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Literary Traveler to Bring Writers’ Journeys to Television

May 4, 2013 in American Authors, American literature, announcements, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Literary News, Travel, Travel to New York City


Literary Traveler is excited to announce that we are turning our much-loved website into a series for television. We are passionate about the stories we tell, of authors’ lives and the places that inspire them.

Literary Traveler, the series, will be a new thirty-minute program that follows in the footsteps of classic and modern writers, to explore the inspiring places connected to literature’s most popular and acclaimed works, and to make meaning of the lives, struggles and triumphs of famous authors.

These unique stories are presented by visiting places important to the writer, and by taking unique journeys related to that writer’s life, revealing their experiences and inspirations. Each episode will include interviews with experts, popular writers and academic scholars on the writers profiled. We’ll highlight what the journey and places meant for each writer and discuss how viewers can visit locations featured in the program. We’ll also stop to explore interesting places along the way, immersing ourselves in the culture of a particular time and place, as we traverse the challenges the writers faced on their varied paths to success.

Currently we are producing a pilot episode.  We will go in search of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. An iconic novel of the Jazz Age, with settings that range from Louisville, to Long Island, to NYC, we believe that Gatsby provides the perfect entry point for our literary series.

In order to get this venture off the ground, we are taking the project to Kickstarter and asking our fellow literary travelers to help us finance this project. We are excited to launch our Kickstarter project this May, coincidentally corresponding with Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic. We want to take a deeper look behind this work and others, and at the places and experiences that contribute to each author’s journey.

Stay tuned for more on our Kickstarter and Literary Traveler, the series. Please join our mailing list to stay apprised of updates. And, as always, thank you for your support!

 

Liter-Etsy: A DIY Guide to Bookish Goods

January 24, 2013 in Art, Classic Literature, Pop Culture, Uncategorized

I have always loved stuff. I can’t explain it: I’m not materialistic, and I don’t own or desire name brands or designer goods. I just love stuff.  My friends (affectionately, I think) refer to me as a hoarder from time to time, though after watching an episode of Hoarders where a woman saved expired raw meat in her refrigerator’s ‘crisper’ drawer, I’m beginning to take offense. Plus, the stuff I love isn’t bad; it’s beautiful, it’s artsy, and it’s unique. As that under-the-sea hoarder, The Little Mermaid, once sang, “You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty…But who cares, no big deal, I want more.”

When I was younger I had many collections. Apart from the typical stuff (books, stamps, postcards), I collected spoons. You know, those baby-sized spoons gift shops sell in both ritzy hotels and highway rest stops?  You know, the ones your friends look at and say, “Who would ever buy that?”  Well, I did. You think I am kidding? For a while, my spoon collection was hung proudly on the wall of my parent’s dining room.

Most of the stuff I love, however, is handmade.  I’m not a visual artist, but I like to think that in another life I could have been. I did snatch up the “Best Female Artist” superlative back in high school, but I was one of only two students who elected to take an art class — and I was the only girl.  What little remains of my artistic ability, I invest into wine-laden craft nights and DIY art projects.

So it’s no surprise my artsy, DIY, stuff-loving brain nearly exploded with the advent of Etsy, a website dedicated to the production of small-batch, beautiful handmade goods (with a large vintage presence on the side). What’s best, it’s easy to find artists who are into the same wacky things I am. For instance, there’s practically a surplus of bookish knick knacks and literary ephemera. Whether you’re looking for a unique gift, adding to your personal stockpile, or squirreling away goods for a rainy day, Etsy has a multitude of crafty sellers who will amaze you with their bibliophilic whimsy.

I recently did a little online window shopping and handpicked some of my favorite literary Etsy shops. Each artist melds his or her love of literature with a passion for both crafts and fine arts, yielding a beautiful (often surprising) collection of items that anyone would be lucky to own. Why purchase your stuff anywhere else? Through Etsy, you can directly support the artists who made it…and apparently, just for you.

Check out my “favorites” for my personal picks. If all else fails, Etsy has some lovely decorative spoons that my twelve-year-old self would have been all over.

Obvious State

Writer and illustrator Evan Robertson’s shop offers original illustrations, posters and prints with a literary slant. He believes that “the best thing about paperbacks (apart from the smell, of course) is that when a little jewel of a sentence grabs you, you can underline it.”  His posters, depicting his own artwork alongside quotes from literature offer a unique way to underline – by hanging it on your wall as art.  The 32 gorgeous black and white designs featured on Etsy include the words of authors ranging from William Shakespeare to Vladimir Nabokov, Jack London and Virginia Woolf.

Accessoreads

Anyone who knows me, or got as far as the title of this blog post, knows that I love a good pun, so right away I was drawn to this shop.  The owner, Lauren Davidson, offers unique on-trend brass cuff bracelets with literary edge.  Each is engraved with a classic quotation from the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickenson, among others.  The designs on each are beautifully rendered and connected with the artwork associated with the text.

Castle on the Hill

London-based artist, Jess Purser, creates gorgeous works using pages from classic books.  She predominantly offers ACEOs, which I recently learned stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals.  The works of art can be made from any medium (Purser paints on vintage book pages before mounting on card for durability).  The only requirement of an ACEO is its miniature size; 2.5” x 3.5” – the size of a standard sports trading card.  (Where was ACEO collecting when I was an artsy child in need of a hobby?)  Her book page canvas serves as a unique template for her art, which takes a variety of forms apart from ACEO.  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet bookmarks, Jane Austen greeting cards and French literature post cards, oh my!

Uneek Doll Designs

Artist Debbie Ritter came upon the idea for Uneek Dolls while creating inhabitants for a dollhouse her husband had built. Afterwards, she quickly realized that miniatures provided a way to create the authors and characters from classic literature that she loved so much.  Custom orders are accepted, but with such a wide selection of authors, historical figures and literary characters to choose from, I’d be surprised if there was anyone she missed!  From Edgar Allen Poe to Edna St.Vincent Millay.  Looking to score some brownie points with the book-loving child in your life? May I suggest a dollhouse Pemberley? I know where you can find a miniature Elizabeth Bennet ready to make it her home.

 

Fauxscar Nominee: Les Misérables

January 7, 2013 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, European Writers, Fauxscars, Film, French Authors, History, Literary Movies, Literature, Movies, Political History

Strictly speaking, Les Misérables is not a Literary Adaption; it’s based on the musical, not the Victor Hugo novel. The story has traveled far since it was first published in France. It’s always been a big, hulking phenomenon, and it’s always had its critics. What demolishes the criticism, however, is its emotional forcefulness. And the funny thing about the criticism of each successive adaption, is that it tends to focus on the new version’s faithfulness to the original, despite the fact that the novel was criticized at the time for being sentimental – unfaithful to reality itself. Flaubert deemed it “infantile” and Baudelaire privately called it “tasteless and inept.” But in the preface, Hugo outlined a social purpose for his book that was greater than literary accomplishment:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

In 1862 when Les Misérables was published, the American civil war was being fought over the emancipation of slaves. The noble hero of the book, Jean Valjean, is an ex-convict whose unnatural strength reveals his identity as a former galley slave. He is on the run for most of the film, trying to build a better life as a factory owner, and then stepping up to the role of adopted papa of the orphaned child Cosette. The film of Les Misérables, though based on the musical (it uses all the songs from the 1985 musical bar two) goes where the stage production cannot in portraying the misery of the poor peasants – and in this it rejoins the book. I’ve rarely seen a ‘costume’ production, where the cast is made to look as filthy and downtrodden as this. Most of the characters’ teeth are blackened – though I did notice that Hathaway’s angelic Fantine flashes a cleaner set than some of the lesser cast members. Also Helena Bonham Carter is allowed to get away with her usual steampunk, hallucinatory version of historical costume. This role finds her once again as a flouncy, amoral proprietress of a low dive establishment, even making sausages out of suspect bits of meat, just as she did in Sweeny Todd.

Aside from the comic filthiness of Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, there’s no getting around the sentimentality of the movie and its antecendents, the musical, the book, and numerous film adaptions. But because it’s a musical, a version of willing suspension of disbelief sets in. Call it, “willing suspension of cynical running commentary” (we’ll wait ‘til the movie’s out on Netflix to relax our standards on that). But it’s more than that. The movie packs real emotional weight, especially through the performances of the leads. No one could fail to be moved by Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.” While they’re delivering their soliloquys, the shots are trained on the characters’ faces – often from above, as if to capture the desperation and abandonment which makes them invoke a higher power. By the time Hathaway’s Fantine bows out of the film, she is a broken woman, shorn of her locks and her dignity; the camera does not flinch from describing the dirt and tears on her face.

Hugh Jackman is also a great, sympathetic lead as Jean Valjean, and Samantha Barks is a sad, forlorn Eponine.  Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried are fairly wooden, but as the fairy prince and princess characters, they don’t have much to do besides adorn the happy ending.

Overall ‘Les Miz’ works because of its great cast rather than originality – but really, who was looking for that? It manages to stay true to the form of the musical – and to the intentions of the book: to portray the victims of poverty. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of those soliloquys bag a few Oscars for the leads.