Thursday, June 9, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: June 9-11

Welcome to the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase!

This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.

How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"? Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure. YA literature may fit into this category, but if your blog focuses primarily on non-literary YA, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance, or chick lit, you may prefer to join the blog hop at Crazy-for-books that is open to book blogs of all kinds.

Instructions for entering the Literary Blog Hop:

1. Grab the code for the Button.

Literary Blog Hop

2. Answer the following prompt on your blog.
(Suggestions for future prompts? Email to them us at

What other outside influences affect your reading experience? Do you think these influences enhance or detract from the experience?.

Our answer comes from Meagan:
First off let me confess that I made this question up because I wanted to answer it. I don't know if that counts as cheating or what but my last Blog Hop post focused on how the "status" of a book (e.g. Is it a bestseller? Is it a classic? etc.) affected my opinion of it and I really liked that discussion so it was on my mind when I had an experience that made we want to continue it, but in a slightly different direction.

So we all know that no man is an island, and I think the same idea applies to books--they just don't exist in a vacuum. Each reader has experiences, prejudices, and beliefs to bring to the table. (Wow, how many mixed metaphors can I include in one sentence?) Like we discussed earlier this year, a book's status can affect our reading, and recommendations, cultural phenomena, social issues, and previous works by the author are just a few of the other influences I find often playing a part in my reading experience.

Sometimes these influences detract--like if a book is talked up so much by a friend that by the time I read it its reputation overshadows it in actuality and I finish it feeling disappointed in a way that I might not have had I stumbled across it on my own with no other references. Sometimes these influences enhance. I know I've mentioned many times before how much I enjoy reading about WWI, and both the knowledge I have of the War from previous reading, and the personal experiences I've had walking many of the battle fields and visiting countless memorials make my experience with each new read that much richer.

Obviously the outside influences on a book are rarely cut and dried, and sometimes the variety of influences that both enhance and detract color the reading experience in strange and unexpected ways.

For example:

My family has a mother-daughter book group where we each take a turn choosing a book to read and plan a relevant activity to discuss it. Last month my little sister chose The Secret Garden, a book I hadn't read in years and years. We had to have our meeting early in the month so I hadn't finished the book (or honestly even started it) and for the activity we watched the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame version of the film (mostly because it has a delicious cameo from a very young Colin Firth). It was a passable adaptation and followed the story line fairly well except for perhaps five minutes of film depicting the children when they've grown up (enter Colin Firth as Colin). It's a nice gesture to round out the story in the way the book does not, but I found it unexpectedly and profoundly affected my experience when I actually read the book later in the month.

The scene shows Mary driving back to Misselthwaite Manor. She's dressed in a WWI uniform with a field nurse band encircling her arm. The makes her way to the Secret Garden where she meets a delighted Ben Weatherstaff who has been tending the garden during the war. He laments the loss of Dickon who was killed in action in the Argonne Forest and Mary replies, "If Dickon had to die, he would have chosen a place where there were green and growing things." They are then joined by a grown Colin dressed in an officer's uniform and walking with a cane and limp from a shrapnel wound. He proposes, she accepts, and the movie ends with a sun-drenched panorama of the garden.

Sounds lovely, right? It's nice to know what happens after a "Happily Ever After", right? I'm not so sure.

On a completely superficial note, I always wanted Mary to end up with Dickon (though Colin didn't age half-bad), so that was a little disappointing. However, the WWI elements were nothing less than heartbreaking to me. As I read about these happy, innocent children, I couldn't help but mourn the future before them. And having walked through the still-scarred Argonne and seeing photographs of the wasteland it was during the war Mary's naive comment adds another layer of pain to Dickon's last moments. But on the other hand, imagining the experiences they would have later in life made their pure joy in tending the garden that much sweeter and the garden became in my mind even more of a blessing than it is depicted in the novel.

The Secret Garden was published serially in 1910 and in novel form the next year, so Burnett wouldn't have had any notion of what was shortly to happen to the world, yet the influence of one film adaptation, my own interest in and experience with early 20th century history dramatically changed my experience reading it. I'm still not sure if I liked these influences, but they are definitely something to think about.

So what do you think about these outside influences?

3. Add your link to the Linky List below.Happy Hopping!

*PLEASE NOTE: if you do not answer the question and link back to The Blue Bookcase in a post on your blog, you will be removed from the Linky list.