I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a high school student. When I re-read it again recently for the Hungry Hundred Book Club I asked myself, more than once, why I’d even bothered, not having liked it the least little bit the first time around.
Enough was enough, I told myself. Lesson learned. I was never going to read more Joyce. Life’s too short to spend time trying to like stuff I don’t actually like, regardless of how ‘important’ the stuff purports to be. But then, I read more Joyce anyway! Why did I do that?!
The Irish Embassy in Singapore invited local readers to participate in Bloomsday by reading James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners and coming for a discussion on 14 June 2019. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue the question of whether Joyce is really the founder of ALL modern fiction, as has been asserted.
Genre: literary fiction (short stories) Date started / date finished: 30-May-19 to 05-Jun-19 Length: 150 pages ISBN: Project Gutenberg 2814 Originally published in: 1914 Gutenberg link: Dubliners
Loved by mothers and daughters for more than a century, Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women attained a higher level of popularity than any of her other books. Even though the book was clearly directed toward a female audience, it has been said of Little Women than even from a male point of view the book and its sequels are very good (Chesterton). Though Little Women is known mostly for its characters and amusing stories (Gale), it becomes clear to a careful reader that Alcott weaves into her stories her opinions on certain issues. Her reform-minded father and her mother both encouraged her to live independently and stand up for her opinions (Gale “Overview”; Magill, “Little Women” 1264). The issues Alcott supported included coeducation and abolition, but causes Alcott especially supported were women’s rights and women’s suffrage (Gale; Gale “Overview”). In fact, after she had become famous, the novelist used her popularity to aid her causes and became the first woman in Concord to register to vote (Magill, “Louisa May Alcott” 7). It should not be surprising, then, that it is Alcott’s feminism which most influences Little Women and which dominates her later works in particular. Sometimes Alcott speaks out quite strongly through her characters, but other times she must make sacrifices, toning down the opinions in order to insure that her books succeed. In her earlier works, such as Little Women, Alcott is most restrained, but in her novel Rose in Bloom, she is less so, and in Jo’s Boys, she hardly restrains her opinions at all.
The full title of the work is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come. The work tells the story of a man named Christian who reads the Bible and thus comes to fear his doom and to feel that he is carrying a burden. He desires to be saved. Luckily, he subsequently encounters a man named Evangelist who advises him to travel to the Celestial City by a certain path. Christian tries to follow his instructions, with varying degrees of success, and (massive spoiler alert) ultimately reaches his goal.
Is it worth reading this venerable Christian text nowadays?
The characters of Little Women refer to the book and its setting, characters, and plot.
Genre: fiction (religious allegory) Date started / date finished: 16-May-19 to 20-May-19 Length: 145 pages ISBN: Project Gutenberg 131 Originally published in: 1678 Gutenberg link: The Pilgrim's Progress
Little Women, a popular and influential nineteenth-century American novel about the coming of age of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, is familiar, charming, and—for those with a compatible upbringing—only a little bit too didactic.
It’s easy to admire Jo, the fiercely independent heroine of Little Women, a tomboy who cuts all her hair off, looks forward to spinsterhood, and aims to support herself by writing. I wonder if she’s a Mary Sue; others (doubtless more fruitfully) debate whether or not the book is feminist.
After six years of writing speculative fiction, JY Yang finally finds themselves at the end of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Tensorate series, with the fourth and final volume, The Ascent to Godhood, out in July this year. As a postcolonial feminist writer who deals specifically with gender, cultural imperialism and structures of power in their work, JY Yang is currently embarking on the epic journey of crafting their first novel-length work of fiction. Described as a far-future space opera centred on the descendants of a doomed generation ship, it has giant robots, space stations under siege, emperors and hierophants, holy artifacts and faster-than-light travel. It is Joan of Arc meets Gundam.
About the Event (Worldbuilding “Lecture” at Sing Lit Station)
There were no PowerPoint slides; I can’t imagine the talk proceeding in that way. Yang was animated, spontaneous, and concise in sharing about their struggles and successes as a writer. The talk was neither wholly about worldbuilding nor off-topic, neither wholly driven by the author nor wholly driven by the audience. The chairs were filled, but there was space for everyone. It was a good-sized group, but still felt intimate. A delightful event.
Publisher Monsoon Books and bookshop Books Actually organized a reading by author Rosie Milne from her new novel Circumstance. Moderator Elaine Chiew followed up the reading with insightful commentary and questions.
See below for a bit of author Q&A and photos from the event.
Toa Payoh, Tiong Bahru, and Katong are sold out at the publisher.
When and Why I Read We Love Chinatown, We Love Geylang Serai, and We Love Serangoon Gardens
These are attractive locally-produced books.
Genre: non-fiction (art)
Date started / date finished: 07-Jan-19 to 07-Jan-19
Length: 96 pages
ISBN: 9789810778231, 9789814615181, 9789811700569 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2015, 2016 and 2017
So you want to read Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure, The Count of Monte Cristo. And you don’t read French.
No problem. This massive novel has been available in English since the 1840s. You’ll find a copy in any decent library or bookstore, and if you like reading ebooks, you can download the novel for free because it’s not under copyright. That’s sorted, then.
Not so fast!
As soon as you visit the library or bookshop or click over to Amazon, you realize there are a host of publishers offering a myriad of paperback and hardcover editions and dozens of digital versions. What’s the difference?
Unexpurgated, unabridged, abridged, children’s, illustrated, and film versions are available. Keep reading to learn how to choose an edition that’s right for you.
Genre: fiction (young-adult, political speculative fiction)
Date started / date finished: 03-Dec-18 to 08-Dec-18
Length: 261 pages
ISBN: ASIN B07KDTHQCT
Originally published in: 2018
Amazon link: Sofia and the Utopia Machine