I’m currently in middle of a module on 20th Century African American Literature, and it’s got me thinking of the way we categorise literature, place labels upon it, in a way to control it further.
Early 20th Century African American Literature is often placed as political work. That an African American who is able to express himself for the first time since slavery, must, and often this is the case, want to write about the world he has discovered himself in. A world of racism, prejudice and violence. His work is used to express this rejection, this removal from society; somewhere across this line literature and politics collide.
Literature becomes a place to express ideas, experiment with an ideology and look towards a new world. It’s a place of freedom we sometimes take for granted, yet it can also act as propaganda, have high influences upon our current lives. It makes you think of the importance literature can play, and its impact, on politics, on history and everything in-between.
It’s made me appreciate how much literature has and continues to play a part in our lives. Whether this be freedom of expression, of tackling innovation or it’s ability to somehow go against the status quo. Literature is incredible, and holds a large proportion of our lives in its hand.
Hopefully this wasn’t too deep a topic for a Sunday morning, if you’re interested in these topics I certainly would recommend a few titles:
- The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois
- The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man – James Johnson
- The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
- Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
The Secret Garden may be a very well-known and well-loved children’s classic, but it was only this year that I finally read this famous book. I already knew the general story line, the expectations of what the tale would include, after all a secret garden needed to be found.
Yet I didn’t expect the descriptions of Yorkshire, the development of the characters and the captivated spell the book held over me. It transported me to Misselthwaite Manor, to Mary’s world, her discovery of not simply a garden, but friendship, trust, hope and life. It reminded me of simplicity of the world a ten-year old can see, of the clear right and wrong, and the adventure life holds.
It may be a simple tale, beautifully told and illustrated in the folio edition I received. As much as I feel I should have read this earlier, maybe from an adults perspective I appreciate the tale more now, then if I’d read it ten years ago.
Regardless of your age, The Secret Garden is a classic we all need to read, to remember how precious and wonderful life can be.
As famous as D. H. Lawrence is, I have to admit it was not until this week as my course reading specified, that I sat down to read my first Lawrence novel: The Rainbow.
It certainly surprised me. I was under some illusion it would be long over-descriptive romantic language, pleasantly this is clearly a modern book on nationhood, progression and society.
Banned back in 1915 after its first publication, Lawrence alters the status quo on what was acceptable to have in literature. Full of modern ideas, contrasts of generation and certainly with Ursula a sense of modern time is unearthed and rewritten. It presents, especially in terms of women, the vast growth in possibilities, education and freedom unknown in the restriction of the past. Yet as our knowledge grows, so too must our desire to explore this new world.
I loved the resemblance this novel holds with Wuthering Heights, the story of generations, altered heroines; new yet utterly familiar. It creates an impression of honest change at the beginning of the 20th Century, as we face a time of exploration; internally and externally. The continuous mother and daughter relationships echoes the novels need to move forward, as time demands.
This novel rose above my expectations and is a classic everyone should read.
On recommendations from a very enthusiastic bookseller at Oxford Street’s Waterstones, I entered into the world of The Enchanted April. To be taken back to the 1920’s as a group of women fought against the status quo of their husbands expectations.
Elizabeth von Arnim manages to create four very head-strong characters, whose view on life mystifies me. Their power at the time to almost renounce their husbands for a month was certainly quite unexpected, adding a twist immediately to the tale.
It felt as though each woman, needed that removal from her normality, her home, her husband to find herself. That once these distractions were taken away, they were able to understand themselves for the very first time. I enjoyed seeing how each characters played out her connections and life decisions, and in a way reconnected with herself.
Yet as ever, once such strong characters are placed together bickering must begin, adding a charm of comedy to the storyline.
It’s a wonderful classic, which surprised me in its easy reading and intriguing story line; certainly well worth a read.
Anne Frank’s diary has shaped a generation in its presentation of war, hiding and ultimate betrayal. She’s a girl, no more ordinary but by a range of events become extraordinary.
After first reading her diary many years ago, I became enticed by her story, her strength and perseverance. Anne captures the essence of everyday life while surrounded by the most peculiar circumstances but her energy and love for life shine through.
It was therefore incredible to finally enter the secret annex, after years of dreaming of a trip to Amsterdam the two-hour queue was tiny in comparison. Yet it was a strangely surreal experience to walk the rooms we only know through description, but missing the furniture and in a way the soul of the building. The emptiness of the annex and loss it had held still outweighed the many visitors inside, giving it an atmosphere somehow familiar yet so different from the world Anne knew.
The experience is something I will certainly take with me, it evoked a clear message for peace and unity. Reinforcing to my generation and those that will follow the despicable events that war entails and if we are lucky one day the world will realise that too.
On the 80th anniversary of the very first penguin books, a collection of 80 classics have been reproduced all at the wonderful price of 80p. The most difficult part; deciding which ones to buy!
Like many others, and I’m sure this blog has made it clear, I love books; in all shapes and sizes. I enjoy exploring authors of new and old, one by one adding to my collection. So with the release of the Little Black Classics, it seemed a perfect opportunity to explore and expand my literature collection.
I therefore tried my hardest to whittle the collection down to ten, for my first purchase at least. I went in to Waterstones without having previously decided on my choices, instead I waited to see what took my fancy. I chose mostly based on the authors, some of whom I’d read and enjoyed, others who I felt it was about time to start reading their work. Others came from the title, which caught me for no particular reason, each backed up by the tiny blurb on the reverse. One was recommended for me while I stood and stared at my options for far too long, and my final choice, Darwin’s It was snowing butterflies is for a friend who introduced me to the Little Black Classics.
So with ten new books purchased, it’s time to start reading them and watch my collection grow…