After six decades as a prominent print journal, Washington and Lee's acclaimed literary journal Shenandoah is available at shenandoahliterary.org. The digital version - Volume 62, Number 2, is now online. The homepage also includes a Poem of the Week, an Archive Feature of the Month, audio files of contributors reading their work, an essay on featured artist, William Dunlap; brief and extended reviews and a rotating series of 100 arresting quotations. Those seeking information about submissions, prizes and the publication's history - from Tom Wolfe through Flannery O'Connor and W. H. Auden up to Rita Dove and Charles Wright- will find a wealth of information on the site. Further links reveal a description of the WLU English Department's Internship in Literary Editing program, along with comments by both the winter 2013 interns and recent graduates. All aspects of the journal are interactive and invite reader comment. Finally, Shenandoah's blog "Snopes" will introduce provocative topics and encourage readers to engage in discussion. Bloggers will include staff members, interns and special guests.
For over half a century Shenandoah has been publishing splendid poems, stories, essays and reviews which display passionate understanding, formal accomplishment and serious mischief.
Founded in 1950 by a group of Washington and Lee University faculty and students, Shenandoah has achieved a wide reputation as one of the country's premier literary magazines. Work from the magazine's pages has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Poems, Best American Essays, Best American Spiritual Writing, The O'Henry Prize, New Stories from the South and The Pushcart Prize, as well as numerous other anthologies and quite literally thousands of collections by the original authors. Recent issues have featured Pulitzer winners Natasha Trethewey, Claudia Emerson and Ted Kooser, as well as fiction by James Lee Burke, George Singleton, Alyson Hagy, Chris Offutt, Bret Anthony Johnston and Pam Durban.
Such blog. Much Shenandoah. Wow.
If you are hip on the lingo you have probably encountered such syntax. If not, then I’d like to introduce you to Shibe Doge, the hottest meme in the ether. Memes, for the uninformed, are a mode of cultural imitation. In previous iterations, memes could be as simple as a hand gesture used in a friend-group. Modern usage of the term implies a certain level of technological involvement, i.e., the Internet meme. Imperative to the “memetic” genre, imitation functions as the most prevalent mode of transmission. A humorous photo or turn of phrase does not achieve honorary meme status until it can be applied to various situations in everyday life. Yet it sometimes seems like the current meme of choice is more like a soup du jour rather than a hearty entree. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it as it is placed in front of us.
Most memes find their beginnings on the sad corner of the Internet known as 4chan, where people are enabled by anonymity to post on various message boards and engage in discussion that is otherwise considered taboo. 4chan is where the rogue 4chan user finds a popular story or image and adopts it before posting it to their account on Reddit, another social media site. These websites can be considered cultural filters wherein memes have their origin, but are inspected for quality assurance purposes. At last an up-and-coming meme will find its way onto Tumblr where it will gain fame among the populace of adolescents who know their way around other social media forms such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Imgur. Once a meme reaches success on Tumblr, it is only a matter of time before the phrasing or the general idea of the meme becomes mainstream. This trickle-down process can last anywhere from a day to several months. Only when the meme achieves vocal imitation does it lose its momentum.
Memes feed the desire for instant gratification among the technologically obsessed generations currently rising to power. In the current day and age, we experience growth through our various obsessions with social media and by finding new and improved ways to communicate. This modern obsession makes me wonder about how we connect with literature. Perhaps memes are comparable to a past focus on poetry. For example, at an eighteenth-century party, whipping out Byron’s latest couplet would make you the most popular person in the room. In the same way, while reciting memes may be considered gauche in an everyday setting, we are expected to engage with them on an intellectual level. If a person lacks knowledge of the most recently popular meme, they are judged by others as nearly illiterate Luddites.
The Internet is almost a living entity. It shifts and changes every hour, every second, and to be a functioning member of society we are expected to keep up on the latest trending topics. Memes have surfaced as an easy way to participate in the quasi-literature of the Google age and this generation’s quest for self-discovery. It’s up to you to decide whether you are a Socially Awkward Penguin, Corporate Cat or whether you just suffer from First World Problems. Any way you go, memes will follow (and probably apply).
I began this post after Thanksgiving dinner, when my brain was bursting at the seams with L-Tryptophan, and I realized I really needed to write this blog. “The Holiday Season” in general was on my mind, and I kept thinking about what books could be considered seasonal literature, or what books are traditionally read during the holidays.
I consider the #1 holiday classic to be Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Though I would venture a guess that most of the population watches it in video form, the Muppets or otherwise (my favorite version is the one with George C. Scott), I know there are still some die hard fans out there who read the book each December. The classic message of kindness prevailing and the ability to change your fate along with some generally wholesome Dickens writing is enough to keep readers faithful. Dickens also wrote other holiday stories such as The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, and The Battle of Life. Each of these contains the same theme of A Christmas Carol: a character having a change of heart. Dickens evidently ran with what he knew would be a hard hitting message for audiences.
However, you then have the peculiar case of Christmas crime and mystery novels. I vividly remember my mother reading a book of short stories called Murder Merry, where all of the stories of course have to do with festive Christmas murders. There’s Shakespeare’s Christmas, by Charlaine Harris, where “Lily Bard attends her sister’s Christmas wedding and is shocked when she gets caught up in an unsolved kidnapping after discovering that her new brother-in-law’s daughter bears a striking resemblance to the missing child.” You could also read A Christmas Journey by Anne Perry, where “a peaceful Christmas party at an elegant English country house is interrupted by what seems a suicide, and Lady Vespasia turns investigator to determine the truth behind the puzzling death” (descriptions taken from here: http://www.winfield.lib.il.us/winfield/holidaywhodunits.html).
If Hanukkah is your celebration, try Festival of Death by Jane Haddam and Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Choir by Sharon Kahn, which are both Hanukkah mysteries—although, that category lacks as much breadth as the Christmas crime and whodunits.
Another subgenre of Holiday literature are the ever-popular children’s books. My parents still read me The Night Before Christmas (illustrated by Grandma Moses of course.) Some of my favorite books are the ones by Jan Brett, like The Mitten or Troubles with Trolls, which are delightfully illustrated, winter-themed, but with the added benefit of being non-denominational. The Polar Express, The Gift of the Magi (not necessarily a children’s book but I feel like it’s often read to them), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Babar and Father Christmas, and Olive, the Other Reindeer are some books that we adults still enjoy today and help get us in the spirit!
Lastly, you have the snarky holiday book. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris and You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas by Augusten Burroughs are two of my favorites. The North Pole Employee Handbook: A Guide to Policies, Rules, Regulations and Daily Operations for the Worker at North Pole Industries by James Napoli looks promising, as does Christmas Letters from Hell: All the News We Hate from the People We Love, by Michael Lent. Sometimes you need a few laughs over the holidays to get over your shopping and family stresses.
Of course, this is completely subjective, and everyone has his or her own holiday favorites! I’d love to hear if there’s a book that never leaves your coffee table in December. Or if anyone thinks that “New Year’s Fiction” is an up-and-coming sub genre…
Recently, several contemporary novels have been picked up for adaption from their original form to a script for the big screen. The most recent among these stories are the Hunger Games trilogy as well as Ender’s Game. The first installment of the Hunger Games trilogy was released in May of 2012 and the second installment, Catching Fire, was released November 22nd, just in time tempt crowds over Thanksgiving break. Ender’s Game, a military science fiction novel written by Orson Scott Card and published in 1985, was just recently released in theatres this past November 1st.
When the end of the Harry Potter film franchise finally arrived in July of 2011, it was only a matter of time before a new franchise built around a teen-lit series came to the big screen. This successor of the popular Potter films came in the form of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, of which the first novel was published in 2008. Unlike Harry Potter, the Hunger Games trilogy follows a female protagonist living within a future world in which children are forced to fight to the death in what is referred to as “The Hunger Games.” The Hunger Games was a prime candidate for the next adapted series blockbuster not only because of its strong female lead, but also because of the dystopian world it depicts. Recently, “end of the world” plots have been a common thread among movies, and have generally been large successes at the box office. With films depicting alien invasions, zombies, and apocalypses dominating cinemas everywhere, the declining and broken world of The Hunger Games could not be more relevant; discussing the current “it” theme in pop culture. Due to its relevancy, The Hunger Games has found critical success both as a series of novels and as a film franchise, and is expected to do just as well in the box office with the upcoming installment of Catching Fire.
The adaption of Ender’s Game is somewhat of an enigma because of its original date of publication. Unlike the more contemporary Hunger Games trilogy, Ender’s Game is a well established novel that has been around for over twenty-five years. Part of the reason it has not been adapted to the screen before this point most likely has to do with a lack of resources to accurately and adeptly portray the many science fiction effects that are within the book. One example of this would be the Battle Room, a highly technological arena where “fleets” of children battle in midair in training for war against the alien species, called the “Buggers.” Portraying the futuristic technological advancements described within Card’s book would have proved problematic back in the 1980s. However, one questions why this book had not been adapted earlier, then simply remade later on when better technology became available. This can be seen in the franchise of the Stephen King novel-turned-film Carrie, which now boasts a grand total of three films based off the original novel spanning from 1976-2013. The reason for the late adaption of Ender’s Game to the big screen has much to do with the reasons why The Hunger Games is proving so popular now: pop culture. In the 1980s, futuristic violent worlds were not the popular theme in film. Rather, adventure films set a bit more within reality (such as the Indiana Jones franchise) thrived. Therefore, it makes sense that production companies have waited to release Ender’s Game at a time when its themes will appeal to more people.
Based on these examples, it is clear that when choosing which book series will become the next film franchise, much thought goes into the current mood of pop culture. By giving the people what they want, production companies get what they want: publicity and money, money, money. Sometimes capitalizing on literature pays off.