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February 13, 2008

Meeting Helen of Troy

Filed under: Criticism,Writing — litlove @ 3:49 pm

From Incurable Logophilia

I find Helen of Troy one of the most compelling literary characters of all time. I don’t remember when I first became aware of her existence but it was well before I had actually experienced any real Greek mythology, definitely before I’d read The Iliad. It’s fascinating to me how literary characters become a part of our collective memory, how we can know of them before we actually meet them. She is supposed to be the most beautiful woman of all time, the face that launched a thousand ships. Why else would two countries fight for ten years? Why else would hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent men die? Because a woman, who loved one man first, all of sudden loved another.

Homer brings Helen to life for the reader for the first time in Book Three of The Iliad. She is not at all what I remembered, nor what I was expecting. She is so incredibly present. So angry and sad. So much more than just a pretty face. When we see her for the first time she is alone in her rooms, weaving a dark red robe out of the fury and tragedy of the battle that has been raging. (more…)

January 1, 2008

The Prestige of Exclusivity

Filed under: Criticism,Writing — litlove @ 12:02 pm

From The Reading Experience

Caleb Crain warns us that

There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become ‘an increasingly arcane hobby.’

I’m not really all that bothered by the idea that reading will one day perhaps be confined to a “reading class,” primarily because, as far as literature is concerned, it more or less already is. (more…)

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