One-Minute Book Reviews

February 4, 2014

‘Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!’ / Quote of the Day, Herman Melville

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:55 am
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Is any book ever “finished”? Here’s Herman Melville’s view of the subject, as described by William Pritchard:

“At the end of the ‘Cetology’ chapter in Moby-Dick, after Ishmael, or Melville, has presented us with a seemingly exhaustive classification of the various kind of whales, we are told that this ‘Cetological System’ must remain, like ‘ the great Cathedral of Cologne,’ unfinished:

‘For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught – nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!’

“The fear is of ‘succeeding’ by writing a sentence – a book – that isn’t sufficiently a ‘mighty book’ because it’s too finished. ‘To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme,’ he says elsewhere in the novel. This means that there can be no end to expression since the whale – the world out there – is inexpressible.”

From William H. Pritchard’s essay “Herman Melville” in Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, 2007), selected and edited by Joseph Epstein with wood engravings by Barry Moser.

April 4, 2012

What Is Poetry? Quote of the Day / John Updike

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:53 am
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You can define poetry in many ways. You can focus its form, its content, its language, its purposes or its differences from prose. Or you can define it as John Updike — the poet, novelist and critic — did in Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism. He said that poetry is “the exercise of language at its highest pitch.”

September 27, 2011

What Is the Difference Between ‘Text’ and ‘Subtext’? Quote of the Day From ‘Story’

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:57 am
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“Text means the sensory surface of a work of art. In film it’s the images onscreen and the soundtrack of dialogue, music, and sound effects. What we see. What we hear. What people say. What people do. Subtext is the life under that surface – thoughts and feelings both known and unknown, hidden by behavior.”

From Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (It Books/Harper Collins, 1997).

August 14, 2011

What Is ‘Theme’ in Fiction? / Quote of the Day From ‘Story’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:53 am
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Theme has become a rather vague term in the writer’s vocabulary. ‘Poverty,’ ‘war,’ and ‘love,’ for example, are not themes; they relate to setting or genre. A true theme is not a word but a sentence – one clear sentence that expresses a story’s irreducible meaning.’’

From Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (It Books/Harper Collins, 1997).

April 27, 2010

Hot Air Blows in From Academia – Quote of the Day / Ben Yagoda in ‘Memoir: A History’

Filed under: Memoirs,Nonfiction,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:12 am
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Ben Yagoda writes in his recent Memoir: A History (Riverhead, 291 pp., $25.95), a survey of personal narratives the from 5th-century Confessions of St. Augustine to the present:

“In the 1980s, an unfamiliar pronoun began to appear in works of academic philosophy, history, literary criticism, anthropology, and other fields: ‘I.’ An especially popular formation was ‘I want to argue that,’ introducing a clause that, twenty years earlier, would have been the entire sentence.”

August 6, 2009

‘Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?’ — Quote of the Day /Henry Ward Beecher

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“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”

– Henry Ward Beecher, as quoted in the new The Book Shopper: A Life in Review from Paul Dry Books.

June 28, 2009

The Danger of Rereading Your Favorite Books — Quote of the Day / Edward M. Yoder, Jr.

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:34 pm
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A perceptive comment by Edwin M. Yoder, Jr. in the preface to the paperback edition of North Toward Home (Vintage, 1967), Willie Morris’s memoir of his Mississippi boyhood and later work as editor-in-chief of Harper’s magazine in New York:

“Rereading a special book is risky, like a rendezvous with a long-unseen old friend. It is a relief to find the remembered intimacy unwarped by time.”

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

June 10, 2009

Why Was Mark Twain So Funny? Quote of the Day – H. L. Mencken

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:51 am
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“A good half of the humor of the late Mark Twain consisted of admitting frankly the possession of vices and weaknesses that all of us have and few of us care to acknowledge.”

H. L. Mencken in “The Ulster Polonius” in Prejudices: First Series (Knopf, 1919).

December 10, 2008

What’s the Difference Between Wit and Humor? (Quote of the Day / Ambrose Bierce via Drew Gilpin Faust)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:56 pm
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Critics often distinguish between “wit” and “humor” in analyzing comic novels and other literary forms intended to amuse. What’s the difference? Drew Gilpin Faust writes of the American journalist and short-story writer Ambrose Bierce in her recent This Republic of Suffering, a 2008 National Book Award finalist www.nationalbook.org/nba2008.html:

“Ambrose Bierce styled himself a wit, not a humorist, emphasizing the sardonic and cutting intent of his newspaper columns and stories. ‘Humor is tolerant, tender … its ridicule caresses. Wit stabs, begs pardon — and turns the weapon in the wound.’”

Gilpin Faust cites Roy Morris Jr.’s Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company (Oxford University Press, 1995) as the source for Bierce’s quote.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 8, 2008

A New Definition of Science Fiction (Quote of the Day / Bookseller Stephen E. Andrews)

Filed under: Fantasy,Quotes of the Day,Science Fiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:32 am
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Few questions will start an argument among science-fiction fans faster than, “What is the definition of science fiction?” More than 30 years ago, Michael Crichton wrote in The Critic As Artist (Liveright, 1972): “As a category, the borders of science fiction have always been poorly defined, and they are getting worse. The old distinction between science fiction and fantasy – that science fiction went from the known to the probable, and fantasy dealt with the impossible – is now wholly ignored.”

But if the old distinction doesn’t work, what does? Here’s a proposed new definition of science fiction from Stephen E. Andrews, a bookseller and co-editor of 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels: Bloomsbury Good Reading Guides Series (A&C Black, 2007) www.acblack.com:

“SF is the literature that suggests the significant, scientifically explicable changes that may potentially occur in the sphere of human knowledge and experience, exploring how they might affect our minds, bodies and culture.”

For more on this topic see “What Is The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy?” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/09/12.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com and www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

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