A world class sentence

Could you write a world-class sentence – one that wouldn’t look out of place in a classic or a bestseller? Here are a three for free: “She turned.” “He scratched his head.” “The sun went down.” World class sentences. Very simple. Easy to write. Write some more.

Janus (3): DC Reading List 2021

I’m trying a different format for this year’s reading list: a queue and a read (past tense) list. (Note that many of these are carried over from last year’s list!) The Queue Fiction:Don Quixote – Cervantes (Edith Grossman translation) The Three Body Problem – Cixin LiuExhalation – Ted ChiangA Hero Born – Jin YongUncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher StoweNorse…

Janus (1): Looking back

Disclaimer: This post was written mostly for me – if you’re not me, you may wish to skip to the end or to skip it entirely! 2020: Goals in Review Looking back, who knew what 2020 was going to be like? I’ve heard several people say that it was a year in which mere survival (for you, for your organisation)…

“Led by pleasure and wonder”: Dana Gioia on creating a new generation of readers

You can’t force young people into literature. They need to be led by pleasure and wonder. Creating a new generation of readers is important. When a society loses the capacity to read fiction, it loses one of the most powerful ways by which we grow and refine our inner lives, our understanding of ourselves, and our understanding of other people.…

Who was Victor Hugo?

Part Jean Valjean, part Thénardier. “I want to destroy human inevitability; I condemn slavery, I chase out poverty, I instruct ignorance, I treat illness, I light up the night, I hate hatred. That is what I am and that is why I have written The Wretched. As I see it, The Wretched is nothing other than a book having fraternity…

Castles on Clouds

I’m a couple of chapters away from finishing Les Miserables,* thanks to the enthusiasm of a friend** and to Nick Senger’s excellent chapter-a-day read-along schedule.*** It’s a fantastic read – hard going at times, but deserving of its reputation. Beside the story itself (forgiving its long string of ridiculous coincidences), I most enjoy the little**** insights into life in another…

Victor Hugo: two faces of political violence

They wanted an end to oppression, an end to tyranny, an end to strife, work for men, education for children, social goodwill towards women, liberty, equality, fraternity, bread for all, an idea for all, a paradise made of this world, progress. And that good, sweet blessed thing, progress, they demanded fearsomely, driven to extremity, to utter distraction, half-naked, with bludgeon…

More on old books: Mortimer Adler on permanent literature

The faster things change, the more important our reference points if we want to avoid motion sickness. The great books are always contemporary. In contrast, the books we call “contemporary,” because they are currently popular, last only for a year or two, or ten at the most. They soon become antiquated. You probably cannot recall the names of the bestsellers…

C.S. Lewis on reading old books

Here’s more from C.S. Lewis on reading old books – this time highlighting their virtues as lenses for helping us to spot and evaluate the biases of our age: It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much…

C.S. Lewis on reading the originals

I love this thought from Lewis, and I’ve found it to be both true and hugely rewarding whenever I’ve acted upon it. There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor…