On Ibn al-Hajjaj, Whose Poems Schoolboys Were Beaten for Memorizing

Arabic Literature (in English)

If there were two disappointments I had while reading the opening chapter of Sinan Antoon’s   The Poetics of the Obscene in Premodern Arabic Poetry Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf : Genealogies,” they were: 1) that the full book is listed at more than $70, and 2) that there wasn’t a companion historical novel that gives full imaginative license to a re-crafting of Ibn al-Hajjaj and his contemporaries:

51Tef7thPVL._SY300_As an opening chapter, “Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf: Genealogies,” is a delight. Ibn Hajjaj (941 – 1001 CE) was, as Antoon notes, the great al-Mutanabbi’s (915 – 965 CE) “contemporary, erstwhile enemy and ultimate ‘other[.]'”

While al-Mutanabbi’s poetry has remained a part of the Arabic canon, al-Hajjaj’s has fallen off in recent times, something Antoon calls “one of the most serious cases of cultural amnesia and academic neglect.”

It’s not hard to see why Ibn al-Hajjaj and…

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Famous First Sentences Diagrammed

101 Books

I must admit that I’m a bit of a grammar nerd…with one exception.

I loathe diagramming sentences. I think I missed that part of middle school English. Just the thought of diagramming sentences makes my eyes glaze over.

I get it. I understand the point. I just don’t enjoy the thought of doing them. In fact, I don’t even enjoy looking at the diagrams that someone else has done.

That is, unless you show me the diagrams of opening sentences from famous novels. Now that’s kind of interesting. Maybe just a little bit.

And the cool folks at Pop Chart Lab decided to take on that assignment and created an infographic that diagram 25 famous opening sentences.

A few of my favorites:

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AWP 2014: Losing Sleep Over Social Media

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

cross-platform-marketingStephanie Bane sets the record straight on platform building:

“With great opportunity comes great responsibility.”  Jon Fine, director of author and publisher relations at Amazon, invoked two great teachers – Jesus, and Peter Parker’s father – when he exhorted us to develop our own social media platform to better market our books.

The panel, titled “How to Do It Now: New Trends in Literary Publishing,” slid sideways, from what I assumed would be the topic of new digital publishing platforms, to the topic of digital marketing.   This is a topic I know something about.  I support my writing habit – my graduate degree and this trip to Seattle – through my work at an advertising agency, where roughly 70% of our revenue comes from digital marketing. We build social media platforms for national brands, so I have a clear understanding of how much time, strategic thinking, and revenue, goes…

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10 Great Quotations from Women Writers

Interesting Literature

As tomorrow (8th March) is International Women’s Day, we’ve gathered together ten of our favourite quotations from women writers. Some are wise, some are witty, some weird; all are wonderful, in our opinion. And what unites them all is that they were uttered (or written) by some of the major female figures in literature. We’d be interested to hear your favourite quotations from women writers, in the comments below – which names/quotations have we missed off?


‘Going to the opera, like getting drunk, is a sin that carries its own punishment with it.’ – Hannah More

‘If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.’ – Edith Wharton

‘There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.’ – Sylvia Plath

‘One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.’ – Jane…

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Bookslinger Update: “Tickets on Time”

The Consortium Bookslinger

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Aymé, published by Pushkin Press. Marcel Aymé’s most celebrated tale provides the title of this collection of ten short stories. The excellent Monsieur Dutilleul is able to penetrate walls, but never exploits his gift until his tyrannical boss drives him to desperate measures. How will the unassuming clerk adjust to a glamorous life of crime?

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AWP 2014: Writing Feminism in Creative Nonfiction

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog


A lot of folks are talking about feminism right now, especially in writing and publishing. And a lot of folks are talking about creative nonfiction, the wayward fourth genre that’s finally asserting itself in classrooms and literary journals. But we aren’t talking much about the intersection of feminism and creative nonfiction. And we ought to be.

Sarah Lenz’s AWP panel on ‘Writing Feminism in Creative Nonfiction’ featured five women who have spent a lot of time thinking about the feminist issues unique to nonfiction writing: Lenz, Marcia Aldrich, Kristen Iversen, Sonja Livingston, and Mary Kay McBrayer. Rather than report on each panelists’ talk, let’s just dive in to the most urgent and interesting ideas.

Creative nonfiction is a genre of de facto feminism:

“I’m a de facto feminist,” Lenz said, opening the panel. “I write from a woman’s perspective because I can’t escape my own identity.” Regardless of their initial motivation or agenda, all…

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Book of the Week: Jacinda Townsend’s ‘Saint Monkey’


Two things tend to worry me in novels by authors I’ve never read before. One is a setting in a period of American history that’s more than 50 years in the past; the other is a story told from the point of view of two or more narrators. For her debut novel, Saint Monkey, Jacinda Townsend has done both of them. She writes from both Audrey’s and Caroline’s point of view, and the book is set in the late 1950s. What’s more, she shifts the story’s setting back and forth between the Jim Crow-era South and Harlem. These are all difficult tricks to pull off, but Townsend executes them effortlessly.

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