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Results 26 - 50 of 14,193
26. Bare bodkins and sparsely clothed buttinskis, or, speaking daggers but using none

Few people would today have remembered the word bodkin if it had not occurred in the most famous of Hamlet’s monologues. Chaucer was the earliest author in whose works bodkin occurred. At its appearance, it had three syllables and a diphthong in the root, for it was spelled boidekin. The suffix -kin suggested to John Minsheu, our first English etymologist (1617), that he was dealing with a Dutch noun.

The post Bare bodkins and sparsely clothed buttinskis, or, speaking daggers but using none appeared first on OUPblog.

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27. Compassion or compromise? The ethics of assisted suicide

“Death is inevitable, but suffering doesn't have to be,” says Tennessee native John Jay Hooker, who has devoted his life to fighting for civil liberties, and his deadly cancer hasn't stood in his way.

The post Compassion or compromise? The ethics of assisted suicide appeared first on OUPblog.

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28. Picture Book Roundup - October 2015 edition

This edition of the Picture Book Roundup features three funny books, a hilarious cautionary tale, and a sweet bookish story to melt your heart. Enjoy!

Review copies of Night Animals by Gianna Marino (Viking, 2015) and In! Over! and On! by Ethan Long (Penguin, 2015) were provided by the publishers at my request. The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear (Tundra, 2015), Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2015), and Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy (Candlewick, 2015)

If you can't access the slide show with reviews below, you can see it on RiffleBooks at this link. [https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/185319]

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29. Don’t panic: it’s October

t the conclusion of the mid-September meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Federal Reserve announced its decision to leave its target interest rate unchanged through the end of this month. Although some pundits had predicted that the Fed might use the occasion of August’s decline in the unemployment rate (to 5.1 percent from 5.3 percent in July), to begin its long-awaited monetary policy tightening, those forecasts left out one crucial fact.

The post Don’t panic: it’s October appeared first on OUPblog.

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30. Charles Williams: Oxford’s lost poetry professor

It was strikingly appropriate that Sir Geoffrey Hill should have focused his final lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry on a quotation from Charles Williams. Not only was the lecture, in May 2015, delivered almost exactly seventy years after Williams’s death; but Williams himself had once hoped to become Professor of Poetry.

The post Charles Williams: Oxford’s lost poetry professor appeared first on OUPblog.

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31. Portrait of a Lady

I know Henry James is not everyone’s cup of tea but I love the long sentences, the way the story kind of oozes along, the psychological analysis, it’s good stuff! James was well aware what people thought of his stories. In the introduction to Portrait of a Lady he writes,

I’m often accused of no having ‘story’ enough. I seem to myself to have as much as I need — to show my people, to exhibit their relations with each other; for that is all my measure.

And that is what he does, examines relationships.

In Portrait of a Lady we have the young American Isabel Archer whose father has just died. Her two older sisters are married and Isabel is left with only a small income and no idea what to do with herself. He aunt swoops in from England and whisks her to Gardencourt where Isabel meets her uncle, Mr. Touchett and cousin Ralph. The Touchett’s are American expats who have more or less gone native, so to speak.

Isabel is naive and energetic, she wants to live life to its fullest on her own terms. She is without guile and so utterly charming that all the young men seem to fall in love with her. She left a suitor behind in America who eventually follows her to England in hopes of getting Isabel to marry him. Ralph’s friend and neighbor, Lord Warburton, is smitten and within days of meeting Isabel proposes. Isabel turns them all down because she is too well aware of the trap marriage will make for her.

Ralph loves Isabel too but keeps it to himself. Instead of asking her to marry him, when Mr. Touchett dies, Ralph asks that he settle a large part of his estate on Isabel. Ralph wants to see what kind of person and life Isabel will have when she has the money to do whatever she pleases.

At first it all goes well. But then Isabel falls into the clutches of Madame Merle who is nothing but gracious and perfect on the outside but a wicked schemer on the inside. Madame Merle sets up Isabel with Gilbert Osmond, an American expatriate living in Italy. He has a young daughter, Pansy, and a sad story of his wife’s death. He has no money but exquisite taste revealed in his collections of art and other items. Isabel is such a unique piece of work herself, plus she has money, so Osmond turns on the charm and adds Isabel to his collection by convincing her to marry him.

Of course it is not a happy marriage. Isabel refuses to properly fit into Osmond’s collection. There is much that happens with Isabel and Lord Warburton, with Pansy and her suitors, with Osmond and Madame Merle. Many times Isabel is offered the chance to escape her marriage but she refuses to leave out of sheer stubbornness and a belief that she made her bed and now she has to lie in it.

There are exciting secrets revealed. Marital arguments. Threats. For nothing happening there is quite a lot that happens! The ending is infuriatingly ambiguous. Isabel went to England against Osmond’s wishes to attend Ralph on his deathbed. Afterwards she returns to Italy but we are not sure if she returns to Osmond or if she returns to rescue Pansy from the convent Osmond has put her in as punishment.

Isabel is a frustrating character. She is independent and smart and speaks her mind. Yet she is always trying to be the good wife. She submits to Osmond as best she can, but her nature will only allow her to bend so far before she rebels. So she suffers both mentally and emotionally. It is well within her power to do something about it but she refuses. I wanted to yell at her. Ralph and Lord Warburton do. Well, they don’t yell, they are gentlemen after all, but they express their concern and strongly urge Isabel to leave. But the ending leaves us hanging. Will she go back to Osmond? I like to think she won’t but I don’t feel confident in that.

Isabel’s marriage is in direct comparison in many ways with the independent Henrietta Stackpole, feminist, journalist, and friend of Isabel. Henrietta and Ralph’s friend Mr. Bantling hit it off and begin traveling together. It is an entirely unconventional relationship but it works. Eventually Henrietta and Mr. Bantling get married but it is on Henrietta’s terms and we can believe that theirs will be a successful marriage. I loved Henrietta, she is what Isabel wanted to be (kind of) but couldn’t manage. The novel would be fun to reread some time and compare the two women and their marriages more carefully.

I read Portrait of a Lady along with Danielle. I liked it a lot more than she did but I think we both enjoyed it. It is one of James’s most popular long novels and if you are wanting to try Henry James and are a bit nervous about it, I think Portrait of a Lady is a good place to start.

Filed under: Books, Reviews Tagged: Henry James

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32. Cemetery Girl, Book Two: Inheritance by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden

Cemetery Girl: Inheritance
Last year, I devoured the first Cemetery Girl graphic novel, The Pretenders, in one sitting. I am not always "into" stories in which the main character has amnesia - I am impatient and want to know what happened to the character, and I also really wish I could help them/heal them/restore their memories immediately - but the quick pace of this story offered intrigue and action rather than hemming and hawing, plus I liked the full-color illustrations...and I still felt the urge to help the protagonist and learn more about her.

Today sees the release of Book Two in the Cemetery Girl trilogy, Inheritance. Here's the cover summary:

She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill. She has been living - hiding out - in Dunhill Cemetery ever since someone left her there to die. She has no idea who wants her dead or why, but she isn't about to wait around for her would-be killer to finish the job.

Despite her self-imposed isolation, Calexa’s ability to see spirits - and the memories she receives from them - guarantees she'll never be alone, even among the deceased. The only living people she allows herself to interact with are Kelner, the cemetery's cantankerous caretaker, and Lucinda Cameron, an elderly woman who lives in an old Victorian house across the street. With their friendship, Calexa has regained a link to the world beyond tombstones and mausoleums.

Until the night she witnesses a murder that shatters her life - a life now under a police microscope - as their investigation threatens to uncover Calexa’s true identity...

Cemetery Girl: Inheritance was written by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden and illustrated by Don Kramer.

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33. Seize the Night anthology

Attention Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood fans: Here's a new anthology for your to sink your teeth into today!

Seize the NightSeize the Night is old-school vampire fiction at its finest. A blockbuster anthology of original, blood-curdling vampire fiction from New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors, including Charlaine Harris, whose novels were adapted into HBO’s hit show True Blood, and Scott Smith, publishing his first work since The Ruins.

Before being transformed into romantic heroes and soft, emotional antiheroes, vampires were figures of overwhelming terror. Now, from some of the biggest names in horror and dark fiction, comes this stellar collection of short stories that make vampires frightening once again.

Seize the Night was edited by New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden and features all-new stories, including:

Up in Old Vermont by Scott Smith
Something Lost, Something Gained by Seanan McGuire
Blood by Robert Shearman
The Neighbors by Sherrilyn Kenyon
On the Dark Side of Sunlight Basin by Michael Koryta
Paper Cuts by Gary A. Braunbeck
Miss Fondevant by Charlaine Harris
In a Cavern, In a Canyon by Laird Barron
Whiskey and Light by Dana Cameron
We Are All Monsters Here by Kelley Armstrong
May the End Be Good by Tim Lebbon
Mrs. Popkin by Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry
Direct Report by Leigh Perry (Toni L.P. Kelner)
Shadow and Thirst by John Langan
Mother by Joe McKinney
The Yellow Death by Lucy A. Snyder
Last Supper by Brian Keene
Separator by Rio Youers
What Kept You So Long? by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Blue Hell by David Wellington

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34. Aladdin


This is a piece I did for a Educational reader a little while back. It’s interesting how the original story differs from the Disney version that so many of us are familiar with. It’s much darker.

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35. A Deafening Silence in Heaven by Thomas E. Sniegoski

It's time for a new Remy Chandler novel! Here's a sneak peek of A DEAFENING SILENCE IN HEAVEN by Thomas E. Sniegoski, now available in bookstore everywhere:

He was once known as the angel Remiel. But, generations ago, Boston PI Remy Chandler renounced Heaven and chose to live on Earth, hiding among us humans, fighting to save our souls...

Remy Chandler is hovering on the brink of death, surrounded by friends who are trying to ward off those who would take advantage of his vulnerability. Unbeknownst to them, the greatest threat to Remy is one they can’t fight - God himself. The Almighty dispatches Remy far beyond their reach, to an alternate universe where there has been an apocalyptic catastrophe: the Unification.

Only as he hunts down the source of this calamity, it becomes clearer and clearer that the person responsible for the tragedy may have been none other than Remy himself.

And while he searches for a way to stop his world from following in the footsteps of the doomed alternate reality, enemies are massing in his universe. For the Unification is at hand and, this time, Remy may be powerless to affect its outcome...

Read an excerpt.

A Deafening Silence in Heaven is the latest in a series. I've read them all, and I recommend them all.

Read them in order:

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Thomas E. Sniegoski   Dancing on the Head of a Pin by Thomas E. Sniegoski   Where Angels Fear to Tread by Thomas E. Sniegoski   A Hundred Words for Hate by Thomas E. Sniegoski   In the House of the Wicked   Walking in the Midst of Fire by Thomas E. Sniegoski   A Deafening Silence in Heaven by Thomas E. Sniegoski

To learn more about the series, visit the website: http://www.sniegoski.com/apocalypse/

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36. The Great Big Harry Potter Fansite Interview: Leaky’s Q&A with Harry Potter Illustrator Jim Kay

Today, October 6, Bloomsbury is publishing the first illustrated edition of the Harry Potter books–Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is hitting shelves in stores near you. As a part of publication celebrations, illustrator Jim Kay agreed to participate in Q&A sessions with major Harry Potter news sites, calling it The Great Big Harry Potter Fansite Interview. The Leaky Cauldron was honored with the opportunity to be apart of this event.

The Leaky staff came together to create and ask Kay four specific questions that we thought fans might like answered, and questions that Kay had not yet answered in previous interviews or Q&As. Jim Kay took the time, between drawing illustrations for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, to answer two of each site’s questions, and send never-before-seen images from Philosopher’s Stone. Please see the images and the interview below!


The Great Big Harry Potter Fansite Interview


Were you influenced by previous Harry Potter illustrators/the films or did you veer away from both?(Alwaysjkrowling.com)

I’m a huge fan of both the books and the films. I thought the screen adaptations were a wonderful showcase of the best set design, product design, costume, casting, directing and acting their disciplines had to offer. I knew from the start that I’m competing to some degree with the hundreds of people involved in the visuals of the film. I remember watching the extras that come with the movie DVDs a few years back, and wondering how on earth you’d get to be lucky enough to work on the visuals for such a great project. To be offered the opportunity to design the whole world again from scratch was fantastic, but very daunting. I’d like to think that over the years lots of illustrators will have a crack at Potter, in the same way that Alice in Wonderland has seen generations of artists offer their own take on Lewis Carroll’s novel. I had to make it my version though, and so from the start I needed to set it apart from the films. I’ll be honest I’ve only seen a few illustrations from other Potter books, so that’s not been so much of a problem. I love Jonny Duddle’s covers, and everyone should see Andrew Davidson’s engravings – they are incredible!

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What was the most important detail for you to get right with your illustrations? (Magical Menagerie)

To try and stay faithful to the book. It’s very easy when you are scribbling away to start wandering off in different directions, so you must remind yourself to keep reading Jo’s text. Technically speaking though, I think composition is important –the way the movement and characters arrange themselves on the page – this dictates the feel of the book.

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What medium do you use to create your illustrations? (Snitchseeker)

I use anything that makes a mark –I am not fussy. So I don’t rely on expensive watercolour or paints, although I do occasionally use them – I like to mix them up with cheap house paint, or wax crayons. Sometimes in a local DIY store I’ll see those small tester pots of wall paint going cheap in a clear-out sale, and I’ll buy stacks of them, and experiment with painting in layers and sanding the paint back to get nice textures. The line is almost always pencil, 4B or darker, but the colour can be a mixture of any old paint, watercolour, acrylic, and oil. Diagon Alley was unusual in that I digitally coloured the whole illustration in order to preserve the pencil line drawing. I’d recommend experimenting; there is no right or wrong way to make an illustration, just do what works for you!

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Because each book is so rich in detail, what is your personal process when choosing specific images?(The Daily Snitcher)

I read the book, then read it again and again, making notes. You start off with lots of little ideas, and draw a tiny thumbnail illustration, about the size of a postage stamp, to remind you of the idea for an illustration you had while reading the book. I then start to draw them a little bigger, about postcard size, and show them to Bloomsbury. We then think about how many illustrations will appear in each chapter, and try to get the balance of the book right by moving pictures around, dropping or adding these rough drawings as we go. With Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Bloomsbury were great in that they let me try all sorts of things out, different styles, concepts. Some I didn’t think would get into the final book, but everyone was very open to new ideas. There was no definite plan with regards to how the book would look; we just experimented and let it evolve.


(McGonagall is from Telegraph’s photos)

Given the distinct split of younger vs. more mature readers of the series, how do you construct your illustrations so that they can appeal to both audiences at once? (Mugglenet)

The simple answer is I don’t try. I think only about the author and myself. You can’t please everyone, particularly when you know how many people have read the book. I don’t think good books are made by trying to appeal to a wide audience. You just try to do the best work you can in the time given, and respect the author’s work. Most illustrators are never happy with their own work. You always feel you want to try more combinations or alternative compositions. You are forever in search of that golden illustration that just ‘works’, but of course it’s impossible to achieve –there will always be another way of representing the text. Effectively you chase rainbows until you run out of time! You get a gut feeling if an image is working. I remember what I liked as a child (Richard Scarry books!). Detail and humour grabbed me as a nipper, and it’s the same now I’m in my forties.

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Did you base any characters or items in the book on real people or things? (Leaky Cauldron)

Lots of the book is based on real places, people and experiences. It helps to make the book personal to me, and therefore important. The main characters of the books are based on real people, partly for practical reasons, because I need to see how the pupils age over seven years. In Diagon Alley in particular, some of the shop names are personal to me. As a child we had a toad in the garden called Bufo (from the latin Bufo bufo), Noltie’s Botanical Novelties is named after a very clever friend of mine who works at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. The shop called ‘Tut’s Nuts’ is a little joke from my days working at Kew Gardens; they had in their collections some seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamun, which were affectionately known as ‘Tut’s Nuts’. The imprisoned boy reaching for an apple in Brigg’s Brooms is from a drawing my friend did when we were about 9 years old –that’s thirty two years ago!

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Which character was the most difficult to draw? (Harry Potter’s Page)

Harry, without a doubt. Children are difficult to draw because you can’t use too many lines around the eyes and face, otherwise they look old. One misplaced pencil line can age a child by years, so you have to get it just right. Also Harry’s glasses are supposed to look repaired and bent out of shape, which I’ve found tricky to get right.

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What is your favourite scene you have illustrated? (Alwaysjkrowling.com)

That’s a difficult one. I’m fond of the ghosts. I paint them in reverse (almost like a photographic negative) and layer several paintings to make them translucent. I enjoyed Nearly Headless Nick. I really enjoyed illustrating the trolls too. Your favourite illustrations tend to be the ones that gave you the least amount of difficulties and I think Diagon Alley was nice for this reason. It was more like a brainstorming exercise, slowly working from left to right. My favourite character to illustrate is Hagrid – I love big things!

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Are there any hidden messages/items in your drawings for the Harry Potter series? (Magical Menagerie)

There are, but they are little things that relate to my life, so I’m not sure how much sense they’d make to other people. I like to include my dog in illustrations if I can (he’s in Diagon Alley). I also put a hare in my work, for good luck. There’s a hare in A Monster Calls, and in Harry Potter. My friends appear as models for the characters in book one, and some of their names too can be seen carved on a door, and on Diagon Alley. There are little references to later books too, such as on the wrought-iron sign of the Leaky Cauldron. I do it to keep things interesting for me while I’m drawing.

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How did you approach illustrating the Hogwarts Castle and grounds? (Harry Potter Fan Zone)

I really enjoyed doing this. You have to go through all seven books looking for mentions of the individual rooms, turrets, doors and walls of the castle, and make lots of notes. Then you check for mentions of its position, for example if you can see the sun set from a certain window, to find out which way the castle is facing. I then built a small model out of scrap card and Plasticine and tried lighting it from different directions. It was important to see how it would look in full light, or as a silhouette. Then it was a long process of designing the Great Hall, and individual towers. I have a huge number of drawings just experimenting with different doorways, roofs. Some early compositions were quite radical, then I hit upon the idea of trees growing under, through and over the whole castle, as if the castle had grown out of the landscape. This also gives me the opportunity to show trees growing through the inside of some rooms in future illustrations.

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What illustrations in the book are you most proud of? (Leaky Cauldron)

Usually it’s the ones that took the least amount of effort! It takes me so many attempts to get an illustration to work, that if one works on the second or third attempt, it’s a big relief. There is one illustration in the book that worked first time (a chapter opener of Hogwarts architecture, with birds nesting on the chimney pots). It kind of felt wrong that the illustration was done without agonising over it for days, it didn’t feel real somehow, so I’m proud of that one because it’s so rare that I get an image to work first time! The only other illustration that was relatively straightforward was the Sorting Hat. Illustrations that come a little easier tend to have a freshness about them, and I think those two feel a little bit looser than others in the book.


Which book do you think will be the most challenging one to illustrate? (Harry Potter’s Page)

At the minute it’s book two! I think book one I was full of adrenaline, driven by sheer terror! Book two I want to have a different feel, and that makes it challenging to start again and rethink the process.

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Is there a particular scene in the future Harry Potter books you’re excited to illustrate? (Harry Potter Fan Zone)

I’m really looking forward to painting Aragog in book two. I’m really fond of spiders – there are lots in my studio – so it’s great having reference close to hand! I’m hoping that by the Deathly Hallows we will be fully into a darker and more adult style of illustration, to reflect the perils facing Potter!

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How many illustrations did you initially do for the book, and how many of those appeared in the final edition? (Snitchseeker)

There are stacks of concept drawings that no one will ever see, such as the Hogwarts sketches, which I needed to do in order to get my head around the book. Then there are rough drawings, then rough drawings that are worked up a little more, and then it might take five or six attempts for each illustration to get it right.

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What house do you think you may have been placed in, aged 11, and would it be the same now? (Mugglenet)

I’d like to think it was Ravenclaw as a child. I was much more confident back then, and creative, plus they have an interesting house ghost in the form of the Grey Lady. These days I work hard and am loyal, so probably Hufflepuff.

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Illustrating aside, what is one thing that you love doing to express your creativity? (The Daily Snitcher)

It’s difficult to say because for the past 5 years I have worked on illustration seven days a week, every hour of the day. A few years back I started to write, and I really enjoyed that, it’s far more intimate than illustrating, and I love going over the same line and trying to hone it down to the core of what you are trying to express. My partner makes hats, and I’m very envious. It looks like wonderful fun. We have lots of designs for hats in sketchbooks. I really want to get some time to make some. I’ve always been slightly torn that I didn’t go into fashion, but my sewing is terrible. I used to play guitar a lot and write little bits of music, but that’s difficult now because my hand gets very stiff from drawing all day! The funny thing is, if I did ever get a day off, I’d just want to draw!

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This morning, J.K. Rowling invited all to check out the book and “see Harry Potter through Jim Kay’s extraordinary eyes,” and Pottermore also released their exclusive interview.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone–Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay, is now available from any book retailer near you (or online)! Happy reading and please let us know your impressions of the new version of the Harry Potter books–our favorite books!

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37. For the love of reason

Throughout much of the last century, the idea that we inhabit a somehow disenchanted modernity has exerted a powerful hold in political and public debate. As the political theorist Jane Bennett argues, the story is that there was once a time when God acted in human affairs and when social life, characterized by face-to-face relations, was richer; but this world then ‘gave way to forces of scientific and instrumental rationality, secularism, individualism, and the bureaucratic state – all of which, combined, disenchant the world’.

The post For the love of reason appeared first on OUPblog.

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38. The Icelanders, the Cypriots, and the Greeks: is history repeating itself?

In 2008 Iceland experienced one of the worst financial crises in history, which involved the collapse of all three of its major commercial banks. The causes of this collapse were numerous and complex, and included the banks’ difficulty in refinancing their short-term debt and a run on their deposits.

The post The Icelanders, the Cypriots, and the Greeks: is history repeating itself? appeared first on OUPblog.

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39. Oreo

cover artOreo by Fran Ross. Completely and delightfully meshuganah! Remember how excited I was about the beginning? How I wondered if it could possibly keep up for an entire novel? Or would it get old fast? The hilarity remains high throughout and not once does it get old or irritating. In fact, it is continually surprising.

Christine Clark, the offspring of a black mother and Jewish father, is raised by her black grandparents because her father abandoned the family after her brother was born and her mother is constantly traveling. Oreo is Christine’s nickname. It was supposed to be “oriole” but no one could understand her grandmother’s deep and peculiar southern accent and they all thought she said “Oreo.” Of course the name has a double meaning. It is a cookie, but it is also an insult for people who appear to be black but act white. Christine may be called Oreo but an oreo she is not.

What she is is a whip smart, linguistically talented, self-confident, take charge and take no crap young woman. The story is a kind of coming of age quest feminist satire. Christine is Theseus gone in search of her father who has left her clues. She overcomes obstacles, performs deeds, faces dangers, and makes her way through the labyrinth that is the New York City subway system. She finds her father but the story’s end is not one in which our heroine is richly rewarded as Theseus was. This is not that kind of story. Stereotypes and expectations must be subverted, and are.

A big part of the pleasure of this book is the language itself. I am going to have to find a way to work I had “more fun than a tornado in a trailer park” into a conversation some time. It is filled with Yiddish and black vernacular and a made up language and standard English and southern something or other, and puns and puzzles and jokes and word play of all sorts:

As Oreo walked up the street, she saw a pig run squealing out of a doorway, a bacon’s dozen of pursuers pork-barreling after it.

Oreo is sadly Ross’s only novel. It was first published in 1974 to very little notice. Ross worked as a freelance editor and writer, wrote articles for magazines, worked as a proofreader and copyeditor for a couple big publishers and was part owner of a mail order educational supply company. In 1977 she moved to Los Angeles to work as a comedy writer for The Richard Pryor Show. The show did not last long and Ross returned to New York. She died of cancer in 1985 at the age of fifty.

I can understand why Oreo did not get much attention in 1974. It was far ahead of its time and the places that did review it were not sure what to make of it. Thank goodness for independent publishers, because time has finally caught up with the book and New Directions has done us all a service in reprinting it.

I haven’t really told you all that much about the book, but I am not certain I could really do it justice even if I went on and on about it. It is one of those books you have to experience for yourself. Don’t expect realist fiction and well-rounded characters. Don’t expect a linear plot, heck don’t expect much plot at all. Do expect much absurdity, mayhem, and lampooning of everyone and everything. Oh, and expect to giggle, chuckle, guffaw, and laugh out loud.

Filed under: Books, Reviews Tagged: Fran Ross

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40. Collected Fiction by Leena Krohn

The most peculiar property of language is its symbolic function. The writer exchanges meanings for marks, while the reader performs the opposite task. There are no meanings outside us, or if there are, we do not know them. Personal meanings are made with our own hands. Their preparation is a kind of alchemy. Everything that we call rationality demands imagination, and if we did not have the capacity to imagine, we could not even speak morality or conscience.

—Leena Krohn, "Afterword: When the Viewer Vanishes"
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have done wonders for the availability of contemporary Finnish writing in English with their Cheeky Frawg press, and in December they will release their greatest book yet: Collected Fiction by Leena Krohn.

I've been a passionate fan of Leena Krohn's work ever since I first read her book Tainaron ten years ago. I sought out the only other translation of her writings in English available at the time, Doña Quixote & Gold of Ophir, and was further impressed. I read Datura when Cheeky Frawg published it in 2013. It's all remarkable work.

Collected Fiction brings together all of those books, plus more: The Pelican's New Clothes (children's fiction from the 1970s, just as entrancing as her adult work later), Pereat Mundus (which I've yearned to read ever since Krohn mentioned it when I interviewed her), some excerpts and stories from various books published over the last 25 years, essays by others (including me) that give some perspective on her career, and an afterword by Leena Krohn herself.

This book is as important a publishing event in its own way as New Directions' release earlier this year of Clarice Lispector's Complete Stories. It's a similarly large book (850 pages), and though not Krohn's complete stories, it gives a real overview of her career and provides immeasurable pleasure.

Leena Krohn
One of the wonders of this collection is just how big it is. I keep jokingly referring to it as KROHN!, and not just because of Jeremy Zerfoss's gorgeous cover, but because this is a doorstop of a book that collects the work of someone whose writing might often be described as delicate, miniature tales. Her books don't tend to be especially long, and even her novels are built of miniatures. But now we can hold this huge collection of decades of writing and its solidity is stunning.

In a helpful overview of the first thirty years of Krohn's writing (1970-2001) included here, Minna Jerman writes: "Gold of Ophir is constructed in such a way that you could easily read its chapters in any order, and have a different experience with each different sequence." This is true for most of Krohn's novels, it seems to me, and is another virtue of her writing, something that makes it feel so different from so many other books, so truly strange, and yet so captivating, like a puzzle that isn't especially insistent about its puzzle-ness — or, to quote the great John Leonard, it embodies "Chaos Theory, with lots of fractals."

This is what I want to tell you, then: Reader, you should get this book at the first opportunity and you should spend a year (at least!) reading through it in whatever order you feel like, letting it be a magical, mind-warping cabinet of curiosities, a wonderbox of a book. You should not devour Leena Krohn's writing. Savor it, take it in in small bits, because there are so many glorious small bits here. Why rush? This is rich, rich material. Just as no rational person would ever guzzle a truly fine scotch, so you should sip from Krohn's fountain of dreamwords.

And this is what I want to tell you, O Writerly Types: This book is a gift to you, a tome of possibilities. Stop writing like everybody else. We don't need you to make your vision fit into the airport bookstore shelves. Those shelves are full. We need more writers who will do what Leena Krohn has done, who will seize language as a tool for dreaming back toward consciousness, who will find forms that fit such dreaming, who will not replicate the conventions of now but instead reconfigure their own conventions until they seem inevitable. Learn from this book, O Writers. Let it inspire you to write in your own new ways, your own new forms, your own truthful imaginings.

In a trance, his hand already numb and senseless, accompanied by the rustle of the rain and the croaking of frogs, Håkan was taken through the eras toward the wondrous time when he did not yet exist.
—Leena Krohn, Pereat Mundus: A Novel of Sorts

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41. The Carr case: New York is still the tax capital of the nation

Governor Andrew Cuomo says that he no longer wants New York to be “the tax capital of the nation.” The recent experience of Patrick J. Carr demonstrates the long distance New York must still travel to reach the governor’s goal.

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42. Global health inequalities and the “brain drain”

There are massive inequalities in global health opportunities and outcomes.  Consider, for instance, that Japan has around twenty-one physicians per 10,000 people, while Malawi has only one physician for every fifty thousand people.  This radical inequality in medical skills and talents has, obviously, bad consequences for health; people born in Malawi will live, on average, […]

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43. A Picture Book Refugee Story: The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman and Karin Littlewood

The Colour of Home, a refugee story written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Frances Lincoln, 2002/pb 2012)Whist putting together my new interview with Mary Hoffman, I revisited my first encounter with her beautiful book The Colour of Home, which I … Continue reading ...

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44. Effective communications for conservation

From conserving endangered species to confronting climate change, natural resource management and conservation requires effective education and communication to achieve long-term results in our complex world. Research can help natural resource managers understand how to strategically use different outreach techniques and to promote new behaviors by involving and targeting their diverse audiences.

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45. Mentalizing in groups

‘Mentalizing’ is the new word for making sense of oneself, others, and intersubjective transactions in terms of inner motivations. It can be fast and intuitive (implicit mentalizing), as in most informal and routine interactions, or slow and elaborate (explicit mentalizing), when one steps back to indulge in reflective thinking. “Why did she say that?” The thought is such an integral part of being human that it is most often taken for granted. Yet it is an evolutionary achievement.

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46. No child left inside on the Holy Earth: Liberty Hyde Bailey and the spirituality of nature study

In the United States today there is a great push to get children outside. Children stay indoors more and have less contact with nature and less knowledge of animals and plants than ever before. When children do go outside, our litigious society gives them less freedom to explore. Educators and critics such as Richard Louv and David Sobel express a concern that without a real connection to the natural world, something vital will be lost in the next generation -- and that the challenges of climate change may be unsolvable.

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47. Women in the history of philosophy

For the most part, the practice of philosophy tends to be collective and conversational and collaborative. We enjoy reading what others have written on a given topic, and we like to hear what others have to say, because different people see things differently.

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48. Understanding modern Ukraine: a timeline

As with most other countries, the Ukraine we know today—with everything good, bad, and in-between about it—is a result of its history. It shares more than half its borders with Russia, accounting for the two countries' complicated history.

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49. Is Lavender Brown alive?

The question of Lavender’s death has been floating around since 2007, and recently Pottermore has added further fuel to the fire.

Forums everywhere (such as this one on Reddit, and this one on Goodreads) have no definitive conclusion, trying to take evidence from both the book and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 film.

Her ‘death’ scene in the book seems a little more vague:

“Two bodies fell from the balcony overhead. As they reached the ground a grey blur that Harry took for an animal sped four-legged across the hall to sink its teeth into one of the fallen. “NO!” shrieked Hermione, and with a deafening blast from her wand, Fenrir Greyback was thrown backward from the feebly stirring body of Lavender Brown.”

After falling from the balcony, Greyback is seen almost making a mid-fight snack out of Lavender, but Hermione throws him back, and Lavender is seen ‘feebly stirring’, which suggests that she could be alive.


Some seem to think the movie errs more toward the ‘dead’ side of the argument. Acknowledging that movies do not make better sources than books, most say that they make it pretty clear; Trelawney and the Patil twins are seen saying ‘She’s gone’ and covering a body, and the earlier suggestive shot of Lavender looking vacant (and dead) after Greyback attacks someone certainly makes it look like she’s dead.


Her Wiki page also looks bleak. It states that she was killed by Greyback in The Battle of Hogwarts, stating  Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey as a source.

Now Pottermore itself (and through it, potentially Jo herself) has entered the debate. In its recent update, Pottermore had stated Lavender as ‘presumed dead':

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 08.48.23

That’s already vague wording, but as if that wasn’t enough, Lavender Brown’s page on Pottermore recently updated again, removing all information about her death:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 08.48.32

Hypable and Bustle have had the same discussions, and are none the wiser. Though J.K. Rowling has been closely involved in the production of the films and of Pottermore, we’ll need the words from Jo herself if we’re going to sort this once and for all.

It’s a close debate, so what do you think? Is Lavender alive?

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50. Diamonds are forever, and so are mathematical truths?

Try googling 'mathematical gem'. I just got 465,000 results. Quite a lot. Indeed, the metaphor of mathematical ideas as precious little gems is an old one, and it is well known to anyone with a zest for mathematics. A diamond is a little, fully transparent structure all of whose parts can be observed with awe from any angle.

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