Monthly Archives: February 2012

Thomas Hardy: A Short Biography

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy was a nineteenth century English novelist and poet belonging to the Naturalism movement. He is most remembered for his novels Tess of the D’urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, Return of the Native and Far from the Maddening Crowd. Most of his novels are set in the fictional English county Wessex. Hardy’s poetry has also received some recognition recently.

Thomas Hardy’s father was a stonemason and his mother was well read and educated him at home until he was eight. He then attended Mr. Last’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. However, a college education was beyond the reach of his family’s means, so he apprenticed to be an architect. 

After several years as an architect, Hardy decided to devote himself to writing. His first successful novel was his third, Far from the Maddening Crowd (1874), followed by Return of the Native in 1876. 

Though Thomas Hardy was successful as a novelist, he preferred poetry. His first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, was published in 1898.  Now considered his best novels, Tess of the D’urbervilles and Jude the Obscure caused a lot of controversy due to their treatment of themes regarding sexuality and sex. After the publication of Jude the Obscure, Hardy turned solely to poetry.

Thomas Hardy married twice, first to Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874. After she died in 1912, Hardy was devastated. Though he remarried to Florence Emily Dugdale in 1914, his first wife remained a strong theme in his poetry. Thomas Hardy died in 1928. His heart is buried with Emma in Stinsford and his ashes are in the Poets Corner of Westminster Cathedral.

Click here for analysis of Return of the Native

Click here for my review of Tess of the D’urbervilles

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1194-2011. Web. Accessed 2/29/2012.

Tales of the City Review

Tales of the CityTales of the City by Armistead Maupin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Maupin’s Tales of the City manages to bring to relief some far out characters and manages to make them wholly believable because the world he creates for them is so detailed. I wasn’t alive in the 70s, so I don’t really know what it was like, but the world of 28 Barbary Lane is so vivid, this is what I imagine 1970s San Francisco to have been like. 


As the characters of Tales of the City navigate San Francisco society they seem to find themselves like fish out of water, but they never give up trying to find their places, find love and happiness. None of the characters is perfect. They all have their own flaws and quirks. They are characters to continue to follow through the rest of the series.


The first book of the series deals with issues like gay and lesbian issues, abortion, spirituality, drugs, suicide, alcoholism and trying to make it in the big city. Maupin handles them with tact and without being heavy handed or moralizing. The characters just do the best that they can.


The biggest drawback is that many of the pop culture references are a bit dated and obscure for younger audiences. Tales of the City is one of the most pop-culture filled novels that I have read. Many of the references were a bit lost on me personally, but it didn’t get in the way of the whole vivid world that Maupin creates.


Bottom line: Tales of the City is an engrossing world of pop-culture nostalgia and vivid groovy characters. It’s well worth reading.

Harry Potter and the Bildungsroman Genre: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 1

I am writing a new series to show how the Harry Potter series fits into the bildungsroman genre, shares qualities with many bildungromans from European and American literary traditions and, I will argue, represents a re-connection with the bildungsroman and contemporary popular literature.


So first, what is a bildungsroman?


Merriam-Webster: A novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character. This is it in a nutshell, although it is a bit more technical.


In the bildungsroman, the goal is maturity and their is usually a main conflict between the individual character and society at large. Generally, the protagonist will accept the values of society and in return be accepted into society.


The genre arose in Germany, but spread to other European literary traditions in the 19th century and further abroad in the 20th. The term bildungsroman was popularized by German literary critic and historian Wilhem Dilthey in 1905.


The Harry Potter series has characteristics of the bildungsroman genre from the very beginning. We will look at these chapter by chapter, beginning with the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone.



Chapter 1:


J. K. Rowling sets up a thematic element common to bildungsromans on the very first page: a conflict between the protagonist and society. The Dursley’s here represent a type of society opposed to “magic,” and I think what is metaphorically meant here is that the Dursley’s a representing society’s rejection of nonconformity. Wizards do not conform to (muggle) society’s standards so they have to be shunned. 


Harry Potter is an embarrassment to the Dursley’s so he has to be relegated to a lesser position within the family. Not only is he literally an orphan, but in the muggle world he always has a lesser position because of his nonconformity. For their part, the Dursley’s are doing everything they can to suppress his development as an individual.


We may be reminded here of a similar theme in Dickens’ David Copperfield, where young, orphaned David has to face living with the simply awful Murdstone’s as they do everything they can to suppress his own development, just to name one example of a frequent bildungsroman theme.


So as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone begins, Rowling first introduces the Dursley’s. Their primary characteristic is their conformity. The Dursleys are “proud to say that they were perfectly normal” (1). They have one single fear: “They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters” (2). So already Rowling has set up the conflict between the conformity of the Dursleys and the probably nonconformity of Harry Potter.


We also find out that Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter and was not able to. Rowling is already setting up the connection between Harry and Voldemort that will be a theme for the rest of the series.


On the other hand, we see that Harry has protectors and eventual benefactors. In this chapter we meet Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid. Often even though the protagonists of bildungsromans are having their individuality supressed by characters like the Dursleys or the Murdstones, they have protectors and benefactors that help them along their path to developing as individuals. Think David Copperfield’s eccentric Aunt Betsey Trotwood or Ms. Havisham from Great Expectations. The latter also should remind us that the benefactors may not turn out to be exactly who we think they are by the end of the novel.


These are some of the many characteristics the Harry Potter series shares with the bildungsroman genre, and I think we can argue that from the very beginning, Rowling is not only using these common literary themes, but also intentionally setting the Harry Potter series up to be a bildungsroman.


Reading the Modernist Bildungsroman

To begin with, Gregory Castle says something in his acknowledgements that I really liked. He is describing his experience in writing about the bildungsroman genre and how it took him a long time to adequately grasp its complexity. It is “a genre that has managed to retain its basic contours while while adapting to new environments” (ix). I think this basic description is something I will keep in mind as I research the bildungsroman and the Middle East novel.


The introduction is titled The Pathways to Inner Culture. Castle asserts that the modernist bildungsroman fails to adhere to the strict generic rules of the genre, but this failure represents resistance to the “institutionalization of self-cultivation (bildung)” (1). Castle is going to be concerned mostly with English and Irish bildungsromans, claiming the early twentieth century as a place of “emergent late modernity” (1).


Moreover, Castle is going to argue, “the critique of bildung is part of a general modernist project of recuperation and revision of the Enlightenment concept aesthetico-spiritual Bildung,which had been rationalized and bureaucratized in the course of the nineteenth century,” and, it is “a profoundly radical gesture, one that seeks to reinstate the values of aesthetic education and individual freedom within the process of self-development” (1). I believe, since this is only the introduction, this will all become more clear as Castle continues in the later chapters.


Overcoming the restrictiveness of overly rationalized and bureaucratized society is a main concern of these writers, Castle argues. And they do this by using the bildungsroman genre (and its failure to adhere to it in a strict sense) to ask questions about humanity, self-hood and identity.



The modernist bildungsroman fails to adhere to the strict rules of the genre, particularly when the hero of the novel, the bildungsheld, does not achieve inner cultural or harmonious socialization. However, Castle argues, the modernist bildungsroman, asserts itself powerfully, exploiting this failure to reinvigorate the genre, and bildung in a classical sense.


Modernist writers do not bring the classical bildungsroman tradition to life to merely live in the past. Rather, they use it to explore modernity itself.

Castle, Gregory. Reading the Modernist Bildungsroman. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2006. Print.


Free Kindle Book of the Day

The Free Kindle Book of the Day is The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted: A Psychological Thriller by Andrew E. Kaufman. From the synopsis: 



Product Description

From Andrew E. Kaufman, author of the #1 bestseller, While the Savage Sleeps…


But a minute was all it took to turn Jean Kingsley’s world upside down–a minute she’d regret for the rest of her life. 



Because when she returned, she found an open bedroom window and her three-year-old son, Nathan, gone. The boy would never be seen again. 


A tip leads detectives to the killer, a repeat sex offender, and inside his apartment, a gruesome discovery. A slam-dunk trial sends him off to death row, then several years later, to the electric chair. 


Now, more than thirty years later, Patrick Bannister unwittingly stumbles across evidence among his dead mother’s belongings–it paints her as the killer and her brother, a wealthy and powerful senator, as the one pulling the strings.


There’s a hole in the case a mile wide, and Patrick is determined to close it. But what he doesn’t know is that the closer he moves toward the truth, the more he’s putting his life on the line, that he’s become the hunted. Someone’s hiding a dark secret and will stop at nothing to keep it that way.

The clock is ticking, the walls are closing, and the stakes are getting higher as he races to find a killer–one who’s hot on his trail. One who’s out for his blood.



Free Kindle of the Day

The Free Kindle of the Day is Make More, Worry Less: Secrets from 18 Extraordinary People who Created Bigger Income and Better Life. From the synopsis:



Moss proposes fresh ways to succeed in a corporate environment using the four-step HUNT method he established in his first book, a primer on entrepreneurship called Starting from Scratch: Harness what you have, Underestimate your obstacles, Notice your network and Take the first (or next) step. The book’s four parts cover each leg of the acronym, and each of the 18 chapters are tied to a specific individual’s success story on the frontlines of such companies as Ogilvy Public Relations, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Warner Music, Coca-Cola and GE. Narratives are mined for principles (“Keep it simple”) and practical tips (put off casual reading in favor of “thinking through the coming meeting”) while keeping a steady eye on the big picture-moving forward and building momentum. Conversational and straightforward, this guide to sensible career advancement should prove useful and encouraging for those new to the workforce, as well as those stuck on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Product Description

This is the eBook version of the printed book.

“These principles will not only help you sleep at night, they’re steroids for your paycheck. This book is a can’t miss if you want economic freedom without having to start your own business!”

Barbara Babbit Kaufman, Founder and Former CEO of Chapter 11 Book Stores


“As the owner of a rapidly growing global brand, our business success hinges upon employees who are willing to take the ball and run with it! If you’re a business owner or executive responsible for team results, these principles will have people knocking over walls for you!”

Giovanni, The Margarita King Owner and Founder of The Margarita King,


“As an entrepreneur and former Wall St. investment manager, this book is easy to relate to for anyone who has ever thought about starting their own company, but just never had the ‘perfect idea.’ Until that perfect idea arrives, this book provides the secret of blending what’s great about corporate America with the highlights of business ownership.”

Kwame JacksonApprentice Season 1 Finalist, Entrepreneur/Speaker/Author,


“What a cool concept! Moss shows how you can find a balance between working for someone and working for yourself. It’s the best of both worlds! I don’t care what level you are at work–you can start today!”

Allison Saget, Author of The Event Marketing Handbook,


“Finally someone has just come out and said it…you can still get rich working for a big company! Moss shows you the way, no matter what industry you’re in!”

Katherine Vessenes, CFP JD President of Vestment Advisors


“This is a great concept! As an entrepreneur, I know how hard it is to start a business from the ground up. This book reveals the secrets to business ownership without having to start from scratch. Moss has become quite an inspiration on this topic”

Jen Klair, Founder of


Make More. Worry Less. Everyone wants to do that–but how? And how can you do it within the organization, where most people will spend their entire working lives? This book has the answers. No academic theory here: Make More, Worry Less brings together 18 riveting stories from people who’ve achieved both of these goals, gaining surprising wealth and real peace of mind along the way.

These aren’t superheroes. They’re ordinary people who’ve done the extraordinary: from fast-food worker Linda Robb, now earning a six-figure income at Aflac, to once lowly telemarketer Steve Hudson, now running business development at one of the most promising start-up companies in the nation. Author and radio host Wes Moss reveals the powerful lessons these individuals have learned. Better yet, he shows how you can use those lessons to take ownership of your life and career, earning more money than you ever thought possible.

But that’s only half the equation! Moss also shows how to handle your increased success with less stress, fewer worries, and greater happiness.

Every single story in this book is accompanie…

Free Kindle book of the Day

The Free Kindle Book of the Day is Brain Games by Frank Ar. From the synopsis:


Access free Kindle games for brain training. Train your brain, and keep it fit with “Brain games: free games for brain training – Cognitive Enhancement with your natural Nootropic”.

“Brain games: freegames for brain training – Cognitive Enhancement with your “natural Nootropic”” is a guide to the advantages of brain training, and to free brain games. Brain games do make a difference in the fitness of your brain. It is never too early to start training our brains and use our potential. Nootropics (also knowns as “smart drugs, memory enhancers, cognitive enhancers, intelligence enhancers”) are supplements, nutraceuticals, and functional foods that improve mental functions such as cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation, attention, and concentration. Now, nootropics include brain games, developed by neuroscientists to improve your cognitive functions.

Our skills belong to the category of “use it, or lose it”. Depending on our lifestyle, cognitive activities, etc. there are some brain skills we already use extensively every day. And there are other skills we use more rarely. This booklet introduces you to free and premium brain games that you can play online.

Brain training games are based on the proven fact that living in an enriched environment, with plenty of mental stimulation, keeps our brains active and produces positive brain changes. There’s huge potential for tapping into the brain’s ability to change itself by remodeling nerve cell connections after experience. This enhances mental fitness and prevent age-related memory decline. Plus, the best brain games on the market, like Lumosity, are created by brilliant neuroscientists, who are aware of how to structure the games based on the desired cognitive skill development outcome.

Quoting the Scientific American: “As Glenn Smith of Mayo Clinic and her colleagues report, cognitively normal older adults who trained their brain were able to improve their auditory information processing speed by about 58 percent (versus 7 percent in controls)”. Research at Pennsylvania State University proved that brain exercises, focusing on training reasoning skills, do translate into long-lasting improvements in daily life. Groups trained in reasoning, using computer brain games, showed better performance on daily activities, while a control group which did not take part in such exercises showed a decline). These results suggest that a short training session, plus periodic boosters, may induce long-lasting cognitive and functional benefits—sort of a “teaching a person to fish for life” effect. 

Babbitt Review

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt is American Satire at its best. No part of 1920s American is safe from his witty criticism. Babbitt is a middle-aged businessman, living in a small Midwestern city where the chief value is conformity. Lewis satirizes the business of conformity as Babbitt unsuccessfully pursues a climb up the social ladder.


Babbitt grows discontented as his climb and pursuit of material goods doesn’t seem to bring him happiness. He experiments with nonconformity, but finds that his forays are both destructive to his own life and are really just a different type of conformity in their own right. Near the end, Babbitt has an epiphany causing event and repents his nonconformity, though he retains some of the empathy and hope for meaningful life that he has learned through his experience. Even though Babbitt has returned to conformity, Lewis hints at the possibility of change through his rebellious son.


Bottom Line: Babbitt remains a popular classic because of its wit as well as the endurance of the issues of conformity/nonconformity and its criticism of the “hollowness” of the capitalism and the American Dream.



Click here for Babbitt part I analysis

Click here for Babbitt part II analysis

Click here for Babbitt part III analysis

Click here for a post about Babbitt and the bildungsroman genre

Click here for a short biography of Sinclair Lewis

Free Kindle Book of the Day

The Free Kindle book of the Day is Jailbird by Heather Huffman. From the synopsis:



In this paradoxical blend of light and dark, Jailbird is a warm and humorous tale about the power of hope.


Neena Allen has led a tough life. Born on the reservation, raped and unjustly convicted of murdering her attacker, she survives prison – barely. When an opportunity presents itself, she doesn’t hesitate to escape. Presumed dead, she stumbles into a sleepy Arkansas town where she finds refuge with a kind family and glimpses the chance for a real home, a place to belong.


But leading a double life isn’t easy, especially when you fall in love with the town lawyer.


To complicate matters further, a tenacious reporter gets too close to the truth and Neena finds herself on the run again. With a manhunt under way and her newfound happiness at risk, Neena is forced to face the painful memories of her past to decide on her future. Should she fight for her new life or give up those she loves to keep them safe?

About the Author

Heather Huffman lives in Missouri with her husband and their three sons. In addition to writing, she enjoys spending time with their growing alpaca herd, the family horse, and their pack of rescued dogs. A firm believer that life is more than the act of taking up air, Heather is always on the lookout for an adventure that will become fodder for the next novel.

Free Kindle Book of the Day

The Free Kindle Book of the Day is The Shekinah Legacy by Gary Lindberg. From the synopsis:

International cable TV journalist Charlotte Ansari and her Asperger’s son are caught literally in the crossfire of history when terrorists, the CIA, Mossad (Israeli intelligence) and the Vatican all converge in a pulse-pounding search for two relics that could eviscerate Christianity and forever change the balance of power in the world.

Three decades ago, Charlotte’s mother suddenly vanished with no trace. The mystery was never solved. Then suddenly, on the same day that Charlotte’s home is attacked by terrorists, her son receives an email from the grandmother that he has never known. The coded message catapults Charlotte and her son on a dangerous mission to India and Kashmir to find the only objects that can save the old woman’s life. Unfortunately, Charlotte and her autistic son don’t know what they are looking for.

The Shekinah Legacy is a thriller in the tradition of Dan Brown, Steve Berry and James Rollins. In this provocative novel, author Gary Lindberg uses the form of the thriller to explore the limits and perils of belief.

★★★★★ “The Shekinah Legacy” is a well-written thriller in the style of Dan Brown where long-held religious beliefs are turned upside down and challenged. The story is filled with the twists and turns that make a novel great, and its plotline continues believably through each revelation as the reader finds out which characters can be trusted and which ones are expendable. The story’s ending is meant to be a shocker and it is, concluding a very well crafted story. ★★★★★ 
Alice D. for Reader’s Favorite

★★★★★ Charlotte Ansari has hunted the big stories around the globe. Then in one week she becomes the hunted. Or are the secret societies that re chasing her throughout India after someone else? Gary Lindberg’s debut novel “The Shekinah Legacy” will please fans of Dan Brown and James Rollins. Fascinating subplots bring together an unusual cast of characters, all searching for the same things with startlingly different reasons. This is a book not to be put down until you’ve read the last page. ★★★★★ 
Cynthia Kraack, author of “Minnesota Cold and the “Ashwood Trilogy”

About the Author:
Gary Lindberg traveled around the world to research this story. As a writer and film producer/director, he has won over one hundred major national and international awards. He is the co-writer and producer of the Paramount Pictures feature film That Was Then, This Is Now starring Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman. This is his first published novel. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Gloria, and his Jack Russell terrier Fletcher.