Tag: book culture

Celebrate the Publication of ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ and ‘Goblet of Fire’ Today!

This day, July 8th, saw the original publication of two Harry Potter novels: The Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999 and The Goblet of Fire in 2000. Both were huge milestones for the series, representing the continued evolution of the Potterverse into darker, more complex territory than the comparatively straightforward, whimsical first two novels (The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.) The books were both bestsellers, Azkaban selling three million in the United Kingdom alone, and Goblet of Fire selling over five million copies. Each book received positive reviews, especially Azkaban, praised for its excellent character development as the characters become teenagers, leaving behind their child selves. The Goblet of Fire meanwhile won the Hugo Award in 2001, the only Harry Potter novel to do so.

 

Image via Amazon

 

Prisoner of Azkaban chronicles Harry’s third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he begins the new year, a dangerous convict known as Sirius Black escapes from the dreaded prison Azkaban. Black is thought to be an associate of Voldemort, and so Hogwarts is guarded by Dementors, as the teachers believe Black will seek out Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. While dealing with this, Harry must deal with the regular perils of teenage life: increased schoolwork, feelings for girls, and a hidden secret Hermione is carrying around with her.

The Goblet of Fire tells the story of Harry taking part in the massive Triwizard Tournament, a huge competition between Hogwarts and rival schools over the course of the semester. Harry’s name appeared in the Goblet of Fire (the method by which contestants are selected) under mysterious circumstances ad Harry must deal with the tournament’s various challenges, such as stealing eggs from an angry dragon, diving beneath the Hogwarts Lake to rescue trapped students, and make his way through a monster infested, booby trapped maze to claim the Triwizard Cup. All the while, dark forces plot in the background, growing steadily throughout the school year.

 

Image Via Amazon

Film adaptations of the two books were released in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Prisoner of Azkaban grossed $796 million, as well as earning critical acclaim and further embracing the change of tone for the series by embracing a new, more darker style for the overall work. Goblet of Fire earned similar acclaim, grossing $897 million. Both were among the highest grossing, best reviewed films of their respective years, enforcing the overall popularity of the ongoing fantasy series.

Both works deepened the Potterverse, introducing iconic characters and creatures, while planting the seeds for the epic saga centering around the rise of Lord Voldemort. Celebrate their original releases and read the original books again!

 

Featured Image Via Amazon

Debut Author Emily Ruskovich Wins €100,000 With First Novel

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to tell stories of great depth and complex characters, the literate. No, that’s not from the sonnet on the Statue of Liberty, nor is it the slogan for the International Dublin Literary Award—but perhaps it should be. The referenced lines are a quasi-quote from “The New Colossus” which I altered to reflect not only my envy but admiration for one Emily Ruskovich.

 

Image Via Idahopress.com

 

Idaho native and creative writing teacher,  Emily Ruskovich just won the world’s richest prize for a single novel—€100,000 ($113,000) to be exact. Her novel, Idaho, was one of ten shortlisted entries (out of 141) from all across the globe which were up for the award. Ruskovich’s book was initially nominated by only a single source: the public library in Brugge, Belgium. The thirty-three-year-old mother found herself shell-shocked upon receiving the news as she questioned the reality of her situation. In an interview with The Guardian she said:

“I didn’t speak at first, then I reacted with great joy, but then I also felt really uncertain,” she says. “I couldn’t really believe it had happened. It was just a quiet little moment in the grass with my baby and my life was completely changed.”

In a more formal press release she said:

“I cannot express how grateful I am to be the recipient of this astonishingly generous award,” Ruskovich wrote in a press release. “It is difficult to know how to respond to the magnitude of this kindness that has been so suddenly bestowed upon me.”

 

Image Via Idahostatesman.com

Idaho is set in the mountains Ruskovich is all too familiar with; having been raised in the Idaho Panhandle, her novel tells the story of a mother who kills her daughter while the pair are chopping wood in a clearing. The judges of the Dublin contest refused to refer to the story as a thriller, but instead described it as an exploration of mental uncertainty:

“[The novel] gradually uncovers the psychological abysses that would explain the inexplicable. The deed remains the deed, and the murderous evil of it stays ambivalent and mysterious to the end.”

 

Image Via Emilyruskovich.com

 

Like all great writers, Ruskovich accredits her relationship with the world around her and her subsequent experiences (sensory) as inspiration for the novel. Describing her upbringing as “very rural,” Ruskovich recounts a time when she arrived at a clearing similar to the one in her story.

“Everything was beautiful, and there was the sound of grasshoppers and crows sunning themselves on the logs”, she immediately had “this intense feeling of grief as if the place itself had a memory and I had just stepped into the memory.”

“I just knew something terrible happened there. I’ve never had an experience like that in my life. I’ve received feelings from different places but this was different. My parents said it was like I was in a mild trance that whole day, they could tell something was wrong with me. I couldn’t get it out of my system so writing the novel was the process of figuring out what I imagined had happened in that place,” said Ruskovich .

Now living the dream that manifests itself on the other side of the struggle—Ruskovich (no longer tired…well she’s a mom so she’s probably perpetually tired…but no longer poor) plans on using her newfound financial freedom to properly embrace wordsmithing.

“It’s such a shocking amount of money to have won! I can’t believe there is a prize like this for a single novel. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with it but I feel I can now make choices that will ultimately really benefit my writing,” she says. “It’s been the biggest honour of my life having a book out in the world and having readers.”

 

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing
Image Via Facebook.com

 

In its twenty-four years, Ruskovich is only the fourth American to win the International Dublin Literary Award.

*Queue frustrated Irish writers*—next year guys.

 

 

Featured Image Via Facebook.com

Building Turned Into Jaw-Dropping Bookcase Illusion

Stand by for a warm and fuzzy feeling.

It has often been said, by those who enjoy a good book, that we live inside of our soft and hardcover friends. Such a notion has never held more validity than it does for the lucky residents of an anonymous building in Utrecht, Netherlands. The aesthetically pleasing surprise comes courtesy of illustrious street artist Jan Is De Man and tattoo artist Deef Freed‘s handy-work.

 

Trompe L'oeil Art by Jan Is De Man
Image Via Mymodernmet.com

 

The owners of this building, who love a good read, asked their delineating friend, Jan Is De Man to deface—or rather reface their previously boring structure. De Man took it upon himself to ask local residents to suggest book titles he could include in his creation; his goal was to create something that reflected a culturally-diverse community in unison (without offending of course: no trigger-happy literature). The result is a mural displaying a wide variety of books which includes literature spanning eight different languages. Unfortunately, I will not provide a list of those books in this article—feel free to pinch and zoom at your leisure.

 

Literature Themed Mural in Utrecht
Image Via Mymodernmet.com

 

“We’ve noticed that this project brought people together without pushing it,” said De Man, “they met each other through books. Regardless of the differences in cultures, regardless of the differences in political point of views. Regardless of being extreme right or extreme left. Books are magical. They tickle your brain. And everyone can read the same book, but feel something different.”

De Man’s friend, who also lives in the building, had wanted the artist to paint a mural on his home for some time; however, De Man’s original plan was not of the literary variety. Being a huge fan of Forest Gump (I can only assume), De Man wanted to paint a huge smiley face on the building. Typically, when people see a smile, their moods are naturally lifted. After studying the shape of the building, it dawned on De Man that smiles are provoked by all sorts of things—therein lies the idea of a bookcase. A structure that’s functionality most closely resembles that of a community, a family, a hug, a home.

 

Featured Image Via Mymodernmet.com

New Zealand Teen Wows the World With Spoken-Word Poem About Racism

This is the age of division—of crowded twenty-six lane highways existing alongside speeding motorcycles about to hit a T in the road. An age of shiny watches and clothes draping suffering souls; cultures on a collision course. A time of CGI, and action-packed prose—a great medium; but, where does poetry fit in?

William Wordsworth once said, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”  The type of expression formed through reflection and contemplation—as we prepare to address the things that bother us. I remember reading the preface to a little book of poetry once (a tiny back pocket volume), it said that poetry is meant to enrich, ennoble and encourage. These are the first things I thought of when I heard Takunda Muzondiwa speak.

 

Takunda Muzondiwa
Image Via Stuff.co.nz

 

A New Zealand high school student at Mt. Albert Grammar School, Muzondiwa has been making news for a speech she made at the Human Rights Commission’s annual Race Unity Aotearoa Speech awards. At these awards, six of New Zealand’s best high school speakers addressed how we can improve race relations. Thanks to the past twenty years of technological influx, someone recorded the speech, which sees Muzondiwa delivering a poem she wrote. The video has been viewed over half a million times.

“Yesterday I was African, today I am lost.”

 

 

In the above video, Muzondiwa recounts her experience immigrating from Zimbabwe to Aotearoa at the age of seven. She has, unfortunately, had to deal with the type of cultural assimilation and the racism that seems to plague so many. Her poem, which she wrote to a man who had the audacity to touch her hair on the bus (because it was curly? Different?) describes the pitfalls of assimilation; such as aligning with societal beauty standards.

“I believe unity comes from a better understanding of one another as people. The best way I know how to share the perspective of those I represent as a black immigrant woman is through my writing. I write my poetry and I send it to the man who sat behind me on the train last week who had the audacity to touch my hair without even asking.”

“I guess the basic human concept of respecting personal space doesn’t apply to you?” I didn’t say that which is crazy because I almost always have something to say but at that moment, like my split ends, my mouth was too dry to speak.

The Takunda Muzondiwa in this video is a young woman who refuses to feel shame; she realizes how important her culture is (if by some weird reason you haven’t watched it and realized that yet).

“But luckily my hair, my hair speaks volumes. Tangled and twisted there are stories in these in curls. Stories of a mother, father stamped with a number marked as objects sold for property. Stories of my ancestors shackled in cages displayed in zoos the same way you stroke me like an exhibit in a petting zoo.”

I watched that video and literally mouthed the word “wow” (before thinking of obscure quotes about poetry). The kind of words coming out of this person’s mouth, the way in which they are being expressed, is the type of thing I can’t see on any silver screen or within the context of any story—other than a real one. It’s the kind of thing Wordsworth and my long-since-lost pocket book of poetry were talking about; Muzondiwa’s words enrich, ennoble and encourage.

At the end of her speech, Muzondiwa, after true contemplation and reflection, addresses the real recipient of her powerfully crafted words. The thing that she, and so many others, find themselves simultaneously alongside whilst racing towards.

“So dear racism, I’m rewriting the history you gave me because I know the future belongs to those who prepare for it and you have been preparing me for centuries.”

This is the age of unity.

 

Featured Image Via Theguardian.com