My Literary Club

I just read an article from Booksparks, a comparison of literary salons and book clubs. I must say that the article simplifies the role of each type of assembly. After reading this funny piece and in response to Booksparks question (“Check out our fun and silly infographic comparing literary salons and book clubs. Which novel group do you belong to?”), I have to change my definition of my own book club and now call it a “literary club.” Mine is a literary club because of its combination of a literary salon and a book club. How so?

How does my club differ from the typical book club and a literary salon?

According to Booksparks, literary salons are a selective gathering of likeminded intellectual individuals discussing the topic of literature. Book clubs, on the other hand, are a collection of people who found enough time in their busy schedules to talk about a book they half-read.

My Literary Club: What I used to call my book club has now evolved into a literary club. (I do not like the connotation of a salon with reference to academic matters.) There are 232 of us, a selective gathering of likeminded intellectual individuals who found enough time in their busy schedules to discuss about a book they finished.

If a member does not finish the book by the next face-to-face gathering, he or she is encouraged to excuse self from that month’s discussion and try again with the next book. We do not “half-read” a book, nor should anyone do or admit to doing such a thing.

How do we select books?

In planning ahead, the organizer solicits book suggestions from members on interesting and unique books that will cover months of reading. We respond with choices of what we would like to read. She sends out the titles of books that we gave, and we vote. The winning books are targeted for each month, so that we know months ahead what we are reading and can secure our books any way we wish.

Also, the organizer can suggest a number of books that she thinks are of literary significance and offer those. We share our opinions, and if we agree with her, those books/novels enter our reading list and are marked for an applicable month.

Who is invited to my club?

All book lovers are invited: scholars, academics, professors, pretty, single people, rich, retired folk, people with a spare hour, parents, college students, hopeless romantics, daydreamers, and bookworms. I find myself in as many as 10 of the categories here, but as Booksparks puts it, “Can we all agree that the best part of any reading group is the book?” Yes, we can! 

For how long do we meet?

The meeting is set for an inflexible two-hour duration. We begin promptly with food ordering, find a seat, and begin with introductions and networking while the chef prepares our food. The restaurants we go to are also mindful of our two-hour meeting time. Therefore, they get our food ready within minutes.

Where is my literary club held?

We do not meet “online or in a neighbor’s toy-littered living room.” We meet in swanky eateries around town. For the first few minutes after we arrive, we greet each other, order our food, and we make small talks as we get to know each other. This is also a chance to network, and I have met some interesting people from all “works of life,” and colleagues: college professors and other teachers. We eat first and discuss the book after the tables are cleared.

What do we wear?

No member has shown up yet in clean yoga pants. We dress up for the event, not necessarily in designer cocktail attires, but we dress the part.

What food and drinks do we eat and drink?

As I indicated above, we gather in swanky eateries that do not serve alcohol so that we can focus on discussions and contribute intelligently without the inebriating effects of alcohol. Each person orders what he/she wants or none at all. With my high food allergy history, I stick with fresh fruits, fresh vegetables/salad, and water.

What do we discuss/do?

On a day with good attendance, we usually close off almost the entire restaurant. We do not discuss “kids, spouse, politics, upcoming events,” and any other personal and distracting matters. For the two hours of our gathering, we focus on the books in clicks of five to ten people since we try to confirm with the restaurant set up. We tried in the past to combine all the long tables, but it proved difficult to hear everyone, so we now stick with discussions in groups.

On book exchange days, we bring free books to give away to others and pick up books we would love to read. If someone picks up a book you brought, you can give a 30-second review on it. Because of my love of reading, I always take several books in a bag and bring home several books to devour.

After the major focus, which is the book, and if people form closer bonds, they stay behind and discuss kids, spouses, politics, and other upcoming events. I have done this with different people over the years since joining the literary club.

Thanks to Bookspark, I now view my book club (I mean, my literary club), in a different and in a more appreciative light. The image below was provided by Bookspark.

book-club-infographic

Exploring Genrelific® Situations

Words come to me out of the blue as inventions. For example, I used the word “fantabulous,” for the first time to my students in 1997 without realizing that someone else had documented its use in 1957. I invent words continuously and use them personally–blended words, unique words, and so on, but I never venture to clamor for the general public to herald their birth until now.

This morning, as I brewed my herbal tea and pondered over the topic for today’s blog, I sought to take stock of my versatility in the literary realm. I am a writer of many genres, meaning that I am prolific in those genres. In search of the ONE word that would capture my uniqueness and brand me at the same time, I (Frances Ohanenye) invented “genrelific” on February 7, 2012.

I went to the Lexico Publishing Company and to Merriam-Webster to find out how I can add my newly coined word into their respective dictionaries. In summation, usage is the passport for inclusion into that privileged class. Therefore, I encourage everyone to begin to use the word “genrelific.” The more people who use it, the higher the chance of my word being included in any dictionary. I searched the internet, and it does not exist.

For example, you could say, “My friend, Frances Ohanenye, is very genrelific. She writes across many genres.” Or, “My brother is a genrelific reader and does not restrict himself to one genre.”

I admit that my motive may seem self-serving for now, but ultimately, my goal is for the general reading public to describe writers who cross the boundaries of the literary world with one word instead of with a string of wordy morsels. “Genrelific” captures the literati, that group of authors, writers, and other people involved with literature and the arts.

I am realistic and patient. The process of inclusion takes weeks, months, and even years. I understand. I am not myopic at all either. I see the far-reaching use of the word, genrelific. We speak of types of art, movies/cinematography, music, and wherever categories and sub-categories exist within an industry. The applicability of the word is limitless.

To establish ownership of my coined word for evidentiary purpose, I took the liberty of corresponding with those two companies to queue myself on their waiting list and introduce my brainchild as well. Now, let us get back to my “genrelific” self. I am prolific in these genres: children’s, young adult (YA), mystery, science fiction, short story, poetry, religious/inspirational, and adult/realistic/women’s. I want to delve into creating plays/drama, mythology, romance, fairytale, historical fiction, folktale–which my father used to tell us a lot of, and others.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson‘s “Antecedent Genre as Rhetorical Constraint” declares that rhetorical situation determines discourse as well as antecedent genres. I admire Jamieson’s succinctness because past definitions of genres still control our present analysis, appreciation, and emulation. “Antecedent genres are genres of the past used as a basis to shape and form current rhetorical responses.”

I have penned at least one volume in each of the nine genres listed above, and some genres can boast of at least eight creations in my literary repertoire. I have many ideas marinating for many more explorations within each of the types of literature in which I have traveled.

That I have not dabbled into the romance genre purely as a writer is not for lack of desire; no pun intended. The muse has not called me yet. To be a writer, one must first be a reader. I devoured at least 100 of Barbara Cartland’s romance novels and by other authors, enough to inspire me despite myself.

I consumed at least 70 of René Brabazon Lodge Alan Raymond’s, (famously and lovingly known as James Hadley Chase) crime fiction novels, not to mention many from Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond), and several more.

I read and memorized texts of classic novels (Charles Dickens, Jonathan Swift, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, Horatio Alger, Charlotte Bronte, Guy de Maupassant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Henry Thoreau) and William Shakespeare’s dramas, the springboard for my rapture with literature.

I nourished my soul with Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Hilaire Belloc, Kofi Awoonor, and other poignant authors and poets. As a matter of fact, one year, I read at least 180 novels, not teacher-mandated readings, required texts, or textbooks, simply self-chosen glorious novels.

Now I write furiously. I write many genres and can write all genres. However, my creation relies on inspiration cascading like confetti rather than by a self-inflicted time-table. Who knows, when the inspiration floods my brain for romance novels, I will create that genre as a full bloom or any other genre my mind chooses to birth.

The type of literature into which I will never seek membership is horror. The simple reason is that I do not wish to stain or sell my soul because I may not be able to buy it back or get it back from the dark forces that inhabit that sphere. Superstitious? May be, but I have read both Steven King and Edgar Allan Poe, and they both scared the living daylights out of me and my house.

Venturing into many genres allows me to dabble into unrestricted spheres. I perceive myself as a living testimony of Richard Coe’s words when he said that “tyranny of genre” constrains individual creativity (Coe 188). Therefore, I allow myself to mingle within genres, cross their boundaries, shake hands with their inhabitants, and dine luxuriously among them.

In my mystery novels, romance abounds. In one YA novel, religion trumpets out of the mouths of youths like the Sermon on the Mount, and religious-infused allusions thrive. In my science fiction short story, realism and fiction fight for supremacy, but because I want it classified as a science fiction endeavor, that genre triumphs. As Amy Devitt states, “A genre is named because of its formal markers” (Devitt 10), and I wanted that story formally marked as a science fiction.

If I have failed to make it known before, unique words feed my brain like food and my brain feeds me unique words. Today will go down in famousness as the birthday of the word, “genrelific,” another synergy for the literary world.

©2012Genrelific by FrancesOhanenye

Response to Literature: A Recipe

Link to image: http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/favicon.ico

sixminutes.dlugan.com

Following the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart) principle, here is the simplest recipe you need to follow when responding to any piece of literature (regardless of age or academic level). Blessed with so many nicknames (book review, literary criticism, literary critical analysis, response to literature, analytical review, literary interpretation, and so on), there is, indeed, a worthwhile dissimilarity among all the aforementioned explorations, from the simplest (book review) to the most complex (literary critical analysis). Regardless of your preference for moniker, your job is to help a potential reader to get a glimpse into a piece of literary work before he/she decides to read it. You are the reviewer.

  • Needless to say, before you engage in response to literature, you must read that novel to the end of it.
  • Break your critique into three major parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Pull the audience in with gripping sentences in the introduction.
  •  Summarize the story within the first few paragraphs with beginning, middle, and ending; however, you should mesh the summary into your analysis (preferable).
  • From your notes (taken during the reading), identify any interesting situation that caused very strong reactions in you: What inspired you? Confused you? Surprised you?
  • Include and organize these reactions; discuss each major thought in each paragraph in the body of your review and link them to the events in the order they occur in the story.
  • Give insight and make judgment so the reader can determine your feeling about the story: like it, don’t like it, or lukewarm. Support each opinion.
  • Identify elements of literature and comment on them in your writing as they pertain to the story.
  • Identify those figurative expressions the author used in the story; comment on his/her style, ingenuity, creative playfulness, and such, as they pertain to the story.
  • Allow your voice to come through clearly; showcase your style.
  • Employ the six traits of writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.
  • Paint colorfully vivid pictures with figures of speech, action verbs, and descriptive adjectives.
  • Quote the author’s most salient and moving phrases/words.
  • Place a check beside the bulleted requirements above as you complete each one.
  • Edit and revise your work with the proofreading/copy-editing guidelines.
  • Pre-grade your work physically; before submitting it to an instructor or for publication, repair any defects that might impact negatively your grade or your reputation.

I look forward to reading your literary criticism, and criticism can be constructive. Thanks for stopping by today.