History of Literature #75 – The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki

genji

With a strong claim to be the first novel in history, the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji (ca. 1001-1012), by Murasaki Shikibu, or Lady Murasaki, is one of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces. But who was Lady Murasaki, and what compelled her to write this story of an idealized prince and his many lovers? How innovative was she? And do the intrigues of the imperial Japanese courts from a thousand years ago still have the power to fascinate, entertain, and instruct us today?

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Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

On Twitter, you can follow Jacke Wilson at his handle @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literature SC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Ritual” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

 

The History of Literature #54 – The Greatest Books Ever (Part 2)

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What books are essential? Who has the authority to choose them, and what is their selection process? First, Jacke and Mike continue their look at the College Board’s 101 Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers. Then Jacke proposes a different method for determining which books are relevant in today’s world – and tests the results against the College Board’s efforts.

You can find a PDF of the College Board’s list at:

http://www.uhlibrary.net/pdf/college_board_recommended_books.pdf

Shane Sherman’s List of Lists can be found at:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/

His methodology is described at:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/lists/details

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Show Notes:  Continue reading

Happy Father’s Day! A Glimpse of What Dad Is Thinking…

As a tribute to fathers everywhere, we’re re-running one of our more popular posts from the History of Jacke in 100 Objects series. Yes, yes: it’s the “Dad orders burgers with a slice of Proust” one. Enjoy, fathers (and all who love them)!

Home from traveling, I jump into the gray Corolla. I’ve been a Five Guys Dad lately, flying to Los Angeles for work and back home on weekends to take the boys to soccer and movies and the library and their favorite restaurant. It’s not an ideal way to parent, but what can you do? My job requires it, and my life requires my job.

As usual, I’m first. As I wait, the smell inside the car rises up and makes me shudder. Old burgers and fries. The smell of a grill, the smell of grease. I do not feel like I do when I’m on a sidewalk and the hot fumes coming out of a bar make me hungry and eager to go inside. This smell is stale and disgusting and I hate it.

I’ve never liked this car. I was forced to buy it in a hurry (two cars in two days) when moving here from New York and starting a new life. Everything was rushed then, everything was secondary to trying to keep a toddler and an infant fed and clothed and safe. I overpaid for the car; my half of the negotiations still stands as a particularly disgraceful display of weakness on my part.

Hate the car. And now I can’t even muster up the energy to replace it. My wife never drives it. It sits here all week, its slaughterhouse smell trapped inside like The Ghost of Weekends Past. The good times have faded, left behind like grease-splattered paper bags.

With one exception (when a rat chewed through some hoses), the car has been dependable. I hate it anyway. I hate the color, it’s too small, it’s boring, the carpet is already practically destroyed. We’ve abused it with spills and mud and orange peels and juice boxes and crumbs. The car is filthy, inside and out; the windows are crusted with bird droppings; crumbs and bits of leaves line every possible groove. Being in here makes me feel weak and unhealthy and ashamed.

And now there’s the smell. The smell that conjures up all my frustrations.

Here’s Proust on his famous madeleine:

And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.

Extraordinary changes? Perhaps—but in my case, they were all going in the wrong direction.

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A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #8 – The Burger Car

Home from traveling, I jump into the gray Corolla. I’ve been a Five Guys Dad lately, flying to Los Angeles for work and back home on weekends to take the boys to soccer and movies and the library and their favorite restaurant. It’s not an ideal way to parent, but what can you do? My job requires it, and my life requires my job.

As usual, I’m first. As I wait, the smell inside the car rises up and makes me shudder. Old burgers and fries. The smell of a grill, the smell of grease. I do not feel like I do when I’m on a sidewalk and the hot fumes coming out of a bar make me hungry and eager to go inside. This smell is stale and disgusting and I hate it.

I’ve never liked this car. I was forced to buy it in a hurry (two cars in two days) when moving here from New York and starting a new life. Everything was rushed then, everything was secondary to trying to keep a toddler and an infant fed and clothed and safe. I overpaid for the car; my half of the negotiations still stands as a particularly disgraceful display of weakness on my part.

Hate the car. And now I can’t even muster up the energy to replace it. My wife never drives it. It sits here all week, its slaughterhouse smell trapped inside like The Ghost of Weekends Past. The good times have faded, left behind like grease-splattered paper bags.

With one exception (when a rat chewed through some hoses), the car has been dependable. I hate it anyway. I hate the color, it’s too small, it’s boring, the carpet is already practically destroyed. We’ve abused it with spills and mud and orange peels and juice boxes and crumbs. The car is filthy, inside and out; the windows are crusted with bird droppings; crumbs and bits of leaves line every possible groove. Being in here makes me feel weak and unhealthy and ashamed.

And now there’s the smell. The smell that conjures up all my frustrations.

Here’s Proust on his famous madeleine:

And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.

Extraordinary changes? Perhaps—but in my case, they were all going in the wrong direction.

Continue reading

What They Knew #25: Proust on the Miracle of Reading

“Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”

– Marcel Proust

Independent Publishing: What Would Marcel Proust Do?

This is an easy one: we know what Proust would do, because he did it:

Still, for all the brouhaha, many modern readers still find themselves in agreement with the two French publishers who turned down Proust’s manuscript [Swann’s Way] in 1912. A third agreed to publish it, provided that Proust himself cover the expenses.

I agree with Andre Aciman’s assessment:

Proust’s novel is so unusually ambitious, so accomplished, so masterful in cadence and invention that it is impossible to compare it with anyone else’s. He is unabashedly literary and so unapologetic in his encyclopedic range that he remains an exemplar of what literature can be: at once timeless and time bound, universal and elitist, a mix of uncompromising high seriousness with moments of undiminished slapstick. Homer, Vergil, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Proust—not exactly authors one expects to whiz through or take lightly, but like all works of genius, they are meant to be read out loud and loved.

I also agree with his opinion that Proust had elitist tendencies (but that his artistry overcame them):

As Proust recognized, who we are to the outside world and who we are when we retire into our private space are often two very different individuals. Proust the snob and Proust the artist may share the same address, the same friends, and the same name, even the same habits; but one belongs to society, the other to eternity.

Think about that for a minute. If this snob – and there’s no doubt that Proust was a snob, a world-class one, though I love him dearly – if even this titan of self-regard could overcome his doubts about paying for the publication of his own manuscript, then what are you – you, the lover of democracy, you, the friend of the little guy – waiting for?

Image Credit: http://www.full-stop.net