Interest in Dystopian Fiction Surges

By Carolyn Dowd and George Martinez

Following the November election, George Orwell’s 1984 became an instant best-selling novel. It is one among a number of 20th Century dystopian novels making a resurgence in popularity recently. A bitterly contested American election and subsequent change in governing style may have prompted some to seek out fictionalized accounts of dystopian realities, as an odd form of comfort.

1984

What is dystopian fiction?  Contrary to utopian fictions, in which an author projects an ideal worldview of humanity, dystopian fictions offer a darker vision of human behavior, where desired societal norms are turned on their heads. Thus, a society might led not by a beneficent, wise and humane ruler, but an immature, inhumane, simple-minded fool.

In 1984, Winston Smith lives under the intolerable, crippling and constant scrutiny of the ironically named ruler of Oceana, Big Brother. His attempts to find individual freedom within such a society forms the main drama of the novel.

Other examples of dystopian fiction include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,  Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Want to dig further into our collection of dystopian fiction? Here’s a list:

handmaids taleThe Road by Cormac McCarthy

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

The Stand by Stephen King

V For Vendetta by Alan Moore

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Blindness by José Saramago

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

 

 


Celebrate Black History Month with African American Read-In at Ekstrom Library

On Monday, February 8, words of African American authors will come to life as volunteers gather to read their written works out loud at the 27th Annual African American Read-In.

Attendees will gather in Ekstrom Library’s newly renovated First Floor East, in the Learning Commons, under the Cardinal Birds, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the event.

“The requirements for what may be read, or by which authors, are very broad,” said Joan D’Antoni, U of L professor of English Composition. “Participants can read books, poetry, articles, or anything – the only requirement is that the author be African American.”new image

Every 20 minutes or so, attendees will get the chance to win a free book by an African American author. Organizers plan to give 15-20 books away.

“The book give away is unique to our read-in,” said D’Antoni.

The University of Louisville has hosted a read-in since it was first established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1990; it has been hosted by Ekstrom Library for the past 10 years. Now international in scope, the read-in celebrates Black History Month in February with a focus on literacy; the NCTE encourages schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, and other community groups to host and coordinate the read-in events.

“People who come to the read-in are really attentive,” said Fannie Cox, an Outreach and Reference Librarian and member of the Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality (CODRE). “They will stop and listen and they are amazed to be getting books.”

Anyone interested in reading at the event should contact Joan D’Antoni at joan.dantoni@louisville.edu.

The event is co-sponsored by the University Libraries and the U of L Department of English.


Readers and Writers Unite at the Kentucky Women’s Book Festival

KWBFlogoThe Kentucky Women’s Book Festival endeavors to foster a deeper interest in Kentucky women writers and encourage beginninGirl-in-Blue-Beretg writers to continue their work and strive to grow with each new venture.  Kentucky writers include those born in Kentucky but now living elsewhere, if they wish to be identified as Kentuckians, as well as those who, although not born here have made Kentucky home.

The Kentucky Women’s Book Festival is held on the 3rd Saturday of May. This year it marks the 8th annual festival and will be on May 17, 2014 in the Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville. The event is free and open to all. If you would like to purchase a lunch, please call the Women’s Center  by May 13 (502) 852-8976 by May 13. (The lunch is $16 and catered by Masterson’s. Those who do not wish to purchase a lunch may still come to the reading.)

Doors open at 9:00 with refreshments and discussion, then the speakers begin in the Elaine Chao Auditorium at 9:30 with George Ella Lyon who will  discuss and read from her new book of poetry: Many-Storied House, followed by Bobbie Ann Mason who will read from her latest novel: The Girl in the Blue Beret. There are three consecutive morning sessions: Sonja de Vries, a poet; Alison Atlee, an author; and Jannene Winstead & Leborah the-fountain-of-st-james-courtGoodwin who have cnext-time-you-see-meompiled a cookbook with a bit of Louisville history: Recipes and recollections: from the houses Samuel M. Plato Built. Holly Goddard Jones will do a lunchtime reading from her novel The Next Time You See Me. After lunch is a presentation by Sena Jeter Naslund entitled “Knowing the Self Through Knowing the Other,” which will feature the research for her latest novel The Fountain of St. James Court; or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, then two more consecutive sessions: Mariam Williams will discuss “Black Arts Movement Pride, Walker’s Womanism and Hillbilly Sisterhood: the African American Women’s Literary Series in the 1990s” and Playwrights Nancy Gall-Clayton & Kathi E. B. Wlllis will present “When Characters Speak.”

Book purchase and signing will be available throughout the day. For more information, see the KWBF website or read about it in the Women’s Center’s spring 2014 newsletter. The festival ends at 3:30.


Ray Bradbury and Edgar Rice Burroughs

At the time of Ray Bradbury’s death last week, I had just read something by him for the first time in decades: his short reflection called “Take Me Home” in the Sci Fi-themed special double issue of The New Yorker (88(16): 66, June 4-11, 2012).

Reading his nostalgic piece invoked my own fond memories of the enthusiastic Junior High English teacher who first introduced me to Bradbury’s work. It also, along with the spate of obituaries and tributes that followed that last published work, highlighted some connections between Bradbury’s influences and my current profession.

Ray Bradbury championed libraries, to which he attributes his education as a writer. His “How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated from Libraries or, Thoughts from a Chap Who Landed on the Moon in 1932” (Wilson Library Bulletin 45(9): 842-851, May 1971) is stored in UofL Libraries’ Robotic Retrieval System.

In addition to the role libraries played in his formation as a writer, Bradbury was influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So was my colleague George McWhorter, who established the Nell Dismukes McWhorter Memorial Collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the largest institutional collection of Burroughs materials in the world, in the Special Collections department at UofL’s Ekstrom Library. McWhorter confirms that the collection includes letters from Bradbury.

Bradbury is not the only writer to acknowledge his debt to Burroughs. The Library of America has published two Burroughs titles, with introductions by Junot Díaz and Thomas Mallon; Michael Chabon contributed to the screenplay for the recent film John Carter, based on a story by Burroughs. The U.S. Postal Service is celebrating the centennial of Burroughs’ publications by issuing a Forever stamp of him later this summer.


A little Charles Bukowski race track poetry

Here’s a little poetry for you in honor of the Kentucky Derby. Go, baby, go!

Bukowski, Charles :  a day at the oak tree meet
[from Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (1972), Black Sparrow Press ]

Filet’s Rule, the 12 horse around 12 to one, 
that was the first race, they had a different 
janitor in the men’s room, and I didn’t have the 
2nd race either, Bold Courage, around 19 to one, 
my Kentucky Lark got a dead ride from the boy 
who stood up in the saddle all the way, which is 
hardly a way to ride a 2 to one shot, …

[Read the rest of the poem in Literature Online]