Exerpt (3) From Louise Penny: All the Devils are Here

The pages below are from Louise Penny’s Gamache series book 16. It plays in Paris, France. The exerpt is an exchange between the wife of the main protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache from the Canadian Sureté, herself a retired librarian who worked in top position at Québec’s Bibliothèque et Archives nationales, and the Chief Archivist of the Archives Nationales in Paris.

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Exerpt (2) How does the story continue?

The page below is from a very recently published novel. The author has written a large number of highly successful stories, many of which have been adapted to movies. He likes experimenting with different genres from science fiction, magic realism, fantasy, crime and suspense, to name just a few. His books often relate to current topics of social or political relevance, and frequently, though not always, include supernatural elements or twists. All stories evolve around human relations and conflicts. His strength lies in creating atmoshere and drawing the reader into the story – you feel you are there. He creates complex characters and a vivid sense and atmosphere of the locations or places where events unfold.

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Text exerpt (1) A science fiction classic and some examples of ‘past perfect’ and ‘used to…’

Guess which ‘classic’ the following text passage is from.

The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It stood on its own and looked out over a broad spread of West Country farmland. Not a remarkable house by any means – it was about thirty years old, squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye. The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in. He had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved out of London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about thirty as well, tall, dark haired and never quite at ease with himself. The thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local radio, which he always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting than they probably thought. It was, too – most of his friends worked in advertising.

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Guess the Classic revised

I have been going through my older posts. One of my favorite classroom activities in the past was to hand out little excerpts or passages from classic literature and have my participants guess what they were. I chose stories that I knew or at least suspected everyone to ‘somehow’ know.

(Further down you will find a spoiler alert as in this post you find the answers to the excerpts. Do not continue reading on from there if you still want to go through the six classics you find in separate posts under the category ‘Guess the Classic’).

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Stephen King Revisited and a brief pandemic update

We are in week 13 of Corona. I had to go into my calendar and count. Ever since Germany started with loosening the quarantine measures, life has become a little more restless again. As one writer said: going into ‘Corona’ was easy, getting out again way more complicated.

Our local sports club has been opening up gradually. The individual sports departments had to hand in concepts how to uphold the corona regulations and outdoor sports could commence. Thus, I’m back on the tennis courts, even though I didn’t miss it during the total shutdown. We went for long walks instead behind our village. On the weekends we explored the hills and forests of our region in a radius of 30 kilometers – and were quite amazed at what we found.

But, to tell the truth, it was good to meet more people and friends again. And I must admit, the last two weeks I was on our sports ground almost every day. (The sports pub was also allowed to open under strict hygiene rules 😉

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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). We had been reading about a general decline in the sales of soft drinks. In this connection, the topic of the attempted ban of XXL drinks in New York City came up. The question arose why anyone would buy such large drinks in the first place, instead of maybe buying a second if you still wanted more after the first (smaller) one. The ‘History of Supersizing‘ provides an answer: we seem so have a tendency not to take seconds so as to not appear piggish. Thus, if marketers want people to buy more of their drink, they have to increase the size of one. (revised December 2021)

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The Economist’s Annual Issue of the Year

Link for 2024 The World Ahead 2024 from The Economist

Link for 2023 The World in 2023 – what to expect

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 (5)

In this next passage, we leave Europe and go to the other side of the Atlantic. This author is considered a very special one in many respects. The so-called New World has now been settled for some time, but American literature, what we consider ‘genuine’ American, is still fairly new. James Fenimoore Cooper has generally been acknowledged with being the first to have written novels exclusively set in an American landscape, depicting the early settlement experience of mostly European settlers, taking a critical view on their often disrespectful and brutal treatment of nature and the original inhabitants of the continent.

The following, though, is not from one of Cooper’s novels.

This well-known American author 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.

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Guess the Classic (4)

Then came the night of the first falling star. It was seen early in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward, a line of flame high in the atmosphere. Hundreds must have seen it, and taken it for an ordinary falling star. Albin described it as leaving a greenish streak behind it that glowed for some seconds. Denning, our greatest authority on meteorites, stated that the height of its first appearance was about ninety or one hundred miles. It seemed to him that it fell to earth about one hundred miles east of him. 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. She refers to John Sutherland, who asks in his book How to Read a Novel: A User’s Guide how we choose which books to read since there are so many novels, new ones being published every day? 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 (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 excerpt. 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