Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Sylvia Plath was born in Massachusetts on October 27, 1932.
Although she committed suicide after only 30 years of life, she left behind a body of work that will forever be considered superlative in the annals of literary history.
Her one and only novel, The Bell Jar, a roman à clef, tells the harrowing story of her own adventures as a junior editor for the magazine Mademoiselle, her struggles with mental health, and her eventual experience with electroconvulsive therapy. Even currently, as Showtime prepares to release a TV series based on the work, it is still considered the bible of American feminist angst in the 20th century.
However, it is her masterwork of poetry, Ariel, where her final and most important contributions reside. The last two poems she ever wrote are definitely worth looking into: “Balloons” and “Edge.” She herself was quoted as saying, “These poems are going to make my name.”
(Which they did.)
Let’s take a look at what made Plath the bard that she is:
1. “The hardest thing is to live richly in the present without letting it be tainted out of fear for the future or regret for the past.”
2. “Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.”
3. “Perhaps someday I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.”
4. “I can never read all the books I want; I could never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience in life. And I am horribly limited.”
5. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
6. “I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.”
7. “Yes, I was infatuated with you: I am still. No one has ever heightened such a keen capacity of physical sensation in me. I cut you out because I couldn’t stand being a passing fancy. Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams. And you weren’t having any of those.”
8. “If the moon smiled, she would resemble you. You leave the same impression Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”
9. “I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it.”
10. “I desire things that will destroy me in the end.”
AbeBooks' list of most expensive sales in July, August and September 2020 features dinosaurs, the wife of a Beatle, a play that flopped, a piece of pop art, the definitive Beat Generation novel, a book signed by 124 movie stars, and a set of legal thrillers.
The Lost World by Michael Crichton, £19,345
An unread, as new first edition complete with its dust jacket. The book is signed by Steven Spielberg, special effects director Stan Winston, and 10 actors from the film adaption of this novel - Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Richard Schiff, Arliss Howard, Vanessa Chester, and Thomas F. Duffy. Published in 1995, the novel was the sequel to Crichton's 1990 bestseller Jurassic Park. The Lost World was adapted for cinema in 1997.
Linda McCartney Life in Photographs, £15,480
Published by Taschen in 2011, this is a retrospective of Linda McCartney's life and photography produced in collaboration with Paul McCartney and their children. Linda died in 1998. This book is one of the 125 copies produced in the 'Art Edition B' print run. It includes a print of Paul McCartney titled "Paul, Jamaica, 1971." Both the book and print are individually numbered and signed by Paul McCartney. The book, enclosed in a clamshell box, is still sealed in its original shipping box.
The Vegetable, by F Scott Fitzgerald, £15,480
A short story that Fitzgerald developed into his only play. The Vegetable is a comedy about a middle class clerk. A first edition, published in April 1923, by Scribner's Sons. Very good condition. Signed and inscribed by Fitzgerald in black fountain pen on the front free endpaper: "Dear Mr. Selwynn [sic Selwyn] - Here's the new version of the play. Sincerely, F. Scott Fitzgerald." Selwyn was a theatrical producer and former actor. The play opened in Atlantic City, but soon closed. It failed to reach Broadway.
Guggenheim, by Richard Hamilton, £13,930
A Perspex piece of pop art created in 1970. Vacuum-formed and spray painted white, the piece mimics the frontage of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York. Hamilton, who died in 2011, was a versatile artist, best known for his pop art.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, £13,545
A 1957 first edition published by Viking. Jack Kerouac's signature has been laid in. The original dust jacket has been repaired. Filled with jazz and drugs, On the Road describes the experiences of Kerouac and his friends as they travel across the United States. It is the defining work of the Beat Generation. Kerouac completed the first draft in three weeks, typing it on a continuous 120-foot scroll of paper. The two main characters are Sal Paradise (Kerouac) and his friend Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady).
Emma, by Jane Austen, £12,960
A first edition from 1816, printed for John Murray. Finely bound by Zaehnsdorf, a leading Victorian bookbinding firm, in full reddish-brown morocco with marbled endpapers, gilt-stamped spine in compartments, and elaborate gilt dentelles. All edges gilt. The last of Jane Austen's novels to be published in her lifetime. One of 2,000 copies.
Stars of the Photoplay, £11,610
A 1930 book published by Photoplay Magazine, an early movie periodical founded in 1911, containing 250 black-and-white photographs of movie stars along with their biographical details. The book's owner, Janice Clutterham of Chicago, was a radio singer and she persuaded 124 of the movie stars to sign their respective page in the book. The signatures include Jean Arthur, Mary Astor, Lew Ayres, Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Marion Davies, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Laurel and Hardy, Myrna Loy, Paul Lukas, Jeanette MacDonald, Mary Pickford, William Powell, Will Rogers, Lillian Roth, and Eric von Stroheim. Clutterham added notes, including the films that the stars appeared in. The book, which has some wear, is a unique collection of autographs from actors bridging the period between the Silent Screen and the Talkies.
Set of signed limited edition John Grisham novels, 1993-2018, £11,610
A complete set of the limited signed edition works of Grisham issued by Doubleday, starting in 1993 with A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client, until The Reckoning published in 2018. All bar one are still in shrink-wrap. Grisham, the lawyer-turned-writer, published his debut novel, A Time to Kill, in June 1989 and he has since sold more than 300 million copies during his career.
Ulysses, by James Joyce, £11,435
Published in 1924 by Shakespeare & Co., this is a fourth edition signed by Joyce when he was the guest of honor at an English PEN Club dinner on 5th April 1927. The recipient was Eyre Macklin, an English journalist, editor and publisher. Rebound in full crushed red morocco, the original book itself is browned and brittle.
The Works of Sir Walter Scott , £10,740
Printed in French and English by Didot on behalf of Galignani in Paris, there are 61 volumes in blue-green calfskin. The set belonged to Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, Duchess of Berry (1798-1870). Scott's historical adventures - including Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Peveril of the Peak and Waverley - are landmarks in fictional narrative.
Monday, 26 October 2020
Now, when the day goes to sleepAnd the full moon looks
The night is so black that the darkness cooks
Don't you come creepin' around
Makin' me do things I don't wanna do
Can't believe that you need my love so bad
Come sneakin' around tryin' to drive me mad
Bustin' in on my dreams
Makin' me see things I don't wanna see
'Cause you're da Green Manalishi
With the two prong crown
All my tryin' is up all your bringin' is down
Just takin' my love then slippin' away
Leavin' me here just tryin' to keep from followin' you
Sunday, 25 October 2020
Saturday, 24 October 2020
Many of us bookworms are fascinated by cold, hard facts, so it’s time we had a post about the science of reading! There have been several studies on how reading affects the brain and our health, and you’ll be pleased to know that there are lots of benefits and no disadvantages.
According to Emily Hanford, senior education correspondent at APM Reports, our brains are designed for talking, not for reading, so we have to put in extra effort to learn to read. Most of us rely heavily on phonics to learn how to read, which is the process of sounding out the words, and then marrying the sound to the letters. It took a long time for the focus to shift to teaching reading through phonics, as the original process was through a ‘whole-word’ mentality. It was previously thought that we learned to read by recognizing words after reading them over and over again.
Our brains also map spelling patterns, to the extent that we recognize the word ‘horse’ quicker than an accompanying picture of a ‘horse.’ This orthographic mapping is also how we understand the difference between ‘pear’ and ‘pair.’
One of the fascinating things about how we read is the concept of ‘decoding’ words. Think about that next time you wish you were a spy! You’re decoding puzzles every time you pick up a book.
So if decoding puzzles wasn’t enough for you, let’s get into the benefits of reading on the mind.
Business Insider’s infographic states that reading reduces stress by up to 68%. It also shows that reading a print book before bed every night can aid sleep. Your brain will relax and begin to wind down for the night; then, if you keep this routine long enough, the brain starts treating your nightly reading time as a cue. So reading a book becomes your body’s cue to sleep, and you get a better night’s rest. No more tossing and turning! However, if you read on an electronic device, you will harm your sleep. Screens and devices help wake the brain up, which is not what you want at bedtime. It might be a useful technique to try in the mornings, though.
There are other mental benefits to reading, but almost all of them don’t work with ereaders. It seems our brains are big print fans. This may be because turning physical pages gives your brain more cues as to what you’re doing and how to process the activity. We also read slower in print than digital.
Reading has been proven to aid depression, whether the affected person reads in their head, or whether someone reads aloud. Sufferers report feeling more optimistic after reading or being read to. Where a low level of intervention is the best option for a mental health patient, things like self-help books have a double benefit – the patient benefits from the advice in the book, but they also benefit from the reading itself. Giving someone suffering from a mental health problem, the joy of reading could genuinely save a life, and many patients offered self-help books would not be readers otherwise.
The human brain functions similarly to a muscle in that the more active your brain is, the better. This is especially true in older people, who are at risk of mental decline, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s, but the effects of reading will carry through your whole life. Getting a reading habit as a young adult (or even younger) can decrease your chances of Alzheimer’s later. Regular brain activity, like reading, puzzles, or strategy games can reduce the mental decline by 32%.
The effects of reading books have even shown up on brain scans. Reading can create new synapses, as well as strengthen old ones. MRI scans show increased connectivity in the language center of the brain. This is not surprising, since we can all testify that we have a much wider vocabulary than our non-bookish friends! Children’s vocabulary expands by 50% more through reading than it does through television shows.
Another benefit of reading is increased empathy. If you read about someone anxious, you are more likely to relate to someone anxious. We are also more likely to do things we’ve read about characters doing. (Does that mean we’re more likely to volunteer as tribute because Katniss did?) Reading about someone going kayaking can make it more likely that you will try kayaking. It seems that reading increases your curiosity, perhaps.
Apart from boosting your elderly mental health, reading can have physical benefits, which become more and more important as you age. Reading can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, leading to a lower risk of stroke and heart disease. Books can also fine-tune your senses, due to the strong connotations of ‘garlic’ or ‘rain.’ Reading these words can raise vivid images and memories, like your favorite (or least favorite) smell. Reading has also been linked with living a longer life.
With all these fantastic benefits to your health, there’s a whole host of reasons why you need to read that book instead of whatever else you’re supposed to be doing. Reading is also good for the soul, and it is one of the most effective escapist methods when the world gets hard. It also gives you a massive jumping-off point for talking to new and different people. You also have a whole community to engage with when you feel lonely. If none of your friends have read that book yet, you can guarantee someone online has. Reading is a key to other people.
What are you reading at the moment? Can you feel it doing your brain some good? If you fancy some braaaaains, check out some excellent zombie books for adults. Or why not find out about the benefits of audiobooks for your heart and mind?