I enjoyed reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson last year and her final novel ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ published in 1962 three years before Jackson’s death tells the story of eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood who lives with her older sister, Constance, and their uncle, Julian, on a large secluded estate in New England. Six years earlier, half of the Blackwood family including Merricat and Constance’s parents were poisoned when the sugar bowl used at dinner was laced with arsenic. Although Constance was acquitted of the murders, the three surviving Blackwoods remain isolated from the rest of their small village. However, the arrival of their cousin Charles threatens their future and Merricat becomes increasingly suspicious of the real reason why he has suddenly turned up out of the blue. Continue reading
Tag Archives: American Literature
‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates tells the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a married couple in their late twenties living in Connecticut on the Revolutionary Hill Estates with their two young children in 1955. Frank commutes to New York City but finds his job at Knox Business Machines very dull with few long-term prospects while April had dreamed of becoming an actress before marriage and motherhood led her to be a housewife. They long to escape their life in suburbia which they see as stifling and unfulfilling but their circumstances change when April discovers that she is pregnant again. Continue reading
Howdy, do you speak American? Or do you prefer conversing in Estuary English with some Cockney rhyming slang thrown in? The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once observed that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. If the modern publishing industry is anything to go by, then this sentiment certainly applies to the large numbers of books edited in both British and American English.
Book marketing and editing often reflects the assumption that British and American readers have different tastes. One of the most famous examples of a book being edited specifically for an American audience is ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ by J. K. Rowling which was published as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ in the United States to be “more suggestive of magic” than its original title. Numerous other words in the main text were also changed so that Harry and his Hogwarts chums (sorry, friends) ate candy rather than sweets, studied for their exams instead of revising for them and went on vacation rather than holiday. Continue reading
As noted by The Millions, “There are things that are famous for being famous, such as the Kardashians, and then there are things that are famous for not being famous, such as John Williams’s Stoner”. This week marks the fiftieth anniversary since ‘Stoner’ was first published but the almost forgotten novel has only become well-known in the last couple of years some two decades after the author’s death and ten years after being reissued. Somewhat ironically, it is revealed in the first paragraph that the main character, William Stoner, is also quickly forgotten by his students and colleagues after his death in 1956. Originally a student of agriculture entering the University of Missouri as a freshman in 1910, he later switches to literature and becomes an academic and professor. Continue reading
I can’t really explain what made me pick up ‘V.’ by Thomas Pynchon from the library shelf three weeks ago. It’s likely to have been a combination of recently seeing a trailer for the film adaptation of ‘Inherent Vice’ and coming across an old article in The Guardian by Ian Rankin about Pynchon as well as the weird and wonderful cover design of this Vintage Books edition. Moreover, although I’ve read a lot of enjoyable and thought-provoking books in the past few months, it’s been a while since I’ve read something that has properly challenged me. Continue reading
Until last week, the prospect of Harper Lee publishing a new book fifty-five years after ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ seemed about as likely as Donna Tartt churning out novels at the same pace as Stephen King or E. L. James winning the Man Booker Prize. But this is exactly what was announced by her publishers at HarperCollins last Tuesday.
Few details have been revealed so far other than that the book is about Scout Finch returning to Alabama as an adult twenty years after the events in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. ‘Go Set A Watchman’ was written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ but Lee was persuaded by her publishers to focus on Scout’s childhood instead. The original novel was subsequently lost before it was rediscovered last autumn.