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Literary Fiction

August 27 2011 Literary Fiction Newsletter

“The true writer, the born writer, will scribble words on scraps of litter, the back of a bus ticket, on the wall of a cell.”

– David Nicholls, One Day (2010)



‘Ginger Rogers Played Tennis in North Vancouver’
Paul and Anne Marie’s neighbor, Peggy, seems a melancholy soul until a trip south revives her interest in tennis. After her return, Paul finds himself becoming her partner in a social pas de deux – a sort of Ginger and Fred number – in this original story by John Joyce.

Mary Shelley – A Writing Life
August 30 marks the birthday of Frankenstein’s creator, who wrote tirelessly and traveled extensively, but lived a solitary life.



Perfect Lives by Polly Samson

As the summer winds down, my attention span starts to fragment, and I turn to short fiction and magazine articles for my reading material. Polly Samson’s collection of 11 short stories is perfect. Published in the UK in 2010, it was the Sunday Times Fiction Choice of the Year and was released in the U.S. in February.

As seems the norm these days, the stories are each complete on its own but are linked by character to create an overarching narrative. (Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge is another example, and even Téa Obreht’s novel, The Tiger’s Wife, reads like interwoven separate stories.) So far I’ve only read the first story, “The Egg,” which centers on the author’s favorite character. Celia Idlewild is preparing breakfast-in-bed for her husband Graham when a disturbing parcel is pushed through the letter box on the door: a raw egg. Its yolk spreading slimily on the floor, its broken shell bears a message that shatters Celia’s morning.

Samson writes lyrically, which is not surprising once you know that she co-wrote lyrics to The Division Bell with her husband, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book, and the best thing is, I can read it one story at a time.



What is the most boring classic novel of all time?

At last, here is our official Top Five Most Boring Classic Novels of All Time:

Silmarillion - J. R. R. Tolkien (1977)
Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (1869)
Iliad - Homer (7th or 8th century BC)
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (1939)

What a wide-ranging selection! Luckily, for every book that puts you to sleep, there are dozens that will thrill you. Read the whole conversation over at the forum.

Who is the most original, complex, interesting female character in literature?

The voting for the most soporific classic brought up some thought-provoking side topics. A remark about Twilight led to a discussion of Bella Swan and Nabokov’s Lolita, and ended with my asking: Where are all the Harry Potters for the girls?

Actually, psychologist and literary critic Lucy Pollard-Gott has compiled a list of the most influential characters in literature and legend worldwide. They are ranked in her 2010 book, The Fictional 100. Only one woman made the top 10: Eve. Not exactly a character in literary fiction! Although the list certainly has international appeal, the most modern women in it are Scarlett O’Hara and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

So I’m curious: what fictional girl or woman gives Hamlet, Huck, Harry, and Holden Caulfield a run for their money? Please share your thoughts on the forum!


Happy reading!

Lane Graciano
Literary Fiction Editor, BellaOnline

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