Category Archives: Prize Winner

The Fifth Season: Rules for Reading Fantasy

There should be a rule when reading fantasy that you’re not allowed to quit reading before 50 pages. I feel like 50 pages in the minimum needed for world building and scene setting. “World building” meaning (for me at least) the figuring out of how the fantastical world is organized in terms of geography, time, politics, social order, customs, etc. Without the 50 page rule I’d probably have quit The Fifth Season and that would have been SAD because it was such a great read. But those first 50 were disorienting as there’s no quick way to be like “here is how this world works” without being obnoxious and pedantic so this reader just had to accept that the logic of the place was going to unfold and eventually I’d know enough of the things to be clear about what was what. Continue reading

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, Governor Generals

Bel Canto: I may be tone deaf, but I know good writing.

The only thing I remember from first year English is a lecture that argued that all creative writing (whether poetry or prose) is about the urge by authors to create something which will outlast them. That every poem or story is, in the end, a valiant gesture toward immortality. And that readers should read with an eye to the way the author intentionally and accidentally imbues their work with this impulse; that is, that the discerning reader will always be able to find evidence of the author’s vanity, of their arrogance in thinking their work will endure. At the time I found the argument moving and persuasive. Since then I think back on it more as an example of excellent teaching, it was a well paced lecture with convincing examples and analysis. Which isn’t to say I now thinking writing isn’t about immortality, just that I haven’t had cause to declare an allegiance in the great What is Writing For debate of humanity.  Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Fiction, Orange Prize

The Hours: Reading Deja Vu

I think I might have read Michael Cunningham’s The Hours before. I know I’ve seen the movie. And I’ve read Mrs. Dalloway a few times. So maybe that’s it. Or maybe the scenes of Mrs. Brown, at home, baking a cake, taking care of her kid, and wishing she was reading just echo my current life too closely? Continue reading

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Filed under Book Club, British literature, Fiction, Prize Winner

Home Fire: I was once boss of Greek mythology.

Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire is great. It’s a contemporary retelling of Antigone, which for those of you not up on your Greek mythology is told in the Sophocles play by the same name and is about a bunch of battles and Antigone – sister, daughter, all round righteous lady – defying the king’s order by insisting the her brother’s dead body be buried.  A bunch of spoilers follow, so if you’re going to read it (and you should) you might want to stop reading here. Continue reading

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Filed under Booker Prize, British literature, Fiction