Archive for the ‘memoir’ category

Former First Lady speaks from the heart

May 10, 2010

The literary world has been buzzing lately about a high profile presidential-related book.

It is a memoir by Former First Lady, Laura Bush, entitled, “Spoken from the Heart,” in which she describes her childhood and teenage years leading up to the time when she met George Bush in the late 70s.

Of interest to note was that Laura Bush had not actually studied in politics – rather, she studied Education at university, following which she worked as a primary school teacher. Later, she went on to do her Master’s in Library Sciences and was employed for some time as a librarian. Bush has maintained a love of books and reading throughout her life.

Even though her very early years, her suburban Southern roots are evident in her choice of favourite reading material: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Of the former, Bush recalls that before she had learned to read, her mother would read the story aloud to her. She stated, “That was a book that I’ve loved throughout my life that I’ve read again and again.” Remembering Wilder’s classic novel, Bush mentions, “The little girl’s name was Laura and she had brown hair, and I really identified with her.”

Read more about Laura Bush’s literary influences, or help us add to her infloox page!

Elizabeth Gilbert on her favourite books

February 23, 2010

Since the release of Eat, Pray, Love in 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert was catapulted into a household name overnight. Now readers can dip into the sequel, Committed, as Gilbert continues her memoir of her worldwide adventures.

From her background as a magazine short story writer (anyone remember Coyote Ugly?), Gilbert cites a sizeable list of authors and books as influences, both stylistic and in terms of content. From her earliest roots, she remembers the Wizard of Oz (the book!). She went so far as to say, “I am a writer today because I learned to love reading as a child—and mostly on account of the Oz books. … If you have a child and a lap, you really should own the entire set.”

Topping her adult reading list by far is Charles Dickens: Bleak House and David Copperfield rank amongst her favourites. Of the latter, she has said, “David Copperfield was Dickens’ own favorite among his novels—no better recommendation than that!”

Fans of Eat, Pray, Love looking for a few good book recommendations should take notes from Gilbert herself. She owes a lot to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and jokingly says, “I keep this in the bathroom and read from it, literally, every day. I like his humble, common-sense and somehow very contemporary philosophy.”

For more on Elizabeth Gilbert’s favourite books and authors, have a look at her infloox page or add to it yourself if you know of more influences!

Book world gearing up for Sarah Palin’s memoir

November 3, 2009

Harper Collins has announced that Sarah Palin’s memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life (ghost-written with Lynn Vincent) will go on sale November 17, 2009.  The 400-page hardcover will release with an initial print run of a whopping 1.5 million copies, and the e-book will follow after Christmas.

Abruptly resigning from her political post as Governor of Alaska earlier this year, Sarah Palin has managed to stir up controversy over and over again, and readers will no doubt be curious to see what she has to say of her own experiences. According to her publisher, Jonathan Burnham, “It’s her words, her life, and it’s all there in full and fascinating detail.”

As with most political figures, Palin has her supporters as well as critics. Late last year, ABC news revealed that back home in Alaska, Palin (then Mayor of Wasillia) had fired a librarian for refusing to ban certain books in the local library, after her church had been lobbying for the book Pastor, I Am Gay to be removed. That, along with numerous strongly conservative views that Palin has tried to implement politially has garnered much publicity.

Palin’s conservative leanings are also reflected in her literary influences.  In one interview, she revealed that her top favourite writers are C.S. Lewis (along with his Narnia tales, readers will remember that he was a staunch supporter of religion, liberally incorporating it into his work), as well as Dr. George Sheehan, a one-time columnist for Runner’s World, who had published several works on athletics and battling cancer.

Palin will be appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show on November 16th to discuss her book.  Incidentally, it will also mark the first time that Palin publicly talks about her book and appears on Oprah.

What are your thoughts on Sarah Palin, and how do you think her new book will be received?

Inside the mind of Herta Muller, 2009 Nobel Prize winner

October 8, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature has been announced and the winner is… Herta Müller!

Wait, who? It’s a question that most readers across the English-speaking world have been asking today, accompanied by much head-scratching. The facts are that Müller is a 56-year-old Romanian-born German author, whose award-winning writing focuses on the hardships in living under the harsh dictatorship of Romanian leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of her, keep in mind that while most of her numerous works have been published in German, only a mere five have ever been translated to English.

Müller spent over 30 years living in Romania. During her university years, she studied Romanian and German literature, and was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a literary society that fought for freedom of speech. While German is her first language, Muller has also publicly stated that she finds Romanian to be a lot more poetic and poignant, and has derived much influence from its folklore and folk music.

In her working years, Müller had several scary run-ins with the Securitate, the secret police group of Communist Romania – she was threatened, slandered, captured, interrogated, critised by Romanian press and eventually banned from publishing in her own country. Later, she made the move to Germany with her husband, Richard Wagner (also a writer), where she was allowed to publish without fearing censorship. Of her novels, she describes them as “autofiction”, meaning that while the facts are based on her real life and real experiences, the stories are crafted as fiction.

Today, October 8 2009, it was officially announced that Herta Müller has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, making her the 12th woman in 108 years to win this prize. The Swedish Academy commended her for her bravery and passion in relating the hardships suffered by an entire nation, saying that “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose,  [she] depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”. The awarded prize is a whopping $1.4 million.

Learn more about Muller and her influences at Infloox.

Today in Literature – Aug 4

August 4, 2009

Today is a big day for literature history!

The much-celebrated English romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born, in 1792. Later in life, Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, (incidentally covered in our blog a few posts ago!), also known as the famed author, Mary Shelley. At the height of his career, Percy Shelley churned out a number of major poems, plays and even Gothic novels. He had such a massive impact upon the literary world that years later, even Ghandi proved this influence when he chose to read from Shelley’s political poem “The Masque of Anarchy” at demonstrations.  Head over to infloox for a more in-depth look.

Fast forward to 1944: Also on August 4th, on a much more sobering note, 15-year-old Anne Frank was captured by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp. However, her precious diaries became her legacy, giving the entire world an intimately personal peek into life as a Jew during the war.  Upon its publication by her father in 1947, The Diary of Anne Frank became an instant bestseller.