Tag Archives: Greek literature

Happy Bloomsday 2014!

16 Jun

JamesJoyce

Doesn’t James Joyce look dapper?!

Happy Bloomsday!!

James Joyce set his rambling modern novel Ulysses on June 16, and today literary lovers around the world celebrate the iconic Irish author with marathon readings (it is about 265,000 words long!) and pub crawls. The raucous literary holiday takes its name from the central character of the novel: Leopold Bloom. The title of Joyce’s book, on the other hand, comes from the Latin version of Odysseus. Apparently, this is because he discovered the story of The Odyssey through Charles Lamb’s children’s book adaptation, Adventures of Ulysses. Just like that cunning Greek Odysseus embarked on adventure that introduced him to a wide variety of characters, Leopold Bloom traversed Dublin and met characters that paralleled those found in The Odyssey.

I thought it would be fun to share a few beautiful and provocative quotes from James Joyce’s Ulysses:

  • “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”
  • “People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them was a bite from a sheep.”
  • “She would follow, her dream of love, the dictates of her heart that told her he was her all in all, the only man in all the world for her for love was the master guide. Come what might she would be wild, untrammelled, free.”
  • “The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”
  • “A region where grey twilight ever descends, never falls on wide sagegreen pasturefields, shedding her dusk, scattering a perennial dew of stars.”

Those last two quotes remind me of one of my favorite lines from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”

I’ve written about James Joyce’s influence on Jack Kerouac a few times before so today in celebration of Bloomsday, here are the links:

For Bloomsday activities around the globe, check out The James Joyce Centre Dublin. I want to highlight a few that I found particularly relevant to the themes I write about:

  • In Athens, there will be a free screening of a poetical film based on Joyce’s Greek notebooks.
  • In Manhattan, Symphony Space is putting on an event that features Malachy McCourt, Colum McCann, Cynthia Nixon and others.
  • In Brooklyn, there will be a pub crawl.
  • In St. Petersburg (the Florida city where Jack Kerouac died), there will be readings and performances.

Have you ever participated in a Bloomsday event? What is your favorite quote by James Joyce?

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Media: Literary Kicks Mentioned My Aristophanes Post

21 Mar

paularoid217via Lit Kicks

I’m not sure how I possibly missed this, but the blog I’ve been reading for the longest time ever mentioned my Aristophanes post back in December.

Literary Kicks is one of the very first websites I ever discovered on the Internet. Founded by Levi Asher in 1994, it used to cover mainly the Beat Generation but has since expanded to contemplate other forms of literature, philosophy, and art. I always feel like I’m exposed to new works of literature and ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise considered thanks to Literary Kicks. The comments section is full of regulars, some of whom have been around for well over a decade, who write thoughtfully and considerately.

What an honor to get a shout-out on the Literary Kicks Facebook page!

Friday Links: Aristophanes Edition

13 Dec

swellfoot

Happy Friday! I’m wrapping up Aristophanes week with some link love devoted to this funny dramatist.

Lysistrata is a name featured on the Heritage Floor at The Dinner Party, at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum

Pablo Picasso was so inspired by Aristophanes’ Lysistrata that he made several prints related to it, on view at the Met

Artist Aubrey Beardsley, who is often inspired by literature, also created a print inspired by Aristophanes

Obviously, there’s Radiohead’s Cloud Cuckoo Land

Lisa Borders titled her book about a young female busker’s search for home Cloud Cuckoo Land

On Fernhill Farm in Somerset, there’s a festival called Cloud Cuckoo Land

Festivals may seem very post-Woodstock, but Aristophanes was part of a festival back in Ancient Athens, called Lenaia, where he actually won first prize for his play The Knights

There’s an international architecture journal called Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

In London there’s a delightful period-clothing shop called Cloud Cuckoo Land

Percy Bysshe Shelley (Gregory Corso’s favorite poet) imitated Aristophanes’ The Frogs in the comic drama Oedipus Tyrannus: Or, Swellfoot the Tyrrant

“Aristophanes is ridiculous!” shouted Oscar on an episode of The Odd Couple in which he and Felix are contestants on the game-show Password

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Longest Word in Literature Is, Of Course, Greek

10 Dec

Ari

I always take a deep breath before I spell out my name for someone, a nonverbal warning to the person asking for it to prepare themselves. “N as in ‘Nancy,’” I say, then pause. “I-K.” Another pause, just like I heard my mother spelling it out so many times to credit card companies over the phone when I was growing up. The spelling out proceeded like that for some time, til all twelve letters were given.

Most of our friends get used to our long last name over time, so when I recently had to spell out the address of where my parents live in Greece for a family friend, I warned her to make sure she had enough room on the paper. This place name was long even for us.

I was not at all surprised, therefore, to learn via The Huffington Post, run by a Greek woman, that literature’s longest word can be found in a Greek play. Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen, an ancient comedy about the upheaval that occurs when women insert themselves in politics (things like: men must sleep with an ugly women before they sleep with a beautiful woman), contains a word that is 171 letters.

From Oliver Tearle:

Since you’re doubtless itching to know what this word is, I’ll give Aristophanes the final word: Lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon.

And if you’re curious what that looks like in Greek, I found it on Wikipedia:

λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφα-λλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων.

It’s the name of a dish that has about that many ingredients in it (okay, maybe only 16 or so but that’s still too many ingredients, and it sounds disgusting).

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

A Tribute to Constantine P. Cavafy

18 Nov

220px-Cavafy1900What an impressive mustache! Cavafy via Wikipedia

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.

~ from the poem “Ithaca” by Constantine P. Cavafy

Born in the Egyptian province of Alexandria, Constantine Peter Cavafy was born to Greek parents in 1863. Riffing on last week’s British invasion theme, I’ll note that he actually spent some time in the Beatles‘ hometown of Liverpool. Cavafy’s life, like Kerouac’s, was one of movement. From Liverpool, he moved back to Alexandria, and then from there to Constantinople and back to Alexandria. He also spent some time in France.

Cavafy worked as a journalist, and it wasn’t until he was in his forties that he wrote his most important works of poetry — giving all us late-bloomers hope! He urges us to embrace life’s journey in his passionate 1911 poem Ithaca, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. He urges us to slow down, to explore, to learn, to experience, to savor. It is the perspective one gains on the journey itself that matters.

Tonight PEN presents a tribute to Cavafy, featuring André Aciman, Michael Cunningham, Mark Doty, Olympia Dukakis, Craig Dykers, Edmund Keeley, Harry Kremmydas, Daniel Mendelsohn, Orhan Pamuk, Dimitris Papaioannou, and Kathleen Turner. For more information on the New York tribute, visit the PEN America website.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Quotable Greek: I’ve Never Had the Right Words to Describe My Life

9 Sep

“Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. ”

~Jeffrey Eugenides

Sneak Peek at My Goodreads To-Read List

8 Aug

GraceNotes

If you’ve been following along for a while now, you know I’ve been doing a blog series on Goodreads. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite Goodreads features.

I like that I can keep track of what I’ve read in the past (though I’m sure there are lots I’ve left off), but even better is that I can compile a list of books I want to read. So often I’ll hear about a good book and then forget about if I don’t get to the library or bookstore right away or if another book comes along that I want to read. A couple books on my to-read list right now are:

  • Brian Doyle’s Grace Notes. I heard him speak at the Festival of Faith & Writing in 2012 and loved his mix of humor, sentiment, and humanity.
  • Melinda MoustakisBear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories. I came across her name when she was nominated in 2011 as a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 fiction writer. On the one hand, she’s a young, female, Greek American author so I feel a kindred spirit; on the other hand, she’s from Alaska, which seems more foreign than Greece to me, yet, given my interest in the Lapland, intriguing.
  • Michael SimsThe Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic. My love for literature bloomed when I read Charlotte’s Web, so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. I just haven’t gotten to it yet….

As you can see, I have very eclectic taste.

I’ve found a few books on Goodreads that I’ve added to my list, but mainly the books on my to-read list have come from stories I’ve heard on NPR, mentions on lit blogs, and random encounters with the authors.

Have you ever found a great book on Goodreads? How do you usually find out about books? What should I add to my ever-growing list of to-read books?

Shameless plug alert: If you’re looking for a book to add to your to-read list, perhaps you want to add Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

21 Nov

I am so excited to have been tagged by Maria Karamitsos for the The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.  Even though I’m not a mother, I love reading Maria’s blog From the Mommy Files, which is full of humor and light.  She has the gift of storytelling.  Her blog entries read like snippets of a novel-like memoir, with dialogue, reflection, and a strong voice, despite the fact that much of her writing is focused on what could be a very technical topic: molar pregnancy.  Take for instance, her post “The Influence of the Lost Child,” in which she talks to her two adorable little girls—”BooBoo BeDoux” and “Bebs LaRoux”—about the baby she miscarried.  It’s a difficult and heartbreaking subject, yet she injects humor in it through the personalities of her daughters (“it’s tough to be 3, after all!”) as well as tenderness and faith.  I’m really excited about the book she’s writing called Positive About Negative: Adventures in Molar Pregnancy.  Maria also tagged some other Greek authors for the Blog Hop, and it’s great discovering all these writers.

I’m tempted therefore to write about my memoir about being Greek American, but since my book on Jack Kerouac is coming out first my answers to the Blog Hop questions are about that book.

What is the working title of your book?  Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Where did the idea come from for the book?  Paul Maher Jr. had written a book entitled Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road” for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s seminal work.  I had read this book one summer and some months later began reading Paul’s blog.  We began talking and decided to revise and expand his book because we knew that a film adaptation of On the Road was coming out and we wanted to provide a resource for those interested in finding out more about this famous novel.  It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative, contextual information, and new research because we wanted both the teenager turned on from the film and the literary scholar who’s read every book by Kerouac to enjoy it and find value in it.

What genre does your book fall under?  It’s literary criticism and biography.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Isn’t that the million dollar question?  There’s been a lot of talk over the years about who should play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in the film adaptation of On the Road.  Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell, Marlon Brando, you name it, they’ve been associated with it.  I almost never go to the movies and don’t really know the young actors of today well enough to say who would be age appropriate to cast.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Zac Efron?  These actors are too old to play the roles now but if I were casting the film back when I first read On the Road as a teenager, this is who I’d pick:

  • Sal Paradise — Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke would be excellent choices for Sal Paradise, particularly because they both have a deep appreciation for literature.  Depp is a known Kerouac fan and just started his own publishing imprint, and Hawke is a published author.
  • Dean Moriarty — Woody Harrelson would make a great Dean Moriarty.  He can play both earnest and wild so well!  Matthew McConaughey would be great as Dean too.
  • Carlo Marx — I loved James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in Howl, but if I had to select someone else I might go with Adam Goldberg.
  • Old Bull Lee — The choice of Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee for the Walter Salles film is brilliant, but again if I had to choose someone else maybe I’d with Ewan McGregor.
  • Marylou — Drew Barrymore would be so much fun to watch as Marylou.  Do you remember her in Mad Love and Boys on the SideAlmost Famous hadn’t been made yet when I was a teenager but Kate Hudson (think Penny Lane) would be my runner-up pick.

 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Burning Furiously Beautiful tells the true story of  Jack Kerouac travels on the road and how it took him years, not weeks, to write On the Road.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  We decided to self-publish Burning Furiously Beautiful.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  The first draft, so to speak, had already been written and published as Jack Kerouac’s American Journey.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  There have been so many biographies of Kerouac written over the years, and each offers its own perspective.  Burning Furiously Beautiful uses Kerouac’s journals and letters, as well as archival material from other people who knew Kerouac during the time he was on the road and writing On the Road, to tell a the specific story of the making of a novel that continues to generate interest today.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?  Obviously, Paul Maher Jr. inspired Burning Furiously Beautiful as it was his original idea.  I, however, had been researching and writing about Kerouac since I was an undergrad many years prior to this and brought my own knowledge and skills to the project.  I was very much inspired by the fact that the film adaptation is soon to be released here in the States.  There’s a whole new generation coming to Kerouac’s literature, which is immensely exciting to me.  Reading Kerouac when I was in high school opened up so many possibilities for me as a reader and writer.  I hope that the film will pique people’s interest so that they’ll go back and read Kerouac’s books for themselves—not just On the Road  but his other great works as well—and that they’ll watch Pull My Daisy, the film that Kerouac himself spontaneously narrated.  Burning Furiously Beautiful is important because it contextualizes On the Road and provides a fascinating look at Kerouac’s life and writing process.  This is critical because there’s so much myth surrounding Kerouac and the 1950s.  I became engrossed in odd little details like the fact that the Kerouac’s didn’t have a phone and took their calls at the store below their apartment in Queens.  It’s so different than today when it seems like every middle schooler has a cell phone.  If Cassady could’ve just called Kerouac up on his iphone, he might not have written the infamous Joan Anderson letter that spurred on Kerouac’s writing style.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Burning Furiously Beautiful is a great book for an aspiring writer, regardless of whether or not you like Kerouac’s writing style.  It’s a portrait of a young writer and details how his writing voice developed (his first book has a much different style), what his writing routine was, the editing process (yes, there was one!), what his relationship with other writers and editors was like (imagine lots of parties), and the many false starts he had in writing his book.  We even talk about book signings, contracts, and press interviews.  Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated with various writing projects of mine, but realizing that Kerouac, who purported to have written On the Road in only three weeks, went through some of the same struggles and took years to find success makes me realize that it’s all part of the writing process.

I tag:

Emily Timbol

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Larry Shallenberger 

Michael D. Bobo

Check them out!  They’re each really different from each other.

The Buzz on Flash-mob Bees, Bowery Bees, and Greek Bee Myths

1 Jun

Oh my goodness, did you guys hear about the bees that took over Little Italy yesterday??  Apparently, thousands of bees decided to meet up at lunchtime in front of the Italian American Museum on the corner of Mulberry and Grand.  They swarmed a mailbox, completely covering its side.  This leads me to ponder two questions:

1.  Are these flash-mob bees the insect contingent of Improv Everywhere?

2.  What sort of sweet notes would a bee mail to his honey?

It also reminds me that I still haven’t told you about Bowery Bees.  On Sunday, May 8, my photojournalist friend Annie Ling and I went to the Festival of New Ideas for the New City, an incredibly thought-provoking art initiative that brought artists and thinkers together to explore ideas that could shape a new New York.  One of the collaborations was between Anarchy Apiaries, a Hudson Valley apiary run by beekeeper-artist Sam Comfort, and the Bowery Poetry Club, a performing-arts venue founded and run by poet Bob Holman.

After a brief talk on bees, we climbed up to the rooftop of the Bowery Poetry Club for the unveiling of the apiary.  Sam had brought the bees down from Germantown that morning and set up hives so that Bob could start the rooftop apiary Bowery Bees.  Standing amidst the skyscrapers of Manhattan’s East Village, we witnessed the queen bee do her dance.

Even though I was afraid of getting stung, I have to admit it was rather spectacular.  My parents have a large garden in Greece, where they gather olives to make their own olive oil, and I tried to convince my dad he should set up some beehives.  Bee myths play heavily into Greek mythology and Greek literature.  Bee emblems appear in ancient ruins on the Greek islands of Crete and Rhodes.

Bowery Bees honey can be bought at the Bowery Poetry Club, located at 308 Bowery, between Houston and Bleecker.

How do you like the antenna?

April Books by Greek-American Authors

4 Apr

When you think Greek literature, what do you think?  Homer’s The Odyssey? Plato’s Republic?

I often worry that the world at large does not recognize contemporary Hellenic literature.  This month, though, we see two books by famous Greek-American comedians turned Greek-American authors.

 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

A few years ago, when Christopher Hitchens said that women aren’t funny, he said it with the caveat, “there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.”  That was in 2007.  By then, Tina Fey had already showed the world her comedic chops by following up her “Weekend Update” skit on Saturday Night Live with another hit: 30 Rock.  Last year she became the youngest person ever to win the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

In a recent interview, Fey actually said that it was only after she lost weight that she was able to move from comedy writer to comedy actress.

Tina Fey is a Greek-American by birth.  Her given name is Elizabeth Stamatina Fey.  Her 2001 wedding to Jeff Richmond was held in a Greek Orthodox Church.

She—and a lot of other women—proved Hitchens wrong on all three counts.  And now she has a memoir coming out that lets you step into the life of this very funny Greek-American woman.


Look for it: April 5

 

This Is a Book by Demetri Martin

Books by comedians usually go one of two ways: either really funny or really sad. Demetri Martin goes funny in his first book, a collection of short stories.  Martin, known for his work on “The Daily Show” and Comedy Central’s “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” was born in New York City and grew up in Toms River, New Jersey.  His dad, Dean C. Martin, is a Greek Orthodox priest.  Martin’s Greek heritage plays into his comedy and writing.

Kirkus Review notes that in “Socrates’s Publicist,” one of the short stories in Martin’s upcoming book, “imagines the deadly consequences of the Greek philosopher acquiring a chirpy PR rep eager to brand him and bring his “question thing” to a wider audience.”

Look for it: April 11