Story Time for Grown-ups: The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde

The term “fairy tale” likely conjures images of willowy animated heroines singing sweetly of their prince’s love to the collected fauna, the sort of mass market, saccharine tales in which the Good get their happy ending and the Wicked get soundly punished for their evil deeds.

Oscar Wilde wrote fairy tales, but think of Grimm, not Disney. Indeed, Wilde’s tales, with their sophisticated language and moral ambiguity, are hardly suited for elementary readers. Continue reading

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Master of Mystery and the Writing Process: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is the master and And Then There Were None is the perfect murder mystery novel.

Ten people from all walks of life are invited to an island mansion by a mysterious figure, a Mr. U. N. Owen. One of them dies. Then another. They realize there’s a murderer in their midst and any of them could be next. It’s a locked room murder, executed on the grandest scale. Continue reading

Powerful Truth: Night by Elie Wiesel

If you’ve read one Holocaust narrative, have you read them all? Certainly, there are elements which all accounts of the Holocaust have in common: transport in cattle cars, families separated, minimal rations and grueling work, prisoners responsible for other prisoners, smoke curling from chimneys and the stench of bodies being gassed and burned. Night by Elie Wiesel is no exception.

But Night is also riveting and persuasive, a swift and impactful 100 pages. Wiesel’s narrative voice is direct and honest. In moments of retrospective self-assessment, Wiesel has a knack for the single, cutting sentence that at once reveals the ironies or tragedies or inevitabilities of the situation. And, in these moments, Wiesel asks and answers the big questions of existence. When everything in your world is intended to tell you that you are worthless, can you still feel or be human? Can you be religious? Can you be a son? Continue reading

Conquering the Collection: Ariel and other poems by Sylvia Plath

I studied poetry in school. Or rather, I studied poems in school. My teachers would hand out a sheet of paper with a poem on it or point to particular poem in an anthology. We studied poetic movements or themes or poetry’s form and structure. And I, unlike many of my peers, emerged from these “poetry units” actually liking the stuff.

I didn’t realize until I had finished Ariel and other poems by Sylvia Plath that I had never read poetry published, as the author intended, in a collection of poems all by that one poet. It was a new experience. Continue reading