Archive for the ‘role models’ 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!

Leonard Cohen: a world of influences

January 5, 2010

As a follow-up to our last blog post, and in light of the recent “music influences” additions to the Infloox site, I thought I’d look into the influences of Leonard Cohen.

Since starting out as a poet in Montreal in the 50s, Cohen has lead a tumultous yet very interesting life.  He lived through one of the strongest musical periods that we’ve ever known, so it is no wonder that he was influenced by and in turn has influenced so many people.  His earliest works were poetry and prose, and here he found inspiration in the works of W. B. Yeats, Lord Byron and Henry Miller, to name a few. While some may assume that only musicians influence musicians, and likewise for authors of fiction, we can see here that it is not so. These literary  influences stayed with Cohen even later on, showing a strong impact on the unique song lyrics that he has come to be so well known for.

During the 60s and 70s, when Cohen started to make his mark as a singer-songwriter, he found himself spending more time soaking up inspiration from the other musicians and icons around him. Andy Warhol’s Factory Crowd became a new hang-out, and Warhol wondered once that the German singer/model, Nico, likely had a resounding impact on the music Cohen later went on to write. At the same time, he also had strong roots in the traditional European folk music that his ancestors had grown up with.

Around the same time, another songwriter was making waves: one Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known now as Bob Dylan. Dylan and Cohen had met each other and identifying with each other as they both came from strong Jewish backgrounds, found that over time they both started to influence each others’ work. So much so, that Dylan later covered a number of Cohen’s songs as a tribute to him.

Fast-forward to today and we can see that this massive mix of influences has definitely served Cohen well. With several awards and Hall of Fame inductions under his belt, he has certainly done well for himself. Perhaps we can all learn from this that influences do not necessarily have to come from just one source or one genre. Too often as writers, we get trapped in browsing through only the genre we’re writing. Head over to Infloox and lose yourself for a while by finding out where some of your favourite authors culled their inspiration from!

Charles Dickens, Christmas and the power of connectedness

December 23, 2009

I recently came across an article online that talked about our social networks and how incredibly influential the people around you are, even if you don’t realise it. Here at Infloox, this is exactly what we focus on,  bringing these connections to light. More so, we dissect the influence of books (and even music!) on people, since these works stay around long after the creator has passed on.

Since Christmas is right around the corner, let’s take a look at Charles Dickens and his beloved classic, A Christmas Carol. Originally published quickly in 1843 to cover the expenses of his wife’s fifth pregnancy, the book went on to become one of Dickens’ most well-known tales. So much so, that it is this work that made the common phrase “Merry Christmas” popular in modern culture, as well as the term “Scrooge” to mean a miser and the catchphrase, “Bah Humbug!”. One historian even claimed that, “the current state of the observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol.”

But where did Dickens himself derive the inspiration and influences to come up with such a unique story? As with many authors, a large part of it can be attributed to the books and stories Dickens read as a child. Even something as far removed as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Robinson Crusoe made its way in, as he brought in that influence in the beginning of his story. We learn that in Victorian times, pantomimes were extremely popular, and Dickens refers directly to this in his Christmas story.

For aspiring writers, take a good look at the books on your bookshelf, because chances are those very ones will somehow work their way into your own writing. Perhaps it might be subconscious, or other times deliberate, but as we can see, it isn’t only our social networks that guide and shape the way we develop, but also works of literature, no matter how old or new.

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.

Who’d win in a fight: Hemingway or Eastman?

August 11, 2009

VS

This is possibly one of the most ridiculous literature-related accounts I’ve come across but it certainly made me laugh envisioning it!

On this day in 1937,  Ernest Hemingway bared his hairy chest to Max Eastman’s unhairy one, demanded “What do you mean accusing me of impotence?” and then wrestled Eastman to the floor.

(ref: http://www.todayinliterature.com/)

I don’t know about you, but my bet’s on Hemingway. If you’re wondering what exactly made Hemingway tick, click here for a bit of insight on his favourite books and authors.

p.s. I’ve really been struggling not to make a terrible joke about for whom the bell tolls…  😉

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.