RIP Harper Lee, America’s Literary Sweetheart

I was feeling cheery this Friday morning and was brainstorming my next blog post, when I clicked through my RSS feed and this news broke my heart.

It’s not that I was surprised that Lee passed away, given that she was 89 and in failing health. It’s that a light has gone out in American culture. As the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has shaped our views on race relations, the justice system, and what it means to be a true patriot. In a sense, it’s as if Lee and Atticus Finch were synonymous in our minds, and today we are all Scout mourning the loss of a parent.

I can only hope that Lee found peace in her last years, and that her lawyers and publishers respect her final wishes. I’ve already discussed why I won’t be reading Go Set a Watchman, given the controversy surrounding its release, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hold Lee’s words dear. In fact, it only seems right that I share some of my favorite quotes from America’s literary sweetheart:

On reading: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

On equality: “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

On courage: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

I could write pages and pages worth of gratitude, but my words would never deliver as much impact as yours have. Thank you for all that you have done, Harper Lee. The world will surely miss you.

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Merry Christmas to Me: Nicholas Sparks is Sued and Other Literary News

Happy holidays everyone! ‘Tis the season to sit around a fire, drink hot cocoa, spend time with your loved ones…and relish the fact that the author you hate the most is in a bit of legal trouble. Hey, what can I say? I’m on Santa’s naughty list!

But before I jump into this major headline, let me quickly recap the latest literary news of this month:

  1. 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and the literary world is going wild! Adaptations of the Bard’s plays will soon be flooding a city near you. I have yet to watch this year’s “Macbeth” retelling with Michael Fassbender, and I’ve been told that I really need to see Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” both of which sound like excellent ways to celebrate #Shakespeare400!
  2. I’ve been procrastinating big time when it comes to finishing Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, but perhaps this upcoming TV series will inspire me! This 13 episode drama will premiere on Esquire on Saturday, January 23, at 10 p.m. ET.
  3. Want to boost your speed-reading skills? Lifehacker has a how-to guide on reading an entire book in one day. My personal best was 12 hours for each of the last few Harry Potter novels!
  4. The Internet Engineering Steering Group recently approved Error 451, a status code to inform web visitors that the content they can’t see is due to censorship. This online addition is appropriately named after–you guessed it–Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Image via Queerty

Now moving on to the big news! My blog followers obviously know how much I loathe Nicholas Sparks; in fact, last month one reader informed me that the author is now caught in a legal feud for being–let’s face it–an utter ass.

In 2006, Sparks poured $10 million of his own money to found the Epiphany School, a Christian prep school in New Bern, North Carolina. This devout Catholic who refuses to write about homosexual love is now being sued by Saul Hillel Benjamin, the former headmaster of his own school, for discrimination.

Sources report that Benjamin is accusing Sparks of threatening him and creating a hostile environment after he attempted to establish a non-discrimination policy and a gay-straight alliance organization at Epiphany. Other claims against Sparks include barring African-Americans and promoting anti-Semitism. When Benjamin resigned after he was allegedly held hostage in a conference room to explain his beliefs, he called the school “a veritable cauldron of bigotry.”

Sparks’ defense? Taking a plot from his own books, he claims that Benjamin has Alzheimer’s and is making everything up. I for one completely believe that Sparks is a raging bigot and am not surprised to hear that he uses religious fundamentalism to spread his hateful views.

Granted, the lawsuit was filed in October of last year, so this news isn’t exactly new, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one to receive the story belatedly. Everyone has a mission in life: mine is making sure that the entire world knows that Sparks is a total scumbag, but fortunately he seems to be doing a fine job of that on his own.

Literary News I Missed Last Month

As most of you are already aware, I spent November participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For the past three years, I put blogging on hold during this time, only to feel overwhelmed about getting back on track each December.

Right now, I’m reading the finale to the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy, Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs, as well as Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk for my real-life book club. I’ve also had the chance to complete God’s Debris by Scott Adams and watched “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 2” in theaters, so stay tuned for all my reviews, which I’ll be posting soon!

This post, however, is going to cover the tidbits of literary news that I bookmarked last month. Some of these you’ve probably already come across yourself, but if you’re like me, life can get so hectic that you simply can’t keep up with all the headlines. So let’s catch up together!

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Image via BuzzFeed

Judging Books by Their Covers

Want some artistic inspiration? Check out the Book Cover Archive, which categorizes a plethora of books by their cover designs. Seeing them all side by side makes you appreciate the creativity that goes into them!

This BuzzFeed quiz is titled, “The Hardest Book Cover Quiz You’ll Ever Take,” but I still scored 17 out of 22! Not too shabby! Try it out for yourself!

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Image via Jezebel

White-Washing Woes

One of my favorite manga, Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, is coming to the big screen, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it. Hollywood continues to perpetuate its lack of racial diversity by pathetically white-washing Death Note’s Japanese characters. Much to many fans’ disappointment, Light and Misa will be played by Nat Wolff and Margaret Qualley respectively, although I imagine that their names will be changed to something as bland as these actors.

The white-washing continued in the blockbuster of the season, The Martian, adapted from the novel by Ridley Scott. In another slight to the Asian acting community, a white actress was cast as Korean scientist Mindy Park, and a black actor took the place of an Indian NASA director. Seriously, Hollywood, STOP with this nonsense!

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Image via ComingSoon.net

Fantasy Adaptations

The Merlin Saga by T.A. Barron finally has a screenwriter: none other than Philippa Boyens, who worked with Peter Jackson on the LOTR trilogy! As a child, I read most of this series when the books were published, beginning with The Lost Years of Merlin in 1996 and ending with The Great Tree of Avalon in 2004. Disney better do this movie right!

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials gets another chance to prove its genius, this time in a drama series on BBC One. After watching the outrageously bad American movie version, which I’ve attempted scrubbing from my memory, I’m ecstatic to hear that the U.K. plans give this story the long-form development on TV that it deserves.

Lastly, Margaret Atwood, the literary celebrity whom I had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet, recently announced that she’s writing her first graphic novel series, Angel Catbird. With a superhero that’s part-cat and part-owl, the story sounds utterly ridiculous, but knowing Atwood, there’s much more to it than fur and feathers.

That’s all for now! Let me know what you think about these news stories, and feel free to send me more that I might have missed!

Jonathan Franzen’s Still a Jerk…and Other Literary News

Image via Gawker Media

Before I post my review of this month’s book club selection, I wanted to pass along some tidbits of news that I’ve bookmarked over the past weeks. There are a lot of interesting stories, so let’s hop right to it!

Movie Adaptations

  • After watching this trailer for “Victor Frankenstein,” I’m much less enthusiastic about the film. Looks like loads of special effects but very little substance. How unfortunate! Do yourself a favor and read Mary Shelley’s classic novel instead! (Source: ComingSoon.net)
  • Warner Bros. has purchased the rights to Dante’s Inferno, which will be written by Dwain Worrell as an epic love story through the nine circles of hell. I believe that there’s a tenth circle for horrible film adaptations (looking at you, “The Golden Compass!”), so fingers crossed this turns out well! (Source: Deadline)

Humorous Headlines

  • Was Shakespeare a gigantic stoner? Perhaps, says the South African researchers who found cannabis residue in 400-year-old tobacco pipes found in his Stratford-upon-Avon garden. (Source: The Conversation)
  • The hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter trended on Twitter, with many famous authors contributing to the dialogue. My favorite tweet? S.E. Hinton of The Outsiders‘ response: “I thought you were dead.” #LOL (Source: Huffington Post)
  • A German artist with the hardest Tumblr domain to pronounce is getting her 15 minutes with her amusing Harry Potter comics in which Dumbledore has the perfect IDGAF attitude. (Source: BuzzFeed)

Et Cetera

  • A new fantasy tale will be published by the Tolkien estate in October: The Story of Kullervo. Based on Finnish poetry, it was one of the oldest stories written by the author in his college years starting in 1914. Hopefully, I’ll finish Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf before this is released! (Source: io9)
  • Speaking of Tolkien, George R. R. Martin has revealed that he wants his Game of Thrones series to end much like The Lord of the Rings did, as a “bittersweet victory.” The only victory here is whether this ending ever gets completed. What’s the holdup, Martin? Less interviews, more writing! (Source: Observer)
  • Finally, I still hate Jonathan Franzen. The latest reason was his flippant desire to adopt an Iraqi war orphan so he can better empathize with children. This was my favorite response from Rembert Browne:

Hey, Franzen? How about you take your “get off my lawn” attitude and just evacuate the planet? Kthxbai! (Source: Jezebel)

Any other literary news I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Literary News of the Week: Tolkien, Divergent, and The Giver

Hey everyone!

While I’m on the last half of Reached by Ally Condie, I’d thought I would share some interesting tidbits of literary news that I heard this week. Feel free to share your opinions or post news of your own!

JRR Tolkien at Oxford in 1955. Photograph: Haywood Magee/Getty Images (Image via The Guardian)

The Guardian announced that J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of the epic poem Beowulf has finally been published, 90 years after its completion. This is one work of literature that I have never read, and I believe that I had subconsciously been waiting for this moment! Who better of a translator to read than the master of fantasy himself? If you’ve read Beowulf, please let me know whether you liked it, and why!

Image via The Frisky

In movie adaptation news, everyone is making a fuss over “Divergent,” which is out in theaters now, and although I haven’t read it (it looks like a convoluted knockoff of The Hunger Games to me), I’m curious to what makes this series so popular. The Frisky believes that there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and paints it as “a bible-thumping disaster.” I wasn’t aware of Veronica Roth’s spiritual leanings, and was surprised to hear this interpretation of Christian symbolism. For fans of Divergent, does this theory hold any weight?

And lastly, the official movie trailer of “The Giver” was released! I absolutely adore Lois Lowry’s novel; in 1993, it was a dystopian tale way ahead of the current trend. Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, it is now a staple in most middle school curricula. However, this story is so well-written and powerful that people of all ages should read it!

That being said, although I love Meryl Streep, I don’t believe even she could save this movie, which will be in theaters August 15. All her critical acclaim means nothing when someone like Taylor Swift is also on the cast list (yes, really). Unfortunately, I think this adaptation will get lost in the shuffle of sub-par dystopians like “Divergent,” and viewers won’t understand the profundity of its message. Not to mention, would it have killed them to have shot it in black and white?!

Well, that’s all my news for the week. I’m looking forward to celebrating a friend’s birthday tonight, and I wish you all fun weekends as well!