Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Contentious Novels…

October 30, 2013

Contentious – definition: 1. tending to cause argument or strife; quarrelsome; 2. causing, involving, or characterized by argument or controversy

Throughout literary history there have been contentious novels. Some, in our modern day thinking, are not contentious at all but we have to bear in mind the culture and beliefs that were present at the time the books were released.

1. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain


Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884, by Mark Twain. The reason it was banned? On social grounds. Although the references and treatment of African Americans in the novel reflect the time about which it was written, some critics thought such language inappropriate for study and reading in schools and libraries. The Concord Public Library first banned the book in 1885, calling it “trash suitable only for the slums.”

Today it is thought to be a classic.

2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl


This book is the diary of a young girl, Anne Frank, as she experienced the Nazi occupation. It is an important work from World War II.

In the book Anne describes how she and her family hide from the occupying forces and are eventually discovered and sent to a concentration camp. The reason it was banned? Certain passages were considered “sexually offensive,” and also that the tragic nature of the book, was felt to be a “real downer.” An unthinkable view to today’s beliefs.

I remember reading this book in school and absolutely loved it even though I felt so sorry for Anne, who was near my own age when she wrote it and I read it.

3. Arabian Nights


A collection of tales, which has been banned by Arab faction governments as vice and sin. Various editions of The Arabian Nights were also banned by the US Government under the Comstock Law of 1873. The law makes it illegal to send any “obscene” materials through the mail,

4. Awakening – Kate Chopin


First issued in 1899, Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening  tells the famous tale of Edna Pontellier. She left her family, committed adultery, and began a journey to rediscover her true self as an artist. Such actions were not easy, nor socially acceptable, especially in the time the book was published. Fierce criticism of the book as being immoral and scandalous meant Kate Chopin never wrote another novel. Today The Awakening is considered an important work in feminist literature.

5. Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath


This is the only novel by Sylvia Plath. It is famous for its shocking insight into her mind and art, and also because it is a coming-of-age story. The narrative is told in the first person by Esther Greenwood, who struggles with her mental illness. The reason for banning it – the suicide attempts detailed in the book made it a target for book censors.

The book has been repeatedly banned and challenged for what is seen as its controversial content of sexual material and it supposedly advocating an “objectionable” philosophy of life. Other reasons stated for banning the novel were that the book was poor-quality literature which stressed suicide, illicit sex, violence and hopelessness.

Do you have a favorite ‘banned’ book?

Do you agree any of the above novels should be banned?

A flippant excuse for today…

October 5, 2013

Flippant – definition: frivolously disrespectful, shallow, or careless lack of seriousness

I thought to create a poem today but with all the rush of preparing for my daughter’s reptile show, alas I failed, so forgive me for giving you a Keats poem instead.

john keats

Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain,
Inconstant, childish, proud, and full of fancies;
Without that modest softening that enhances
The downcast eye, repentant of the pain
That its mild light creates to heal again:
E’en then, elate, my spirit leaps, and prances,
E’en then my soul with exultation dances
For that to love, so long, I’ve dormant lain:
But when I see thee meek, and kind, and tender,
Heavens! how desperately do I adore
Thy winning graces;—to be thy defender
I hotly burn—to be a Calidore—
A very Red Cross Knight—a stout Leander—
Might I be loved by thee like these of yore.

Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair;
Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breast,
Are things on which the dazzled senses rest
Till the fond, fixed eyes, forget they stare.
From such fine pictures, heavens! I cannot dare
To turn my admiration, though unpossess’d
They be of what is worthy,—though not drest
In lovely modesty, and virtues rare.
Yet these I leave as thoughtless as a lark;
These lures I straight forget—e’en ere I dine,
Or thrice my palate moisten: but when I mark
Such charms with mild intelligences shine,
My ear is open like a greedy shark,
To catch the tunings of a voice divine.

Ah! who can e’er forget so fair a being?
Who can forget her half retiring sweets?
God! she is like a milk-white lamb that bleats
For man’s protection. Surely the All-seeing,
Who joys to see us with his gifts agreeing,
Will never give him pinions, who intreats
Such innocence to ruin,—who vilely cheats
A dove-like bosom. In truth there is no freeing
One’s thoughts from such a beauty; when I hear
A lay that once I saw her hand awake,
Her form seems floating palpable, and near;
Had I e’er seen her from an arbour take
A dewy flower, oft would that hand appear,
And o’er my eyes the trembling moisture shake.

Lilliputian – A Complete World – Is Yours the Same..?

June 22, 2013

Lilliputian – definition: extremely small : tiny

English: Illustration to Gulliver's Travels, b...

English: Illustration to Gulliver’s Travels, by J.J. Grandville. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels, he created several believable and complete societies, incorporating  hierarchies, laws and  histories for each. It is, however, the Lilliputian world that became the favored land in the eyes of the public. Cartoons and movies have been made of Gulliver’s travel to Lilliput omitting his subsequent journeys.

Gulliver also traveled to Brobdingnag, a land of giants, Laputa, a floating island inhabited by theoreticians and Houyhnhnms, populated by rational thinking horses. These perfectly developed societies have been, for the most part, lost to the public.

In reading about these other lands, we realize they brought understanding to Gulliver of ‘human’ nature and was actually a vehicle for Swift’s own views on society. To create such well defined worlds is what every writer strives for.

Wouldn’t you love your world or character to become a dictionary term? If only we could all achieve this feat.

When writing our stories,we delve into the fine details of our characters and the worlds they inhabit. Many of these details never actually reach the page but are vitally important. Without them we would not understand how our characters react and what their restrictions are, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

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