Finding the Way to Read “The End and Other Beginnings”

I’ve never read any of the ‘Divergent’ series, despite handling thousands of copies of the novels and special editions and movie tie in cash grabs when I was a bookseller.

We stocked so much of this series, especially around the holidays, that if we’d wanted to we could probably have built a table out of the books to display the books on. (When James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” exploded because of Oprah I’m pretty sure we did just that in the front window of the store just to save ourselves time.)

When “The End and Other Beginnings”, a collection of novella-length stories by Veronica Roth, popped up in Libby I thought it might be a good introduction to her writing.

Having just finished “No Country for Old Gnomes”—and the third book in that series not being available yet or I would have jumped on it immediately—some futuristic short stories might be just what I need to cleanse my literary palate of fantasy adventuring with magical creatures and those backstabbing halflings. And a goat-turned-human who really should be commended for controlling his bowels when frightened. I think we can all agree that’s an admirable trait in our leaders.

I can be a little hesitant with listening to short stories—I tend to agree with Mavis Gallant’s opinion that, “Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.”

And that’s definitely not how I consume audiobooks. Especially ones I’ve borrow from the library—there’s a deadline, after all, and one doesn’t have infinite time to savor the individual tales. I have a collection of Raymond Carver short stories that I pick up and read a story from every few months. Same goes for a collection of Hemingway short stories, my copy’s spine broken badly in several places to Mark “Hills Like White Elephants” or “The End of Something” and a few other staples of raw, concise, finely crafted short fiction. With a physical book its easy enough to do that, but not in this situation.

Does anyone out there have a preference for how you read books? Favored formats for specific subjects or styles? I like physical books for short stories, and I enjoy reading Ebooks for nonfiction. It’s almost like needing a certain pen or notebook for a particular writing project, like needing to change clothes to suit a situation.

Some books are best as mass markets, the pulp detective stories or movie-of-the-week thrillers; while some need to hardcovers, their physical weight mirroring the perceived heaviness of their content; and the English teacher’s favorite assigned reading, the consummate literary prize winner reprinted in trade paperback with delusions of hardcover grandeur with its cover flaps and jagged, uneven pages.

Or maybe that’s just me….

The Almost Accurate History of American Literature

From William Wells Brown to Phillis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon—meet the first African American authors in reverse.

If you follow @gasstation_b on Instagram you may have seen a quote recently from William Wells Brown to commemorate his death on November 6, 1884. I also mentioned that with the publication of his novel “Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States” in 1853 he became the first African American author to be published in the United States.

And that’s almost accurate.

If you’re not familiar with the novel, it follows Clotel and her sister, fictional slave daughters of Thomas Jefferson and explores the destructive effects of slavery in the United States on African-American families, the difficult lives of American mulattoes or mixed-race people, and the degraded and immoral condition of the relation of master and slave. Its general premise pulls from the common knowledge of the time that Jefferson had fathered several children by his slave Sally Hemings (herself believed to be the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife).

A short time after posting that quote from Brown I came across a post from @andresawilson of the Phillis Wheatley monument that is part of the Boston Women’s Memorial. It’s located between Fairfield Street and Gloucester Street on Commonwealth Avenue, if you’re in the neighborhood and have a thing for literature, history or even just statues.

I mention this since Phillis Wheatley is also commonly given the distinction of being the first African American author to be published, with her book, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” having been published September 1, 1773.

And that’s almost accurate.

Now, I know you might want to argue that since Wheatley’s book of poetry predates the founding of the United States, Wells earns the distinction instead of Wheatley, because semantics—but don’t be that guy.

Wheatley was a fascinating historical figure and gifted writer, as was Wells. Although separated by decades—Wheatley died thirty years before Brown was born—both writers were former slaves and gave an unprecedented voice to their experiences. Their respective works were widely read and celebrated with even George Washington said to have been a fan of Wheatley’s work, and they served to inspire other artists and writers of their time.

And also neither of them was the first African American author to be published.

After all that misinformation the distinction truly goes to Jupiter Hammon, who’s poem “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries” was published as a broadside in 1760.

Jupiter Hammon

Hammon, by the way, was quite a fan of Wheatley’s work when she became the first African American woman to be published, and his second published work was a poem titled, “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley”. Hammon would die nearly fifty years before William Wells Brown would become the first African American to publish a novel, but he probably would have written a poem about it if he’d still been around.

Regardless of who holds the title of first published African American author, all three of these literary figures, and the many who followed who were inspired by their work, should be celebrated for their lasting contributions to literature and history.

That, at least, is accurate.

Give a Good Read Week and Little Free Libraries

Give a Good Read Week runs through Sunday, September 22. Which book are you going to share? 

In 2009, Todd Bol created the first Little Free Library book exchange in the front yard of his home in Hudson, Wisconsin as a tribute to his mother—a teacher.

Ten years later there are more than 90,000 Little Free Library book exchanges in 91 countries, and all 50 U.S. states. There’s a good chance there’s one near you that you can donate to or browse. See if there’s one near you on this interactive map.

If you’ve always wanted to start your own Little Free Library, this is the perfect opportunity! Browse the ready-to-use libraries here, and blueprints for building your own library here. You can check out some of the incredibly creative libraries others have built here.

If you’re unable to install a Little Free Library near you, another option is the Impact Library Program, which provides no-cost Little Free Libraries to high-need communities throughout the U.S.

Those prebuilt libraries can be a little pricey, even with the sales they’re running, but you could always pick up the new picture book instead. By Miranda Paul and John Parra, “Little Libraries, Big Heroes” tells the story of the organization’s history and goals, from the very first Little Free Library.

If you’re able to donate to a Little Free Library near you, (or find a great book you can’t resist) don’t forget to share a photo on social media tagging @goodreads and using the hashtags #GiveAGoodRead and #LFL10.

What book would you love to donate?

Friday's Thoughts

Cries. Laughs. Eats. Sleeps. Thinks we should live life like flowers do.

Adventures of a Bibliophile

nevertheless, she persisted

Milk + Beans

Spill it - you know you want to.

Narcissistic MIL

Life with a personality disordered mother in law.

Stories For All

Aspiring Writer. Short Stories. Poems.

The Griffin | Canisius College

The voice of Canisius College since 1933

the716dailynews

THE 716 BUFFALO NEW YORK

Preferred Services of WNY

Proudly serving Buffalo and Western New York for all your home improvement needs.

%d bloggers like this: