Authors We Love: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury - Wikipedia

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 — June 6, 2012) was born in Waukegan, Illinois, USA. He loved adventure stories and fantasy novels, especially the fantastic stories edited by Gernsback. When he was twelve, he was given a typewriter for his birthday. He began to practice his writing. As early as middle school, he took an elective course on how to write a novel. He began to contribute to several magazines in 1941, became a professional writer in 1943, and won the Best American Short Story Award three years later. He has written several novels, such as “Fahrenheit 451” is quite famous. But he is also known for his short stories, so far short stories published nearly 20 units, including the famous are: “The Martian Chronicles” (1950), “the Golden Apples of the Sun” (1953), “The Rocket” (1962), “Last Night of the World” (1966), etc. Bradbury is not only a world-famous science fiction writer, but also one of the leading grammarian in contemporary American literature. In addition to writing science fiction, he wrote screenplays and social fiction, and adapted the classic American literary work “Moby Dick” by Melville into a screenplay. He himself drew nourishment from the classics as well.

Bradbury is one of those rare writers whose work has changed the way people think. With over 500 books — including short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television plays, and poetry — he represented the pinnacle of American imagination. Once you read his work, his words will stick with you. His enduring appeal to both the old and the young proves once again that Bradbury was a true classic of the 20th century.

The works of Ray Bradbury are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

For all the self-proclaimed literary snobs—you know, those who continually reference books and apply its meanings to the chapters of one’s life—Gabrielle Zevin introduces A.J. Fikry, a middle-aged and depressed bookseller on the coast of Massachusetts. Encompassing this universal feeling, of a storied life, Zevin characterizes all of us through him. Her novel, memoir, a minder—I’m not even sure what to call it—is nothing short of a masterpiece and warmly prompts us to recall why we read and how we love one another.

Fikry doesn’t have a lot of customers and even fewer friends. Mourning the loss of his wife, Fikry prizes his first edition copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tamerlane,” until it goes missing within the first few chapters. Left in its place is a small bundle. Spurring an unexpected change in his life, Fikry stubbornly comes to learn that the capacity of his love is not limited to paperbacks and late wife.

For the most part, Zevin’s writing is optimistic but realistically honest. As an array of characters is introduced, her writing accommodates. For Fikry, his old-fashioned life is personified by careful and calculated narration. However, as new friends find their way into his life, the style of writing expands. It seemingly mimics the path which Fikry takes in order to step outside his bookshop and into the life of others.

A bit like Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin represents the old-fashioned reader within all of us. There is something timeless and special about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, as it provides an unexpected and touching story for almost any audience. Something Fikry may appreciate, and aligned with Zevin’s writing, I find the Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” to be a fitting song. Through tones of inevitable and haunting lonesome, the lyrics remind us that the next step is to find a door and walk through it. Until we invite someone else to walk along with us, we will continue to walk along this road of life alone.

Literary snob or casual reader, almost anybody can connect with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. It is both a New York Times Bestseller and now one of the most memorable books I have read. I highly recommend.

-Maya S.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

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

Book Review: Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

Humboldt's Gift (Penguin Classics): Bellow, Saul, Eugenides ...

Born into a Hungarian Jewish immigrant family, Von Humboldt Fleischer had the romantic temperament of a poet. Many things were sacred in his eyes, and he dreamed of transforming the world with art. But his success did not last long, and he was vilified by some unscrupulous writers. By the end of the 1940s his romanticism was out of date and the era of fanaticism and poetry was over. Art could not transform society, so he tried to get involved in politics, but his bad luck was so bad that he was sent to an insane asylum. Although he was released from the hospital, he soon died in a New York tavern and was buried in a funeral mound. Charles Citrine was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. After his rise to fame, he went to New York to follow the great poet where Humboldt helped him to become a university lecturer and to write a historical play based on him.

While Humboldt was very poor, Citrine’s play was a hit on Broadway. Fame was followed by money and beauty and he lived a life of luxury. The temptation of material broke his worship of the authority of art and his pursuit of serious thoughts, which made him lose his creative inspiration. At the same time, he could not get rid of the intellectual disposition. His life is full of material and spiritual contradictions, both want to enrich the human soul, but also want fame and wealth. His soul was lost in uncertainty and anguish. After years of spendthrift, divorceable wives, dissolute mistresses, lawyers, and social gangsters trying to cash in on him, he went broke and ended up in a cheap boarding house in Spain. Just when he was at his wit’s end, he was presented with Humboldt’s bequest — two script outlines, one of which has been made into a movie and has become a worldwide sensation. Humboldt’s gift not only saved his life and future, but also gave him a deeper understanding of Humboldt’s pain and madness along with the fate of intellectuals.

“Humboldt’s Gift” is a genre painting of contemporary American society. No street, no building, no car, no dress, and no hairdo is imaginary. Even fictional characters are based on real people living in the real world. “Humboldt’s Gift” is a panorama of American society on a grand scale. From hooligans to senators, from the White House to chicken joints, from mystics to mafia-controlled booty shops, poets, scholars, cultural crooks, big money gamblers, judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, and moneymakers, the list goes on and on.

-Coreen C.

Authors We Love: James Joyce

James Joyce | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica

James Joyce (1882-1941) was an Irish writer and poet. He was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and one of the founders of postmodern literature. His works and stream of consciousness had a great influence on the world of literature. He has lived in Paris since 1920. He moved from place to place throughout Europe, teaching English and writing for a living. In his later years, he suffered from eye diseases and nearly lost his sight. His works are complex in structure, peculiar in language and highly original. His main work is a collection of short stories called Dubliners (1914), which describes the daily life of lower citizens and shows the destruction of people’s ideals and hopes by social environment.The autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) describes the psychology of the characters and the world around them with a large number of inner monologues. The masterpiece novel Ulysses (1922) shows the loneliness and pessimism of people in modern society. In his later work, the full-length novel Finnegan’s Wake (1939) borrows the dream to express the ultimate thinking on human existence and destiny, and the language is extremely difficult to understand.

James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882. His father had a strong faith in nationalism and his mother was a devout Catholic. When Joyce was born, the beautiful island nation of Ireland was a British colony, plagued by war and poverty. He had a large family of younger brothers and sisters, but his father favored the talented eldest son and gave him money to buy foreign books, whether the family had enough to eat or not. He grew up at the Catholic church school. Joyce is the youngest of the students. His academic performance is outstanding, and he initially shows extraordinary literary talent. Since the 19th century, the Irish Renaissance movement formed in Dublin with Yeats, Lady Gregory and Singer as the center, and he received the influence directly. Through friends, he was also influenced by the Irish National Independence movement. But what influenced him even more strongly was the emergence of liberal ideas in European literature at the end of the 19th century. Before he graduated from high school, he became suspicious of religion.

In 1898 Joyce entered University College Dublin, where he specialised in philosophy and language. On January 20, 1900, delivered a speech at the Literary and Historical Society of the College on the topic of Drama and Life. On April 1, the Half Moon Review, an English literary magazine, published his review of Ibsen’s work When We Dead Awaken(1899). This article was praised by Ibsen, who was over seventy years old, which encouraged Joyce and strengthened his determination to embark on a literary career. In October 1901, he wrote a self-published essay, The Noisy Times, criticizing the narrow nationalism of Irish theatrical houses.Joyce graduated from University College Dublin in June 1902 with a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages. On October 2, he enrolled in classes at St. Cecilia’s Medical School. However, he only studied here until the beginning of November when he gave up his studies due to financial difficulties.

Joyce’s literary career began in 1904 with a collection of short stories called Dubliners. In a letter to Richards, the publisher, he made it clear that the principle of its creation was to write its own chapter in the moral and spiritual history of our country. This, in fact, became his lifelong literary pursuit. In Joyce’s eyes, Dublin was the centre of paralysis in Ireland, a hopeless country under the double oppression and stranglehold of the British Empire and the Catholic Church. In this city at all times there are numbness, depression, reduced act of living drama. Araby, a short story from Dubliners, reveals the charm of the author’s writing and the beauty of his stream-of-consciousness style novels. At the end of July 1906 he went to Rome as a bank correspondent. Since April 1906, the problem of rewriting a collection of short stories called Dubliners has gone back and forth with Richards. A refusal of publication was received on 30 September.

James Joyce began his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in Dublin in 1908 and finished it in Trieste, Italy, in 1914, which lasted for 10 years. The novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has a strong autobiographical color. Through the story of Stephen Dedalus, Joyce actually raises the issue of the relationship between artists and society and life. Stephen Dedalus himself was exactly what he was trying to escape from the world of Dublin, which had taken its revenge on rebellious young artists. Ulysses, a novel written in 1922, borrowed the framework of the Ancient Greek epic, The Odyssey and compared it to character Bloom wandering in Dublin for 18 hours a day as opposed to Odysseus’s 10 years of wandering on the sea, giving Ulysses a generality of modern epic. Through the life of these three people in one day, the novel shows their whole history, their whole spiritual life and their inner world incisively and vividly.

Finnegan’s Wake, a novel published in 1939, borrows the idea of the world circulating in four different social forms from the Italian ideologist Vico in the 18th century, and develops a complex content within this framework. The book is a metaphor for the Bible, Shakespeare, ancient religion, modern history, Dublin local chronicles and so on. It borrows a lot of foreign words and even makes up its own words. Through exaggerated association, it describes the history of Ireland and even the whole mankind and the movement of the whole universe. In addition to the above three works, Joyce also wrote the poetry anthology Chamber Music and the play Exiles.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids is exactly its title.  I, however, found that I had a difficult time enjoying the book.  Because I am what you may call a “Do it Yourselfer” I like to develop my own practices and ways of going about things by experiencing the world for myself. I would rather teach myself how to paint rather than take lessons from a professional in order to develop my own unique style.

In the same sense, when reading, I analyze it my way. Foster may think that he is merely helping young readers learn to see the signs in literature that lead us to understand it for themselves (though had that been his true intention the title of his book might have been something like How to Read Literature For Yourself) but in reality, he is molding young minds to see literature as he does. The way that I see it, the more people who read this book, the closer we are to a dystopian thought process.

Literature is an art form, much like painting, music or drama, and should be treated as such.  Foster subtly suggests that it is, in fact, an equation that can only be solved one way, his way, such as a computer program. Of course, like anybody would, Foster denies this, claiming that he is only showing you that the signs exist. If this were true, he could have written a persuasive essay instead of a book about what these sights mean. Somebody reading this book is obviously struggling in the field of English. Does he really expect them to have the ambition to interpret the sigh an on their own? No, they will simply take his word for it. If Foster says pasta is a protein, they will blindly believe it.  Being an outspoken advocate for individuality, this book struck quite a chord with me.  I think that everyone’s own ideas are beautiful and that symbols don’t always mean one thing, that we should have conversations about what a work of literature means to us, not settle on one theme.  The quarrel over a scene’s outcome, not just accept the way it turned out to be morally correct if you feel that it is not.  We must stay true to ourselves and our view of the world based off of our morals, not let our minds be re-arranged to match others.  On a more positive note, I must amend Foster on the wide range of books, short stories, etc. in which he uses as examples to express his thoughts.  After reading this book, I found numerous new titles to explore.

If you are familiar with the works of Rick Riordan or John Green, you will find that Foster’s writing style and tone reflects there’s.  Perhaps this is for the audience he presumably is addressing, which the book recommends for 8 to 12-year-olds.  Some may be exasperated by my comparing of these authors to one who wrote a book aimed at that age group, so allow me to elaborate:  Foster writes in a laid back, childlike manner in order to appeal to the age group as Riordan and Green write in a laid back manner, because, well, the characters that tell their stories are still (to some extent) children.  I am not trying to poo-poo that style of writing, I am merely making a comparison.  If you are attracted to that style, you may find this book a refreshing alternative to the likes of Call of the Wild or Oliver Twist (not to cast shadows on those either).  

Calling all Hermiones:  You’ll have a field day correcting some of Foster’s mistakes about Greek Mythology.  I would not go as far to say that I know everything about everything when it comes to Greek Mythology, after all, there is probably still more crumbling under the weight of the ruins that lay atop them like a crown.  However, I know enough to know that Foster either got a few points wrong, or one of us took a wrong turn in our time machines back to Ancient Greece.  If you are a free thinker: never read this book, ever.  It is a waste of your time and your beautiful mind.  If you could use a little help in the good old subject of English, you may find this book informative.  Either way, like any book, take it with a grain of salt.  

-Ainsley H. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I first read The Alchemist when I was around eleven or so. The book was confusing to me, and although I enjoyed it, I felt as if I was missing the bigger picture in some way. The book contained a lot of symbolism and themes that I was slightly too young to fully comprehend.

Revisiting this six years later, I understand this book to be more than a fantastical adventure across Africa towards untold riches and going through trials and tribulations to come out on top. It is deep and the message resonated with me after I finished reading it.

This novel is not about the practice of alchemy or the journey of a young man, Santiago. At least, not solely about either of those. The main idea, or theme, is how fear often controls people. The novel proposes the idea that everyone has what it calls a Personal Legend. A Personal Legend is a goal that the universe has put out for someone or a dream they want to accomplish. This is supposed to bring someone ultimate satisfaction for completing it and in order to continue living a satisfactory life and achieve happiness new Personal Legends are continuously set out after one has been completed. However, throughout the book examples are shown of people who are often too afraid to fulfill their Personal Legend, and thus find themselves stuck in an endless routine, or feeling empty as a result of the fear holding them back.

Although following your Personal Legend can come at a price, like Santiago losing all his money while in a foreign country, this is the universe testing people and seeing if they are truly strong enough or dedicated enough to keep going. It rewards people who push past obstacles or get up to continue trying even when they fall.

Coelho is trying to encourage the readers of the story to go out and experience their own adventures, fulfill their own Personal Legends, lest you fall into a cycle, doomed to dissatisfaction.

Santiago is someone we look at as a reflection of ourselves. He has a comfortable life living in a certain way without changing, but his life is stagnant. Until he makes that decision to look at signs being given to him and taking a leap of faith to begin his journey. At first, it does not go well. He goes to a foreign country, loses nearly all his money to a con man, and has nothing but the clothes on his back. However, he begins working for a crystal merchant, and over time gains money. Although he is deciding to go back to Andalusia, at the last minute he decides to continue his journey to completing his Personal Legend in Egypt. He faces many hardships, almost dying along the way, but eventually, he makes it back to Andalusia, where he finds treasures waiting for him.

The story as a whole is actually inspiring. It shows that achieving your goal is not easy, nor should it be. But it is rewarding seeing it through to the end, and the satisfaction of fulfilling a goal that you worked hard to achieve is (in Coelho’s opinion) the way to have a happy, good life.

-Farrah M. 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

My 10th Grade Reading List

I am not particularly fond of reading a required set of novels for school, but these three below really changed my perspective on this. For my sophomore year, the literature was based upon the theme of “loss of innocence,” and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these classics for what they had to offer.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding:

It was the second time that I read this book, and I was absolutely astonished for all that I missed the first read through. Lord of the Flies is about a group of young boys who are stranded on an island. As they attempt to create order and society, their childish fears and greed thus bring out an unpredictable evilness that spreads among them. Golding walks us through the positive and negative aspects of human civilization and how it can be so easy to be manipulated by and drawn towards the dark nature of mankind.

1984 by George Orwell:

Although the hardest read out of the list, 1984 is still full of many mysterious and intriguing secrets throughout the entire novel. The protagonist Winston Smith lives in a dystopian society, where all its people praise their beloved leader Big Brother, who is never wrong and is never imperfect. The totalitarian government controls everything, including the past, present, and future, as well as strips their citizens of privacy and freedom of self-thought. Despite all this, Winston sees past the lies of his society and tries to solve the biggest mystery of his life. In his book, Orwell describes how ultimate totalitarian power can create an inhumane world of manipulation and can strip away the human identity.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:

Catcher in the Rye is a lot easier to understand, but I got just as much out of it as the other classics. J.D. Salinger writes in the perspective of teenager Holden Caulfield and describes his short vacation spent in New York City after dropping out of his boarding school. Holden is a very cynical character – he believes that he is too mature and too good for anyone else. However, once Holden is exposed to the adult world and all of life’s imperfections, Salinger stresses the importance of childhood and the enjoyable experience of growing up.

-Riley W.

These titles–and other classic novels–can be checked out from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Passion For Reading

There was a time in my life when I talked about books as though they were sustenance, as though they were essential to my survival. I devoured stories and inhaled pages. I vividly remember checking out four, five, six books at time and somehow finishing them all before the two weeks were up.

Though that experience is shared with many people, a majority of adults fail to make time for reading.

I often wonder where that passion goes.

To most people, reading is thought of as a chore, or something for the forgotten bottom end of a to-do list. Reading is a fizzling New Year’s Resolution. Reading is a Barnes & Noble credit card but dusty shelves.

When people talk about getting back into reading, it is as though they are starting a new project at work, as though they are radically changing their schedules.

New units of time have to be carved out of a schedule, clearly labeled “READ” in blocky black lettering. Books fill shopping bags, along with all the obviously necessary accessories to reading – fancy bookmarks and clip on lights and slogan-laden tote bags – because now, you are a Reader.

There is something lost in this frenzy. In this sort of Oprah’s Book Club, unbroken-spine kind of reading, books are a status symbol.

I find myself in this rut occasionally. Rearranging and rearranging the same shelves with an obsessiveness, buying War and Peace and Les Miserables because they’re the sort of books a pretentious academic like myself should have.

I miss that feeling that all library-bound children have. That feeling that there were an infinite amount of words in the world, and if I only read fast enough, flipped enough pages, then I would be able to drink them all in.

So many people have a desire to read; to become that excited kid again. We want to be the one who’s not only Heard of That, but Read It. We want to know authors and quotes and have worn paperbacks to pass on to friends and family. We want to feel that love and intensity that stories used to inspire.

I truly believe that feeling is still inside every adult today. Maybe it’s buried under stress and deadlines and distraction, but it’s there.

All we have to do is find the right book.

-Zoe K., 11th grade

Find your right book at the Mission Viejo Library. Titles are also available to download through Overdrive and Hoopla.