Thrifting (For Books)

December 11th, 2014

Good afternoon voracious readers,

If you buy too many books and then cry when you look at your bank account, raise your hand.

Well readers, I have extremely exciting news for you (just in time for the holidays.) I discovered a website that sells used books, some for less than half of the actual marketing price. Opening a new book you just picked up from Barnes & Nobles may give you a warm feeling, but used books decreases paper waste and extends the lifetime of a book. Thrift Books has over 7 million used books and ships for free. And what’s better than free shipping? Besides cheap books of course.

I read other people’s testimonies about the website. One person said they purchased $66 worth of books for only $20 (5 books), and another claimed they bought four books for $16 that was worth $90. Crazy, isn’t it? Oh, and I also heard they sell textbooks so that should be a great savior for your wallet next semester.

Titles on this online “thrift shop” ranges from best sellers to books you’ve never heard of. The paperback copies of the Harry Potter series sell for $3-4 while a hardcover copy of the popular Gone Girl is only $5-6. What’s even better than these inexpensive prices is their Holiday Sale – buy four and get one free.

It sounded too good to be true so I decided to try the website out. I ordered 10 books, (a few being hardcovers), and in total they were worth $150. I paid $40. Merry Christmas to me!

Have fun thrifting,

Daisy BEAUchanan

P.S. It’s sad to say my time here at Beaufort Books has come to an end. I have enjoyed blogging for you these past couple months. Keep on reading my lovely bookworms!

Share

The Nonfiction Novel

December 10th, 2014

Good evening, my dear readers,

Today marks my last day as an intern with Beaufort Books.  It’s been a whirlwind of a semester, but I’m so grateful that I had the chance to work here.  From reading submissions, to brainstorming titles for upcoming books, to drawing upon my long-neglected and virtually-nonexistent math skills (suddenly I am no longer proud of the fact that I’ve not taken a math class since high school), interning at Beaufort Books has been an insightful and fun experience.  I’m going to miss coming into the office next semester!

I’d like to muse today on a topic that only recently came to my attention: the genre of the non-fiction novel.  Given that the genre label of non-fiction novel is something of an oxymoron, it’s not a surprise that this genre has attracted a fair amount of controversy among bibliophiles since its inception in the ’60s.

Truman Capote was the first writer to use this term in describing his novel In Cold Blood.  Capote believes that the non-fiction novel is a book in which “reporting” facts is done in a manner where it is “made as interesting as fiction, and done as artistically.”  He goes to great lengths to distinguish the non-fiction novel from New Journalism, a school of news writing that used literary techniques to report facts, remarking that such writers were primarily journalists and thus “useless” at achieving the “creative reportage” that he praises.  Capote also distinguishes nonfiction novels from documentary novels, as the latter usually allow imagination to “run riot over the facts” (http://tinyurl.com/9lx9s).  In Capote’s opinion, a true non-fiction novel would marry mastered literary techniques with pure hard facts.

cold blood

The definition of the nonfiction novel has loosened a little since Capote first set down the genre’s parameters.  Wikipedia defines the genre, for instance, as a work that portrays real historical events and people meshed with fictional conversations and literary devices (http://tinyurl.com/8255wwg).  Merriam-Webster states that the nonfiction novel is a book-length narrative of facts told in the style of the novel (http://tinyurl.com/kkswcac).  Encyclopedia Britannica says that it is a work that tells the story of real figures and events using the dramatic techniques of a novel (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/417684/nonfiction-novel).

While all of these definitions state similar things, they also differ enough to create continued confusion about what exactly the nonfiction novel is.  Beyond the question of length, for instance, are there clear limits between creative nonfiction and the nonfiction novel?  Or is the nonfiction novel meant to be a subgenre of creative nonfiction?  What about the limits between  the nonfiction novel and historical fiction novels?  If a work of historical fiction uses both real and fictional people, is that enough to bring it into the realm of the nonfiction novel?  And in writing down any fact with a creative spin, doesn’t that fact become fictionalized to a certain degree no matter how dearly the writer sticks to notions of reality?  In recreating a conversation from memory, for instance, or in attempting to recreate a real event with particular verbs and adjectives that carry particular connotations, is it possible to say that creative nonfiction can be 100% objective anyhow?

If it’s not evident by now, I am of the bibliophile camp that remains skeptical of the nonfiction novel’s existence.  While I am a big fan of creative nonfiction, I think it is silly to believe that any piece of creative writing can be completely factually accurate.  I think it is even sillier to slap together a word as inherently self-contradicting as the nonfiction novel, given that a novel must, by definition, be fictional. 

To play devil’s advocate for a moment, however, the word novel is increasingly being used as a term for any book, whether fiction or nonfiction (http://tinyurl.com/mmcpb3b).  Language can and does change over time, so perhaps I should stop being such a traditionalist and not get too hung up on the fact that the term novel used to refer to a fiction work of a certain length, but might mean something else nowadays (or be on its way to meaning something else).  And I can also understand the impulse to distinguish works of nonfiction written in a more literary style from those texts that deliver information in a clean-cut manner, such as college textbooks or traditional journalism.  But I still have a hard time understanding the need to break a perfectly legitimate genre (creative nonfiction) into increasingly smaller bits.

calvin

In any case, I hope that this post has served as a good introduction to the controversy over nonfiction novels, because my time at Beaufort is officially over. While I’m sad to leave this place behind, I’m glad to leave with great memories of the past and great hopes for my future in publishing.  

And, after all, tomorrow is another day.

All the best,

Scarlett Beau’Hara

3245259090_e00389a8ca
Share

Adapting Books for the Stage

November 17th, 2014

Good afternoon, dear readers,

It is time that I make a confession: I am not only a book junkie.  I am also a theatre junkie.  And so it always makes me very happy when these two loves of mine are merged.

I’ve been thinking lately about the choice to adapt a book for the stage, and what kinds of books (if, indeed, there is a particular kind) are more suitable for a theatrical adaptation.  I haven’t reached any grand conclusions  on this topic, but I thought it’d be worthwhile to discuss some recent theatrical adaptations of books regardless (and if any of you reach a grand conclusion of some sort, please do share it with me!).

When I first learned that Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home was in the works to be turned into a musical, I was torn between delight and terror.  Such sentiments are probably understandable to anyone who has ever heard that one of their favorite books is going to be adapted to another form.  On the one hand, I was thrilled by the mere idea of seeing this beyond fantastic book come to life.  On the other hand, I was petrified at the thought that the musical would butcher the original material.  The narrative is certainly not “traditional” musical material: the book frankly discusses homosexuality, is told in a nonlinear manner, and contains tons of literary allusions.  My trepidation, however, could not win out over my intense desire to see the show.  So, last fall, I purchased a ticket to see Fun Home.  One month later, I purchased another ticket for Fun Home.  A month after that, I purchased a third ticket to Fun Home.

If it’s not clear by now, I love the show to bits.

Fun-Home-A-small-A-Bruce

What struck me as I watched the show (and then watched it again, and then watched it again . . .) was how perfectly suited Fun Home actually was for a musical.  Handling challenging/”not-discussed” subject matters through song made perfect sense; songs are, after all, all about those moments and emotions when words or music alone fail.  And the non-linear format of the book lent itself beautifully to a musical format, given that (at least for this musical) so much hinged upon emotional currents rather than linear time, a narrative style that does not always work in film.  I can’t write much more without getting incoherently fan-girl-esque and gushing all over this blog post.  Suffice to say that this the show was, and remains, one of the best live shows I have ever seen, and I am already eagerly anticipating its transfer to Broadway this spring.

Speaking of Broadway, another of my favorite books can currently be found in theatrical form in New York’s theatre district: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  This novel tells the story of Christopher Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy living in England, who decides to investigate the murder of his neighbor’s dog after he is initially accused of the crime.  Although Haddon never states it explicitly in the book, critics and readers (as well as the book’s blurbs) say that Christopher has high-functioning autism.  This autism presents Christopher with unique challenges, such as not understanding social cues or being able to empathize in a traditional manner, but it also gives him a novel way of seeing the world.

Curious-Incident-of-the-Dog-in-the-Night-Time-Apollo-4-2013-630x310

Christopher’s individual perspective is brought fully to life by the theatrical adaptation.  Christopher is both the narrator of his own play and a character within it, able to both position his fellow characters and be himself positioned.  The set design functions as a sort of mirror of Christopher’s mind. The floor, ceiling, and walls of the stage are composed of cubes.  These cubes can open up like panels, be used by the actors to either walk in geometrical patterns or break those patterns, and can be either physically drawn upon or used to depict digital images (as shown in the photo).  This apt scenic design gives us access to how things look from his individual perspective just as the novel does, while simultaneously retaining a barrier between him and us (his audience).  This sort of set design would be harder to pull off in film or television, as it is not particularly realistic.  In theatre, however, such notions of reality are already more easily broken down. This play also comes with my soaring recommendation.

Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you to see the last book-to-theatre adaptation I want to discuss, as it is no longer running.  But this  play nonetheless deserves discussing because it is another instance that I believe reveals much about the choice to adapt a book into a theatrical work.  This past summer, Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle adapted Michael Chabon’s beautiful Pulitzer-Prize winning novel: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  The novel tells the story of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, cousins who become successful figures in the comic book industry in the ’30s-’50s.  Although I initially had no idea how this novel could become a play — this novel that spans a dozen years, covers events in multiple countries, contains interludes of stories from the cousins’ comic books, and is riddled with dense prose and literary allusions — I was immensely curious to see what Book-It would do with this material.  I was even more curious when I learned that Book-It was adapting this 700-page novel into a 4-hour play.  That might sound like something of a nightmare to sit through at first, but luckily, every adapted minute was worth watching.

TheAmazingAdventuresofKavalierClay_2014_Ulman_226_forweb

Once more, the very things I’d worried about ended up being the play’s greatest strengths.  The entire stage became one of Kavalier & Clay’s comic books, filled with cartoonish moving set pieces and comic-book-style sound effect bubbles with onomatopoeia.  The characters also now and then narrated their lives as though they were characters inside of a comic book, e.g. “Joe felt very foolish” or “Sam did not know what to say.”  Such devises both heightened the presence of the main characters’ comic books while also empathizing thematically the narratives these characters used to construct their own lives, their fictions and various self-portrayals.

I still have yet to reach any grand thesis regarding the decision to turn a particular book into a theatrical piece.  I do think it worth noting, however, that in these examples, the choice to dramatize a book seems inherently linked to the book’s material rather than an arbitrary decision.

Until next time, dear readers,

Scarlett Beau’Hara

3245259090_e00389a8ca
Share

Readinspiration

November 7th, 2014

Hello readers,
Have you found your #fridayreads inspiration yet? Maybe these strangers can help. Here are the top recommendations that I received 
over the past two weeks:

image1

 

The first is Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria KonnikovaDescribed by its reader as a fascinating, and most importantly, easy-to-read psychology/ literary analysis book that is along the same vein as Malcolm Gladwell’s work, Mastermind opens your eyes to a world of reflection and observation. While there are mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, most of the dissenters seem to be die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans who have the examples presented in Konnikova’s work written to memory, while praise is given from those interested in Sherlock Holmes and why his character has remained popular for so many years.

imagesimage2216213

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second recommendation is The Rising by Brian Keene. Described by its reader as amazing zombie-cult fiction, this novel has been the inspiration for many apocalyptic story-lines from novels to movies and even TV. While Keene’s novel debuted in 2003, it has recently been re-released in uncut form. While Keene’s novel also received mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, this was mostly to do with typos in the original version, which according to newer reviews are not contained in the newest edition.

 

Your feelings and opinions toward any book can change depending on when you read them and what is going on in your world at that time–even our own recommendations are subjective to us in a particular moment in time.

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for”–To Kill a Mockingbird

BEAU Radley

 

Share

Banned and Challenged Books

November 6th, 2014

banned

In my Young Adult Literature class, we read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In this novel, it depicts themes of sexuality, violence, bullying, deaths, and a heavy use of profanity. Due to these issues, the novel has been banned from schools and libraries. Many parents did not want their children to be exposed to these topics. However, these are real issues that society deals with whether it’s the drunk father or the exploration of sexuality – these are situations children and teenagers encounter while growing up.

There are many books that are challenged but are not banned. The difference being that anyone can challenge a book. A parent, a teacher, or your next door neighbor can challenge a book they think is “inappropriate” due to its explicit content of violence, offensive language, homosexuality, and etc. But the American Library Association is actually the one who gets to decide if the books should be banned. In order for the challenge to be successful, the ALA must declare the material as proper to be censored from libraries and school systems.

Here are some of the top books that have been challenged in 2013:

  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
    The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Bones by Jeff Smith

These books and series are frequently challenged due to their themes of drugs, violence, offensive language, and relitumblr_lzytnv84sk1qzlicjo1_500_largegious and political view points. Popular books in cultures that many people read regardless of its contradictory standpoints such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and Twilight by Stephenie Meyers are also challenged. Yet, children and teenagers will continue to pick up these novels on the bookshelves if it inte01.06.10 - 6/365rests them. Why should one group of people decide on what children should and should not read?

So the question arises – should we protect the younger generation from their exposure to these themes by getting rid of these books? Or is it better to let them pick the books they want to read and allow them to look into these topics themselves?

 

 

Until next time,

Daisy BEAUchanan

Share

The Consequences of Censorship

October 8th, 2014

Hello again, dear readers,

As I am writing this post on the heels of Banned Books Week, I thought it might be a good time to discuss literary censorship.   I realize, since I am writing this blog for a publishing house, that a post listing the reasons against banning books would end up being a post that merely preaches to the choir.  So, rather than simply enumerate all the reasons I (and, I assume, all of you) despise book censorship, I thought it might be more interesting to discuss the consequences, both positive and negative, of book banning.

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance, was banned from my hometown’s school district some years ago.  Not only could this novel not be included on any public school curriculum, but the school libraries were forbidden from keeping it in stock.  The censorship of this novel led me to believe that it suggested some pretty condemning perspectives on race and/or Christianity (the things that my town usually objected to in a work of literature).  Imagine my surprise, then, once I finally picked up the novel on my own time, and discovered that the only objectionable aspect to the novel was its use of the n-word – and even this derogatory term was used in a questioning, rather than a lauding, context.  My school district’s banning of this novel turned it into a work that, prior to actually reading, I perceived as radical, even though the novel itself is not.  These mis-perceptions of books happen on much wider scales, too; Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, for example, although a wonderful memoir about a daughter’s struggle to understand her closeted gay father, has in some communities gathered the unfair reputation of being pornography.

adventures-of-huckleberry-finn__oPt

Book banning doesn’t just alter the cultural perception of a book – sometimes it can affect how many people actually consume the book, too.  While this claim does not hold true for small-scale bans, e.g. eliminating a book from a single library or school, banning a book often results in increased sales.  When Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis was banned from numerous public schools in Chicago last year, sales both online and within bookstores spiked.  Sales increased so much within Chicago itself that many bookstores reported being unable to keep the book stocked, even though the memoir had been available for a decade without ever selling so quickly (http://tinyurl.com/l7cxye3).  While I am never going to advocate for banning books to increase sales, as I believe that more authors are hurt than helped by such reduced exposure/free speech, it is interesting to note that sometimes literary censorship gives people more incentive to read the banned books rather than put them aside.

persepolis

There are, of course, also the obvious consequences of book censorship: the restriction of free speech; the closeting away of ideas; the limited opportunities to read material that challenges our understandings of a particular notion, place, group of people, or lifestyle.  Books are usually banned to prevent what some individuals perceive as dangerous ideas that could corrupt others.  Several months ago, psychologist Christopher J. Ferguson decided to investigate the relationship between frequently challenged books and their perceived negative impacts upon people (specifically, in this case, Texan teenagers).  The study did not find any correlation between reading banned books and a student’s GPA.  Nor was there any perceived relationship between reading banned books and committing crimes, either violent or nonviolent (http://tinyurl.com/n3htdmh).  If such studies were to be repeated on a larger scale, perhaps the banning of books could – at least on the basis of decreasing academic motivation and/or encouraging crime – one day be proven to be unnecessary.

More promising, however, is the study’s discovery of a positive correlation between reading banned books and partaking in civic activities.  In other words, if a teen in this study were more likely to read banned books, then the teen was also more likely to vote, go out of their way to help others, and/or volunteer.  This is, again, not an argument FOR banning books so that these positive effects might become wider spread, and nor is this to say that reading banned books automatically increases teenagers’ compassionate behavior, political awareness, etc.  I nonetheless find it fascinating that reading controversial books correlates with civic behavior.  Clearly more research must be done here, but it seems that statements regarding a book’s ability to widen peoples’ compassion for situations/people normally outside of their lives could one day be statistically based.

Book banning creates numerous cultural, financial, and psychological ripples through our society.  I do not support book banning, but since censorship is (unfortunately) not going away anytime soon, I do think it worthwhile to discuss the consequences of literary censorship.

banned books freadom

Until next time, dear readers,

~Scarlett Beau’Hara

3245259090_e00389a8ca

Share

Notes From Underground

October 3rd, 2014

Hello all,

While many may question the life expectancy of printed books and the value in entering such an unpredictable industry, the New York subway system has proven to me that good books will never really go out of fashion. Whether they are sitting, standing, waiting, or attempting to juggle their coffee in one hand and book in another, it’s almost impossible not to see at least one subway reader on your daily commute. So, in search of my next read, I decided to take Notes From Underground readers by asking my fellow Q train riders for recommendations.

Here is my top choice from this week: monstrous affections

Described by its reader as a Y/A collection of darkly-themed short stories that is both clever and enjoyable for readers of all ages, Monstrous Affections takes the first slot. It was published last September by Candlewick Press and has received glowing reviews by readers on both Amazon and Goodreads. This collection of imaginative tales features everything from classical mythology to aliens, yet still manages to explore themes of love, fear, and the trials of human relationships.

FullSizeRender-1

The second book that I will recommend is Notes From Underground, a Beaufort book by Roger Scruton that I have just begun about the underground culture during the Czechoslovak communist regime. While its subjects are not mythical or magical creatures, but people, its themes also touch on fear, love, and the struggle to find truth.
Notes from Underground
Books are there to teach, inspire, and entertain; they transform us and influence our tastes, passions, and ambitions; but most importantly, they are ready and accessible without being coercive or unavoidable. They tell their story in hopes that someone will listen, and in this way, books are like Mockingbirds.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird”–To Kill a Mockingbird
More to come soon, BEAU Radley
Share

A Cup of Hot Tea and Books (A Lot of Books)

September 18th, 2014

“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.”
– William Styron,Writers at Work

Good morning internet world (or so I hope it will still be morning by the time I finish writing this post!)

I will be writing under the name Daisy BEAUchanan, after Jay Gatsby’s love interest in The Great Gatsby. It is one of my favourite novels, however, I am still conflicted about my feelings for her. When I first finished the novel, I disliked her. When I watched the movie, I really didn’t like her. Yet, often times when my mind wanders back to Daisy’s character, I begin to understand some of the despicable things she did. But I will stop there, for this is not a rant about her. Maybe I will save that for another post some day.

I also run a blog and one of the most frequently asked question from my readers is, “What books do you recommend?” Therefore today, I will be sharing some books I have added to my Autumn reading list and some that I have already read and highly recommend. I have to warn you- I am currently a little obsessed with the Fantasy/Dystopian and contempporary fiction in the young adult genre.

Let’s start off with my favourite books I read this year:

Untitled

1. Sold by Patricia McCormick was just a random pick up at Barnes & Nobles. I love the way it is written – in short verses told in the main character’s point of view.

2. Everyone on the internet and all the avid readers I knew raved about Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Now, I understand why. Right after I finished it, I had to rant to my best friend about how madly in love I was with the concept of the story and the characters too.

3. The first time I passed by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, I knew it had to be something I needed to read. So I walked past it again, read the blurb, but told myself, “maybe next time.” The next time was when I began reading it. I can only tell you how many quotes and parts of the books are high-lighted in my Nook.

4. Champion by Marie Lu is the third book of the Legends Trilogy. This trilogy has taken me out of this city and to a different time and place. Oh, and it’s also made me cry a couple of times.. (okay, maybe more than a couple of times.)

5. I love Mitch Albom. His books always rearrange the way I think, how I feel about life, and becomes a part of me. All his work just make so much sense. The First Phone Call From Heaven is no different.

6. In high school, I was forced to read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I am grateful my teacher did because I loved it. However, I love A Thousand Splendid Suns even more. It opens up a new door and I am able to get a glimpse of a whole different culture than the one I grew up in.

7. I am a little obsessed with young adult fantasy/dystopian novels. I used to read them a lot when I was younger but I feel as if I read them even more now as I grow older! I heard a lot about Throne of Glass and when I finally got to reading it, I was hooked! The second book, Crown of Midnight was even better. I am currently reading the third installment that was recently released, Heir of Fire. I have a feeling I will be dreading the ending of that since the fourth book will be coming out next year.

 

Now, let’s move on to books I want and hopefully will get to read before 2014 ends:

Untitled

I am stoked about this reading list! I’m especially looking forward to And The Mountains Echoed, The Infinite Sea, and Fangirl. What books are on your reading list? What books do you recommend for any book lover? Are there any new books coming out in 2015 that you are looking forward to?

 

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Until next time,

Daisy BEAUchanan

 

P.S. I just made it! It’s 11:56 AM.

Share

Coming of Age

September 12th, 2014

Hello all,

I have chosen the nom-de-plume, BEAU Radley after Harper Lee’s mysterious character that represents the collision of imagination and reality for Scout and Jem. Unlike countless others seeking a career in publishing, I wasn’t always a book fanatic, and To Kill A Mockingbird was truly the first book I actually enjoyed reading. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the reason for my less-than-enthusiastic response to reading as a kid–I simply didn’t like children’s books. My coming of age years had a lot to do with To Kill A Mockingbird because it lead me to a love of reading, which brought me to where I am today: a graduated English major attempting to make a career out of reading. As Scout and Jem approached adulthood with a new recognition of the realities of the world, I entered adulthood by finding a world of imagination that lay before me in the pages of unopened books. So for this post I leave you with three classic coming of age stories and three new ones:

 

Is it the story you read or the age you read it that counts? Do the new ones stand up to these classics?

the goldfinch ctt msy aspcr imgres

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

-BEAU Radley

 

Share

Bookish Bandwagons

September 3rd, 2014

Hello dear readers,

I’m Anna, one of the interns at Beaufort Books this fall. Following in the footsteps of the great interns before me who have incorporated “beau” into their blogging nom-de-plumes, I have elected to call myself Scarlett Beau’Hara from now on.

When I first picked up Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind four years ago, I was prepared to despise that novel. I’d watched the movie one sick day at about age eight and had been bored beyond belief. More importantly, however, Gone with the Wind — both the film and the novel — had always represented to me cultural artifacts of mass appeal. Being something of a closet hipster who tries to avoid bandwagons, I didn’t care to ever pick up the novel. But when two good literary-minded friends of mine independently recommended Gone with the Wind to me within the span of a few months, I knew the time had arrived to at least take a peek at the book.

And I am so glad that I did. Because — to mis-paraphrase the dashing Rhett Butler — frankly, my dear readers, I now do give a damn about this novel. So many damns.

Scarlett-and-Rhett-scarlett-ohara-and-rhett-butler-31090991-1000-750

Likely you are all familiar with the basic story of Gone with the Wind, so I feel it unnecessary to provide a summary. Let me for now say that the novel is a wonderfully accurate and frequently uncomfortable glimpse of our country’s past, a romantic tour de force, and a masterpiece that contains of one of the most unlikable and yet compelling heroines in literature. A heroine whom I’ve decided to pay tribute to with my blogging name.

It pains me now to think that, four years ago, I refused to read what is now one of my favorite novels simply because I’d decided that too many people in the world already liked it. And so this leads into my topic for today: literary bandwagons. Gone with the Wind was not the first book I decided not to read because of its cultural popularity, and it was certainly not the last, either. I’ve noticed this is not an uncommon problem among bookworms. In my case, while I take personal recommendations seriously, I become skeptical when the whole world gets excited about the book in question.

Why this reluctance to jump upon literary bandwagons? I don’t want to make a blanket statement about all readers, but I think it often has to do with a book’s perceived literary merit. In the case of Gone with the Wind, I expected a frivolous and overly-long bodice-ripping-romance with only a thinly excuse of a plot. There is no reason to believe that just because something is popular, it also has no plot, character development, thoughtful prose or themes, etc, but such is the way my mind works.

And that really ought to stop. Because while I shall never stop lauding the value of my less-acclaimed favorites (Eleanor Updale’s Montmorency series, for instance, or T. Greenwood’s novel Undressing the Moon), neither should I feel the need to apologize for adoring Gone with the Wind or any other popular book. It’s highly gratifying to see that this divide between popular books and literary books is not as tidy as it used to be — gratifying to see, for instance, Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel Dune being taught in schools, or critical essays being written about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (I highly recommend The Girl Who Was On Fire, a collection of essays about this fantastic and smart YA series by authors and scholars, by the way).  I don’t think this tension over bandwagon books will end anytime soon, but I do hope that I — and other readers who share my mental block when it comes to popular books — can begin to stop assuming that being popular equates with having no literary value.

Well, that’s all I’ve to say for now. Until next time then, dear readers,

~Scarlett Beau’Hara

3245259090_e00389a8ca

Share


© 2014 Beaufort Books