One of the Seven and Another Classic to Guess

Last week the topic of the ‘seven sins’ came up again (see post from 25. June 2013). In one group, we had been reading about a decline in the sales of soft drinks and the topic of the attempted ban of XXL drinks in New York City was mentioned, so I took the text I had provided on the ‘History of Supersizing’ once more to class, in which our tendency not to take seconds so as not to appear piggish is explained in connection with one of the so-called cardinal sins – in this case ‘gluttony’. Continue reading

The Economist’s Annual Issue of the Year

The World in 2014

Every year, the British magazine The Economist publishes a special issue that focuses on the events of the coming year. They write about upcoming events, things that might, could or will happen, and report on how on-the-spot their predictions for the previous year were.

This year, their selection of events around the world (Calendar 2014, p 32) was accompanied by a wonderful illustration by Kevin Kallaugher, their editorial cartoonist, and … Continue reading

To ‘Lord of the Rings’ Fans

Have you ever tried reading the books in the original? My experience with classes in Germany tells me most haven’t. As ‘The Lord of the Rings’ also falls under the category of a classic, you can actually read it for free online (which is something you can do quite nicely with a tablet PC).
Below I copied some lines from http://readfreeonline.net/OnlineBooks/The_Fellowship_of_the_Ring.html so give it a try. You might find the reading is not as difficult as you believed.
In 1981 the UK radio station BBC Radio 4 broadcast a dramatization of J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings in 26 half-hour stereo installments which is really great. It’s not an audio book but an audio play, so the characters are acted out (by British actors) with a narrator telling the story in between dramatized scenes.


The Lord of the Rings : A Full Cast Dramatisation (BBC Radio Collection)

Guess the Classic (6)

Classic (5) was from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.

One of my favorite bands ever was, has been and still is (even if I don’t listen much any more) Alan Parson’s Project. Their first album was the musical transformation of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s ballads and stories. Absolutely brilliant. You can listen to them online on YouTube.

The Raven, e.g., is a very intense, atmospheric and quite long ballad about a man mourning his lost love – a woman named Lenore – and who is being haunted by a raven that symbolizes the hopelessness and despair of his situation. You can read the original here; the lyrics of Alan Parson’s version are below. Though much shorter than the original, the lyrics in combination with the music capture the mood and atmosphere of the original brilliantly. Continue reading

Guess the Classic (5)

Classic (4) was H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds, first published in 1898; the latest (loose) film adaptation produced by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Cruise and Tim Burton.

An army of fighting Martian machines destroying England

Most remarkable was the 1938 radio broadcast directed and narrated by Orson Welles.  You can download it from http://archive.org/details/OrsonWellesMrBruns or listen to it on youtube.com. Legend has it that listeners who had missed the introductory part of the play mistook it for reality, panicked and fled from their homes, clogging streets and highways in the Northeastern United States and Canada.

The next classic is from a well-known American author who was one of the earliest American writers of short stories, and one of the first in the US who tried to make a living through writing. He is largely considered the inventor of the detective story, but is probably better known for his gothic fantasies. Continue reading

Guess the Classic (4)

Classic (3) was from 1984 by George Orwell, published in 1949.

The novel has enjoyed a recent increase in sales following the discussions around the US government’s surveillance practices.

CNN Money reports that sales have risen by 10,000 %.

Another few lines from a well-known story; its film version(s) probably more widely known than the original novel, which was published in 1898 and broadcast  as a quite dramatic and consequential radio play in 1938. Continue reading

Guess the Classic (3)

Did you recognize Classic (2)? Most readers remember the whitewash scene. There have been quite a few film adaptations and I must admit that one of my favorites actually is the German TV series made in the 70ies.

The next one is a little more recent than the first two; a novel from the first half of the 20th century of which there are two film adaptations as far as I know.

The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak* — was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party: Continue reading

How to Choose a Novel: Read Page 69

The Marshall McLuhan Test

Marshall McLuhan, (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory. His work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.[1][2] McLuhan is known for coining the expressions the medium is the message and the global village, and for predicting the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. (from wikipedia).

I came across the so-called Marshall McLuhan test while reading and browsing through the Guardian web page. Charlotte Stretch mentions it in her post on the Guardian’s books blog. Since there are so many novels, new ones being published every day, how do we choose which ones to read? Our time is limited. Even if we spent all of it reading… I once calculated how many books I could manage to read in the rest of my remaining days if I, say, for example, read two 300 pagers a week. Continue reading

Guess the Classic (2)

Classic (1) was the beginning of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1897. The Irish author created the character of the noble vampire in the 19th century and until today it has inspired many works of fiction, the latest (I think) being the Twilight series. My personal favorite film adaptation is Roman Polanski’s by now classic Dance of the Vampires (or: The Fearless Vampire Killers) from 1967, a more humourous uptake of the theme.

Now the next: Continue reading

Guess the Classic (1)

Research has shown that the vast majority of words are learned in and from context. So the more you expose yourself to the language, the more your vocabulary will grow. Besides listening, reading is one of the keys to vocabulary growth. So read, read, read – especially things that interest you, that you enjoy, or that are in any way meaningful to you.

I personally enjoy fiction. Though I know not everybody does, I do like to integrate fictional literature into my classes every once in a while. One of my favorite ‘exercises’ is ‘Guess the novel’: I copy pages from well-known classics and have the group read and guess what novels or stories the pages are from. Interestingly, even if they haven’t read the book, in most cases they are able to come up with the correct answer as those I pick seem to have their place in something like a collective consciousness.

Below is one such exerpt. One word in the text proved to be a total give-away, so I shortened it to two initial letters. Continue reading

The Importance of Reading Fiction

A definition of fiction:

A made-up story told in prose with words alone. Words alone. That’s the unique challenge and wonder of written fiction. There’s no actor or storyteller using gesture and inflection. No painter or filmmaker showing settings or close-ups. Everything is done with those little symbols we call letters, which are melded into words, which multiply to form sentences and paragraphs (from: the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, Bloomsbury: New York 2003).

Many people from all kinds of walks of life regularly visit creative writing schools. Their individual motives might differ in detail, but what seems to underlie all is a drive to write stories; not report or document, but to transform thoughts and experiences into written narratives. Why is this, where does this aspiration come from? Continue reading