a man dead sends the two young men spiraling down in a very different direction from what they expected. As you can probably guess, this isn’t the kind of story that is uplifting and will turn a bad day into a good one… however, I believe that we all need some brutal realism in our lives from time to time in order to remind us of what this world can really do to you, and this is what American Rust offers.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

“Victims” by Jonathan Kellerman – No Cure for Evil

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman - book cover
Victims by Jonathan Kellerman is a detective novel starring Alex Delaware, one of the world’s foremost experts in matters relating to homicides. However, when one day he is contacted for assistance by LAPD detective Milo Sturgis, Alex finds himself stumped: an old woman without friends or relatives is found murdered in a very personal and gruesome way. Not a single clue is to be found, apart from a blank page with a huge question mark on it.

With his instinct directing him towards the idea that only a very ill (psychologically-speaking) person could have done this, and so he embarks on a long crusade into the surprisingly secretive and dangerous world of mental treatments, where there are more skeletons than closets to fit them in. As he makes his way through the investigation, Alex becomes increasingly worried about the person he is chasing, for they have the kind of evil within them that cannot be cured with pills or injections.

Friday, June 07, 2013

“The Son” by Philipp Meyer – Oil, Money, and the Wild West

The Son by Philipp Meyer - book cover
The Son by Philipp Meyer may very well be one of the most outstanding and epic Westerns written in recent years, following the story of an entire Texas family for over a hundred and fifty years, telling the stories from the points of view of three different narrators.

The first one is Eli McCullough, who in 1859, at the age of 13, was captured by Comanche natives and with time assimilated himself in their culture, learning to live as they do. However, as most of the natives fell ill to disease, Eli decides to return where he belongs (Texas), diving into the industries of cattle and oil.

The second narrator is Eli’s son, Peter, who has been labeled as the family’s ultimate disappointment for his inability to live up to their image of success. Finally, the third narrator is Eli’s great granddaughter, Jeanne Anne, who is having heaps of trouble running the modern McCullough Texan empire.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

“And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini – The Ripples of Fate

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - book cover
Khaled Hosseini has established himself as one of the most prominent writers of the decade with classics such as The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. In these stories Hosseini spends much of his time focusing Middle Eastern families, their values, beliefs, morals, actions, decisions, and ultimately, their fate. In And the Mountains Echoed, Hosseini follows a similar theme, but needless to say, it is explored from a very different angle than in his previous works of writing.

To give you a brief idea of what the story is all about, it starts off with a father telling his children a story about a young boy who, after being taken by an ogre, discovers that his fate was far from being as terrible as he imagined it. On the next day, the father gives his daughter away to a very wealthy man living in Kabul.

This is where the real story starts, and it spans for a time period of over fifty years, even going from on continent to the next. We basically follow the drastically-different lives and fates of those belonging to the above-mentioned family, covering a whole wide range of different topics such as love, birth, life, death, deception, seclusion, and war. Perhaps more enthusiastically though, Hosseini seems to want to point out that regardless of what we think of one’s motives for committing an action, we really know very little.

Though I felt the book dragged on a bit during certain passages, it is inevitable when the story is so grand and spans over multiple decades and continents with there being a lot of scene setting to do. I especially liked how the many different stories were told from various perspectives, breathing some variety into the story and giving the reader insights which would have otherwise never been revealed. More importantly, we get to see how the different characters think and what motivates them to act the way they do.

I have to say that even though book wasn’t very easy to follow in certain places and the first half is better than the second, it still remains a very moving read, with the touching part being the realism of what fate ultimately lies in store for all people.

This is not the kind of book where heroes miraculously swoop in at the last second to save the day; it is set in the real, cold, uncompromising and cruel world that exists today. Definitely worth reading for those looking for an emotional experience in their books.

Khaled Hosseini (March 4, 1965)

Khaled Hosseini

Personal site

Khaled Hosseini is an American novelist of Afghan origin, as well as a physician, though he likened that occupation to an arranged marriage. In 2003 Hosseini published his first book, The Kite Runner, and never looked back with the tremendous success it brought him.

More of the Khaled Hosseini's book reviews:
The Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

“The River of No Return” by Bee Ridgway – Time-Travelling Romance

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - book cover
The year is 1815, and Nick Falcott is fighting the war of his life on an old battlefield, when suddenly he wakes up two hundred years in the future, in a hospital bed… as was promised by his guild. Though his time-traveling “caretakers” shower him with goods, Nick longs for one woman from his past, and against all rules and regulations decides to go back.

Meanwhile, still in 1815, Julia Percy is mourning the loss of her grandfather, a man capable of manipulating time. In The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway, the two meet, and much to Julia’s surprise, there is a lot going on she doesn’t understand. Together, they decide to put an end to the Guild, an organization capable of controlling the past and the future, but in order to do that they need to find a long-lost talisman, and perhaps more importantly, keep their heads straight.

Monday, June 03, 2013

“It’s Time for the Truth!” by Charles E. Hurlburt – Re-Exploring the Ageless Murder

It’s Time for the Truth! by Charles E. Hurlburt - book cover
I have already discussed a number of books which center around the Kennedy assassination, and in my opinion, the best one of the bunch is Crossfire. However, that is not to say there isn’t any information to be obtained from other sources, and the recent released of It’s Time for the Truth by Charles E. Hurlburt (with Laura Shinn designing the cover) has caught my eye. At first, I was just looking at it as a book I could add to my JFK collection, but as I started reading I quickly understood that it turned out to be more than that.

Perhaps taking hints from Crossfire, this book is all about facts and details, containing three hundred and fifty pages which describe the event and the ensuing investigations in as much detail as possible.

However, instead of simply providing an account of what happened, Hurlburt takes a step beyond that and tries to see how the known facts and evidence would point to a conspiracy theory. In other words, this is an attempt to legitimately expose the assassination as a high-profile conspiracy using actual knowledge rather than speculations and jumping to conclusions, and that’s something very few have even come close to accomplishing.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt – Murder: The Maddening Solution

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - book cover
The Secret History, written by Donna Tartt, starts off innocently enough as a young man by the name of Richard leaves his low-class California home to attend the Hampden College in Vermont. Shortly after arriving, Richard finds himself part of a somewhat pretentious clique of friends, who spend their time drinking, taking pills, and studying classical literature with a professor who doesn’t seem to be quite all there in the head. Though they seem innocent enough, one day they reveal to Richard that during a drug-fueled frenzy they murdered a man. Unfortunately, one of the group seems ready to burst with guilt, and so they take the easy road: kill him too.

However, as the weight of the second murder starts to weigh down on the group, it begins to slowly decay and disintegrate, leaving its members to slip into madness and lunacy. Will the murderers be caught? Are the police onto them? Are the police even bothering with it in the first place? Why is it so easy to kill? These are all questions the protagonists ponder on time and time again.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 5

Spoils of War

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to the fifth issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature. To be frank, I am kind of surprising myself at this point with how easy it is to find interesting news from the world of books; it seems there is always something worthwhile happening.

For instance, on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York of the War of 1812, the Sackets Harbor Group came from their little village to present the Toronto Library with books that were stolen centuries ago by American military forces. The books originated from the XVIII to the XIX century, with one of them being “The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift” by the dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin.
Sackets Harbor group returns books stolen from Toronto library

"SACKETS HARBOR — A village delegation went to Toronto last weekend to present a set of vintage books representing a collection taken by American military forces during the War of 1812’s Battle of York.

The 200th anniversary of the battle, which took place April 27, 1813, was marked in the city throughout the weekend. The village representatives presented the books at a ceremony at the Toronto Reference Library on Sunday.

Constance B. Barone, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site manager, said the plan to return the books was the result of six years of planning.

“It’s really pleasant to see it get enacted and everything went well,” she said.
The books presented during the ceremony were “The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift,” dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, from 1754; the Pope’s “Poetical Works,” from 1752, and James Fordyce’s “Sermons to Young Women,” from 1803.

Read full article: Watertown Daily Times - Sackets Harbor group returns books stolen from Toronto library

Stealing or Borrowing?

Known around the world as the author of The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling is without a doubt one of the most celebrated writers of both the 19th and 20th centuries. Countless adaptions were made of his stories, ranging from stage plays all the way to silver screen blockbusters.

He is pretty much the last author you would expect to plagiarize from other people’s efforts, but as a recently-discovered letter from the author himself shows it, he had to “steal” from a number of different writers and stories to complete The Jungle Book.
Kipling Admitted Plagiarizing 'Promiscuously'

"A short letter from the (amply mustachioed, possibly imperialist) English author Rudyard Kipling is up for auction. Addressed to an unknown woman, the letter says, referring to a portion of The Jungle Book, that "a little of it is bodily taken from (Southern) Esquimaux rules for the division of spoils. In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen.""

Read full article: NPR - Kipling Admitted Plagiarizing 'Promiscuously'

English poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling poses in 1925.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Though some may believe that the versions of the religious books we have today are the most absolute ones, it can be hard to remember that after all, they were written by humans using scrolls, many of which have been lost to time and decay.

In other words, we may never be able to complete the major holy books at our disposal, at least in terms of recreating the original version. Nevertheless, the search goes on, and recently an Italian expert discovered the oldest complete Torah Scroll of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses), and the most amazing part is that all this time, the scroll was right under his nose.
Expert discovers ancient Torah scroll in plain sight

"An Italian expert in Hebrew manuscripts said Wednesday he had discovered the oldest known complete Torah scroll, a sheepskin document dating from 1155-1225. It was right under his nose, in the University of Bologna library, where it had been mistakenly catalogued a century ago as dating from the 17th century.

The find isn't the oldest Torah text in the world: the Leningrad and the Aleppo bibles - both of them Hebrew codexes, or books - pre-date the Bologna scroll by more than 200 years. But this is the oldest Torah scroll of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, according to Mauro Perani, a professor of Hebrew in the University of Bologna's cultural heritage department.

Such scrolls - this one is 40 yards long and 64 centimeters 25 inches high - are brought out in synagogues on the Sabbath and holidays, and portions are read aloud in public.

Read full article: CBS News - Expert discovers ancient Torah scroll in plain sight

In this undated photo provided by Alma mater Studiorum Universita' di Bologna, a document that an Italian expert says to be the oldest known complete Torah scroll. AP PHOTO/ALMA MATER STUDIORUM UNIVERSITA' DI BOLOGNA

“The Last of the Doughboys” by Richard Rubin – The Tales of a Lost Generation

The Last of the Doughboys by Richard Rubin - book cover
If you take a look at any kind of media today, whether it be books, video games, television shows or movies, you will find that a surprising amount of them focus on the Second World War. Considering its recentness I guess it’s only appropriate, but perhaps it is a shame that it overshadows the exploits of those who fought during the First World War, which was a downright bloody conflict in its own right.

Being determined of capturing the stories of those involved and rightfully immortalize them, Richard Rubin, a writer set out to find the last remaining survivors of the First World War and take interviews with, discussing the people themselves and what they remember going through. The result of his extensive probing was The Last of the Doughboys, a collection of tales coming from a lost generation.