Do you nurse a weakness for gripping mystery novels? In the latest of The Earl Marcus Mysteries, follow the titular protagonist of the series down a long, tortuous road of unraveling a mystery revolving around a gruesome murder and a cryptic message.
Join the author, Hank Early, for a signing of Echoes of the Fall at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore this Sunday. For more information, click here.
In the modern age, we’ve seriously begun to take the wonder that is a well-written line or quote for granted. From our Instagram bios to epithets and even TV shows and movies, our world is framed around the words of others. To pay homage to the beauty of some of these memorable quotes, I’ve compiled a list of books (and a couple of poems) that are chock-full of swoon-worthy quotes that promise to stick with you and change the way you think about the world. Some of my selections are more modern, and some have stood the test of time, but they are all sure to leave you astonished by the brilliance of written word.
The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot. This existential poem is one of Eliot’s most famous and oft-quoted works, and for good reason. The narrative is fairly concrete in comparison with the author’s usual abstract style, and it’s mainly centered around the monologue of an narrator who finds himself paralyzed by fear and anxiety. This poem is justifiably well-known and finds its universality in our tendency as humans to try to control our own fate, and the feeling of being perpetually on the outside looking in. Because of the multiple interpretations of this poem that are available, it has appealing aspects for all audiences, but will be especially enjoyed by those with an appreciation for philosophy and the human experience.
Memorable Quote: “For I have known them all, known them all: Known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is another commonly quoted author, and The Great Gastby is one of his most popular works. The narrator, Nick Carraway, often provides memorable quotes through his pessimistic musings about the human condition. The titular protagonist, Gatsby, by comparison often speaks to the starry-eyed idealism that lives inside of each of us, and the innate desire to ceaselessly pursue our personal happiness. Together, these two characters create a beautiful juxtaposition and many meaningful dialogues. This novel tackles themes such as love, isolation, and a desire to relive or change the past, with these themes combining into a melting pot of outspoken quotes about living in a world enraptured by materialism and status.
Memorable Quote: “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
Looking for Alaska – John Green. Oh, John Green. Where would we be without your lighthearted but candid reflections on life? Looking for Alaska was Green’s first novel, but delights readers with so many strident ideas concerning the nature of life, death, and attempting to make the unknowable known. As a bonus, this novel also contains many great lines in the form of famous last words of men and women, as well as a reference to Gabriel Marquez’s The General in His Labyrinth, and Auden’s As I Walked out One Evening. While this is one of Green’s more graphic works, it provides many thought-provoking observations on the inherent interconnectedness of people and the unseen ways in which we impact one another throughout our lives.
Memorable Quote: “We need never be lost, because we can never be irreparably broken.”
Jane Eyre– Charlotte Bronte. For fans of romantic writing, Jane Eyre provides a gold mine of ethereal and mesmerizing lines. Jane herself manages to be simultaneously timid and bold, and this balance is reflected in both her spoken words and her introspective thoughts. The novel is centered around themes such as independence, morality, and the struggle between rational thought and emotional feeling, making it relevant today for all audiences.
Memorable Quote: “I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse.”
The Laughing Heart – Charles Bukowski. I have to admit, I am a huge Bukowski fan, and I couldn’t resist adding him to this list. While most of his works tend to be laced with a fair dose of cynicism, The Laughing Heart is uncharacteristically hopeful and optimistic. This poem manages to convey a powerful message in just a handful of lines, and has a duality to it that allows it to be both soft and stern, reminding each of us of the power that we hold within ourselves. On a good day, this poem is an affirmation that we are already equipped with everything we need to succeed in life, and on a bad day it reminds us to keep fighting and never yield to the darkness that sometimes threatens to encroach our vision.
Memorable Quote: “your life is your life. know it while you have it. you are marvelous the gods wait to delight in you.”
ASU professor and poet Patricia Colleen Murphy will read from her second poetry collection, Bully Love, at Changing Hands Bookstore this upcoming Saturday.
The collection won the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry, and it offers glimpses into the harsh but beautiful Sonoran Desert, painful but important memories, and an unexpected but powerful love for landscape and people.
Check out a book review of Bully Love by Spellbinding Shelf’s editor-in-chief here.
Meet author Melissa Duclos, whose new novel, Besotted, is out now from 713 Books. Listen as staff writer Edward Dolehanty has a conversation with the author about her debut novel, the drafting process, and the work she is doing to shed light on small literary presses!
Listen, if you’ve read my previous post, you’re probably thinking to yourself…is Poe the only thing she ever writes about? The answer is, no. Come on though, it’s October! Who better to usher us (“The Fall of the House of Usher” anyone?) through this season than literature’s resident psychopomp, Edgar Allan Poe?
In all seriousness, Poe’s work has captured the imaginations of generations of readers, which made me want to consider why these stories keep us coming back. What is it about Poe’s writing that continues to intrigue and even terrify us?
My answer: meticulously crafted work; that is how. Poe is a master of his art. His words are carefully chosen to render their chosen effect, guiding the reader down whatever dark hallway, or shadowed path he has carved out for them. So, I invite you to examine with me one of Poe’s most famous works, his poem “The Raven,” and appraise exactly how this wordsmith operates.
In Poe’s “The Raven,” the unnamed speaker slowly follows his own obsessive preoccupation with death into madness, taking the audience along with him. The speaker is addressing a bird (who may be a figment of his imagination) with philosophical questions regarding the afterlife. The repetition of an automated response from this bird causes the speaker to become emotionally unstable, his own morbid and melancholy brooding leading him to infer meanings from this response which further his distress.
One of the main devices which Poe uses to achieve this effect is repetition. During the course of the poem, certain words, sounds, and emotions are reiterated in different variations so as to mimic the mania building inside of the speaker.
The tone of irrational fixation becomes clear in the second stanza of the poem:
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor, Eagerly I wished the morrow; –vainly I had tried to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore– For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore– Nameless here for evermore. (7-12)
Poe makes a point to state that it is “bleak December” (7). This information, in addition to the fact that the events are taking place at midnight, alludes to the end of something, a kind of death of the day or year. The emphasis is again placed on death when the speaker notes that, “each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor” (8). This vivid, and none too subtle, metaphor drives home the melancholy tenor of the speaker’s thoughts.
It is then stated that this somber mood is because of the loss of a loved one, a beautiful woman named Lenore (11). Within this brief stanza the idea of death is hinted at, or directly addressed, over and over again, leaving no doubt as to the singularity of thought in the speaker.
This stanza is also an excellent example of the pointed word choices that Poe employs. The author states in his essay “The Philosophy of Composition,” that he is building atmosphere by “unusual, and some altogether novel effects, arising from an extension of the application of the principles of rhyme and alliteration” (Poe, 743). The stanza is comprised of a quatrain and a couplet; the final two lines (couplet) rhyme with one another, as well as rhyming with the final line in the quatrain. This produces a musical quality that is emphasized further by the use of internal rhyme within the stanza.
In the first and second lines the words “remember,” “December,” and “ember” all appear in close proximity (7-8). This is mirrored in the third and fourth lines by the words “morrow,” “borrow,” and “sorrow” (9-10). This sing-song hypnotic quality pulls the reader in, as the speaker himself is being pulled into his obsession.
By employing the device of repetition in both the tone of the poem, as well as in creative technique, Poe is able to establish an impression of compulsive insanity. The speaker circles around and around the same thought, with each pass becoming more frenzied and unstable. A replication of the anxiety which fills Poe’s speaker is created in the audience by proxy. The reader is subjected to the same unceasing thoughts that the speaker himself experiences. At the end of Poe’s poem, the desired effect is produced, and both the speaker and the reader are exhausted; each being oddly satisfied with an abundance of sorrow and lunacy.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Philosophy of Composition.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Robert S. Levine. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Raven.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym, Robert S. Levine. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.
As the weather begins to cool down (or so we can hope), there’s nothing better than cozying up with a warm blanket and a heartwarming book that just makes you feel good. These books are light and sweet, and always leave me with that warm & fuzzy feeling. So, settle down, wrap yourself up, and be prepared to stay there for hours.
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris—Jenny Colgan. The book primarily follows Anna Trent, an Englishwoman who gets sent to work at a chocolate shop in Paris (the most famous chocolate shop in Paris, I might add) after an unpleasant accident at the old chocolate shop she worked in where she lost one of her toes. In Paris, she meets the owner of the shop, Thiery Girrard (Claire’s former lover), and his son, Laurent. The story switches between the past, showing Claire and Thierry’s story, and the present, showing how Anna and Laurent’s unfolds. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is both humorous and enchanting, making me want to book a one-way ticket to Paris as soon as I finished it, and the addition of chocolate making and tasting made it even sweeter. Colgan’s writing style makes the heavy stuff feel less so, making this book the perfect “get comfy by the fire” read.
P.S I Still Love You—Jenny Han. This is the second book in the Jenny Han’s trilogy, and it is just as magical as the first. Lara Jean Covey is what most would call a hopeless romantic, and she writes letters each time she has intense feelings for someone. This novel follows the aftermath of the first in the series, where Peter and Lara Jean have decided to explore their very real feelings for each other. In this novel, another boy from Lara Jean’s past, John, comes into the picture. She ends up in a battle between her feelings for Peter and her compatibility with John. She leans on her sisters now more than ever, and we get to see their bond grow even more. P.S. I Still Love You is full of the Covey family bond that we grew to love in the first novel and romantic love—making it one of my favorite heartwarming reads.
Love, Rosie—Cecilia Ahern. Also known as Where Rainbows End, this book has everything a feel good book should have. It follows the story of Rosie and Alex who have been best friends pretty much forever. When it comes time to go to University, Alex finds out he is moving from Dublin to Boston. The two plan to go to college there together, but then Rosie gets some life changing news that keeps her from going. The story continues to follow their relationship across the two countries, through all the ups and downs. They can never seem to get their timing right but I feel myself rooting for them the entire time each time I pick up this book. Their story is funny, at times stressful, yet most of all, heartwarming. Ahern’s wonderful novel combines friendship with love the most delightful way, and you can’t help but fall in love with the characters yourself. Love, Rosie is one of the coziest reads, keeping you so immersed you might just finish the whole thing in one sitting.
Everything, Everything—Nicola Yoon. This one is a little bit heavier, but I still consider it a good cozy read. Madeline lives with her mother in isolation because she has a rare disease called SCID, which essentially means her immune system is very weak and cannot fight off diseases properly; a common cold could end her life if she is not careful. So, she is home-schooled and never leaves the house. As one would guess, Madeline’s mother is essentially her best friend, and there are no secrets between them. That is, until a new boy, Olly, moves across the street and they begin communicating. The book follows their story as they begin to fall in love; though, they aren’t allowed to touch each other. Everything, Everything was impossible for me to put down, making it a great book to read when you have nothing to do and just want to lay in bed wrapped up in your favorite blanket. It is more bittersweet than just sweet, but it is 100% worth it.
Publisher: Penguin Classics Genre: Gothic Drama Pages: 304 Format: Paperback Buy Local My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Are we all running from our reflections? Must there always be a great price for being extraordinary? Oscar Wilde paints a painfully clear picture of human nature, its propensity towards sin, and its struggle with conscience in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
A young man in late nineteenth-century London endowed with remarkable beauty sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for eternal youth. In a fit of narcissistic despair, he prays that he may forever remain as beautiful as he has ever been. His portrait—painted by a friend who is infatuated with Gray—bears the marks of his moral deterioration while he stays handsome and appears to be not a day over 21.
Quite the scandal in 1890, The Picture of Dorian Gray tiptoes around themes of homosexuality and substance abuse, the former being considered an unspeakable sin during that time, even worse than the latter. It was revised and republished in 1891 with a few edges softened to better suit the audience of the time.
It is interesting what Wilde classifies as sin in this Gothic novel. Perhaps in an unconscious effort to concur with the ideals of nineteenth century English society (in spite of his rebellious nature and general disagreement with said ideals), Wilde’s protagonist primes himself for sin by indulging himself in sensual art and music, which are invariably pagan or Eastern. Did Wilde really believe the East and “the Orient” to be godless, or was he merely tired of rebelling and, for once, wanted English society to nod along with him?
Either way, our protagonist (also the antagonist) doesn’t disappoint. Dorian Gray warms up with regular debauchery and, over a course of twenty years, spirals into actual crime. His portrait grows horrific while his person remains aesthetically angelic.
A fascinating read for the most part of it, it is a dramatic novel with only a dash of fantasy but an era-appropriate amount of misogyny. The plot unfurls steadily and tapers towards a gripping climax. The reader is caught among the many facets of the marvelous Dorian Gray, even as they converge and bring him to face the reflection of his soul.
“The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe from Edgar Allan Poe: Collected Works, introduction by A.J. Odasso
Publisher: Canterbury Classics Genre: Horror Fiction Classics Publication Date: November 2011 Pages: 724 Format: Leather-Bound Hardcover Buy Local My Rating: 5/5 stars
The third in Poe’s series of detective stories, “The Purloined Letter” follows the work of amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin. The detective is presented with a case that has otherwise stumped the Parisian police, the theft of an incendiary letter. After hearing the story of the theft, and the methods applied to find it, Dupin makes short work of recovering the letter himself.
The actual recovery takes up only a little of the story. What is important is the extraordinary means by which Dupin was able to solve the mystery: the key being the use of a singular kind of logic. Dupin’s success was achieved in immersing himself in the psychosis of the criminal in order to better understand him. By these means he is able to predict his opponent’s actions. So successful is this line of reasoning, that a deep empathy is unveiled between criminal and detective, an empathy which reveals not only the location of a letter, but also exposes the foundations of that which makes up C. Auguste Dupin.
As we move into spooky season, with the cold hands of fall brushing the backs of our necks, our thoughts turn inwards. The time for reflection and consideration has come. We will explore the landscapes of our own inner selves, shedding and releasing those things which no longer serve us in order to make space for new growth. I can think of no better representative of this somewhat macabre period of personal death and rebirth, than master of morbid himself, Edgar Allan Poe. I would like to focus on what I consider to be the perfect opener to the season of self-reflection, Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.”
“The Purloined Letter” presents a compelling case for the duality of the human soul. Empathy of the variety used by Dupin comes from an understanding born of personal experience. The experience, in this case, does not mean that the detective has engaged in illicit activity. Instead, it implies that his psychological make-up is such that he has subversive impulses. By allowing himself to experience the emotional current of another, recognizing and understanding this person completely, Dupin is also recognizing these qualities within himself. Any allegiance to lawful life is therefore a choice, born out of social and moral awareness, rather than inherent feeling. Dupin could as easily be a notorious criminal as he is a celebrated sleuth.
In this story, Poe’s detective is representative of the duality inherent in all people. A polarity which those of great imagination can access and utilize to transform their own perceptions. This theme feels very relevant to fall’s pensive mood. It speaks to the ideas which we might be examining within ourselves. Who have we been in the past, and who will be in the future?
So, curl up under a warm blanket with a mug of your favorite steamy beverage and submerge yourself into the world of Edgar Allan Poe. A world where nothing is as it seems. Stare into the glass of the double-sided mirror of C. Auguste Dupin. Walk hand in hand with Poe down the shadowed and winding road of an existence somewhere between the light and the dark.
Turtles All the Way Down tells the story of Aza “Holmsey” Holmes, a high schooler attempting to solve a mystery while also struggling to co-exist with her mental illness. When fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett goes missing and a hefty reward is offered for information leading to his whereabouts, Aza’s best friend, Daisy, convinces her to investigate. Reuniting with her childhood friend (and Pickett’s son), Davis, in hopes of learning more about the case, Aza soon finds herself enamored with this kindred spirit and a relationship begins to develop.
Amidst the romance and mystery, however, Aza spends a great deal of her time trapped within her own mind. Suffering from severe OCD and anxiety, she lives with a constant fear that she will contract a fatal disease and be overrun by the bacterial colonies breeding beneath her skin. These intrusive thoughts regularly impede her daily life as she grapples with “thought spirals,” in addition to navigating the treacherous waters of friendship, romance, and sleuthing.
Fans of John Green’s other works will feel right at home within the pages of this book, which contains many characters and philosophies that have become classic Green staples. Turtles All the Way Down echoes The Fault in Our Stars in terms of the instant love connection between Davis and Aza, as well as the exploration of the meaning of life through untimely deaths. It is worth mentioning, however, that this is one of Green’s heavier works, as the reader spends the majority of the novel subjected to the intrusive thoughts of the protagonist. Aza spends a large portion of the novel wrestling with irrational fears and trying (and often failing) to fight her compulsions. Despite the discomfort experienced in parts of the novel, this only makes the story being told all the more important, as it provides a glimpse into the often-ignored realities of mental illness. Suffering from OCD himself, Green has remarked that this book is very personal to both himself and his experiences.
One of the most poignant aspects of this novel lies in the way Green alludes to deep, universal themes without explaining them too much. A theme explored both throughout the book and throughout Green’s writing is realizing and accepting that some things aren’t meant to be fully understood. Readers can take as much away from this book as they wish, at both a surface level and with deeper analysis of symbols and motifs.
At its core, Turtles All the Way Down sends a hopeful message, while still managing to stay true to the narrative of mental illness. Despite the sometimes darker aspects of the novel as Aza sometimes fails to grapple with her own mind, she continues to ceaselessly press on and chooses to believe that we have more control over our lives than we might believe. Turtles All the Way Down is the perfect read for those who wonder about our smallness, our vastness, and the integration of our seemingly-irreconcilable selves. The underlying sense of hope serves to soothe anxious minds and remind us that “your now is not your forever.”
Are you a writer looking to take your craft to the next level? Then look no further than “Write Here, Write Now,” a pop-up writing workshop hosted on the fourth Monday of every month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Changing Hands Phoenix.
This month, acclaimed author Tom Leveen will be hosting a workshop focused on dialogue, making your characters stand out, as well as first and third person narration. For more information, click here.