Novel Dedications

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Usually, the dedications page of a text is somewhat of a formality – the author thanks their family, or a colleague whose assistance has been invaluable, and the book proceeds with no further ado.

However, I’d like to draw attention in this post to those authors who have used their wit, humour and honesty in order to create dedications that are, quite simply, novel.

I’ve listed a few that I think are worthy of note below. How many do you recognise?


House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

HouseofLeaves

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith E. Hicks

NothingCanPOssiblyGowrong

Ruins by Dan Wells

Ruins

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

TheBookshopBook

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

AnansiBoys

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

TheLandofStories

Just A Girl Standing In Front Of A Boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes

justagirlstandinginfrontofaboy

No Thanks by E. E. Cummings

nothanks

An Introduction To Algebraic Topology by Joseph J. Rotman

algebra

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

thelittleprince

Makbara by Juan Goytisolo

makbara

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

unfortunateevenets


Hope you enjoyed them!

If you know of any other great dedications, feel free to comment and add to the list! 🙂

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What a Beautiful Language #6: The Words That Time Forgot

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One of the things I love most about the English language is that it is full of hidden gems. I’m sure all of you at some point of your lives have experienced the joy of learning a particularly satisfying new word; one which perfectly summarises something that, up until that moment, you never quite had the right words to explain.

Some are borrowed, some are invented, and, sadly, some are lost. Here, I thought I’d list a few of the many words that I think should make a comeback…

Enjoy!


Quomodocunquize

This is something I reckon most of us could relate to To ‘quomodocunquize’ is to make money in any way that you can – a little like hustling, minus the gangster-esque overtones. Scotsman Thomas Urquhart is noted in the OED as coiner of the phrase when, in 1652, he complained about “those quomodocunquizing clusterfists and rapacious varlets.”

(Sidenote: ‘Clusterfists’ is an equally loveable word – so evocative!)

Uhtceare

‘Uhtceare’ is an Old English word which describes the act of waking up before dawn and then not being able to get back to sleep because you’re worried about something. I guess some things never change!

Fudgel

‘Fudgel’ is an eighteenth-century verb, and it refers to the act of pretending to work when you’re not actually doing anything at all. So, the next time you see one of your colleagues secretly faffing online when they should be working, you know you’ve got a fudgeller on your hands.

Snowbroth

A phrase originated from the 1590s, referring to the slush that’s left over once the snow has partially melted.

Cockalorum

Referring to a man of short stature with a disproportionately high opinion of himself – think modern-day Napoleon. Or a shorter Donald Trump.

Callipygian

A term to describe someone with ample and aesthetically-shaped buttocks. Back in the 1640s, this is how they said “DAT ASS”….

Quockerwodger

A ‘quockerwodger’ is a wooden puppet, controlled by strings. It serves rather beautifully as an insult, don’t you think?

Banned Books Week: Recommended Reads #3

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BANNED

As some of you might already be aware, this week (21st – 27th September 2014) is Banned Books Week. Held annually (usually in the last week of September), this event celebrates our freedom to read and to express ideas, even those books which are considered by some to be unorthodox, offensive and/or unpopular.

To mark this occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time this week taking a look at a few of the most important, influential, beautiful, and controversial books that, at some point in history, have been banned. My intent here is not necessarily to endorse these books (although, there are some on this list that I believe everyone should read at some point in their lives), but to simply celebrate the fact that we now live in a world where books no longer need to be burned. After all, as Mary Jo Godwin once said, “a truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone”.

So, on to my third consideration of the week so far…


Book #3: Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

catcher

The Catcher in the Rye was controversial when it was originally published in 1951. Salinger’s intended audience was adults but, interestingly, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation. This has happened despite – or, perhaps, as a direct result of – the vehement censorship of the book in US schools in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The challenges generally begin with Holden’s frequent use of vulgar language, with other reasons including sexual references, blasphemy, undermining of family values and moral codes, Holden’s being a poor role model, encouragement of rebellion, and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity. Often, the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself (as is all-too-often the case when it comes to those wanting books to be banned!).

It’s not really all that surprising, though, that Americans are worried about the book’s potential influence – one of the most famous killers in history, Mark David Chapman (who was responsible for the assassination of John Lennon), famously admired the character so much that he wanted to change his name to Holden Caulfield, and wanted the book to be considered as his statement in court. Chapman is not the only criminal to have been linked with this text – several others, including John Hinckley Jnr. and Robert John Bardo, were found to be in possession of the novel, which has earned Salinger’s work an incredible yet unenviable reputation.

So, will reading it turn you into a psychopathic murderer? No, of course it won’t. What it will do is remind you of all the pain and confusion of adolescence – in that regard, the book is like a smack in the face… and yet, there is beauty to behold here. The language is conversational and at the same time manages to be poetic; the dialogue drips with the unfocused rage and sarcasm of youth. Whilst readers may find it difficult to like him all that much, their heart will bleed for him all the same -we all, to some extent, know what it is like to be Holden, because there are some things you cannot forget.

If you’ve never read it, you should give it a try – if for no other reason than to tick it off the list. Salinger is a master, and the book won’t leave you disappointed!


(Image: Amazon)

Want more information on Banned Books Week 2014?
Visit: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/banned

Banned Books Week: Recommended Reads #1 & #2

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BANNED

As some of you might already be aware, next week (21st – 27th September 2014) is Banned Books Week. Held annually (usually in the last week of September), this event celebrates our freedom to read and to express ideas, even those books which are considered by some to be unorthodox, offensive and/or unpopular.

To mark this occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at a few of the most important, influential, beautiful, and controversial books that, at some point in history, have been banned. My intent here is not necessarily to endorse these books (although, there are some on this list that I believe everyone should read at some point in their lives), but to simply celebrate the fact that we now live in a world where books no longer need to be burned. After all, as Mary Jo Godwin once said, “a truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone”.

So, let’s kick it off with my first two books for consideration…


 

Book #1: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

brave-new-world

Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World, was first published in 1932. Since then, it has become one of the most frequently censored books in literary history. Even as recently as 2010, it remains one of the ten most frequently challenged books, according to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, due to its themes of sexuality, drugs, racism, anti-religious views, and suicide. Censors have long sought to prevent students from reading the book in educational institutions, but that hasn’t prevented it from becoming a well-deserved classic.

So, what makes Brave New World so special? Well, for starters, it is one of the wittiest, most eloquent works of social satire ever written. Huxley creates a forceful blend of bizarre comedy, futuristic foresight, and philosophical dialogue which appeals to more than just your average science fiction readers. There is truth here for everybody. This book is a bitter but accurate commentary on the sickness present in the human species – this drive towards insatiable, shameless consumerism which, day by day, becomes an ever more accurate description of modern society.

Some say the world will end in Orwellian fashion – with Big Brother watching, and the common man driven into poverty and solitude, and no one knowing what the truth is anymore (as is portrayed in the novel 1984 – more on that book later!). Huxley’s alternative vision sees the world instead as the willing victims of a million different pleasurable vices, laughing ourselves to death, being more than happy to buy whatever truth is being sold to us. Both visions are equally horrifying, and yet exact opposites in many ways. It is rather interesting to note that Huxley was tutor and mentor to one Eric Arthur Blair, who later would come to write under the pen name George Orwell… (Man, would I have loved to have been in that classroom!!)

Whichever camp you choose to get behind, whether you’re an Orwellian or a Huxleyite, I thoroughly recommend picking up Huxley’s novel if you’ve never come across it before, or revisiting it if it is an old favourite.

 


Book #2: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

lolita

First published in France by a pornographic press, this 1955 novel explores the mind of a self-loathing and highly intelligent paedophile who narrates his life and obsessive lust for “nymphets” like 12-year-old Dolores Haze. French officials banned it for being obscene, as did officials in England, New Zealand,  South Africa, and Argentina. Vladimir Nabokov actually nearly burned the manuscript in disgust of its content after writing it, and fought with his publishers over whether or not the image of a young girl should be included on the cover.

Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it is an intensely brave book which dares to go into territory so taboo that few authors, before or since, have dared to tread. What is often under-appreciated about this novel is the sheer beauty of the language Nabokov uses: there are passages in this text which are achingly beautiful; pure poetry. Sadly, it rarely features on the reading lists of academic institutions due to the continued controversy teaching it would create. However, it remains a classic, and for anyone who can put their feelings aside about such a delicate topic, it’s a compelling read.

(Images: Amazon)


Want more information on Banned Books Week 2014?
Visit: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/banned

What a Beautiful Language #5: The Importance of Emphasis in Pronunciation

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By now, I think it’s become clear that I am in love with the intricacies of the English language. However, I must admit that I struggle to explain some of the oddities our beautiful language presents us with. Take, for example, the special relationship emphasis and pronunciation have with one another in English.

Rather than choosing to assign a different word (a signifier) or even a different spelling to words which have entirely different meanings (signifieds), the English language uses a system which uses shifts in emphasis in the pronunciation of certain words, allowing arrangements of letters to be reused for a variety of purposes. This can either occur through a variation in phonemes, or just be actioned through a change in the emphasised syllable. Sometimes, there is little or no relationship between the two meanings that are assigned to what is, in written form at least, the same word.

Confusing, right? Interestingly, our brain doesn’t seem to think so. English speakers actually find it very easy to contextualise and effectively differentiate between different uses of the same letter arrangements, ensuring that the meaning (and the required pronunciation) for each word is usually clear to us immediately.

Test the theory for yourself, by reading aloud the following sentences:

A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

After a number of injections my jaw got number.

He could lead if he would get the lead out.

How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

I did not object to the object.

I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

The bandage was wound around the wound.

The buck does funny things when the does are present.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

They were too close to the door to close it.

To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

We must polish the Polish furniture.

When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

Instinctively, most (if not all) of you will have known the difference between sets of identically spelled words, and been able to make sense of these sentences without any real difficulty. Isn’t that incredible? Due to changes in emphasis during pronunciation, and the use of different phonemes, the same rearrangement of letters can be used and reused again, without any confusion between speakers. When you’re limited to 26 characters in the language, having linguistic tools like this in our arsenal clearly gives English an advantage over other languages which are not able to do the same.

Does anyone know of any examples of this, either in English or in another language? Let me know in the comments box below! 🙂

Make A Meaning…

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Not sure if any of you are aware of the wonderful project currently being undertaken by Alice Belgrove via Behance, but I think it’s something really quite special. Click here to see the project so far…

Basically, Alice is intent on assigning extinct English words new meanings, so that they can be reincarnated and reintroduced into the language. She invites members of the public to contact her in order to be assigned a word – that person then decides what the new meaning of the word will be.

Some are funny, witty, inspired, thought-provoking and/or downright laughable.  I’d thought I’d share with you my own two contributions.

Drollicdrollic   droh-lick
(adjective), (slang)

A negative statement of opinion, used to describe situations inducing enough mental trauma to bring on physical symptoms of pain.

Describing a hellish or near-impossible task

Specifically, the sensation of having one’s head ‘bashed in’ by overwhelming amounts of emotional and/or intellectual information

 

Charabanc

charabanc     sha-rah-bank
(adjective & noun)

The name given to a personal collection of low monetary, but high sentimental, value

The box of old memories left behind by friends/relatives when they pass away

The act of hoarding away reminders and keepsakes of happy and/or significant memories