Browsing category


3 posts

Watership Down’s Sober Take on Rabbits

Rabbits are generally considered to be very cute animals but they are often treated in a rather sober context within popular culture. All depictions of rabbits tend to deal with some form of grim reality, and it seems that this theme is continuing with the new novel by Richard Adams, Watership Down. This book is meant for children and it is about rabbits, but when you read the book you will realize that it is not exactly the kind of whimsical tale that you might come to expect from a premise such as this one. Indeed, there are a lot of different ways in which this book might be suitable for adults more than it is for kids, and in the vein of a lot of modern children’s literature it sort of treats kids like the adults they are going to be in the future and helps pull them towards the sort of mentality that adults might be expected to have.

One the reasons why this book seems to be a little more adult than a lot of other children’s books out there is because of the fact that the theme is so mature. A lot of the conflict in the book is about the struggle against one’s natural way of being. Kids are naturally impulsive, aggressive and self centered simply because of the fact that they have not learned empathy yet. This book teaches you how to put yourself aside and think about others which is a skill that many adults could do with learning even if they have grown well past the age at which they might have been considered a child.

One thing that this book does really well, and is indeed a pretty significant contributor to its overall success in the world of children’s literature, is talk to its audience in a manner that does not seem condescending in any way. Children’s books have a terrible tendency to talk down to the people that are reading it. Lots of kids notice this language and they do not appreciate it. Kids are kids, they are not quite mature enough to be spoken to like adults and indeed if you try to talk to a kid like he or she is an adult then this is definitely not going to help get the message across in a manner that would end up being truly meaningful in some way.

What Adams does really well is straddle the line between condescension and excessive complexity. He also creates a realistic world where rabbits have their own language and in which he brings a lot of the experiences he had during his time as a soldier. This book is very well written, and it’s pretty clear that actual work has gone into creating a world that would seem realistic and enchanting to children rather than the throwaway efforts that children’s literature often ends up being. All in all, Watership Down has managed to capture an eager audience.

Read more

Victor Hugo’s Life on The Wild Side

When you think of Victor Hugo, what image comes to mind? Perhaps it is the image of the wizened old writer, looking thoroughly sagacious with his long white beard and contemplative pose. Or perhaps the image you get is one of a young, intrepid looking man, hunched over a writing desk and hard at work. What you might not think of when you imagine the author of classics such as Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame is a libertine with an insatiable appetite for sex and a highly passionate and fiery personality.

Indeed, the true Victor Hugo sounds less like a respected playwright and more like a rock star from the 70s or 80s where debauchery and hardcore partying had become the norm. A couple of Hugo’s habits will help you better understand his eccentric personality. For example, he used to prefer to write while completely naked as this was the only way in which he felt free enough to let his creativity run loose and allow him to capture each and every facet of his imagination until it became the sort of thing that he could truly channel in whatever direction he chose. Another habit of his was to eat oranges whole at parties in order to impress people. Suffice it to say that people were definitely very impressed indeed whenever Hugo managed to swallow an entire orange whole.

Yes, Victor Hugo was a huge party animal. He was famous for being the life of the party during the days of his prime. For a long period in his life, Hugo never had dinner alone. Instead he would entertain around 30 people every single day for dinner, and some of these soirees ended up turning into full blown parties. Indeed, he was such a huge partier that even his funeral ended up turning into a party. If that doesn’t sound like the funeral of a rock star, we don’t know what does!

Hugo was also very obsessed with how famous he was. Indeed, it can be quite difficult for someone so famous that the very street they are living on ends up being named after them to not get a bit of a big head in this regard. In the dinner parties that have been mentioned above, one of the main events of the night would be when Hugo would read out a list of reasons why he was better than all of his contemporaries.

All in all, Victor Hugo lived a very exciting and fulfilling life, one that involved a lot of different phases and throughout all of them he remained the literary great that he is now remembered as. It is important to read up on figures like Hugo so that we can begin to understand the method to their madness and add facets to their characters. We often don’t pay as much attention to the personalities of authors as we do to musicians. Victor Hugo can teach us why this needs to change.

Read more

Good Omens: A Love Letter to Collaborative Writing

Collaborative writing is often not the best way to get your message across to as large a group of people as possible. The fact of the matter is that when two authors write a book together it often ends with their personalities clashing. After all, each individual writer has a strong understanding of their craft, as well as a specific style that they will tend to focus on while they are undergoing the task of completing a specific novel or short story. There are plenty of examples of bad collaborations in the world of literature. Even the likes of literary legends Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs were guilty of a subpar collaboration, and this was in spite of the fact that they were both part of the same literary movement.

Good Omens might an example of how good collaborative writing can be, and in many ways exemplifies the best of collaborative literature. In many ways it hasn’t just equaled great collaborative novels of the past, such as the progenitor of the steampunk genre that was The Difference Engine which was released the same year as Good Omens. In fact, it might just be superior to this novel, as well as any other collaborative novel that has ever been worked on.

The authors that collaborated to create this novel are definitely a big deal. None other than Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, in fact. It is fair to say that Gaiman was the newbie in this situation, but in spite of the fact that these two authors shared a strange dynamic akin to that of an apprentice and a mentor, their voices ended up complimenting each other’s. The fact of the matter is that they both have writing styles that are unique in their own way, but, whether by serendipitous happenstance or by willful efforts on the parts of both of these authors, these individual voices came together to create a glorious singular narrative.

If we were to try and understand the value of this novel as well as why it has remained so popular, it can be easily ascertained from realizing that this novel is just plain fun to read. Its humor lies in its wit, not in its over the top overtures towards comedy. The characterizations are vivid and realistic, and we become genuinely invested in the characters. There also seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for the craft which can be explained by realizing that both of these authors pretty much only collaborated for the fun of it rather than money. The novel ended up becoming a best seller so they did in fact end up earning money from it, but the fact remains that the genesis of the project came about due to their love of writing and their desire to create something that was truly worthwhile. This is why Good Omens might just be the greatest collaborative novel ever, because its intention was pure from the very start.

Read more