Saturday 30 April 2016

Spenser's Faerie Queene Readalong!

In celebration of Poetry Month for the month of April, several bloggers are participating in reading Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene and despite my recent return, I could not help but jump at the opportunity to  tackle one of the preeminent  literary works to come out of the English Renaissance. While Spenser's epic is unequivocally one of the most challenging poems ever written, reading it with others should prove to be far more rewarding as well as super helpful in making sense of the immense complexities found in this text. My initial approach was to write an in-depth review for each Canto but that seems impractical and doomed to fail, especially considering how daunting such a task would be. Instead, I plan to provide short reviews on only some of the Cantos from each Book while focusing on how the allegory works in the poem.

Before we even jump into Book 1, let us take a closer look at the prefatory letter addressed to Sir Walter Raleigh that provides some insight into how this poem ought to be read according to the author. Spenser describes his work as a "continued allegory, or darke conceit" in which "the generall end therefore of all the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline." Taking up similar ideas found in Sidney's 'Defense of Poetry,' Spenser claims that his poem functions an allegory to instruct and delight the reader to instill a moral self-fashioning but the actual meaning is hidden within this 'dark conceit.' Incidentally, the letter is also a 'dark conceit' and reveals that the allegory does not function as mere didacticism or sententiousness; one cannot be simply taught a lesson and must work through the text to figure it out.

Spenser always withholds complete understanding, which makes reading this poem increasingly difficult. Not only does he put a fence around meaning with many possibilities of interpretation, the reader must learn how to read allegory properly and must always stay on the quest for meaning. This letter also highlights how allegories can be misinterpreted and this problem has larger implications in the context of the poem, especially in relation to RedCrosse's spiritual journey in Book 1. For Spenser, misreading is the difference between being saved or falling into sin. I intend to explore this concept of the "dark conceit" further and see how Spenser's allegory operates to conceal and reveal meaning simultaneously. 

And so it begins...

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Deal Me in Challenge 2016!


I figured it was time to resurrect this blog from the ashes. I failed to complete the last "Deal Me In Challenge" last year hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis but still enjoyed discovering a lot of great short-stories in the process. Perhaps Round 2 will be different and I certainly won't be overly ambitious and tackle multiple anthologies again. One short story a week is more than reasonable and should help me get back into the groove of writing reviews. Here is how it works:

What is the goal of the project?
To read 52 short stories in 2016 (that’s only one per week)

What do I need?1) Access to at least fifty-two short stories (don’t own any short story collections or anthologies? See links to online resources below) 2) A deck of cards3) An average of perhaps just thirty minutes of reading time each week

Where do I post* about my stories? (*You don’t have to post about every single story, of course, but if you have something to say about the story you read any given week, your fellow participants would love to hear it.)1) On your own blog or website if you have one (I will link to your post at the bottom of my weekly post. I currently plan to do my weekly post on Sundays)2) if you don’t have a blog or website you may comment on my weekly post, sharing thoughts on your own story – or start one at WordPress or blogspot – it’s easy and free to create a basic blog.

How do I pick which stories to read?(The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you.) Before you get start reading, come up with a roster of fifty-two stories (you can use any source) and assign each one to a playing card in a standard deck of cards. It can be fun to use different suits for different types of stories, but that is optional. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read. There are links to last year’s participants’ rosters here if you want to see some examples.

What if I don’t have time to read a story every single week?Try one of the challenge variations noted below, the Fortnight (or “payday” if you prefer) version is one story every two weeks or the “Full Moon Fever” version with just thirteen stories read or selected on seeing each full moon…

How do I sign up?Leave a comment below with your URL and I will link you. My first wrap-up post of the year (I post weekly, usually Sunday night or Monday morning) will include links to any new Deal Me In posts and a list of the participants with links to their roster of stories. What is the purpose?To have FUN and to be exposed to new authors and stories and maybe get in the habit of reading a short story a week. Isn’t that enough?

Once again, I tweaked my list into categories for organizational purposes and there will definitely be some cross-over from last year with the addition of some new genres, including Poetry. I may choose to review just one poem or several by each writer. I obviously have a lot of catching up to do so let's get this show on the road.

Spades: American Lit
A - Adventure by Sherwood Anderson
2 - Punch, Brothers, Punch! by Mark Twain
3 - The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
4 - Mountain Victory by William Faulkner
5 - To Build a Fire by Jack London
6 - Who Am I This Time? by Kurt Vonnegut
7 - Fat by Raymond Carver
8 - The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
9 - The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe
10 - Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut by J.D. Salinger
J - Winter Dreams by F.Scott Fitzgerald
Q - The Boarded Window by Ambrose Bierce
K - The Open Boat by Stephen Crane

Clubs: Science Fiction
A - The Last Question by Isaac Asimov
2 -
Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
3 - Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury
4 - They're Made Out of Meat by Terry Bisson
5 - I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
6 - The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula Le Guin
7 - Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester
8 - All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
9 - Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson
10 - Driftglass by Samuel Delany
J -  The Wub by Philip. K. Dick
Q - The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny
K - The Star by Arthur C. Clarke

Hearts: Random
A - I Spy by Graham Greene
2 - Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf
3 - Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
4 - Thank You for Having Me by Lorrie Moore
5 - The Balloon by Donald Barthelme
6 - The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov
7 - The Man in the Black Suit by Stephen King
8 - The Grave by Katherine Anne Porter
9 - Canadian Experience by Austin Clarke
10 - Sea Oak by George Saunders
J -  That in Aleppo Once... by Vladimir Nabokov
Q - Bliss by Katherine Mansfield
K - Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

Diamonds: Racial Diversity
A - Ashes to Ashes by Jabari Asim
2 - Miss Lora by Junot Diaz
3 - The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
4 - Borders by Thomas King
5 - Can't Beat Em' by Nalo Hopkinson
6 - New York Day Women by Edwidge Danticat
7 - Dead Man's Path by Chinua Achebe
8 - On Being Crazy by W.E.B. DuBois
9 - God Bless America by John O. Killens
10 - Everyday Use by Alice Walker
J - One Christmas Eve by Langston Hughes
Q - Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston
K Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin