Friday, October 21, 1977

The Bridge to Terabithia: Connecting the Real World to Fantasy

First posted 6/16/2020.

Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson

First Publication: October 21, 1977

Category: children’s novel

Sales: 4.24 million


About the Book:

Surprisingly few Newbery winning books have been made into movies. The Bridge to Terabithia is one of them. The 2007 Disney movie tweaked the original story. In the book, 10-year-old Jess and his friend Leslie imagine Terabithia as a kingdom in the woods. The book, however, does little to detail that kingdom while the movie makes it into a more visual, seemingly real place.

The general argument is always supposed to be that the book is better than the movie. However, the book-version of Terabithia leaves something to be desired. There are relatively few scenes which let the reader get any sense of just how magical Terabithia is. I was left wanting full-fledged chapters about the kids' imaginary adventures but got little more than a few paragraphs sprinkled throughout the book. The movie, however, clearly builds on the fantasy element of Terabithia, as one can see in the trailer alone:

As always, my point in reading the Newbery books (I'm up to 25 now) is to see what I can learn as a writer. What talents in storytelling and style and characterization can I bring to my own writing based on what these award-winning authors have done?

My first lesson is to elaborate on where Paterson fell short. My in-progress Abigail's Atlantis relies heavily on making Atlantis feel like a very real place and that requires enveloping a reader in caring about what it looks like and what happens there. I didn't get that with Terabithia.

On the other hand, the story is more about the friendship between Jess and Leslie. She enters Jess's life as the new girl from the city, a rival - the one person who can run faster. While no one else becomes friends with her, eventually she and Jess unite over their makeshift shed in the woods which they dub "Terabithia." It represents the imaginative and creative spirit which brings the two together as friends - and the place where Jess will go to deal with the tragedy at the climax of the book.

On that note, Paterson does an excellent job of creating real characters which the reader cares about. I root for Jess and Leslie as the outsiders, the artists, the dreamers. I care about these characters in their real-world scenarios and the problems they faced. I just wish I could have fallen in love with the supposed-to-be-magical land of Terabithia which connected them to each other in the first place.

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Monday, May 30, 1977

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez Published 10 Years Ago Today

Last updated 7/6/2020.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez

First Publication: May 30, 1967

Category: magic realism novel

Sales: 50 million

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

One Hundred Years of Solitude is “The greatest moment in magical realist fiction” TG and “one of the 20th century’s enduring works,” BN “García Márquez's passionate, humorous history of Macondo and its founding family, the Buendías, has the seductive power of myth.” TG “Alternately reverential and comical, [it] weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.” BN

Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women – brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul – this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.” AZ

“It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.” BN

“Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility - the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth - these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel García Márquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.” BN

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In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our November 2018 book.

Thursday, May 5, 1977

Virginia Woolf 's To the Lighthouse published 50 years ago today

First posted 7/3/2020; last updated 7/5/2020.

To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

First Publication: May 5, 1927

Category: modernism novel

Sales: ?

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

“Radiant as [To the Lighthouse] is in its beauty, there could never be a mistake about it: here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising. I think that beyond being about the very nature of reality, it is itself a vision of reality.” – Eudora Welty, from the Introduction AZ

“The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.” AZ

“Following and extending the tradition of modernist novelists like Marcel Proust and James Joyce, the plot of To the Lighthouse is secondary to its philosophical introspection. Cited as a key example of the literary technique of multiple focalization, the novel includes little dialogue and almost no action; most of it is written as thoughts and observations. The novel recalls childhood emotions and highlights adult relationships. Among the book's many tropes and themes are those of loss, subjectivity, the nature of art and the problem of perception.” WK

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Saturday, January 1, 1977

Marcel Proust's final book in In Search of Lost Time published 50 years ago this year

First posted 6/27/2020; last updated 7/6/2020.

In Search of Lost Time (aka “Remembrance of Things Past”) (A La Recherche du temps Perdu)

Marcel Proust

First Publication: 1913-1927

Category: Modernist novel

Sales: ?

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

Author Graham Greene (The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter) called Proust “the greatest novelist of the 20th century” AZ and Harold Bloom specifically singled out In Search of Lost Time as being “widely recognized as the major novel of the twentieth century.” AZ W. Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage) went a step further, calling it “the greatest fiction to date.” AZ Virginia Woolf said, “Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that!”

Bengt Holmqvist called it “the last great classic of French epic prose tradition.” AZ “It gained fame in English in translations by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin as Remembrance of Things Past, but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, has gained usage since D. J. Enright adopted it for his revised translation published in 1992.” GR

In Search of Lost Time follows the narrator's recollections of childhood and experiences into adulthood during late 19th century to early 20th century aristocratic France.” WK This massive 1.2 million-word, 4000+ page novel is broken into seven volumes. It is “known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory.” GR It is “a panoramic and richly comic portrait of France in the author’s lifetime, and a profound meditation on the nature of art, love, time, memory and death.” AZ “Every sentence can be a struggle to finish may sound forbidding, but this masterpiece of modernity, taking us into every nook and cranny of the narrator's fascinating mind, is worth all the effort.” TG

It “began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material, and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages as they existed in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother Robert.” AZ

Here are the seven volumes:

  • Swann’s Way (1913)
  • Within a Budding Grove (aka In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flowers) (1919)
  • The Ghermantes Way (1921)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah (aka Cities of the Plain) (1922)
  • The Captive (aka The Prisoner (1923)
  • The Fugitive (1925)
  • Time Regained (aka Finding Time Again) (1927)

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Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina published 100 years ago this year

First posted 6/26/2020; updated 7/6/2020.

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

First Publication: 1877

Category: realist novel

Sales: ?

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

“From its famous opening sentence – ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ – to its stunningly tragic conclusion, this enduring tale of marriage and adultery plumbs the very depths of the human soul.” BN

Tolstoy referred to Anna Karenina as “a novel from modern life.” AZ “He described in great detail the ‘shattered world’ devoid of moral unity” AZ in which “there are no coincidences” AZ and “topics that are close to each person are raised and remain unanswered.” AZ

Anna Karenina is “a beautiful woman who falls deeply in love with a wealthy army officer, the elegant Count Vronsky,” BN despite being “married to a powerful government minister.” BN “Desperate to find truth and meaning in her life, she rashly defies the conventions of Russian society and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Condemned and ostracized by her peers and prone to fits of jealousy that alienate Vronsky, Anna finds herself unable to escape an increasingly hopeless situation.” BN

“Set against this tragic affair is the story of Konstantin Levin, a melancholy landowner whom Tolstoy based largely on himself…Levin embarks on his own search for spiritual fulfillment through marriage, family, and hard work. Surrounding these two central plot threads are dozens of characters whom Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together, creating a breathtaking tapestry of nineteenth-century Russian society.” BN

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