Category Archives: Britain

Ulysses: why is it so hard to finish?

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Recently the world celebrated Bloomsday –  one of the most famous literary holiday. The name is derived from the name of the main character of Joyce’s emblematic novel “Ulysses”. The holiday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of the Irish writer. The events of “Ulysses” are relived during just one day of June 16 in 1904. Joyce chose the date as it was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.

 

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And here is the paradox. “Ulysses” is one of the most famous books of the 20th century. The icon. The threshold. Joyce himself is a popular figure, his life being discussed and so many photographs and articles found in the Internet. Yet there are so many people who didn’t manage to finish it or even reach the middle of the book, including those who read it in the translaion to their native language from English.

We searched the Internet for some tips that can help you to read the book and understand the allusions hidden there:

http://www.wikihow.com/Read-Ulysses

http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2004/05/6747.html

https://www.extension.harvard.edu/inside-extension/why-you-should-try-read-ulysses-again

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/06/james-joyces-ulysses

But the most important piece of advice is the approach – look at it as the most exciting adventure and try to find a personal interest. It is a book about love, worries, books and love again – so there should be one! The authors of this article agree with us: https://biblioklept.org/2010/06/16/how-to-read-james-joyces-ulysses-and-why-you-should-avoid-how-to-guides-like-this-one/

Finally, here are some book titles “around” “Ulysses”. If you’re in St. Petersburg, you can borrow these books at the British Book Centre.

Books, mentioned in the novel:

 

Books on the topics of “Odyssey” and traveling, both real and in your mind:

 

Books on Irish history, nature, folklore and mythology:

 

Dickens 205: writers in books and in the flesh

Image associéeThe bibliography of Charles Dickens includes more than a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories (including Christmas-themed stories and ghost stories), several plays, several non-fiction books, and individual essays and articles. Dickens’s novels were serialised initially in weekly or monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.

He is often called the “creator” of Victorian age, having described and “conserved” it for the future generations. When we read his books at school and in childhood we don’t really imagine him a real person. We seldom do that with writers of the decent past. When it concerns “the pillars”, the giants, the great masters, we tend to imagine them made of bronze or stone, but not of flesh and blood. But they were humans once.

Specialists in literature theory distinguish several types of authors: author as a real person, a human being; author as someone who created a text, creative personality, everything that is called poetics belongs here; finally – author’s point of view, his presence in the text not to mix up with narrator or storyteller.

At the library, thinking about recommendations what to read and watch Image associéeon the occasion of Dickens’ anniversary we looked at the book by Claire Tomalin about Dickens and his relationship with Nelly Ternan. And then there was a question: should we try to know more about writer’s real lifes? Or should we be satisfied with their works and what we can learn and find out in these works? Of course, there’s no definite answer to this. It depends on the researcher, and we think, if the aim is to learn about the time and not to judge someone, if the aim is to feel this connection with someone who lived long or not so long ago, then there’s probably nothing bad in our interest.

Our suggestion is to read talented works like Tomalin’s, which is not only the story of Dickens and Nelly, but a great excursus into theatrical world of England of the second part of the 19th century.

There are also a lot of works of fiction where writers are shown as characters and this is another curious direction of exploring the theme. Real people in fiction and fiction in real life – exciting reading is guaranteed!

In the British Book Centre:

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Claire Tomalin’s multi-award-winning story of the life of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens is a remarkable work of biography and historical revisionism that returns the neglected actress to her rightful place in history as well as providing a compelling and truthful portrait of the great Victorian novelist.
 The book is based on the life of the author Henry James. Lodge populates his novel with several of the most famous figures of English literature from the time of the book’s setting in the late nineteenth century.
 The novel features the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky as its protagonist. It is a deep, complex work that draws on the life of Dostoyevsky, the life of the author and the history of Russia to produce profoundly disturbing results.
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The novel depicts the life and character of Christopher Marlowe, one of the greatest playwrights of the Elizabethan era.
The novel recites amateur Gustave Flaubert expert Geoffrey Braithwaite’s musings on his subject’s life, and his own, as he looks for a stuffed parrot that inspired the great author.
The book concerns three generations of women affected by a Virginia Woolf novel. The first is Woolf herself writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. The second is Mrs. Brown, wife of a World War II veteran, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949 as she plans her husband’s birthday party. The third is Clarissa Vaughan, who plans a party in 2001 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover.

5 books, cocoa & marshmellows

Winter is coming to Saint-Petersburg and we are thinking where to hide from it. Books and hot drinks are always a wonderful idea. So, pick…

  1. Cathy Kelly, “Christmas Magic” (short stories) – for warm story-telling, stories about relationships and marriage, depression and loss, but always with an uplifting message and strong female characters at the heart.
  2. Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” – for the journey with no limits, universal wisdom and ingenious humour and wit.
  3. John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle, “Let It Snow” (short stories) – for sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow and the way back to true love that begins at Starbucks.
  4. J.R.R.Tolkien, “The Hobbit” – for the journey there and back again, dwarves, adventures, courage and cakes of course.
  5. “The Adventures Of Robin Hood” – for the spirit of good old England and inspiration for great deeds!

“Perfect Wives In Ideal Homes”: British women in the 1950s

images“Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story of Women in the 1950s” by Virginia Nicholson, Viking, 2015

Virginia Nicholson tells the story of women in the 1950s: a time, when divorce spelled scandal, two-piece swimsuits caused mass alarm and the only thing women were expected to do after finishing school, was to get married.

The book reconstructs the real 1950s, through the eyes of the women who lived it. Step back in time to where a shining doorstep was one of the signs of a good housewife leaving in this house, where young smart women just couldn’t imagine they actually had the possibility to enter a college or university and where having a TV set at home was yet a  luxury.

Perfectly structured book with lots of examples of first-person experience and from literature and popular culture.

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Leila Williams, one of the many heroines of the book,  won the 1957 Miss Great Britain title.

Eric Morley, the founder of Miss Great Britain contest, stated very definite parameters for the ideal British beauty:

“…would have to be at least five feet five inches tall (ideally 5 feet 7 1/5 inches), weigh between eight stone ten pounds and nine stone six…”.

But for Leila this was a way of escaping from the environment she didn’t like, working at the pub in Birmingham.

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Donkey stone was a type of scouring block, used mostly in the mill towns of the North of England to clean stone steps. The ‘donkey brand’ was originally the trade mark of a Manchester company called Edward Read & Son, who were one of several makers of the stones. Other companies used other animal designs or simple lettering, but the name ‘donkey stone’ stuck. Donkey stones were first used in textile mills to clean greasy steps, and give them a non-slip finish. However the stones also became popular with housewives who would use them to give doorsteps a decorative finish. Quite often the stones would be given out in exchange for old clothes or scrap metal, by rag totters, or rag and bone men as they were sometimes called.

Learn about other interesting 1950s realities and remarkable women in this captivating book.

Available for borrowing at the British Book Centre.

Also in the library: “Best Of British” vintage magazine about Britain’s past and culture.