Tag Archives: Books

58 Years of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Today marks 58 years since the publication of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

58 years since the world was introduced to Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch. 58 years since we walked through the streets of Maycomb, Alabama for the first time. 58 years since we learned “You never really know a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, a “magnificent, powerful novel of the people of a quiet southern town—rocked by a crisis of conscience,” has maintained incredible relevancy in its 58 years, touching the hearts and minds of its audience.

Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation landed Atticus Finch as #1 on the American Film Institue’s “100 Greatest Heroes & Villians” list, recognizing characters that “have a made a mark on American society in matters of style and substance” as well as continue “to inspire contemporary artists and audiences.”

In 2015, Harper Lee released Go Set a Watchman, a novel set after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird in which Scout returns to Maycomb, Alabama. Aompanion to the American classic, Go Set a Watchman adds “depth, contex, and new meaning” to the story we’ve grown to love.

In April, the Monroe County Heritage Museum hosted its production of To Kill a Mockingbird for the twenty-ninth year. The museum, located in Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, held its first play of the timeless novel in 1991 as a fundraiser. Since then, the play has attracted a wide audience, captivating students, community members, and even travelers eager for the experience.

On December 13, New York will see opening night of Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird starring Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch.

For whatever reason, this book, this story, and Harper Lee as an author has resonated with me throughout the years. I find myself bringing this book and these themes into projects or conversation whenever possible. Whether it be a comparison of Frankenstein’s monster to Boo Radley a tribute to the late Harper Lee or an analysis of Annette Lemieux’s Mise en Scene exhibition featuring contemporary art pieces from the filming of the 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird such as Spin and Area of Refuge, To Kill a Mockingbird has played a critical role in my academic career and personal self.

Two years ago, I spent a great deal of time sifting through my grandfather’s book collection as he prepared to move. Among the collection of classic titles was a tiny, paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, a title I’ve been longing to add to my own collection since reading the novel as a sophomore in high school. My copy is slightly tattered with yellowing pages and that old book smell, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Written by Carlie Sisco

 

 

Catherine Zobal Dent Offers Writing Advice To Students At Widener University

Author Catherine Zobal Dent visited Widener on April 3 and 4 as a part of the English and Creative Writing Department’s Distinguished Writers Series.

In May 2014, Dent published her debut collection of short stories with Fomite Press, called Unfinished Stories for Girls. The collection includes sixteen stories. Taking place on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the short stories invite readers inside the lives of characters trying to figure out the problems and challenges of the gleaming, marshy world.
On campus, Dent spent time speaking in creative writing and English classes about her collection, as well as offering insight and advice on how to pursue a writing career. She also individually met with several students within the department for tutorials.

“Writers need other writers. That’s just the way it is,” Victoria Giansante, a senior English major said. “We workshop off each other; we get ideas from each other; and we help each other to be the best we can be. Any writer could benefit from closely analyzing their habits and their strengths, especially with guidance from someone with genuine experience and expertise, like Catherine.”

Dent’s latest projects include writing a novel and a nonfiction book about the Appalachian Trail, as well as a translation of the French short story writer Cyrille Fleicshman with her colleague Lynn Palermo. She began publishing her stories during graduate school and her work has gone on to appear in such publications as Drunken Boat, the Harvard Review, North American Review, Echolocation, PANK and elsewhere.

Currently, Dent is an associate professor of creative writing at Susquehanna University, a position she shares with her partner and fellow writer, Silas Zobal. She is also the director of the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE), a national organization that provides a network for undergraduate student editors, writers, and their faculty advisers.

Dent concluded her visit with a public reading surrounded by art made by Ann Piper, which accompany each story in the collection. After the reading, Dent took time to answer questions, sign copies of her book, and speak to students, including Rohan Suriyage, a junior English and communication studies double major whom Dent offered advice on organizing ideas for a short story.

“I was interested in her passion for exploring the relationship between art and literature, specifically how the art her colleague made coincidentally reflected the subject matter of her short stories,” Suriyage said. “She has a good grasp on including real-life aspects into her stories and encapsulating the human experience and its authenticity in the subject matter of said stories.”

Dent also sat down for an interview with The Blue Route during her visit. The full interview will be featured in our 20th issue set to be published in the next couple of weeks! For a preview of the interview, read below!

How do you create characters, voices, and point of views that are different from your own or different from each other?
I do a lot of research. I think as deeply as you can about the way voices sound different from each other and also the types of preoccupations characters might have. You can have a handful of characters who see the exact same object in the material world and, depending on their emotional state, each of them would describe it in a different way. I try to think of where the characters are coming from in a particular moment in time and find a preoccupation that would dominate their voice. In my collection, I have a number of stories that veer into second person where the narrator is addressing you, the reader. I’ve tried different ways of involving the reader in the work, and one of these attempts is to adapt the readers’ perspective and try to convince them that they are actually in the story. In “The Truth You Know,” I have the first-person narrator addressing the reader and saying, “Now you have to tell the end of the story.”

What drives you to write? Has there been a specific instance or a piece of advice that has driven you in your writing career?
When I’m not writing I don’t feel as alive as when I am writing. When I am writing, I am noticing the world in a much more meaningful way. I’m actively constructing meaning around me. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Sometimes, I feel that way. I can go and recreate an experience in a way that makes more sense or is more satisfying to me. That’s one of the jobs of fiction, to try to create meaning out of chaos. That’s one of the jobs of identity, too, to try to stake, for a temporary period of time, a sense of order in the world. I write to create order in my world and hope to communicate a sense of connection, belonging, and order for other people too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Widener Students Attend 2018 AWP Conference

On March 7, four Widener English majors and four faculty members–including five Blue Route members!– traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Along with nearly 12,000 other writers, readers, editors, and publishers, we enjoyed three amazing days of panels, networking opportunities, enlightening readings and keynotes speeches, and of course, the sunshine! Read on for a few words from three senior English majors about their time in Tampa!

 

Emma Irving

This year’s conference was truly the ride of a lifetime and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.
The ride of a lifetime literally began with a ride that felt like a lifetime—17 hours down the east coast as we escaped early from an impending winter storm! It was an exhausting way to begin our weekend but come the next morning, we were all ready to go for whatever the conference brought!
One of the best things I did at the conference  was visit the Traveling Stanzas exhibit. The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University received a grant to create a world of interactive exhibits in conversation with the immigrant and refugee community in Akron, Ohio. At the exhibit, you could add a line to their community poem, create your own poem from speeches from people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Emma Gonzalez, and listen to immigrant and refugee community members talk about and read the poetry they created through Wick Center workshops. I was blown away by the scope of the work and the ways in which poetry had a direct effect for the better on the Akron community. Sometimes the scope of what authors and editors and publishers can really do in the world feels small to me, especially when we’re all packed in one convention center, the thousands of us all individually vying to put our name out there. This exhibit was enlightening as to how much good words can do.
That afternoon, we all went to the National Book Critics Circle reading with Jeffrey Eugenides, Lorrie Moore, and Dana Spiotta. I enjoyed getting to hear these big-name authors speak so candidly and joyfully about creating; Lorrie Moore in particular was strikingly funny and I was laughing out loud at some of her comments.

Jennifer Rohrbach

image1I really enjoyed this year’s AWP conference in Tampa, Florida. In addition to enjoying beautiful, warm weather, I met some amazing people, attended interesting panels, heard inspiring speakers, and spent some quality time with my Widener friends. My highlights of the trip were attending the Keynote by George Saunders, meeting Rita Dove, a handful of panels, and stopping by the Emerson College booths at the book fair.
Prior to attending AWP 2018, I had read a couple of George Saunders’ short stories, including “The Semplica-Girl Diaries,” which is one that I think about quite often. I also own his short story collection Tenth of December which I haven’t read but look forward to reading now. His writing style is unique, and I am often struck by his tendency to push against stereotypes of what makes “good literary writing.” By that I just mean that his writing is not overly flowy or ornamental—he usually gets to the point quickly and efficiently. The circumstances of his stories and characters are always unusual, twisting our reality and running into the genre of speculative fiction. Hearing him speak at the Keynote made me appreciate his writing even more, because he seems like a really funny, down-to-earth person.
Another highlight of the trip was meeting Rita Dove. I heard her speak at last year’s AWP in Washington, D.C. This year, she just happened to be at the Traveling Stanzas exhibit at the same time as me, and I had the opportunity to tell her how much I liked her poetry. It wasn’t a deep or lengthy conversation, but I got to speak to her in person, so it was still pretty cool!

Victoria Giansanteimage2.jpeg

Attending the AWP conference solidified my decision in continuing on to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing. My experience was uniquely designed around my interests, and I was able to network with a variety of publications, graduate schools, and other like-minded individuals. My days were filled with panels, and the massive book fair filled with everything from small university presses to large commonly known publications. Spending time around people who have similar passions and have so much knowledge and wisdom to offer and pass down is an experience in and of itself that I would not trade for anything.
The AWP bookfair was a continuous event that was held every day of the conference. It was absolutely massive, and took the entire conference for us to get through the whole thing. This was the place where networking was the most important. I had the ability to talk to so many people, ranging everywhere from grad students to publishers. I even made my decision on which graduate school to attend by talking to the director of the MFA program at Rosemont, who was at their literary journal’s table. After speaking to her for quite a while, I left confident in my future decisions. Along my path up and down the isles of the book fair, I also met a woman who was the director of the International Women Writers Guild, who I had the pleasure of speaking with for some time. We discussed fiction writing, feminism, activism, and social justice, and I left that table with a free honorary membership to the guild, and a chance to visit a conference next fall. This book fair showed me the importance of networking and the value of relationships in the professional world, not to mention I left the bookfair with about 20 new books to add to my collection.

AWP was an experience I would recommend to anyone who loves writing, or literature in general. It’s an invaluable experience that I hope many more students after me get to continue to have.

Written by Emma Irving

Beyond “Frankenstein:” Mary Shelley’s Editorial Work

As the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein this year, Mary Shelley’s name will be constantly invoked as the mother of science fiction, the famed daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, and the tragic wife of the genius Romantic poet Percy Shelley—but there’s so much more to this woman than her creature and her relationships with others.
After Mary Shelley published Frankenstein at the age of 20, she went on to write other major works such as Mathilda and The Last Man, but the thing I find most interesting about Mary Shelley’s later career is her creative editing of her husband’s work after his death.
Less than three months after Percy’s death, Mary writes in her journal: “Beneath all this [grief], my imagination even flags. Literary labours, the improvement of my mind, & the enlargement of my ideas are the only occupations that elevate me from my lethargy” (Mary Shelley Journals 431). Thus, she set out to create a collection of Percy’s Posthumous Poems.
To do this, Mary faced the challenges of working as a single mother in the mid-19th century, gaining access to her very name from Percy Shelley’s vindictive father, and collecting manuscript documents scattered across an entire continent. This process of piecing together the best text version of a work through numerous drafts and contexts constitutes this project as a work of authorship as well as editorship, and in publishing his Posthumous Poems in 1824, she reformed our very idea who an “author” is. The Romantic period idea of an author was heavily influenced by “the author on the model of Wordsworth’s poet-prototype, the shepherd,” a lone creator working through his imaginative processes apart from the distractions of society (Hofkosh 247). What Mary did rejects that image completely.
I emphasize that gendered pronoun because there was a definite gender distinction between “authors” and “female authors” at this point in time. Furthermore, Mary did not co-write Percy’s poems per se, but working as his editor, piecing together his work to produce her best texts with accompanying introductory and textual notes, she became an author through her editorial work.
By broadening the definition of authorship beyond the lone male artist to include transcribers, editors, publishers, etc., we inevitably let women into positions of textual authority that they have not historically been allowed to occupy. The more we credit female editors as we credit female writers, the more cultural power they’ll gain—past and present—in forming not only a canon, but a more empathetic society (48).
So thank you Mary Shelley, and congratulations on 200 years of Frankenstein!

By Emma Irving

Works Cited:
Hofkosh, Sonia. “A Woman’s Profession: Sexual Difference and the Romance of Authorship.” Studies in Romanticism 32.2 (1993): 245-72. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Journals of Mary Shelley: 1814-1844. Ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diane Scott-Kilvert. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. Print.
Wolfson, Susan J. “Editorial Privilege: Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley’s Audiences.” The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein. Ed. Audrey A. Fisch, Anne K. Mellor, and Esther H. Schor. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. 39-72. Print.

 

What We’re Reading: Chris Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth”

The graphic narrative Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware, is a provocative and poignant commentary on the fallacies of the American dream and the failure of America as a collective consciousness.  This story is not heavily plot centric, but is a microcosm of the American reality and the historical implications that are fused into our present. It critiques ideological and moral complacency and neutrality and their contributions to the circularity of the past, present, and future. However, the book still is an introspective exploration into Jimmy Corrigan’s life, as readers are given as small entry into his origin story, as he reunites with his father, and then loses him. Ware’s meticulous decision to design a narrative that is independent of plot, suggests a lack of resolution within Jimmy and the general American narrative.

Originally serialized in the Chicago weekly newspaper Newcity and in Ware’s comic book Acme Novelty Library, Jimmy Corrigan received the American Book Award and the Guardian Prize in 2001 before being rereleased by Pantheon Graphic Novels in 2003.

You can purchase Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth on Amazon.

Image courtesy of Amazon. Cover illustrated by Chris Ware.

 

by Jasmine Kouyate

Author Carmen Maria Machado engages audience at short story reading in Philadelphia

On Friday Feb. 9, author Carmen Maria Machado gave a reading at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia. The second floor of the store was packed with other writers, admirers of her work, and even people who had never read her work, but had heard amazing things about it, such as myself. She read from her debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, which was published last year and has already gained many awards including the Bard Fiction Prize, the John Leonard Prize, and the Crawford Award. The collection was also a finalist for National Book Award, among others.GOOD20180209_192756(0)

At the front of the room, Machado announced that she’d be reading an excerpt from the story “Inventory.” Having never read her work, I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly did not expect to hear a series of detailed sexual encounters amidst the backdrop of a national pandemic. But I was not disappointed. Machado has perfected the act of de-familiarizing her readers while keeping them wholly engaged. The first story in the collection, “The Husband Stitch,” humanizes and modernizes an old folk tale. “Especially Heinous,” the longest story in the collection, is, as she put it, basically a fanfiction of “Law and Order: SVU.”

What I love most about this book is that it uses various styles to explore themes that are sometimes overlooked in literature, such as the intimate moments of women’s lives, their bodies and the violence enacted upon them, and the queer experience.

After listening to Machado read from her collection, I understand why she is a rising star in the literary world. Do yourself a favor and pick up Her Body and Other Parties, or at least check out her website where you can read some of her many published pieces of fiction, essays, and interviews.

by Jennifer Rohrbach

“Business Insider” Examines Health Benefits of Reading

I recently read an article published on Business Insider, by contributor Brenden Brown, that provides a list of explanations for why reading is very beneficial for a person’s health. Research now shows that reading improves both memory and empathy as well as simply making us feel better and more positive all around. Science has also proven that reading has a wide variety of health benefits, from minimizing stress levels to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.

In an infographic originally published by The Expert Editor, the benefits Brown mentions are further elaborated. For example, reading strengthens the brain, because you have to remember quite a lot of information while reading a book. Every point throughout the story is a new memory for your brain and the existing memories become strengthen as the story builds. According to Brown, therefore, “short-term memory and recall capabilities are constantly being improved.” For a child’s brain in particular, reading is especially beneficial. According to the infographic, children who read are better able to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgement.

As an avid reader myself, I found this article particularly interesting. I had a very basic understanding of why reading has its benefits but had never really delved into the scientific aspect of it all. It is easy to get caught up in the whir of advancing technology and the busyness of everyday life, so it’s comforting to hear that the simplicity of taking time to sit down and read can be a key to improving one’s health.

To read the full article, click here.

by Emily Garofalo