Tag Archives: Fiction

The Birth of an Immortal Literary Character: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ‹ CrimeReads

Leslie S. Klinger on Robert Louis Stevenson’s most enduring – and unsettling – creation.

October 18, 2022 By Leslie S. Klinger, VIA MYSTERIOUS PRESS

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

—Italo Calvino
from article…

What makes a literary character immortal? There are only a handful: instantly recognizable, immeasurably plastic, timeless beings that have grown larger than life—they have captured our imaginations in ways that only a few flesh and blood beings may have.

Often, their creators were envious or oblivious of their creation’s merit. For example, Mary Shelley regarded Frankenstein as her “hideous progeny,” Arthur Conan Doyle despised his tales of Sherlock Holmes as distractions from his worthier pursuit of writing historical fiction, and Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in no small part as a tribute to his idol Sir Henry Irving. Certainly none of these creators imagined that their creations would live for centuries, firing the imaginations of millions of readers, stage-goers, and movie fans.

In 1886, Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde joined this elite company. (1) Unlike the other authors, Robert Louis Stevenson was hardly a “one-hit wonder”: His adventure novels Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Master of Ballantrae are highly regarded and treasured by generations of readers, as is his poetry (A Child’s Garden of Verses). Though he died at age forty-four, his fame was already established, and he was lionized by many other popular writers of the day, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton.

While his literary reputation ebbed and flowed in academic and critical circles over the succeeding century, Stevenson is viewed today as a writer of “originality and power.” (2) Yet Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is unlike anything else Stevenson wrote, weaving a compelling condemnation of Victorian ideals into a shocking story of crime detection. (3) Hailed today as a potent blend of mystery, science fiction, and horror, the novella, like Frankenstein before it, has been too often simplified, distorted, and refashioned into a warning about good defeated by evil. The true nature of Stevenson’s tale is far more complex.

Continue reading The Birth of an Immortal Literary Character: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ‹ CrimeReads

Will literature survive? – UnHerd

We have fallen out of love with good writing

By Mary Gaitskill, June 17, 2022

from article…

As a fiction writer who teaches, I often speak about what I love in fiction, what to me makes it powerful and engaging.

This is a version of a talk I have been giving for years to students and other interested parties; it is a talk I’ve become — what is the right word? — uncertain about in the last five years, not because I don’t believe what I’m saying or that I care about it less but because I’m not sure that people can find it meaningful anymore.

There are a number of reasons I feel this, most of which have to do with how we take in knowledge and information and how that has changed the nature of perception. I’m not saying anything new here: think iPhones and the constant staring there at, a skull-fracturing change which plainly has consequences beyond how people understand the reading and writing of fiction.

Source: Will literature survive? – UnHerd

The Shifting Unreliability of Memory: A Reading List ‹ Literary Hub

Jo Harkin Recommends Anne Tyler, Meredith Westgate, and More

By Jo Harkin, March 2, 2022

From article…

Writers are preoccupied with memory. They have to be: a story is, at its most fundamental level, a sequence of memories. You can’t have a plot without memory. Endings need a middle. A middle has to have a beginning. Effect follows cause. Consequences follow actions.

Even if a story has a disordered timeline, the fun is in how our brains put it right. We read on, waiting patiently to find out the explanation, what the nasty thing was that was seen in the woodshed, and how that led to what came after.

We humans also tend to see ourselves in terms of story. We look back through our memories to make sense of our personalities. For example, we might tell ourselves, “I’m hard working because my mother abandoned me.” Or maybe, “I steal things because my mother abandoned me.”

But what happens if there’s a gap in the story? Say you pick up a book and it turns out that an error at the printers has erased a paragraph. Or a whole chapter.

You’d worry—correctly—that the whole thing may no longer make sense. And when it comes to us humans—well, we don’t actually know if the self is really built on memory and story. But we like to believe it. So what happens to that belief—to us?—when there’s a part of the story missing?

Source: The Shifting Unreliability of Memory: A Reading List ‹ Literary Hub

Mapping fiction: the complicated relationship between authors and literary maps | Books | The Guardian

In a new exhibition, the long, difficult history of literary maps is explored, from James Joyce to Raymond Chandler

By Veronica Esposito, Wed 19 Jan 2022 07.20 EST

Map from the front endpapers of a 1935 edition of Homer’s Odyssey. Photograph: Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PSLclear. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

From efforts to map Odysseus’s journey to Borges’s commentary on map-making in On Exactitude in Science (where the only sufficient map is in fact as large as the territory it depicts), fictions and maps have long maintained a complicated, entwined relationship.

While the right map can uniquely resonate with a literary text, this resonance exists amid an undeniable tension: a concern that the map might demystify or oversimplify a story, at worst imposing a single, reductive viewpoint on something that should be open and unbounded.

A Victorian Valentine. Hindu gods, Aztec rites, Blondie hits … why the heart is our eternal symbol Read more Exploring this tension, while also charting the ways that the relationship between maps and literature has changed through eras and genres, the Huntington’s new exhibit Mapping Fiction brings together literary maps from hundreds of years of literary history. Drawing from the Huntington’s archives of rare literary texts, the exhibition goes back to the early days of modern literature with texts like The Pilgrim’s Progress and Journey to the Center of the Earth (not Jules Verne’s version but rather a 1741 book written by Norwegian writer Ludvig Holberg), continuing up to the contemporary era with mappings of Octavia Butler’s life and works and artist David Lilburn’s 2006 mapping of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Source: Mapping fiction: the complicated relationship between authors and literary maps | Books | The Guardian

Celebrating the Librarians of SFF | Tor.com

By Stubby the Rocket, Wed Sep 29, 2021 10:00am 32 comments 7 Favorites [+]

From article…

Across fantasy and science fiction (with the occasional stop in horror), there are any number of amazing fictional libraries we’d love to visit—especially to meet up with the guardians of the stacks!

After all, what’s a fantasy story without an awe-inspiring tower full of potentially curséd books?

Or a sci-fi adventure without the cumulative knowledge of civilization stored somewhere to guide our heroes on their quest?

We decided it was time for an overdue celebration of the keepers of knowledge, from experts in Egyptology to far-future book-lovers fighting tyrannical governments to sword-wielding barbarians, we have a librarian for every occasion.

Editor’s Note: Lots of listing in the article, and check out the comments as well.

Source: Celebrating the Librarians of SFF | Tor.com