Culture – The lockdown librarian – part 3 – Luxembourg Times

Posted: April 11, 2020 at 7:33 pm

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Thought you'd read it all? The Luxembourg Times asked its culture squad to each pick five favourite books. Merel Miedema weighed in with ways to look at literature in multiples while locked down in Amsterdam.

Book pairings to show off with once you can meet up with your friends again:

Circe by Madeline Miller, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and The Penelopeiad by Margaret Atwood:

If you love Greek myth but are bored with the largely male-dominated narrative, these three books are perfect for you. In Circe, the eponymous heroine is exiled on an island of her own after her powers are found out by the Gods. From her island, she interacts with crucial points in Greek mythology and subverts their meaning. The Silence of the Girls deals with the Trojan War from a captured royals perspective and offers some heart-breaking insights into the lives of slaves in ancient times. Atwoods Penelopeiad shows an interesting and humorous side of Penelopes experience during her husbands absence and return. Whether read together or not, these three novels form fresh female perspectives on well-known classics.

Neil Gaimans The Sandman and Batman: Knightfall by DC Comics:

Perfect for when you have some (or a lot) of time on your hands, both of these chronicles make use of different visual artists in elaborate story lines with interesting and colourful casts. The Sandman tells the story of Dream, recently escaped from captivity, and his six siblings; Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny. Batman: Knightfall is a crucial story arc within the Batman world, dealing with the playboy-turned-vigilantes burnout and eventual change of strategy. Beautiful, violent and sometimes outright shocking, these stories will keep you captivated long after you finish reading.

The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl and Isaac Asimovs The Complete Stories:

To cleanse your palate and refresh your perspective in between epic tomes, try reading a short story from either one of these masters of the art form. Dahls stories often have a cruel streak and are always a delight. Whether he writes about spousal murder or neglect, accidentally turning your baby into a monster or exacting the perfect revenge, his stories are both entertaining and hilarious. Aasimovs stories, on the other hand, are not only beautiful insights into the time in which they were written (where space travel is possible but women are mostly still only wives or secretaries), but also make their readers think about more existential questions.

David Mitchells Cloud Atlas and Emile Zolas Germinal:

If bleak is what you are looking for, look no further than Zola. His novel on the lives and conditions of French mineworkers in 1860s France is an incredible journey of hopelessness and despair, but also of insight and beauty. It is paired here with another challenging but more future-oriented novel. Cloud Atlas is disorienting at first and might confuse at the start, but understanding will follow as you move further along the nested storyline. Both dystopian (with Germinal more rooted in reality than CloudAtlas) and simultaneously tentatively hopeful, these two novels belong together not so much because they share a genre or subject matter but more because they show the value of human connections throughout time and hardships.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov:

Pairing these two novels together is an uneasy move, and reading them both will most likely leave you with an uneasy feeling, too. Yanagiharas novel is a stunning and excruciating tale of friendship, love, and trauma. Juxtaposed as it is here with Nabokovs more light-hearted and satirical treatment of a similar subject, it will hopefully raise some interesting questions not only about the subject matter of both works, but also about the nature of art and its different applications in the processing of human trauma and emotion. These novels, and especially the combination of the two, are not for the faint of heart and are anything but escapist, but anyone who can make it through both will have a lot to think about. Keep your tissues close by.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen:

This is one for the die-hards. Described as the archetypal Goth novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho is long, hard to read and complicated. You will want to throw it out the window several times during reading. Dont, because your reward will be a far better understanding of Northanger Abbey (and the Gothic genre). Only once youve read the first novel will Catherine Morlands ill-informed jumps to conclusion in the second make real sense and be much funnier. Make a pot of tea (or open a bottle of wine), supply yourself with plenty of biscuits, and sit yourself down for a truly challenging and rewarding adventure.

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Culture - The lockdown librarian - part 3 - Luxembourg Times

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