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Fauxscar Nominee: Cosmopolis

January 6, 2013 in American Authors, Contemporary Literature, Crime Novels, Economy, Fauxscars, Literary Movies, Pop Culture

By Antoinette Weil

When I chose to watch Cosmopolis as part of our Literary “Fauxscars” segment, I went in with a clean slate. That is, I had never read the book it’s based on by Don DeLillo. I didn’t know the story. As such, it could have qualified to be in the running for the sought-after “Best Stand Alone Film” category. But it won’t get my vote.

The film follows Eric Packer, played by Robert Pattinson, a 28 year old billionaire/finance wiz throughout his stretch-limo-capsuled journey across Manhattan to get a haircut. Most of the film, including a sex scene, a doctor’s appointment, a loss of millions (or more) of dollars resulting from a risky financial bet against the Chinese Yuan, takes place inside the comfort of Packer’s over-the-top custom stretch limousine.

What happens inside the car is what matters to Packer. He meets with his finance manager, his physician, his tech guru. The dialogue is intensive, thick, unwelcoming. While watching you’re wondering (at least I was) what the characters are actually saying, what it means, and whether it’s all very interesting or just jibber jabber.

And what happens outside of the car is the world; all of Packer’s encounters with his young wife (played by Sarah Gadon), a traffic jam in the city caused by a visit from the President, a charged anti-capitalism street protest, a massive funeral procession for a fallen rap star, who happens to be beloved by Packer, and eventually a potentially deadly encounter with a disgruntled former employee.

David Cronenberg’s direction on this film was impeccable. There is something to be said for shooting almost an entire movie inside of a car with hardly any action or changes in scenery. And his dark, psychologically introspective style fit perfectly with Don DeLillo’s original novel. Should we have a “Best Director” category, I will vote Cronenberg for Cosmopolis.

Pattinson was believable, vivid, and genuinely good in the role of Eric Packer. He has a certain smoothness and a dark quirkiness that made him well-suited for the part. That said, the character is a dry, jagged, unpleasant pill to swallow. He seems to be a morally damaged, self-centered, downright bad human being. He has sexual encounters with two women in the film, neither of whom are his wife. He tries to persuade his art consultant (played by Juliette Binoche) to bid on not a single painting but on on the entire museum, so that he can lock it up in his apartment and keep it from the public. He calls one of his employees to an emergency meeting in his limo on her day off, and kills another in cold blood. All around a pretty loathsome guy.

And yet, I didn’t hate him. I ended up having so little emotional investment in this movie, and in Eric Packer, that even his most shameless sins didn’t produce the type of dislike one typically has for a “bad guy”. Perhaps this is because none of the other characters were “likable” either. Perhaps the beauty in it is that the audience feels for him exactly what he feels for every human in the film (yes, including himself): nothing.

I found myself looking for the real world political/socioeconomic parallels easily apparent in other movies (V for Vendetta, Avatar, even Hunger Games) but ended up, instead of relating, wondering if those parallels were there to be found, or if this was to be taken at face value: a movie about the fall of one arrogant, brilliant, young billionaire.

Cosmopolis is not for the lazy viewer. Simply processing the dialogue is an intellectual achievement  But it’s not enlightening, or, by any means, a “feel-good” film. Quite the opposite in fact; you may, as a viewer, find yourself feeling low when it’s over, scratching your head and wondering what exactly just happened.

But here’s what it is: smart. So while I didn’t like the film, I couldn’t help but respect it.

The original article is featured in the Books section of Literary Traveler!

The Best of the Best of 2011: A List

December 24, 2011 in American literature, children's literature, Contemporary Literature, Fantasy Literature, Literary Books 2011, New Writers

Artwork by Dan Park

Jeffrey Eugenides, Artwork by Dan Park

There are a heck of a lot of “Best of 2011″ lists coming out this week. There’s the best music, the best films, and, of course, the best books. But with so many “best of” lists, put out by practically every blog, magazine, and newspaper around, it’s hard to tell which books really came out on top.

But fear not! After combing through some well respected sources’ “best of” lists, it was clear which books were the real winners. The lists consulted included those compiled by Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review, National Public Radio, Barnes & Noble, The Economist, Paste Magazine, Slate Magazine, Goodreads, the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Public Library, The New Republic, Amazon, The Horn Book, Esquire, and The New York Times.

There were, of course, books that made it onto just one or two lists, but to really be the best of the year, a book’s got to make a bigger splash than that. Therefore, the books that made it onto three or more of these lists are posted below on this compilation of what may as well be called “The Best of the Best Books of 2011″:

The Top 15 Fiction Books:
1. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
4. Open City by Teju Cole
5. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
6. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
7. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
9. The Submission by Amy Waldman
10. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
11. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
12. The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
13. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
14. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
15. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Top 13 Nonfiction Books:
1. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
2. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
3. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
4. Bossypants by Tina Fey
5. Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III
6. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
7. Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson
8. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
9. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
10. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
11. Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
12. 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
13. Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

The Top 11 Young Adult Books:
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
5. Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
6. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
7. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
8. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
9. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
11. Chime by Franny Billingsley

The clear favorite of critics is The Marriage Plot, which shows up on seven different lists. Additionally, 1Q84, Divergent, and Blood, Bones, and Butter all made it onto six. It goes to show how diverse readers’ (and editors’) tastes are across America. Clearly, though, there’s still common ground, and if you’re looking for a good book to devour this holiday season, chances are you’ll find plenty of worthwhile material on this list.

The National Book Awards Go Viral

November 16, 2011 in American literature, Literary Books 2011, Literary News

National Book AwardThe National Book Awards are a pretty big deal. They may not be as publicized as the Grammys or as glamorous as the Oscars, but on the American literary scene, there are few greater honors.

The National Book Award is given to writers by writers, recognizing the best of American literature since 1950. This coveted award has advanced the careers of both emerging and established authors, and many past winners have become staples of American literature, including William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Pynchon, Rachel Carson, and William Carlos Williams – just to name a few.

Each year, the National Book Foundation receives many entries, but to be eligible, a book must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year; no entry can be self-published. This year, 1,223 books were submitted to the foundation, which were then narrowed down to only twenty finalists, or five finalists per category: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Judging each category are five reputable authors who are doing great work in their genre, and who are sometimes past finalists or winners themselves.

Although there has always been a ceremony to announce the winners of the award, for the first time in history, the 2011 award ceremony will be webcast live from New York City tonight at 8 pm EST.  There is no registration necessary: the broadcast will be featured on the foundation’s homepage, www.nationalbook.org. Here viewers can watch, in real time, the winners in each of the four categories accept their awards, and see Mitchell Kaplan (co-founder of Miami Book Fair International) and John Ashbery (National Book Award and Pulitzer-winning poet)  receive their lifetime achievement awards. If that’s not exciting enough, the host of the event will be John Lithgow, a talented author, actor, and musician who has written ten books and acted in films and television shows such as Dexter, the Shrek franchise, Terms of Endearment, and Dreamgirls.

This year boasts an incredibly talented group of finalists, all of whom are after the hefty $10,000 prize, a bronze sculpture, and the respect of writers and readers all over the country. These finalists are:

For Fiction:

–       Andrew Krivak,  HE SOJOURN (Bellevue Literary Press)
–       Téa Obreht, THE TIGER’S WIFE (Random House)
–       Julie Otsuka, THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC (Alfred A. Knopf)
–       Edith Pearlman, BINOCULAR VISION (Lookout Books)
–       Jesmyn Ward, SALVAGE THE BONES (Bloomsbury USA)

For Nonfiction:

–       Deborah Baker, THE CONVERT: A TALE OF EXILE AND EXTREMISM (Graywolf Press)
–       Mary Gabriel, LOVE AND CAPITAL: KARL AND JENNY MARX AND THE BIRTH OF A REVOLUTION (Little, Brown, and Company)
–       Stephen Greenblatt, THE SWERVE: HOW THE WORLD BECAME MODERN (W.W. Norton)
–       Manning Marable, MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION (Viking Press)
–       Lauren Redniss, RADIOACTIVE: MARIE & PIERRE CURIE, A TALE OF LOVE AND FALLOUT (It Books)

For Poetry:

–       Nikky Finney, HEAD OFF & SPLIT (TriQuarterly)
–       Yusef Komunyakaa, THE CHAMELEON COUCH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
–       Carl Phillips, DOUBLE SHADOW (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
–       Adrienne Rich, TONIGHT NO POETRY WILL SERVE: POEMS 2007-2010 (W.W. Norton)
–       Bruce Smith, DEVOTIONS (University of Chicago Press)

For Young People’s Literature:

–       Franny Billingsley, CHIME (Dial Books)
–       Debby Dahl Edwardson, MY NAME IS NOT EASY (Marshall Cavendish)
–       Thanhha Lai,  INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN (Harper)
–       Albert, Marrin, FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEEP: THE TRIANGLE FIRE AND ITS LEGACY (Alfred A. Knopf)
–       Gary D. Schmidt, OKAY FOR NOW (Clarion Books)

Tune in to the live feed now to see which four finalists walk away with the prize!

Happy Key West Friday! Why Don't You Have A Drink?

November 4, 2011 in American literature, Classic Writers, Cocktails Inspired by Literature, Hemingway in Key West, Key West Travel, Recipes, Travel Writers

Hemingway drinks in the Plaza Del Gastillo, July 1959.


Today’s edition of Key West Friday is going to focus on something very near and dear to my own heart: literary cocktails. More specifically, I want to talk about one of the greatest mixologists of the 20th century—I’m speaking of Ernest Hemingway, of course—and his personal creations.

Though some may think of Hemingway as just another author you had to read in high school, overlooking Hemingway’s massive influence on American culture, masculinity, and writing would be a sorry mistake. Even if we leave aside his incredible literary talents, Hemingway was far more than simply a writer. He was a celebrity before we truly had celebrities; he single-handedly defined a generation in a way that few authors have since. While his perpetually disillusioned anti-heroes certainly played a role in capturing and symbolically creating the post-war American, (Hemingway’s case is, I happen to believe, one of those chicken-or-the-egg issues. Did he simply record what he saw, and capture the disenchanted drifting of many young men, or did his novels contribute to a certain image of the American identity that was beginning to coalesce? I imagine it was a bit of both) his actual person was just as instrumental in the process. He was, according to those that knew him, a force of nature.

He let loose his forceful personality during his time in Key West, where he lived for several years before relocating to Cuba. During this time, Hemingway did little to reel in his natural vivaciousness, and found himself what PBS’s Michael Palin describes as “Hemingway’s wild adventures:”

In a rain-splattered Key West street, he duked it out with Wallace Stevens after the poet had insulted him. In his beloved boat, Pilar, he battled man-sized fish (managing to shoot himself in both legs while trying to gaff one shark). Hemingway belted back drinks at Sloppy Joe’s, a speakeasy that went legal after Prohibition ended. While at his favorite watering hole, he befriended a young journalist named Martha Gellhorn, who traveled with him to Spain to cover the civil war there. Eventually, she would become his third wife.

As Palin makes clear, these episodes were often fueled by alcohol. But what kind of alcohol?

Here we have to turn to another source. According to the wonderful site Codex 99, in 1937, Hemingway created a drink that Charles Barker later included in his book The Gentleman’s Companion. Hemingway called it a “picker-upper” but it went down in history as “Death in the Gulf Stream.” Despite the morose name, the actual mix sounds rather delicious. For those of you interested in celebrating Key West Friday at home, here’s the recipe for Hemingway’s scary little cocktail:

2 oz. Lucas Bols Oude Genever
4 dashes Angostura
1 lime
Add crushed ice to a thin tumbler. Lace the ice with 4 dashes of Angostura and add the juice and crushed peel of 1 lime. Nearly fill the tumbler with Genever.

Of course, you can always go the traditional route and make yourself a mojito, but we think this Death sounds much more impressive. Happy drinking.

Literary Traveler Talks to Bill Bryson

October 27, 2011 in American literature, Behind The Article, Bill Bryson, British literature, Contemporary Literature, Uncategorized

There are few writers who can so seamlessly marry information with a strongly absurdest sense of humor. Bill Bryson is one of those rare authors. Unlike the dry, factual essayists we read in school, Bryson’s books are not only sidesplittingly funny, but also deeply authoritative and observant.

As you might be able to tell, we have been reading Bryson for years, and admiring his singular style and voice. From the first book we picked up on the Appalachian Trail, the 1998 A Walk in the Woods to his wildly popular A Short History of Nearly Everything.

In 2010, while traveling across the Atlantic on the Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Literary Traveler got to meet the famous writer. Bill was taking the cruise as a special guest for their Liners & Literature series. During this time, he had a few duties: relax, enjoy himself, and speak to the other passengers about his impressive career, his thoughts on Britain, and his unique views on writing and reading.

“Everybody likes books that are about them,” he observed during our interview. “My book about growing up in Iowa seemed to really resonate with Americans. The other book that did very well in America was A Walk in the Woods… but the book that sold in Britain was Notes on a Small Island. I suppose it’s natural that people are most attracted to something about them.”

He also revealed the genesis of his writing career. “My dad had a great collection of hardback books from the 1930s and 40s, and he had a lot of books by PG Wodehouse. He had books by people like James Thurgood, Robert Benchley, and S.J. Perelman—four really, really funny writers. I picked up these books when I was thirteen and fell in love with the idea of being able to use language as a way of making people laugh.”

To learn more about Bill Bryson, take a few minutes to watch our full interview with the author, shot on board the Queen Mary 2. Covering everything from baseball to the Brits, it’s the perfect way to get to know one of the most beloved humor writers living today. See the clip at Literary Traveler TV here.

Behind The Article: Eugene O'Neill's Tao House

May 20, 2011 in Behind The Article, San Francisco Travel

Eugene O'Neill's Tao House Study | Photo courtesy of Victor Walsh

American playwright and Nobel laureate Eugene O’Neill endured certain themes in his life and work. O’Neill’s depression and alcoholism may have provided him insight into the human condition and as Victor Walsh, author of our latest article calls it, our “inner struggle.” But suffering, we learn here, has a foil. O’Neill made a sanctuary at San Francisco’s Tao House in the care of his abiding partner Carlotta, thus writing some of literature’s most lasting dramas. Literary Traveler Editor-at-Large Jennifer Ciotta and Walsh discuss:

Literary Traveler: Eugene O’Neill suffered greatly in his life as you discuss in your article. Why do you think it’s a common theme for the literary greats to endure great suffering (alcoholism, suicide, drug addiction, etc.)? Do you think it makes them better writers?

Victor A. Walsh: Suffering is part of the human condition. Writers suffer no more, no less than others. O’Neill once said that he could continue to be a drunk or become a writer. He chose the latter, and it rescued him from a self-destructive life and most likely early death. It gave him a purpose, direction.

Great personal suffering does not make better writers. It can, however, provide them with new insights or ways to tell a story. Writing is not an act of sudden inspiration; rather, it flows from struggle, from painstaking, unrelenting commitment. Look at O’Neill’s life at Tao House. He wrote from four to five hours every morning without exception, undisturbed and alone in the silence of his upstairs study. He mulled over his manuscripts; he lived and relived them, edited and revised them with Carlotta’s assistance.

O’Neill came of age when western literature was in the throes of revolutionary change due to the shattering impact of modern urban-industrial and cultural changes. Since the time of Chekhov, Strindberg, Nietzsche, Conrad and Dostoevsky, all of whom O’Neill read intensely, the main currents of European and American literature have dealt with victims, not heroes; with mankind’s inner struggle over identity and place.

LT: Without Carlotta and her influence, would O’Neill have had the literary success he did?

VW: I doubt it. As Carlotta once put it, “I did everything but write the plays.” She was his protectress, the guardian of his creative life at Tao House. O’Neill was enormously dependent upon her. He refers to her as his “mother and wife, and mistress and friend — And collaborator!” in his dedication to Mourning Becomes Electra.

The center of the marriage at Tao House was O’Neill’s writing. Carlotta saw in Eugene the potential for greatness. That is what drew her to him — their unbreakable bond even after the collapse of their marriage. The actor Charlie Chaplin, who married O’Neill’s daughter Oona, once remarked that Carlotta had “to be all sufficient to a man of genius, to cut him off from everybody and minister to his genius,….”

LT: Have you heard reports of O’Neill haunting Tao House? It seems O’Neill might have left a part of his soul there because he loved Tao House so much.

VW: Travis Bogard tells an interesting story about the time he spent alone at Tao House waiting for friends whose arrival had been delayed by a late afternoon storm blowing down the San Ramon Valley. The house and grounds darkened rapidly, and Bogard built a fire in the living room fireplace. The house, he said, “was not haunted. Whatever ghosts there were — the ghosts of the four haunted Tyrones — had left the house when its master did.”

“What I found,” he continued, “is hard to describe — an extraordinary silence for one thing, and I felt a sense of protection, as if the house were a caretaker, guarding my well being,…”

Tao House is a special place. Although not haunted by O’Neill’s presence, it connects us to his time. Enclosed by high white brick walls on a remote hilltop outcrop, it tells us who O’Neill was: a man who sought refuge from the din of modern life, who found his ‘final harbor’ where could at last face his own ghosts.

Please read Victor Walsh’s article: Tao House, Eugene O’Neill’s “Final Harbor”.

by

Travel Deals to Satisfy your Wandering Mind

August 18, 2010 in budget travel, lorraine hotel memphis, martin luther king, memphis tennessee travel, National Civil Rights Museum, Travel, travel deals

Day 10 of this road trip across the country and I find myself in the center of Memphis, Tennessee.  I spent over twelve hours in the car yesterday and drove through 5 states; it was liberating and quite astonishing.  I am sure I am not the first person to do such a thing, but I never really thought that I would travel that much in a twelve-hour period.

I am currently sitting beneath the balcony where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  The sun shines down upon me on a very different era of this nation; our African-American president, Barack Obama can attest to that.  He plainly demonstrates the advancement of Black Americans everywhere and the growth of our country as a whole.

I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel, the exact location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot.  Admission was $13 dollars and for an extra $2, I purchased the audio tour, which I highly recommend.  It clearly guided me through the museum and allowed me to stop or pause when I wanted to read further into what they were speaking about. The museum offered a great display of our nation’s struggles with civil equality.  Displays of segregation, the sit-ins, the riots, the protests, the lynchings, the KKK, the marches–all this and more was made visible, present.  Both the desire and willingness African-Americans had to fight for our country and the terrible reality of our history of oppression were prominent throughout the museum.  I was overwhelmingly impressed with this museum and am so happy that we asked Camille, a local, for her recommendations.

Before walking to the museum, we ate brunch at a local hotspot on the corner of Second Street and Union Ave: Cockados.  A quaint, welcoming restaurant that offers bottomless mud coffee and an amazingly decadent dish of bananas and peanut butter sandwiched between two French toast drizzled with maple syrup, whipped cream and blueberries.  Cockados is a great way to welcome yourself to Memphis.  This is also where I received the museum recommendation–as opposed to going to Graceland.  Clearly, we took their recommendations and are 100% happy with our choice.  I was very impressed with Memphis and had a great time there.  After the museum and before getting back into the car, we took a stroll down Beale street and sat outside with our large beers, live music and 7-year-old street performers.  Memphis was not only beautiful, it was also rich with history and culture.  But enough for today.  The road still stretches in front of us, so we head north… safe travels.

Exploring The Amazon With Some Help From Ayahuasca

July 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Photo by Kelly Jean EganI’ve always thought that one of the most wonderful things about traveling is how it pushes us to new experiences, to try things we never could have predicted we would do.  As cliche as it may sound, travel does broaden one’s horizons; it opens the mind to new traditions, new cultures, new people.

In our newest feature article, author Kelly Jean Egan journeys to South America, where she does something she had never done before: ayahuasca.  Ayahuasca (which literally means “rope of the dead” or “vine of the soul”) is a drug popular with writers and thrill-seekers.  Traditionally, it is taken to clear the mind and purge the body.  Peru has become the center of ayahuasca tourism – in which people from other cultures take part in the ritual ingestion of the plant-based drug – and this is where Egan goes to try the trip.

Though you will have to read our article to find out how it all ends for Egan, the idea of drug tourism is actually a rather interesting one.  Here in the United States, drugs are something of a fascination – yet they are depicted in movies and books as at once both dangerous and glamorous (think Scarface).  However, in many cultures, drugs play an important part in religious rituals.  For some, smoking peyote or ingesting ayahuasca is not a rebellious act – it’s a spiritual one.  We’re not going to claim that drugs are good, but to engage in an ancient ritual, and to expand one’s horizons while traveling – well that can be good, even if it is through means illegal in our home countries.

And on a far lesser note, I was speaking yesterday with my brother, who had just returned from a trip to Sweden.  While all of his stories were interesting, I was particularly surprised to hear this: “I had the best rum of my life.  It was illegal.”  Curious as to why one type of liquor would be illegal, I pursued the topic a little.  It turns out that U.S. citizens are currently barred from drinking Cuban liquor – even while abroad in countries where trade embargo does not apply.  My baby brother had broken the law!  And according to his account, he loved it.

As demonstrated by my sibling’s experience and by Kelly Jean Egan’s trip, travel can sometimes lead us into unexpected places, both within the outer world and within.  It can take us into jungles and up to the top of the world, but it can also help us delve into the innermost parts of our own minds.  To learn more about ayahuasca tourism, please check out Egan’s piece: Peruvian Amazon Ayahuasca’s Influence on Great Writers.

Edith Wharton's Morocco: A Literary Trip Through Fez

May 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Photograph from FreeDigitalPhotos.netIn high school, my favorite teacher, Miss Reynolds, once told our class that F. Scott Fitzgerald was famous for writing “the perfect sentence.”  I knew immediately what she meant.  While some authors are masters of the paragraph, and others shine most strongly with a single phrase, Fitzgerald’s majesty lay between two periods.  He has the rare ability to capture an image – or a feeling – completely within these bounds of punctuation.  Unlike Hemingway, Fitzgerald’s writing tends more towards prolix than terse, yet it is possible to get a real feel for his writing by reading just one of his immaculately-crafted sentences.

I have always felt that Edith Wharton came from the F. Scott Fitzgerald school of writing.  Like Fitzgerald, Wharton uses words to the utmost advantage; she does not let the reader guess at her meaning, but rather paints with phrases, colors and tints our view with her writing.  She has the ability to transport a reader back in time, to the Age of Innocence, or move us through place, to the winding streets of Morocco.

In our newest feature article, writer Inka Piegsa-Quischotte travels through Fez, searching not only for the Morocco of Wharton’s description, but also for a house. She is looking to purchase a mini-palace; a burrow of tiny bedrooms and storage spaces that she can call home.  Like me, Piegsa-Quischotte has been seduced by Wharton’s perfect sentences and her ability to conjure up an entire world through a single phrase.  Clip-clopping on the back of a mule through the covered alleys and tented streets, Piegsa-Quischotte can’t help but remember the poetry of Wharton’s language, and the aptness of her descriptions.

This week, join us in Morocco, where we ride on colorful saddles and smell the many scents of Fez in Pink Saddles & Djellabas, Edith Wharton’s Fez In Morocco. Allow yourself to be guided by Piegsa-Quischotte and her new-found friends as they work their way through a foreign land, searching for beauty and something far more lasting: a room of one’s own.

Long, Strange Trip: Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain

March 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

It sePhotograph by Bryan Sherwoodems that March is monastery month here at Literary Traveler.  With the weather starting to warm ever so slightly, there is a breath of spring in the air, which has always felt more like renewal to me than any January 1st resolution.

But with renewal also comes return, and that is exactly what William Caverlee does in our newest feature article.  Caverlee writes about a trip he took almost thirty years ago to the Gethsemani Trappist monastery near the aptly named Bardstown, Kentucky.  He samples life at the monastery, and finds himself a little closer to understanding the works of Thomas Merton.

Merton spent much of his life traveling, searching for a place that felt right.  On December 13th, 1941, Merton was accepted into the monastery as a postulant.  It is here that Merton wrote his autobiography at the age of 31.  The Seven Storey Mountain went on to become one of the most important Christian books of the century, a fact that Caverlee does not dwell upon.  The strongest memory Caverlee imparts centers around the friendly monks and the incongruousness of an old-world institution dropped into modern America.  Yet this is the beauty of our unique culture: the comfortable mixture of old traditions, kept alive by the faithful, and the seductive pull of technology and progress.

Join us in marveling at the wonderful strangeness of the American landscape and reveling in the continual process of return and renewal by checking out Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain at the Abbey of Gethsemani.