The link below is to an article that takes a look at the latest Kindle for PC update.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at the EPub format.
The Swedish Academy is in trouble. The body which bestows the annual Nobel Prize in Literature has been hit by the withdrawal of a number of its members after a row over allegations of sexual abuse and harassment. The crisis came to a head after the decision of the permanent secretary, Sara Danius, to step down on April 12, prompting King Carl XVI Gustaf to intervene, promising reforms to enable to academy to continue.
The academy’s rules don’t allow for members to resign, so disenchanted members withdraw from active participation. Danius’s withdrawal is the first by a permanent secretary in more than than 230 years. It means there are only 11 active members of the academy and the rules require that new members must be elected by 12 members.
The Swedish Academy was established in 1786 to promote the Swedish language by setting standards and developing poetry and other forms of linguistic expression. For a century and more, this was where writers rubbed shoulders with high-ranking officials and aristocrats. But for the past century, the 18 members of the Academy have tended to be well-known writers and academics – a fine family name is no longer enough for entrance.
But apart from this small modernisation in the interests of promoting equality, the Swedish Academy has remained surprisingly stable. There have been scandals and expulsions, most notably that of founding member, Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, a director of both the Royal Opera and the Royal Theatre in Stockholm, who was excluded twice – both times for political reasons when Armfelt was forced to flee the country in fear of his life. Another prominent exclusion was that of politician and aristocrat Count Henning Hamilton who resigned after financial wrongdoing.
But overall the academy has been remarkably stable and, when Alfred Nobel’s will stipulated in 1895 that the Nobel Prize in Literature should be decided upon by “the academy in Stockholm”, the organisation received an enormous boost in prestige as well as a financial boost that has allowed it to fund the Nobel Library.
The current crisis actually has its roots in a row as far back as 1989 when members Kerstin Ekman and Lars Gyllensten left their chairs after a majority of the academy voted against a proposition to submit an appeal to the Swedish government to engage against the fatwa issued by Iran against Salman Rushdie for his controversial novel The Satanic Verses. In 2015, another member, Lotta Lotass, left her chair for personal reasons.
After Gyllenstein’s death and replacement by Kristina Lugn, this meant that only 16 of the 18 members of the academy were now actively involved in its work. These included five women including Danius the permanent secretary and the poet Katarina Frostenson whose husband Jean-Claude Arnault is reported to have been the subject of numerous complaints of sexual harassment and abuse. These go back as far as 1996 when there is evidence that a young artist called Anna-Karin Bylund contacted the then permanent secretary Sture Allén (confusingly, the permanent secretary actually holds the office for a limited term which varies) with allegations of sexual harassment against Arnault. No action was taken at the time.
Towards the end of 2017, in the wake of the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, 18 women came forward in the Swedish press with further allegations against Arnault, who is not only married to an Academy member but runs the Forum, a club for artists in Stockholm which is subsidised by the Academy. There were also allegations going around that the names of several winners had been leaked in the past, although there is said to be no record of odd betting patterns in Sweden. In the UK, Ladbrokes is reported to have suspended betting on one occasion after large amounts of money were placed on the eventual winner. Arnault’s lawyer Bjorn Hurtig told Reuters that his client denied all the allegations, including that of being the source of leaks.
According to reports of the affair, moves to expel Frostenson were frustrated by the Academy’s dominant conservative male faction, led by Allén and literary scholar Horace Engdahl (also a former permanent secretary), which voted against the measure on the grounds that it would be unfair to punish Frostenson for the perceived crimes of her husband. Three members: novelist Klas Ostergren, literary scholar Kjell Espmark and historian Peter Englund duly resigned and Danius stood down as permanent secretary and withdrew from active participation, as did Frostenson.
The affair would not have attracted so much international interest but for the Swedish Academy’s role in selecting the recipients of the Nobel Prize. And now, thanks to all the resignations, the existence of the Academy itself has been put in jeopardy. All eyes are now on the king and his possible reforms to reach some kind of solution that can secure the future of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
OK, I’m more of a conventional, traditional bibliophile in the way that I store and display books. I use the bookcase/bookshelves approach – others like to be a bit more ‘showy’ in their approach. I prefer my books to be useful, to be like my tools – not mere dust catchers. The link below is to an article that looks at 5 ways to creatively display books, which isn’t really my cup of tea (which I don’t drink – so much for traditional then), but could be someone else’s I guess.
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Two of Australia’s most popular children’s storytellers live in a treehouse. It’s a Thirteen-Storey one, at least it started out that way. The storytellers are Terry Denton and Andy Griffiths, responsible for an array of children’s comedies, who live in a fantasy treehouse paradise. There they write and illustrate their stories, distracted by the lemonade fountains, see-through shark-infested swimming pool and a marshmallow gun that shoots directly into your mouth.
Since its arrival on the literary scene in 2011, this Treehouse has grown by 13 storeys at a time. The next edition will be 104 storeys. The books have sold over 3 million copies in Australia alone. The treehouse now contains a detective agency, a mashed potato and gravy train and a machine that makes money… or honey… depending on what you’d prefer. These delights interrupt Andy and Terry as they write for their publisher, Mr Bignose. Indeed the treehouse functions as a metaphor for the writing process … its storeys provide food for the stories produced inside.
Treehouses feature often in children’s stories. In Dav Pilkey’s popular Captain Underpants series, the heroes George and Harold write comics in their treehouse and retreat to it when things get out of hand, to regroup and create their way out of trouble. There are, of course, Tolkien’s Ents, the walking trees who fight on the side of good against Sauron and his army. Or Dr Seuss’s Lorax, who guards the Truffula trees from devastation. Ents and the Lorax are guardians of the ecosystem. When they act we know that something is badly out of kilter – in these cases in the fight between good and evil.
Mention Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree stories, meanwhile, and many a grown-up gets misty-eyed. Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series has been going strong for 25 years, and has nearly 100 titles. Carter Higgins’s Everything You Need for a Treehouse helps you get kitted out for your own woodland home. And mythology is full of trees.
The World Tree of ancient Norse mythology, Yggdrasil, is similar to the thirteen-storey treehouse, linking the nine realms of the world (of fire, of ice, of elves, of gods, of fertility, of giants, of dwarves, of humans, and of the dishonorable dead). In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, when King Eresichthyon of Thessaly cut down the Greek Goddess Demeter’s favourite oak tree she teamed up with her sister Fames to torment him with a hunger so eternal that he eventually ate himself.
The Russian witch, Baba Yaga, lives in a mobile treehouse on a chicken foot, like an old-fashioned Grey Nomad. The Biblical serpent tempted Eve to taste fruit of the tree of knowledge. And many European forests are inhabited by tree creatures, such as sylphs and dryads, eco-friendly creatures that appear in fantasy literature such as Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher.
So it’s not surprising that living in the trees gives Andy and Terry and George and Harold access to fantasy spaces, and to magic and mystery. A technical term for this is liminality: in a liminal space, you are on the borders of things, or thresholds (the word come from the Latin for threshold, limen). If you live in a tree, you are up in the air, but connected to the earth.
At heart, most myths respond to fundamental practical needs. Tree house stories recognise that children need time in nature. For generations of urban children, these books offer a fantasy of unsupervised creative spaces where they can control their own adventures, face dangers that test them and engage with others in a less restricted way.
In Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature Rich Life (2016), author Richard Louv coined the phrase “Nature deficit disorder” to describe the human costs of alienation from the natural world. Opportunities for play in nature have dramatically declined in urbanised societies and with them, benefits such as creativity, problem-solving and emotional and intellectual development.
Writers like Denton and Griffiths recognise the child’s need for nature. So does Tina Matthews, in whose Waiting for Later a tree provides company for a child whose family is too busy to spend time with her. And so does mythology which regularly takes characters into nature, to confront, to challenge or to come to terms with life.
While the Thirteen-Storey Treehouse may not be directly inspired by Yggdrasil or Demeter’s Oak, or hop about like Baba Yaga’s hut, it understands the relation between creativity and time in the woods, taking part in a grand literary tradition that goes as far back as myth itself.
Elizabeth Hale, Senior Lecturer in English and Writing (children’s literature), University of New England and Lynnette Lounsbury, Lecturer in Communications and History, Avondale College of Higher Education
In our series, Guide to the classics, experts explain key works of literature.
When asked to explain the significance and pleasure of the Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin, I’m afraid I usually flounder. How to put it to friends, students or colleagues that the tiffs, the leisurely intrigues and frustrated aspirations of a fractious bunch of adolescents constitute one of the great efforts at plumbing human experience?
Yet Dream of the Red Chamber, written in the mid-18th century, is the fullest immersion one could hope for into late imperial China, the best access to the minds, hearts and habits of that period, complete in everything from cosmology to cosmetics.
The episodic plot, sprawling over 2,500 pages in the standard Penguin translation, follows the infatuations and travails of a pubescent boy, Jia Baoyu. Baoyu is the unstudious and distracted son of a great, albeit troubled, house in Beijing. He is surrounded by a bevy of erudite and beautiful girls (relatives and maidservants), doted upon by his elderly grandmother, and terrified by his strict, pedantic father — a paragon or parody of the Confucian gentleman. In the pavilions, halls and gardens of this grand estate, allegory of and escape from the world, Baoyu struggles reluctantly towards adulthood.
The interlocking pieces of the plot are revealing vignettes and character studies, many of which have reached iconic status in Chinese culture, and proved fertile ground for theatre and the visual arts.
They function also as a mirror of a reader’s personality, status, age and values. Do you tend towards the maiden who moderates with steady counsel or to the volatile but brilliant orphan girl? Do you deplore or delight in the fiery, funny administrating aunt’s shady outlay of expenses and sometimes malicious (or even murderous) feistiness? As with Proust, the perspective changes with age: re-reading the novel this year, I noticed how my sympathies were shifting upward a generation.
What’s it all about?
The deceptively immaterial occupations of the characters’ daily rounds of visits and chats provide material as much for metaphysics as for psychology. Drama can be constructed one moment around whether Baoyu will have his tea (his nanny sometimes appropriates it), and the next moment around the boundaries of reality, or the purpose of human striving.
Somehow, almost deviously, through the spats, crushes and rivalries of a handful of teenagers, the great questions of the human condition are broached: what is a good life, faced with the inevitability and omnipresence of death? What are one’s obligations? How real is this life and what is it for?
Take the famous little scene in Chapter 22 when Baoyu is inspired to throw fallen flower petals into the stream, but is chided by his sensitive cousin, Daiyu, who remarks:
It isn’t a good idea to tip them into the water … The water you see here is clean, but farther on beyond the weir, where it flows on beyond people’s houses, there are all sorts of muck and impurity, and in the end they get spoiled just the same. In that corner over there I’ve got a grave for the flowers, and what I am doing now is sweeping them up and putting them in this silk bag to bury them there, so that they can gradually turn back into earth.
Contained in this image is, depending on how you see it, a poignant image of grief, an allegory of love or its inadequacy, or a Buddhist exhortation to accept impermanence. The work’s ability to imbue petty incident and trifling games with philosophical resonance is peerless.
But while you are distracted by the intricate web of their relations, and, we hope, by Baoyu’s marriage and/or enlightenment, the reader realises that this is a family, an estate, a dynasty, a universe, in decay.
Cao Xueqin, the author, was himself the scion of a family in slow collapse, and the work (left unfinished and completed after his death) is often read as an elegy to his own vanished childhood. From our historical vantage point, it is hard not also to recall that within 50 years of the novel’s publication, China was in the throes of the Opium War, its sense of self-sufficiency and centrality forever fractured (until, perhaps, now).
Scholars of the novel, whose field of study has expanded so far that it is known as “Redology”, have used the text to look into everything from the era’s medical practices, the prevalent tastes in theatre, its queer desire, ethnic power relations and reading habits.
An antidote to facile stereotyping
Dream of the Red Chamber has Balzac’s panoramic view of society, the satire of arrogance and fashion of Vanity Fair, the funny, meandering mischief of Decameron. But these comparisons are inadequate to a work so monumental and so vehemently itself, the epitome of the great tradition of Chinese family fiction.
The novel has spawned innumerable adaptations for the stage and screen, as well as dozens of sequels attempting to rescue or resolve its characters’ dilemmas and narrative arcs. It has influenced everything from the witty, cruel short stories of Eileen Chang, to the claustrophobic film, Raise the Red Lantern, and the opulent concubine-poisoners’ dramas of popular TV serials such as Empresses in the Palace.
Above all, reading (or prescribing) the novel feels like the antidote to facile stereotyping of Chinese culture. All the core topics are present: family dynamics; Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism; face and status; strategy and emotion. But all of these are played out for a readership which still regarded the world outside China as a curiosity, and was under no pressure to defend or justify its culture. It is a work of the Qing Dynasty, by a Qing author, for Qing readers; and it is the modern reader’s good fortune just to be allowed in.
Whether you read it straight through or dip in from time to time, this work affords entry to one of the great fictional universes.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at the success of thrillers.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at Google’s ‘Talk to Books.’
The link below is to an article that looks at how to adjust the screen light on kindles.
The links below are to articles that report on the ability to remove DRM from Kindle’s KFX format.
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