Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1960: The Alexandria Quartet: Clea to The Dumb Waiter.

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Lawrence Durrell. British. 1960. Novel. The Alexandria Quartet: Clea. Narrated by Darley. Idyllic love between him and serene painter, Clea.

Graham Greene. British. 1960. Novel. The Burnt-Out Case. Leper colony in the Congo. Famous architect is a spiritual leper.

Harold Pinter. British. 1960. Play. The Caretaker. Struggle for territory; ambiguous dialogue; sense of menace; keeping of identity in a world of conformity.

Harold Pinter. British. 1960. Play. The Dumb Waiter. Assassins awaiting victim, given orders on dumb waiter. One has remorse for the victim. Shot by the other.

Monday, August 30, 2010

1959: Speculations about Jakob to The Two Cultures

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Uwe Johnson. German. 1959. Novel. Speculations about Jakob. Life and death of Jakob Abs. East vs. West Germany; crushed by trains going east and west.

Gunter Grass. Germany. 1959. Novel. The Tin Drum. Narrated by grotesque hunchback; recollections of bizarre events before, during and after Hitler. Like Peter Pan, Oskar decides at age 3 to grow no more. Beats on toy drum to relieve feelings, anxiety, contempt for petty bourgeois adults who fostered the rise of Nazism. From unique perspective, comments on hypocrisy of his elders.

CP Snow. British. 1959. Nonfiction. The Two Cultures. Science is of the lower middle class and at the center of progress. The literary is from the upper-middle class, part of the Establishment and conservative.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1959: Brown Girl, Brownstones to Rhinoceros

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Paule Marshall. American. 1959. Novel. Brown Girl, Brownstones. Barbadian family. Racism. Daughter discovers herself through the art of the dance. They measure themselves by whites.

Robert Lowell. American. 1959. Poetry and Prose. Life Studies. Confessional mode. Slang-like speech. Dramatic sense of immediacy. “Tranquilized fifties.”

Alan Sillitoe. British. 1959. Novel The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Sent to reform school for robbing a bakery. It was corrupt society that made him delinquent. Triumphs over warden and Establishment by losing in long-distance race against another school.

Eugene Ionesco. Italian. 1959. Play. Rhinoceros. Fear of remaining human when everyone else conforms by becoming a rhinoceros.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1958: Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon to Things Fall Apart

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Jorge Amado. Brazil. 1958. Novel. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. Gabriela symbolizes the multiple races who must work together and live harmoniously, the democratic ideal.

Geiuseppe Lampedusa. Italian. 1958. Historical Novel, The Leopard. Effect of Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily and the unification of Italy on an aristocratic family.

Alan Sillitoe. British. 1958. Novel. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Realistic, unsentimental characterization of working-class life.

Chinua Achebe. Nigerian. 1958. Novel. Things Fall Apart. Eastern Nigeria during British expansion; tragedy of clansmen under British colonialism. Banished for killing tribesman, tribal leader returns to find village converted from tribal beliefs to Christianity. He opposes. Villagers are divided. He Kills British official. Clansmen will not support him. Hangs himself in despair.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

1958: The Alexandria Quartet: Mountolive to The Birthday Party

1958: The Alexandria Quartet: Mountolive to The Birthday Party.
Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Lawrence Durrell. British. 1958. Novel. The Alexandria Quartet: Mountolive. British diplomat in love with Nessim’s mother, obliged to discover who is gun running.

Lawrence Durrell. British. 1958. Novel. The Alexandria Quartet: Balthazar. Balthazar says that Justine is in love with the author, Pursewarden. Her marriage to Nessim is a cover for gunrunning.

John Kenneth Galbraith. American. 1958. Nonfiction. The Affluent Society. Quality of life would improve if spending power shifted from private to the public sector.

Iris Murdoch. British/Irish. 1958. Novel. The Bell. Religious community. Complex needs, self-deceptions bind each member to the group. Bell = ideals.

Harold Pinter. British. 1958. Play. The Birthday Party. Sinister men intimidate Stanley, but they too are intimidated by the fear, uncertainty they have imposed on Stanley.

Monday, August 23, 2010

1957: Look Back in Anger to The Alexandria Quartet.

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

John Osborne. British.1957. Play. Look Back in Anger. Bitter at having no job after his education to prepare him. Frustrated fury against English class structure.

Jack Kerouac. American. 1957. Novel. On the Road. Chronicle of hitch-hiking trip across the U.S.; drifters alienated from “square” middle-class society. Classic of the beat movement.

John Braine. American. 1957. Novel. Room at the Top. Man’s hypocritical efforts to rise in his job, marry the boss’s daughter. Costs his mistress her life.

Lawrence Durrell. British. 1975/60. Novels. The Alexandria Quartet. Four-decker novel, based on relativity. Each novel contains different point of view about the same characters.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

1957: The Alexandria Quartet: Justine to Endgame.

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Lawrence Durrell. British. 1957. Novel. The Alexandria Quartet: Justine. Love affair between the narrator, Darley, and the fascinating, enignmatic Justine.

Jose Donoso. Chile. 1957. Novel. Coronacion. Decline and ruin of an aristocratic Chilean family. The maids claim their possessions and their place in life.

Boris Pasternak. Russian. 1957. Novel Doctor Zhivago. Member of the intelligentsia during the Russian Revolution. Young doctor. Explicit anti-Marxist passages. Religious spirit. Natural living spirit vs. the ideas about life held by the Marxists. Poetic spirit of the book.

Samuel Beckett. Irish/French. 1957. Play. Endgame. Blind chair-bound autocrat; parents in ash cans; disappearing objects; deaths; disintegrating world. [Comment: Boy, that sounds uplifting. RayS.]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1956: Long Day's Journey into Night to The Visit of the Old Lady.

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for English majors.

Eugene O’Neill. American. 1956. Play. Long Day’s Journey into Night. Harrowing domestic tragedy, offering clear insights into the character of O’Neill himself.

Vladimir Dudinstev. Russian. 1956. Novel. Not by Bread Alone. Criticism of Soviet bureaucratic establishment.

William Golding. British. 1956. Novel Pincher Martin. Shipwrecked man’s struggle to keep alive on a bare rock.

Romaine Gary. French. 1956. Novel. Roots of Heaven. Idealist fights to save the elephants in Africa, symbol of liberty.

Friedrich Durrenmatt. Swiss. 1956. Play. The Visit of the Old Lady. Billionaire woman returns to destitute hometown—offers money for the murder of her old lover who deserted her to “marry a shop” when they were young and poor. Townspeople hesitate, but then ritualistically execute him.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Topic: Purpose of This Blog

I want to explain the purpose of this blog.

It is addressed to young people who are thinking about becoming English majors in college.

Make no mistake. Becoming an English major is a business. As much information as you can gather will put you ahead of the pack—of other English majors. You have no time to “sit down and read a good book.” Becoming an English teacher at the high school or college levels is a competitive business. The more you know about teaching writing, grammar, vocabulary, speaking and literature will give you an advantage in your interview.

With regard to literature: I remember one of my English professors telling me and my fellow English majors that in the “old days,” people who majored in English had read all of the works that we were reading now for the first time—before they majored in English.

In a sense, this blog, “10-Second Lit,” is one step in preparing to achieve the same background as former, better-read English majors. In one place I have assembled brief reviews of major literary works in chronological order. I don’t know if such a compilation exists commercially, but it certainly didn’t when I started out as an English major. That is why I compiled it. Thus, you will have a capsule version of just about every major literary work. Sure, the snippets I give you don’t tell you very much, but they are intended to give you the essence of the works in a sentence or two.

Your next step would be to read the much lengthier summaries in Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, the Oxford Companions, etc. and, finally, to read the works themselves as part of your English program. Your final step will be to read the literary critics.

There’s so much literary criticism, how do you read all of those articles and books? You don’t read everything, that’s for sure. In articles, read the first and last paragraph. If you have questions, read the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph. Rarely will you need to read the entire article.

Books? Read the foreword or preface to gain the main idea of the critic’s point of view. Read the first and last paragraphs of each chapter to gain important details of that main idea. Raise questions and read the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph in chapters that have struck you as being of greatest importance.

Sometimes, reading the preface or foreword will be all you need to read. Sometimes the first and last paragraphs of each chapter will be all you need to read. Sometimes you will need to read the first sentence of every paragraph in a chapter, while continuing to read if you are caught by the idea. Sometimes—but rarely—you will need to read the entire book.

An additional reference work essential for the English major is a dictionary of literary terms. The one I used was JA Cuddon, A Dictioary of Literary Terms, Penguin Books, Ltd. 1979. An updated version will be found on Amazon.com. 

Want to be a successful English major? I’ve just told you how, beginning with this “overview” of literature in this blog that gives you the background of the development of literary works from the ancients to the end of the 20th century. I’ve told you what no one ever told me about succeeding as an English major.

And then, there is teaching writing, grammar, vocabulary and speaking. To gain some ideas on teaching these elements of English, try my book Teaching English, How To…., 2004, Xlibris. In it I write about what I have learned after 35 years as a high school and college teacher and K-12 English supervisor for 20 years. I offer plenty of techniques.

Becoming an English teacher is a business.


Monday, August 16, 2010

1956: The Balcony to Howl and Other Poerms

Purpose of this blog: Brief summaries of World, British and American literary classics for possible English majors.

Jean Genet. French. 1956. Play. The Balcony. Men come to brothel to fulfill fantasy roles. Active responsibility is less satisfying than fantasies.

Albert Camus.l French. 1956. Novel. The Fall. Former Parisian lawyer committed to avoiding any situation demanding action.

Aldous Huxley. British. 1956. Essay. “Heaven and Hell.” Effects of the drug mescalin. Ecstatic, depressed states compared to mystics’ accounts of heaven and hell.

John Berryman. American. 1956. Poetry. “Homage to Mistress Bradstreet.” Bradstreet’s conflict: absolute devotion to God and family vs. her love of writing, which she considers worldly and “self-indulgent.”

Allen Ginsberg. American. 1956. Poetry. Howl and Other Poems. Poetic manifesto of the Beat movement. Nightmarish images reflecting brutal dehumanized America.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

1955: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Tennessee Williams. American. 1955. Play. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Neurotic Pollitt family. Big Daddy is dying. plots to gain their father’s property by Gooper, the older son and his wife, and Brick, the younger son and his wife, Maggie, the “cat.”

Vladimir Nabokov. Russian/American. 1955. Novel. Lolita. Middle-aged intellectual has passion for 12-year-old. Plots to seduce her. Odyssey across the U.S. Surprise! She seduces him, then marries Clare Quilty whom he murders. Satirical overview of American culture. Demonstrated Nabokov’s “love affair” with the English language.

William Golding. British. 1955. Novel. Lord of the Flies. Group of boys stranded on an island after a plane crash. They revert to savagery, primitive rites and ritual murder.

Ray Lawler. Australia. 1955. Play. Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Satirizes the macho mystique of swaggering outdoors workmen and mateship. Authentic picture of Australian working class. Title refers to annual souvenir doll. Disillusionment of middle age.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

1954: People of the City to The Lord of the Rings

Chronology of World, British and American Literature.

Cyprian Ekwensi. Nigerian. 1954. Novel. People of the City. First modern African novel; episodes reflect variety of people’s lives in Lagos. Crime reporter by day and band leader at night.

Terence Rattigan. British. 1954. Play. Separate Tables. Minor characters are the same. Only the male, female leads change. Loneliness and isolation of guests in hotel suggested by separate tables. Theme is frustration, misunderstanding caused by artificial social barriers.

Dylan Thomas. Welsh. 1954. Radio Play. Under Milk Wood. Spring day in the lives of people in a Welsh village; no plot; wealth of characters dream aloud.

Iris Murdoch. Irish. 1954. Novel. Under the Net. Can’t build the structured life of his friends and, therefore, is existentially free.

JRR Tolkein. British. 1954/56. Three novels. The Lord of the Rings. Third Age of Middle Earth: own history, languages, geography, mythology, population of men, elves, trolls, orcs, wizards, dwarfs, and hobbits. Frodo is the unwilling heir to a ring that gives long life and absolute power, but corrupts its users. Ring eventually is destroyed. Good wins but only indefinitely.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

1954: Bonjour Tristesse to Les Mandarins.

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Francois Sagan. French. 1954. Novel. Bonjour Tristesse. Teenager’s jealous rage. Tragic plot to prevent her father’s remarriage.

Thomas Mann. German. 1954. Novel. Confessions of Felix Krull: Confidence Man. (Unfinished.) Amoral artist. Picaresque. Series of erotic and criminal escapades. Artist, actor, charlatan.

William Faulkner. American; 1954. Novel. A Fable. WWI. Allegory on death of Jesus. Personifications of abstractions. Modern versions of biblical people.

Kingsley Amis. British. 1954. Novel. Lucky Jim. Ironic title. Comic misfortunes of lower middle class instructor at an English university. Satirizes academic “racket” and cultural pretension.

Simone de Beauvoir. French. 1954. Novel. Les Mandarins. Existentialists during WWII. Philosophy vs. the need to act.

Monday, August 9, 2010

1953: The Adventures of Augie March to The Unnamable.

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Saul Bellow. American. 1953. Novel. The Adventures of Augie March. Refuses to accept defining role in life. Lower-class Jewish environment. Depression era.

Arthur Miller. American. 1953. Play. The Crucible. Salem witchcraft trials parallel the McCarthyism in America in the early 50s.

LP Hartley. British. 1953. Novel. The Go-Between. Love triangle observed by uncomprehending 13-year-old schoolboy who carries messages between adults.

Jean Anouilh. French. 1953. Play. The Lark About Joan of Arc.

Samuel Beckett. Irish/French. 1953. Novel. The Unnamable. Stream of consciousness, most immobilized of Beckett’s characters. Lives legless and armless in a large jar outside a restaurant. Part of a trilogy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

1952: A Prisoner of Grace to Waiting for Godot.

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Joyce Cary. British. 1952. Novel. A Prisoner of Grace. Story of a dynamic liberal politician from the point of view of his wife who is under his spell.

Conrad Aiken. American. 1952. Autobiography. Ushant. Title is from an island off the coast of Brittany. Waking dream suggestive of psychoanalytic free association.

Samuel Beckett. Irish/French. 1952. Play. Waiting for Godot. Two tramps. Nothing happens. Trivial events and conversations. Meaninglessness of life. Pozzo, rich master, and Lucky, servant driven like an animal. Each depends on the other. Asserts human will to live in spite of everything.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1952: El Christo de espaldas to The Old Man and the Sea.

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Eduardo Caballero Calderon. Latin America. 1952. Novel. El Christo de espaldas. Young priest learns the identity of a murderer in confession. The Bishop and the town turn on him for not revealing.

John Steinbeck. American. 1952. Novel. East of Eden. Cain, Abel. Cal, Aron, sons of Adam and Cathy Trask. Cal drives Aron to death, telling him that his mother is a prostitute.

Ralph Ellison. American. 1952. Invisible Man. Nameless black man’s (Everyman’s) search for identity to give himself a name and form uniquely his.

Ernest Hemingway. American. 1952. Novel. The Old Man and the Sea. Old man loses great fish to sharks; allegory of man’s inevitable defeat. However, man can fight with dignity, courage, and stoicism.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

1951: Requiem for a Nun to Dance to the Music of Time.

Chronology of World, British and American Literature
William Faulkner. American. 1951. Novel. Requiem for a Nun. Three prose sections. Blackmailed, Temple tries to gain pardon for black servant who has killed Temple's youngest child. Reveals her own role in the murder.
Tennessee Williams. American. 1951. Play. The Rose Tattoo. Widow of a truck driver does not accept stories of his infidelity. Eventually falls for another truck driver who also has a rose tattoo on his chest.
Anthony Powell. British. 1951/75. Novels Dance to the Music of Time. Spans period of 50 years. Satiric but melancholy view of life of upper class. 12 novels.

Monday, August 2, 2010

1951: Malone Dies to "The Rebel."

Chronology of World, British and American Literature
Samuel Beckett. Irish/French. 1951. Novel. Malone Dies. Malone, dying bum and murderer, senile, lonely, is image for the condition of all men.
Samuel Beckett. Irish/French. 1951. Novel. Molloy. Cripple's search for his mother before he dies. Petty officials' search for him. Bitter, comic rendition of man's despairing condition and quest for better things.
Wallace Stevens. American. 1951. Essay. "The Necessary Angel." Relation of imagination to reality: invests reality with meaning.

Albert Camus. French. 1951. Essay. "The Rebel." Philosophical rebellion vs. political rebellion which promises salvation, but consists merely of murder and a new tyranny.