Reading Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments takes me back to my high school AP Literature days when I first encountered her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale. What was frightening then, a dystopian America where women are stripped of their rights and defined by their fertility (or lack of), continues to frame her 2019 sequel. While this time around Atwood appears to empower her Gileadean women—expanding her protagonists from one to three, giving the new protagonists names (Aunt Lydia, Agnes and Daisy/Nicole), and bestow on them the task of overturning Gilead—the new trio is no better than the Handmaid Offred (“Of [Commander] Fred”). The oft-forgotten male-narrated epilogue delivered by Professor Jame Darcy Pieixoto at the Gileadean Studies Symposium again hits home the fact that despite the effort of these women to break free from Gilead, they ultimately fail to escape the male-imposed narrative.
Feeling unsure, the girl thought the best thing was to put her heart in a safe place.
Just for the time being.
So she put it in a bottle and hung it around her neck.
And that seemed to fix things … at first.
The above passage is from The Heart and the Bottle, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The picture book, which looks into how to make sense of death and loss, is now available in iTunes to buy and download as apps. The version is read by actress Helena Bonham Carter.
In the story, the girl, after losing her father. decided to protect her heart from hurting by putting it in a bottle around her neck. Of course, the problem with safeguarding her heart was that the girl no longer resembled her old exuberant, full-off-curiosity self. No more thinking about the stars or “the wonders of the sea,” she feels no pain, but also no happiness.
(Read previous post: “Ice Kachang Puppy Love”)
Ask what’s in a name, and I’d say plenty.
When introducing myself, I’m either “It’s Sherry like the alcohol,” or “It’s Sherry, like the Frank Valli and the Four Seasons song.” The former usually gets a delayed I-get-it chuckle, and the latter works wonderfully with the slightly more senior folks.
And Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, advises writers to “pay attention to names.”
Names can be fun. Take popular characters in fiction, such as Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane. Or savor Strawberry Bonbons, Glacier Mints, Pear Drops, Lemon Drops, Sherbet Suckers and Liquorice Bootlaces in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, well-crafted names enliven the imagination.
The best literary name of all, is perhaps Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita:
There are plenty of books on how to start a great career (hint: network) as well as how to succeed in life, but I find comedian Carol Leifer’s “How to succeed in business without really crying,” among the top. Not only does she offer solid, applicable advice, she also does it plenty funny. You bet I laughed while riding the subway to work.
Briefly about this funny woman if you’ve never heard of her. She is one of the few women working in comedy at a time when there were few in the industry, and has written for and/or performed on a number of TV comedies including Late Night with David Letterman, Saturday Night Life and Seinfeld.
Perhaps because she has chosen a career in the entertainment business, starting in stand-up comedy, she is no stranger to rejection. Chances are, no matter what profession you are in, the crowd booed once or twice.
Here are my favorites:
Blackberry made a splash when it reported its results in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28. Financial newswires jumped to announce that the company’s quarterly sales was the lowest in eight years, and revenue, which slid to $660 million from $793 million, was well below estimation.
But enough about that Blackberry. Let’s talk blackberry. You know, the dark-skinned, juicy fruit. Like, the edible kind.
In a beautiful essay celebrating words, landscape words in particular, Robert Macfarlane (The Guardian) writes that a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed a substantial number of words concerning nature. The deletion included the following:
acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip,cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe,nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow
New words replacing them included “attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity,chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.” Oxford University Press explained its decision stating that the deleted entries are no longer “relevant to a modern-day childhood.”
We’ve all, more or less, heard of or experienced the so-called six degrees of separation. The theory, which is attributed to Harvard professor Stanley Milgram’s experiment, demonstrates that we live in a small world where, more often than not, we are only six steps away from connecting with anyone. Move interconnectivity to the web, you’ll find that “any document is on average only nineteen clicks away from any other,” writes Albert-László Barabási in his book, Linked.
But our idea of the Web, with search engines like Google connecting us to webpages, which then direct us to other hyperlinks — this interconnected world, how does it all begin?
The book, explores the problem with a famous mathematical problem, the Königsberg Bridge problem. In Königsberg, Russia, there are seven bridges connecting the city to the island of Kneiphof. The puzzle asks:
Can one walk across the seven bridges and never cross the same one twice?
Well, I would have to see the location of the bridges.
And then, and then… I would try walking through all my solutions? Continue reading
When Shakespeare talk of “Much ado about nothing” — the title of his play and also (much later) two movies, 1993 and 2012 — nothing refers to gossip and rumors. In the play, nothing not only made Claudio reject Hero on the day of their wedding day, it also forced Benedick and Beatrice to confess their love for each other.
Today, nothing refers to, well, nothing, and the idiom has come to equate “all that fuss over nothing.” Somehow, I’ve managed to take counter-productivity to a new level in my attempt to move to my new apartment with as few boxes as possible.
Un- or under-employed, and employed millennials alike have been called superficial, self-obsessed (Read GenTwenty column here), but according to a new Pew Research Center study, they have one redeeming virtue. The millennials are reading more than their over-30 counterparts.
I did a little dance when I read this. Despite our proclivity for social sharing (oh selfies), we are after all literary. The sophisticate of our young minds, we…
My euphoria immediately dissipated the moment I read the next line, as reported by Quartz:
Some 88% of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79% of those older than 30.
ONE book. We beat the older generation because an additional 9% of us read one book last year?
Are millennials reading?
If yes, from where and what and how are they reading?
According to a study by McKinsey, a global management consulting firm based in the UK, the average person consume 72 minutes of news a day, and the increase was driven predominantly by people under the age of 35.
Nevertheless, millennials are reading differently. The Associated Press (AP) found that millennials are more versatile as information gatherers, and do not rely solely on newspaper for news.
They [younger consumers] consume news across a multitude of platforms and sources, all day, constantly. Among the key touch points in the new environment are online video, blogs, online social networks, mobile devices RSS, word of mouth, Web portals and search engines.
Furthermore, according to the same AP study, millennials not want to be informed, but they want information that are relevant and shareable.