A Cheater’s Guide to the Classics

DISCLAIMER: If you are a student assigned to read any of the following classics in school, you should ABSOLUTELY read them all the way through! Not only are they classics for a reason, but that’s your job as a student, and as members of the educational community we would be remiss if we didn’t point that out.

If you are, on the other hand, one of the 62% of adults who are simply willing to lie to make themselves appear smarter, well then this article is for you!

That’s right, roughly 6 out of 10 adults claim to have read books they’ve never even opened in an effort to appear more intelligent and impress others. How do they get away with it? Mostly through movie adaptations. But why rely on a director’s interpretation of Great Expectations when walking into the potentially vicious traps set by your dinner party counterparts? I mean, if you really want to get serious about appearing smarter, you’ll have to study with some study guides. And what a surprise–we just so happen to have some of those! 

war-and-peace

You could read the 1,225 pages this Tolstoy classic, or you could just prop it on your bookshelf at home and internally vow to get around to it “one day”

The top ten books people claim to have read, but haven’t, are:

1984 by George Orwell – 26%

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – 19%

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – 18%

Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger – 15%

A Passage to India by E M Forster – 12%

Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkein – 11%

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 10%

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – 8%

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 8%

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – 5%

Titles that just missed the cut are The Bible (3%), Homer’s Odyssey (3%) and Wuthering Heights (2%).

Be serious about appearing smarter: study smarter. Never walk into a dinner party unprepared again!


Salinger to Be Published Posthumously

The Catcher in the Rye author, who died in 2010, left instructions to publish his unseen works, including new stories featuring his most famous character Holden Caulfield.

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J. D. Salinger was always a guarded artist. He kept a very small inner circle of only “seven or eight people,” says his son Matthew, outside of which nobody could have known that the author continued to write through the years, let alone that he planned to release any more of his works.

But a new documentary and accompanying book, both simply titled “Salinger,” are said to reveal both Salinger’s instructions to publish a  handful of never before seen stories and details of the elusive writer’s private life. Of the latter, the documentary’s director Shane Salerno says he and writer David Shields have uncovered new details about Salinger’s mysterious first wife–Sylvia Welter, a suspected Gestapo informant–as well as the young Jean Miller (only fourteen when they met) with whom he shared a long correspondence followed by a brief relationship.

For me, those sordid details Salerno and Shields boast of leave a bad taste in my mouth. The delivery, against the wishes of Salinger’s family and close friends, gives them all the credibility and dignity of a TMZ scoop. However, the duo insist that their sources regarding the author’s plans to publish are reliable, being “independent and separate” of one another.

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Rewriting Shakespeare

In yet more news of Shakespearean retellings, Random House is now set to publish a series of the Bard’s plays rewritten as prose. The RH imprint Hogarth has commissioned authors Anne Tyler and Jeanette Winterson as the first to release novels in the forthcoming “Hogarth Shakespeare Project.” The two will be rewriting The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter’s Tale respectively. These are set for release in 2016 (alas, still far away), exactly 400 years after the Bard’s death.

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Hogarth explains that these new releases are intended to “be true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature.” And from the sounds of it, the writers can’t wait to get their hands on these texts…

Tyler, who has previously won the Pulitzer prize for her novel Breathing Lessons, says, “I don’t know which I’m looking forward to more: ‘Delving into the mysteries of shrewish Kate or finding out what all the other writers do with their Shakespeare characters.’”

Her counterpart, meanwhile, feels a special draw to The Winter’s Tale: “All of us have talismanic texts that we have carried around and that carry us around. I have worked with The Winter’s Tale in many disguises for many years. This is a brilliant opportunity to work with it in its own right.” Winterston has written both novels and BAFTA award winning scripts.

Excitement about a new imagining of Shakespeare’s works aside, what are your thoughts on how the new prose form will change the way we think of Shakespeare’s tales? Will the inevitable loss of his poetic language leave readers wanting? Or will we find a fresh new way to appreciate these stories?

If you were to rewrite one of Shakespeare’s works in this way, what would you choose and where would you take it? 


The World’s Top 10 Bookstore Ads

These days the world of independent bookstores (and giant chains of bookstores) just has to get more and more eye catching to compete with readers’ shrunken attention spans. What to do? Hire the entire cast of Mad Men and come up with one of these genius spots, to start:

1. Mint Vinetu, Vilnius, 2011.

 

2. Whitcoullis, New Zealand, 2011. Amazingly the poster includes all the words to A Clockwork Orange. (Because it’s just the kind of novel you want to read in really tiny script…)

3. L’Echange, Montreal, 2007. See another here. An ingenious marketing strategy for a popular secondhand book store.

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Can You Guess These Classics by Their Covers?

Here’s a fun game for your Friday: try to guess the titles of the famous books behind these ten phantom covers. Scroll down or click-through for the answers.

And have a great weekend, wherever you are!

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Coverflip: How Book Covers Differ by Author’s Gender

Author Maureen Johnson has had enough of gendered book covers. Just what is she talking about? Well, she’s talking about books that look like this:

Versus this:

And yes, that is the same book in each picture. The first is what ended up in print, while the second imagines how the cover might have looked had the book written been by a man. Why the difference? Johnson gives a little insight into the sometimes unfair world of book publishing and marketing:

The simple fact of the matter is, if you are a female author, you are much more likely to get the package that suggests the book is of a lower perceived quality. Because it’s “girly,” which is somehow inherentl different and easier on the palate. A man and a woman can write books about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simple more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow and the feeling of smooth jazz blowing off of it.

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Your Study Session Menu

Can you say #finalsweek ?

A few tips from our intern on how to tackle finals and hunger simultaneously. Beware: it may put you in the mood for the Sixth Sense and drippy, crumbly things…

Good food can make any situation better. Even if you were experiencing the worst possible thing (i.e. traffic on the 405), think about how much happier you would feel with a bag of your favorite chips or a donut by your side. Road rage: managed.

In my many years of falling asleep in lectures and movies and on tables in libraries… I’ve come to realize that food has another awesome benefit: as long as you’re eating it, you stay awake. You might fall asleep the second you stop eating (me), but while the munching is happening, it’s physically nearly impossible to be sleeping. As I’m sure you can imagine, by this stage of my life, I am a professional snacker and I pride myself in it. I know what kind of snacking is appropriate for various situations and what individuals’ snacking choices and preferences say about them. It’s like I’ve got a sixth sense. (I see snacks, people.)

Now, there’s a good chance you’re an avid reader. Books are your hobby. They’re the soap opera to the 70 year old woman living inside of you. They’re your thing.

I, on the other hand, would love to be an avid reader, but I fall asleep the second I open a book. Unless I’m snacking. So, after much trial and error, I have finally figured out what kinds of foods you should and shouldn’t eat when reading a book. Even if you don’t need food to stay awake, like I do, some of these snacks might just make your reading experience that much better. DRUMROLL, please.

DO’S!

1. Foods blended together in liquid form and consumed via straw. Also known as, your average smoothie. These work for many reasons. For one thing, if positioned properly in front of you, you don’t even need hands to consume it. You could just put it on the table and sip away with your book in front of your cup. It’s just you and the straw. Pretty simple. You also get the added benefit of eating like…5 things at once. Which is great if you just really get a kick out of multitasking or if you’re trying to get some veggies or fruits all up in your diet regimen.

2. Pretty much any cold liquid consumed via straw. I’d recommend chocolate milk. The most important part here is the straw, though. They just makes your life easy. Which is one of the reasons you shouldn’t drink hot drinks, because anyone who has ever drunk hot liquid out of a straw knows the roof-of-your-mouth burn is probably one of the worst, and that it’s inevitable.  No matter how many times you try to cool the drink down, no matter how many times you engage your different ‘testing’ tactics pre-consumption, you will almost always burn yourself when drinking hot liquid through a straw. And that’ll just ruin your reading experience, and probably your whole life. Just please don’t do it.

3. Family-sized bags or boxes of snack foods in original flavors. These are things like cheez-its, goldfish crackers, pop chips, cereal, you know the drill. They are in the snack aisle for a reason, and it’s because they have been perfected for your snacking pleasure. They literally exist because of your munchies. You should be able to stick your hand blindly into these bags/boxes without becoming nervous or surprised by what comes out of it.  If you can’t, you’re not eating the right snack. The goal is to be able to grab a bunch and shove it directly into your mouth without ever having to avert your glance from your novel. Original flavors mean you’ll have the stamina to keep snacking without wearing out your pallet. And family-sized is crucial because there’s nothing more annoying than wanting to read but running out of snacks to read with. Could you imagine?

4. Peanut butter via spoon. Yes, it can and should go on a spoon. This applies to Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, almond butter, and Nutella, as well. You get the drill.

5. Cereal with milk. This might be a little messy, and yes, it might not be ideal for reading because you have to sort of turn your head to face your cereal bowl every now and then…but cereal is worth it. Cereal is always worth it.

DON’TS!

1. Warm drinks like coffee or tea. I already discussed the dangers of attempting to drink hot drinks. But there’s more. Unless paired with other foods, or if you’re part of the 5% of the population that is actually still affected by the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, these will just make you sleepy. Warm milk, warm water, whatever it is. Parents give little kids these drinks in order to make them fall asleep. And even if they don’t make you sleepy, these are still no-no’s because these things don’t really qualify as foods and therefore they’re inherently just not as enjoyable. Simple as that. You also could potentially and will likely spill on yourself, since you won’t be drinking out of a straw, which will lead to sheer anguish. If you attempt to prevent the spilling of said hot liquid, you’ll just end up having to look away from your novel all the time. That’s not what we want, is it? Goodness, why is it all so complicated?

2. Flavored anything. How many times have you grabbed a page of a novel and gotten that red hot-cheeto residue all up in there? Or maybe you’re the type who feels the need to lick your fingers after eating something flavored…then you’re just going to get your drool all over your novel the next time you page turn. Is that what you want? Is that really what you want? I know these things are delicious, but they’re dangerous. Many of them also require things like water or milk for the washing down of strong flavors. That’s just time wasted, right there. Please, do yourself a favor and avoid the flavor.

3. Small bags of snacks moms put in lunchboxes. Are you a baby? Tell me, are you a baby? Do you really want to read this novel? Because if you DO then you better be in it for the long haul, and the long haul has no room for teeny tiny snack bags. You’re a big kid now. You pack your own lunchbox.

4. Soup. I mean…what are you thinking? That’s just begging for disaster.

5. In general, things that drip.

6. Things that require two hands to eat. How do you expect to read with no hands? Are you a magician? If you aren’t which I suspect you aren’t then you should probably you know…stop doing that. Reading while devouring a subway sandwich isn’t possible. It just isn’t. At this point you’re just pretending to read while you eat your sandwich, so you might as well just eat your sandwich.

7. Bags of things with too much variety. Unless you like all of the items within that variety. For instance, chex mix. Do you like those awkward circular pretzels? Bleh. Next.

8. Foods that are so good you can’t help but think about them as you eat. My god…it’s just…it’s just so good.

9. Things that crumb. There are few things as frustrating as getting crumbs stuck in the seam of your novel. Trying to get them out just means you make more and more, progressively smaller crumbs out of the one large one you dropped in the first place. They crumble exponentially until there’s nothing to grab and you’re left feeling sad and defeated. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s masochism. I don’t care how much you love those fancy croissants or slices of toast with jam. It’s just not going to work.

10. Anything with melted chocolate. This is the most painful “don’t.” But we all know…chocolate gets everywhere. You eat a cookie that’s fresh out of the oven and somehow five minutes later you have chocolate on your shirt, your fingers, your face- and in this case, your book. No good.  Just no good. Brown smudges on novels just invite inquisitive questions later on. Just try to fight it and stay away.

Let the snacking begin!


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