Authors We Love: William Faulkner

William Faulkner - Wikipedia

(William Faulkner William Faulkner on September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962), one of the most influential writers in the history of American literature is the representative figure of a stream of consciousness literature in the United States, and the 1949 Nobel Prize winner, won the prize for “because he has made a strong and art to contemporary American novel unparalleled contribution”.

In his lifetime, he wrote 19 novels and more than 120 short stories, among which 15 novels and the vast majority of short stories took place in Yoknapatawpha County, known as “Yoknapatawpha lineage”. The main thread is the story of generations of several families of different social classes in the county town of Jefferson and its suburbs, from 1800 until after World War II. More than 600 characters with family names are interspersed in novels and short stories. The most representative work is “The Sound and the Fury.”

Faulkner reflected the reality of southern society facing the invasion of industrial civilization through subjective refraction. The Civil War ended with the defeat of the south. After the war, the traditional values of the south collapsed. Raised in the southern tradition, Faulkner grew up with tales of courage, honor, compassion, pride, justice, and freedom from his ancestors His pride in his family and love of his native land were sown in his heart. However, the rapid collapse of the south, the impact of the first world war, and the postwar American society led him to make a reflection on the traditions. He learned to face the reality to make new thinking, peel off the beauty of the southern spiritual heritage, and see the evil of the southern slavery and plantation owners of corruption, slavery, and inhumanity. This realization was painful for Faulkner, who was deeply attached to his home. He did not shy away from the pain, but with the artist’s keen eye to see the facts, willing to become a spiritual vagabond. And he could not find sustenance in the industrial civilization brought by the north. What he saw was the suffering of the people of the south in the development of capitalism. In the new south, simple human relations were replaced by money, and peaceful life was destroyed by a chaotic and noisy urban life. Everyone loses his or her individuality and becomes a machine that is manipulated or abused. So they involuntarily turn to the old ways of life, but immediately recall the guilt of history and fear. It was with such a complex feeling that Faulkner depicted the southern society and conceived his own art world.

-Coreen C. 

The works of William Faulkner are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow (Author of Herzog)

Saul Bellow (1915 — 2005) was an American writer, known as the spokesman of American contemporary literature. Born in 1915 in Racine, a suburb of Montreal, Canada, to Jewish immigrants from st. Petersburg, Russia. In 1924, the family moved to Chicago, USA. He attended the University of Chicago in 1933, and two years later transferred to Northwestern University, where he graduated in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology. In addition to the occupation as an editor, journalist, and merchant navy, Bellow spent most of his time as a college professor. He received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern universities. Bellow wrote and published 11 novels, 3 novellas, 4 short stories, and a play. In addition, he also published three non-fiction works, such as travel notes, essays, and speech collections.

The protagonists in Bellow’s works all desire to pursue a better life and the meaning of life. Even Maggie, who is in a wandering situation, dreams of starting an orphanage. The pursuit of the perfect self and social life translates into the ideal of Bellow’s heroes. However, life not only rewards them with incentives but more often stabs them in the back without them noticing. Hence, most of the characters exemplify escapism from the harsh reality that is imposed upon them. There is an inescapable paradox between their search for freedom and their flight. Just as they dream of playing the noble role of helping the world and saving the common, they are also victims of the cruel world.

-Coreen C. 

The works of Saul Bellow are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Authors We Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in st. Paul, Minnesota, to a family of small businessmen. His ancestors, who had once been rich and powerful, have faded down to his parents’ generation. In 1913, supported by relatives, he attended Princeton University, an aristocratic institution of higher learning in the eastern United States. But he had no interest in his studies, often missed classes and failed exams, and focused almost entirely on social activities. He managed to get into the school’s literary group, was invited to the most famous clubs, shook off his country accent, and developed a standard “advanced” English, trying to subtly erase differences of birth. In 1915, when Princeton’s theater troupe toured the United States with his comedy “The Evil Eye,” he was barred from performing with the group because of his grades.

In the spring of 1917, the United States entered World War I, and Fitzgerald joined the army. In late 1918, Fitzgerald left the army and headed to New York, where he found only a job writing the words for a little-known advertising agency. In June 1919, his lover Zelda lost patience and called off the engagement. Early experiences led to Fitzgerald’s lifelong sensitivity to money. In 1919, Fitzgerald returned home with nothing. Published in February 1920, the novel “This Side of Paradise” became an instant hit for its vivid sense of The Times, and the first edition sold out in a few days. Magazines began to scramble for him.

On December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald died of a heart attack caused by alcoholism at the age of 44, leaving behind an unfinished work, “The Last Tycoon”.

He is a legendary author with a flourishing life, but his outstanding literary understanding and writing abilities did not leave him with a glorious ending.

-Coreen C. 

The works of F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 — May 6, 1862) was an American writer, philosopher, and representative of transcendentalism.

A graduate of Harvard University, he helped edit Emerson’s quarterly review of the Sundial. He was a lifelong supporter of the abolitionist movement. He preached abolitionism everywhere and attacked fugitive slave laws. Deeply influenced by Emerson, he advocated returning to the heart and getting close to nature. In 1845, he lived by Walden Pond, two miles away from Concord, as a recluse for two years, farming and eating by himself, experiencing a life of simplicity. Walden, a long essay on this subject, became a classic work of transcendentalism.

Thoreau was brilliant and wrote more than twenty first-class essays in his lifetime. Known as the founder of nature essays, Thoreau’s prose was concise and powerful, simple and natural, and full of thoughts, which was unique among the American prose in the 19th century. Walden is considered the most popular nonfiction in American literature. His other works include political treatise on Civil Disobedience, Life without Principle, Cape Cod, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack river, The Maine Woods, etc. Walden records his reclusive life in Walden, while Civil Disobedience discusses the injustices of government and power and justifies citizens’ voluntary refusal to obey certain laws.

Thoreau was not tall but very firm with pale skin and strong, serious blue eyes, and a solemn manner.Thoreau later in his life, had a beard that suited him. His features were sharp, his build strong, and his hands were strong and swift in the use of tools. He said that he used his feet better than his eyes to find his way through the woods at night, and that he could estimate the height of two trees with his eyes very accurately; he could estimate the weight of an ox or a pig as well as a cattle dealer. He was good at swimming, racing, skating and rowing, and could probably beat any countryman in the long walk from morning to night. The relationship between his body and his mind is even more subtle than we think. He said that every step of his leg was his. As usual, the longer he traveled, the longer he wrote. If you shut him in at home, he won’t write at all.

-Coreen C.

The works of Henry David Thoreau are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Ruta Sepetys

Ruts Sepetys is one of the most well known young adult historical fiction authors ever! With historical fiction being my favorite genre, I consider myself proud to say that Ruta Sepetys is my favorite author of all time. I have read all of the books she has written and I consider every single one of them to be some of my favorite books. 

Unlike many historical fiction authors, she doesn’t exclusively write about one event in history. With a setting like New Orleans, Barcelona, and Siberia, Sepetys takes us into a plethora of historical events, with different time periods, people, and settings. 

One specific thing I love about historical fiction is you learn something along the way, and all of Ruta Sepetys writes about overlooked events in history. These aren’t things you learn from your history textbook, they’re much more than that. Her books take you on a journey through events like the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that took 10 times the lives the Titanic did, and is the biggest maritime disaster of all time. But for some unknown reason, nobody talks about it, except for Sepetys.

Not only does she shed these huge historical events to light, but she does also these events justice. Although what she writes is fiction, the historical events they’re based on are all too real. Sepetys does an amazing job of research. In her most recent novel, The Fountains of Silence, the back of the book offered more details about her writing and research process, as well as pages of her notes. Sepetys do years and years of research for just one novel, and by reading the books you can tell how much effort was put into them. 

As for her World War Il novels, she has interviewed countless figures, both strangers and family, that were involved in those events, and based some of her books off of real events her family has gone through. 

Another part that I really love about her books is her writing style. With short and quick chapters, the writing allows you to be constantly engaged. The constant point of view switches keep you on your toes and makes every single one of her books a page-turner.

Between Shades of Gray (2011): Not your everyday World War 2 novel, Between Shades of Gray shows the dark side of Polish deportation and labor camps. With a knowledgeable protagonist and a family trying not to fall apart in the face of war, this brutal novel is a must-read. My Rating: 9/10

Out of the Easy (2013): Out of the Easy is a novel describing the life of the daughter of a prostitute longing to be free and live her own life outside of the bustling city of New Orleans. When a customer at her bookstore is found dead, she finally finds the escape she’s been looking for. My Rating: 7/10

Salt to the Sea (2016): The biggest maritime disaster, and the long path refugees are forced to take to flee Germany, this story tells the tale no one wishes to tell about World War 2.  In this novel, everyone has a secret to tell, and with them come guaranteed tears. My Rating: 10/10

The Fountains of Silence (2019): the Fountains of Silence tells the unknown story of how the Spanish people recovered after their own civil war. Told through the eyes of a photographer tourist from Texas, and a hotel employee who works hard for every penny she earns. This novel shows the trials and tribulations of most families during the reconstruction, but the star of this novel is truly the romance. Greatest of all, you get to learn about what’s really happening with the Spanish government behind closed doors. My Rating: 9/10

-Asli B. 

The works of Ruta Sepetys are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is the author of many fictional books for children.  Most of his books were illustrated by Quentin Blake.  I have always enjoyed these books as well as the illustrations.  Dahl uses very inventive language, including interesting words such as “gnazzle,” “knid” and “snozzcumber.”  His books are very funny and full of entertaining nonsense.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a boy named Charlie who lives in a small home with his poor family.  Willy Wonka, the owner of a famous chocolate factory, announces that five lucky children will be invited to tour his factory.  The children would be selected by finding one of five golden tickets hidden inside the wrappers of chocolate bars.  By sheer luck, Charlie receives one of the five golden tickets.  As the story unfolds, we discover the wild and zany rooms in Willy Wonka’s factory, and finally we learn the real reason why Mr. Wonka invited the children to his factory.

The BFG tells of a little girl named Sophie who lives in an orphanage.  Sophie is captured by a twenty-four-feet-tall giant, who takes her to a cave in a faraway land called “Giant Country.”  There she learns that the giant’s name is the “Big Friendly Giant,” or the “BFG,” for short.  The BFG is actually the runt of nine other giants, who are about fifty feet tall and are very wicked, unlike the BFG.  The other nine giants like to gallop off to different countries to gobble up about two to six people at a time.  Sophie and the BFG come up with a plan to put a stop to the other giants’ evil deeds.

In Matilda, a girl named Matilda learns how to read at a very young age, but her parents mistreat her and hardly even notice her talents.  When she starts school, Matilda encounters the giant, nasty headmistress named Miss Trunchbull.  The headmistress terrorizes the entire school until Matilda discovers special powers within herself.  This is my favorite of Roald Dahl’s books because of the charming characters and wonderful story.

Most of Roald Dahl’s books are about ordinary children who discover extraordinary things.  Dahl usually includes fantastical characters, such as man-sized insects and little people known as “Oompa Loompas.”  It is for good reason that his books are very popular and are considered classics for young readers.  I highly recommend these books to people of all ages.

-Oliver H.

The works of Roald Dahl are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Three Theban Plays: Tragedy, Tragedy, and more Tragedy!

Image courtesy of Britannica.com/biography/Sophocles

Oh, Sophocles–the man, the myth, the legend. According to my English teacher, he’s arguably one of the greatest playwrights of all time (don’t worry, Shakespeare, we haven’t forgotten you either). But personally, I kind of…yeah, okay, I have to admit it…despise plays (insert drop the mic gifs here). I mean, reading about two people yammering on in verse to one another for three hundred pages, versus being immersed in a totally epic duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort? I think the choice is obvious here, but who knows, maybe it’s just me.

So how do you get an anti-play person to read one? Answer: assign it for English homework! Now, English Honors as a freshman is pretty fun; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it so far. Then, well, the tables turn big time when the teacher straight up announces, “Class, we’re going to reading Oedipus Rex from Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays!”

English took a pretty big plunge down the “Favorite Classes List” after I heard that one.

I’d started dreading going to class, and all because of one dumb play. When you start enjoying Honors Algebra 2 Trig more than English, you know you’ve run into a serious problem, because I was always sort of a bookworm (where are my Percy Jackson fans at? Just checking).

Anyways, we started doing some background learning about Greek plays, especially tragedies. The Greek part interested me a little, since I’m a total mythology fan, but the Theban Plays looked pretty boring to me. I’d never read tragedies before–again, the awesome sword-fighting stuff in fiction books literally kills me, no pun intended.

So anyway, I pretty much figured out (with a considerable lack of enthusiasm, may I add) that the main characters of the play were this guy named Oedipus, who’s king of Thebes, his wife Jocasta, a blind prophet named Tiresias, Jocasta’s brother Creon, a Shepherd, a Messenger, and friends. So yep, boring.

I figured Greek tragedies, how tragic can they get? Probably a lot of death and stuff, but super tragic, as in “oh nooo, what a poor guy!” sort of thing? No way.

Ha…ha…nevermind.

I’m not really going to go into detail about what exactly makes Oedipus Rex tragic, because it’s, um, really tragic. But if you do read it, whether for fun or for school, let this be a warning that this sort of tragedy is unexpected. You might expect to feel sad or something along those lines (at least, that was what I was anticipating), but I ended up being…disgusted. Revolted. The whole, “WHAT?!” moment.

I know this is infuriating, but no, I simply cannot tell you the crux of this tragedy. If you’ve already read this particular play, good for you! We can be mildly–or highly–disturbed together! Just a side note, though: I’d only recommend this play for older readers, as the content gets pretty icky as the play goes on.

So after this whole ordeal? I actually think the Theban Plays are a pretty good read (collective gasp). I think I was too stuck up on my own definition of tragedy–the whole cliche, feeling depressed afterward, stuff like that. Nah, Oedipus Rex was more, “WHAT NO WAY DID HE JUST–NO, EW, ARGH, THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, HOW COULD–NO, STOP RIGHT NOW!”

But anyways, Sophocles himself wrote one rollercoaster of a play, which, yes, I would like to commend him on. The use of dramatic irony, keeping the audience in suspense as Oedipus’s life unravels and chaos falls upon the city of Thebes, is incredible. And, I have to admit, interesting.

Besides, Greek tragedies–despite all their horror–reveal important life lessons through the Chorus, our a group of singing, chanting men who represent the city’s citizens. Again, read the play for yourself to discover the ultimate moral; I’ll have to keep you in the dark again.

So if you do decide to read the Theban Plays, well, I wish you the best of luck. But for now, I’ve got a character analysis on Oedipus I’ve got to write, which I’m totally looking forward to…but anyways, happy reading!!!

-Katherine L

The works of Sophocles are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary is one of my favorite authors.  She has written many short fiction books, most of which are set in an American town during the middle of the twentieth century.  Her works include Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, and Otis Spofford.  Her books are among my favorites because they are easy to read and they contain many amusing stories.

I really enjoy reading Henry Huggins.  This book is about a boy named Henry who finds a dog on the street.  He names the dog Ribsy because it is skinny.  Henry tries to take Ribsy home on a bus with strict rules against dogs.  Henry does funny things to hide Ribsy on the bus.  I enjoy reading this book very much because of the way Henry becomes friends with Ribsy, even though the dog can be difficult to control.

Beezus and Ramona is another funny book.  Beezus (nickname for Beatrice) lives with her four-year-old little sister, Ramona.  Ramona gets into all kinds of mischief.  One time, she wrote her name all over a library book.  Another time, she put a doll in the oven.  Many other funny things happen in this book.  This may be my favorite book written by Beverly Cleary because of Ramona’s many misunderstandings and escapades.  Anyone with a mischievous little sibling can relate to this book.

I also find Otis Spofford to be very funny.  Otis gets into lots of trouble.  One time he dressed up as a bull and attacked a matador during a mock bullfight at school.  Some of his classmates were not amused by his behavior, but the situation is humorous.  I enjoy Otis’ lively personality.  He is always trying to stir up excitement.

Even though they are written for young readers, I still thoroughly enjoy Beverly Cleary’s books.  I have read some of her books several times.  I highly recommend them, not only for young readers, but also for anyone who feels like reading a short and charming book.

-Oliver H. 

The works of Beverly Cleary are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They are also available to download from Overdrive

Authors We Love: S.E. Hinton

S.E. Hinton is an American author we are often introduced to in school. Her classic novel The Outsiders remains one of the most popular books in youth literature to this day. The Outsiders tells the stories of the lower class (Greasers) and the upper class (Socs) from the perspective of narrator Ponyboy Curtis. The novel explores hostile interaction between social classes and is often seen as Hinton’s greatest work due to its stark realism and relatability. 

Rumble Fish is another one of Hinton’s greatest works. Rumble Fish follows the life of teenager Rusty James who struggles to live a life in his brother’s shadow. His brother, the Motorcycle Boy, had taken a trip to California and left behind a notorious, criminal reputation that Rusty James tries his best to embody. Unbeknownst to Rusty James, Motorcycle Boy never truly made it to California and was battling his own mental strife. In the end, Motorcycle Boy’s life is ended by his final, fatal encounter with the police as he tries to steal “rumble fish” from a local pet store. Possessed by grief, Rusty James decides to make his own trip to California and reaches the ocean in honor of his lost brother. Through this intense story, Rumble Fish teaches readers that the world becomes less dark if we know where to find the light. 

One of Hinton’s lesser known works is That Was Then, This is Now. That Was Then, This is Now contains many of the same elements as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, but takes place a few years later. Now, social classes are less defined, and violence between Greasers and Socs is less frequent. The current omnipotent issue is no longer gang fights; it’s drug abuse. Main characters Mark and Bryon are close friends, and consider themselves brothers. When Bryon’s mother is hospitalized and needs surgery, the two scramble to find sources of necessary income. Bryon finds a job at a supermarket, while Mark supplies money without an obvious source. During this time of financial stress, their friend M&M goes missing until Bryon finds him under the influence of narcotics. M&M is hospitalized, and Bryon finds out that Mark has been selling drugs in order to help pay for his mother’s surgery. Bryon must choose justice for M&M or Mark’s life. In the end, their brotherly bond is severed when Bryon reports Mark and Mark is sent to prison. This story shows readers that the world is not divided into black and white, or good and evil. The most difficult decisions are often made in the area of divergence between the two extremes.

S.E. Hinton’s is one of the greatest authors of the 1900’s, and her books have remained popular, years after publication. Her didactic novels continue to teach modern youth crucial life lessons that will never die with age.

-Katie A. 

The works of S. E. Hinton are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow was born on June 10, 1915, and passed away on April 5, 2005. He was born in Lachine, a small village located in Quebec, Canada and immigrated with his parents to Chicago, United States with he was eight. Due to this reason, Hyde Park, Chicago was the backdrop of a lot of his famous works because he was the most familiar with it.

Both of his parents were from Russia and were very strict Jews. They wished Saul Bellow could be a rabbi or a violinist playing in church when he grows up. However, he couldn’t overcome his passion for writing and therefore did not relinquish to these two occupations even when his mother passed away. He went to Chicago University and later switched to Northwestern University because he felt the former disliked Jews and therefore mistreated them. Bellow did his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin.

As a Novel Prize Literature winner, Pulitzer Prize fiction winner, and the only writer to win the National Medal of arts three times, Bellow in his entire life has composed a lot of works. These include Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures of Augie March, Seize the Day, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr.Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift, The Dean’s December, More Die of Heartbreak, A Theft, The Bellarose Collection, The Actual, and Ravelstein. He also wrote a lot of plays and some nonfiction as well.

One thing which marks his unique style is his philosophical views embedded amongst the paragraphs and in characters’ dialogues. It provides on his insight of life, death, marriage and other themes which he values as important. Although some critics argue that this style of approach can be very elusive and a form of digression, I thought if sociology and anthropology are vital in Bellow’s life, he should put it down to let people who he really is.

-Coreen C. 

The works of Saul Bellow are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.