[The 100 best novels] #50 – Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

mrs dalloway

In the spring of 1924, Virginia Woolf, then in her 40s, gave a famous lecture, later published as the essay Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown, in which she declared that “we are trembling on the verge of one of the great ages of English literature”. She might have been speaking about herself. In the next 15-odd years, before her suicide, Woolf would transform the English literary landscape forever. She would innovate (To the Lighthouse); she would flirt (Orlando); she would provoke (A Room of One’s Own) and, privately, would dazzle herself and her friends with a stream of letters (and diaries), all of which reveal a writer’s mind at full tilt.

Woolf is one of the giants of this series, and Mrs Dalloway, her fourth novel, is one of her greatest achievements, a book whose afterlife continues to inspire new generations of writers and readers. Like Ulysses (no 46 in this series), it takes place in the course of a single day, probably 13 June 1923. Unlike Joyce’s masterpiece, Woolf’s female protagonist is an upper-class English woman living in Westminster who is planning a party for her husband, a mid-level Tory politician.

As Clarissa Dalloway’s day unfolds, in and around Mayfair, we discover that not only is she being treated in Harley Street for severe depression, a familiar subject to Woolf, but she also conceals a troubled past replete with unarticulated love and suggestions of lesbianism. Equally troubled is the novel’s second main character, explicitly a “double”, a Great War veteran who fought in France “to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare’s plays”. Septimus Warren Smith is suffering from shell shock and is on his way to a consultation with Clarissa’s psychiatrist. Mingled with the preparations for the party, the stream-of-consciousness exploration of Mrs Dalloway’s inner state is broken by an irruption of senseless violence when Septimus, who is waiting to be taken to an asylum, throws himself out of a window. News of Septimus’s suicide becomes a topic of conversation at Mrs Dalloway’s party, where Woolf indicates Clarissa’s deep sympathy for the dead man’s suffering. The novel ends unresolved, but on a note of suspenseful menace. “What is this terror?” writes Woolf. “What is this ecstasy?” Her mature work would be devoted to exploring these questions.

A note on the text

Mrs Dalloway, published by the Hogarth Press with a striking Vanessa Bell dust jacket on 14 May 1925, was a novel that grew out of two previous short stories, Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street and The Prime Minister. The latter makes his appearance at the party at the end of the novel. Clarissa also appeared in Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, as well as in five of her short stories.

Mrs Dalloway’s literary influence can be seen in Michael Cunningham’s The Hoursand perhaps also in Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday, which takes place on a single day, 15 February 2003.

Three more from Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse (1927); Orlando (1928); A Room of One’s Own (1929).


[The 100 best novels] #49 – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925)


Anita Loos, a screenwriting Hollywood wunderkind, says she began to draft Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a jazz age classic, on the American railroad, as she crossed from New York to LA in the early 1920s. Travelling on the celebrated Santa Fe Chief with the movie star Douglas Fairbanks and his brainless leading lady, the young Loos became exasperated that a woman so stupid could “so far outdistance me in feminine allure”. Could this girl’s secret, Loos wondered, possibly be rooted in her hair? “She was a natural blonde and I was a brunette.”

Lorelei Lee (aka Mabel Minnow from Little Rock, Arkansas) was born in that nano-second of female rivalry. Whipping out her yellow pad, Loos began drafting The Illuminating (originally Intimate) Diary of a Professional Lady, teasing fact and fantasy into an intoxicating depiction of “the lowest possible mentality” in prohibition America, a gold-digging blonde who is not – surprise, surprise – quite as dumb as she looks. No wonder that the part burst into life when Marilyn Monroe starred in the 1953 film version.

Later, Loos joked that the plot of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was “almost as gloomy” as a Dostoevsky novel. Indeed, without Lorelei’s faux-naif interior monologue, her tale is replete with hints of rape, actual murder, seduction, gangsterism, and courtesanship, spun into airy nothing. When her diary begins, Lorelei is “under the protection” of the millionaire Gus Eisman, a Chicago button manufacturer, but in danger of falling in love with an impecunious British writer who wants to divorce his wife and marry the woman he believes to be his true love.

When Eisman gets wind of this, he sends his mistress on a European tour with her hard-boiled friend Dorothy. Quickly bored with London, despite a dance with the Prince of Wales, they head for Paris (“devine”) and its romantic attractions, especially “the Eyeful Tower”. Yet the longer Lorelei’s sentimental education continues, the more she recognises the truth: continental men are no match for Americans. “I really think,” she writes, “that American gentlemen are the best after all, because kissing your hand may make you feel very, very good but a diamond-and-safire [sic] bracelet lasts for ever.”

This novella (it is barely 150 pages in my battered Penguin edition) falls into the category of “guilty pleasure”, but I think it earns its place on this list, if only for the roll call of its distinguished contemporary fans, its lasting influence, and intensely quotable lines. Long before Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, Loos hit on a young woman’s diary as the perfect medium for satirical romance. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, serialised in Harper’s Bazaar, became cult reading. Edith Wharton, probably tongue in cheek, hailed it as “the great American novel”. Loos, an unreliable witness, claimed that James Joyce, who was losing his sight, saved his reading for Lorelei Lee. Who knows? It’s a little book with a broad smile, and a deceptively big heart.

A note on the text
In her prime, in the 1920s, Anita Loos was “the Soubrette of Satire”and also boasted that her first screen credit was for an adaptation of Macbeth in which her billing followed immediately after Shakespeare’s.

The roaring success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes owes an important debt to the celebrated critic and columnist, HL Mencken, a friend of Loos’s. “Menck”, as she called him, had just left the editorship of The Smart Set for The American Mercury, and correctly saw that “making fun of sex” was the kind of risque novelty that would work better in a popular middlebrow publication like Harper’s Bazaar. So Loos took her Lorelei material to the Harper’s editor, Henry Sell, who encouraged Loos to extract maximum advantage from Lorelei’s European trip. In just a few months, Gentleman Prefer Blondes became a magazine sensation. Newsstand sales of Harper’s doubled, tripled and quadrupled.

Then the publishers Boni and Liveright came calling, and made a contract for a slim hardback, illustrated by Ralph Barton. Blondes sold out at once as a runaway bestseller, becoming the second highest-selling book of 1926, and helping to define the jazz age for ever. A second edition of 60,000 copies was exhausted almost as quickly. Some 45 editions later (in the end, 80-plus), the book had passed into classic status. It would be translated into 14 languages, including Chinese. Eventually, Lorelei’s most memorable obiter dicta found their way into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. The idea that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” passed into popular culture, and is now repeated without irony too often to be diverting. Loos herself lived long enough (she died in 1981) to describe her book as a “period piece” for the grandchildren of its first fans. “May they be diverted by the adventures of Lorelei Lee”, she wrote, “and take courage from the words of her favourite philosopher: ‘Smile, smile, smile.'”

Three more from Anita Loos
But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1928); A Girl like I (1966); Kiss Hollywood Goodbye (1974).


[The 100 best novels] #48 – A Passage to India by EM Forster (1924)



In 1957, EM Forster, looking back in old age, wrote that the late-empire world of A Passage to India “no longer exists, either politically or socially”. Today, approaching 100 years after its composition, the novel is probably as “dated” as ever. Yet – because Forster’s concern is the forging of a relationship between a British schoolteacher and a Muslim doctor, reflecting the larger tragedy of imperialism – A Passage to India stands as a strangely timeless achievement, one of the great novels of the 20th century.

The part of A Passage to India that most readers remember, of course, is the tortuous romantic drama of the Marabar caves. Thus: when Adela Quested, an English schoolteacher, and her companion Mrs Moore arrive in Chandrapore they enter colonial India, a place obsessed with the promotion of British values and the British way of life. The idea is that Adela will meet and marry Mrs Moore’s son Ronny, an eligible but bigoted British civil servant, the city’s magistrate. But Miss Quested, as her name implies, has other ideas. Rejecting the prejudice and insularity of the British community, she sets out to investigate the “real” India, assisted in her search by Dr Aziz, a young Muslim doctor who naively wants to promote an entente between the master race and its colonial subjects. Each, in turn, is encouraged by the head of a local government college.

Aziz arranges for Miss Quested and Mrs Moore to visit the famous caves at Marabar. There, in a classic episode of Forsterian “muddle”, something happens between Aziz and Adela that disgraces the doctor, and inflames the furious hostility of the British sahibs. In the crisis, Aziz, already disdained as “spoilt westernised”, is imprisoned. Eventually, after a trial, Adela withdraws her charges and Aziz, radicalised and angry, moves to the native state of Forster’s imagination. “I am an Indian at last,” he says, and he stands alone in the monsoon rain. There, in the closing part of the novel, he is visited by Fielding, the British schoolteacher who had been his great confidant and friend. The Aziz-Fielding relationship tormented Forster. In a passage that caused him great creative agony, he wrestled with the complexity of an east-west understanding. “But the horses didn’t want it – they swerved apart; the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion… they didn’t want it. ‘No, not yet,’ and the sky said, ‘No, not there.'” It is a bleak but prescient conclusion: the issue of east and west is no nearer a resolution today than it was 100 years ago.

A note on the text

EM Forster visited the caves of Barabar in January 1913 on his first visit to India. It was an experience he never forgot, and it was into his fictional caves of “Marabar” that he sent Mrs Moore and her young companion, Adela, in the central and all-important section of his masterpiece, Part II, Caves. On his return from India, he began to write an Indian novel, but abandoned it to write Maurice, a novel of homosexual desire that would not be published until after his death. He did not return to his “Indian” manuscript until 1921, having recently accepted a post as private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. Nevertheless, the experience of writing the novel was hardly fulfilling to him. He admitted privately that he was “bored by the tiresomeness and conventionalities of fiction-form”, especially “the studied ignorance of the novelist”. The last section, Temple, was Forster’s attempt, after a long struggle, to lift the narrative to a higher plane, as well as to resolve the unbridgeable conflict within the Raj.

A Passage to India was published on 4 June 1924 by the British imprint Edward Arnold, and then on 14 August in New York by Harcourt, Brace and Co. Forster borrowed his title from a Walt Whitman poem of the same name in Leaves of Grass. By the end of the year, there were 17,000 copies in print in Britain and more than 54,000 in the US. Forster’s best-ever sales were matched by enthusiastic reviews. Only in India were critics exercised by his portrait of Anglo-Indian society. Today, he is seen as eerily prescient.

The typescript of A Passage to India, with many manuscript revisions, is now held in the library at King’s College, Cambridge, Forster’s home throughout his later years. As many have noted, Forster never wrote another novel, and lived until 1970, aged 91. For 46 years, his reputation grew with every book he didn’t write.Maurice (written 1913-14), an explicitly homosexual novel, was published posthumously in 1971.

Three more from EM Forster

A Room With a View (1908); The Longest Journey (1907); Howards End (1910).


[The 100 best novels] #47 – Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)


Babbitt, dedicated to Edith Wharton, was published in the same year as Ulysses (No 46 in this series) and likewise explores the passage through life of a middle-aged man. Coincidentally, the opening chapters follow the eponymous house agent’s life during a single day. However, George F Babbitt, a self-intoxicated bully from the fictional city of Zenith, is a world away from Dublin’s childless cuckold, Leopold Bloom. Similarly, Babbitt, a satire on 20s America by the controversial Sinclair Lewis, was a bestselling entertainment (the antecedents of which are found in Mark Twain, No 23 in this series) with an artistic intention far removed from Joyce’s “silence, exile and cunning”.

Yet, in his own way, Lewis took his writing very seriously, researching and annotating his subjects to the point where imagination often got forced aside. Introducing the novel to English readers, Hugh Walpole, a now forgotten literary figure of the 20s, declared that the first 50 pages are “difficult, the dialogue strange, the American business atmosphere obscure”. But once the book takes hold, it becomes enthralling. Babbitt may be short on structure and narrative guile, but it’s full of larger-than-life characters and vivid satire. “Babbittry”, denoting a certain kind of bogus sales pitch, became part of the inter-war American lexicon. John Updike, who may feature later in this series, nods to this in his sequence of novels about “Rabbit” Angstrom, also a salesman. Both are writing about the American dream.

For Lewis, however, it’s a socio-economic cul-de-sac from which he wants his heroes – George Babbitt, Elmer Gantry and the rest – decisively to break out. Similar desires might be said to animate the inner lives of some Arthur Miller protagonists, especially Willy Loman.

In Main Street, his acclaimed satire on the dullness of life in Gopher Prairie, Lewis had already challenged the romance of small-town America. In Babbitt he took on the midwestern, middle-sized city, and its ecology of American enterprise, celebrated in the term “boosterism”.

Lewis recognised that these places, and their inhabitants, were not immune to social instability or economic depression, and that “boosting” these mid-American towns, and their stultifying way of life, offered no guarantee of stability after the upheavals of the first world war. When Babbitt comes to resent the middle-class prison of respectability in which he finds himself, striving to find meaning in an existence made trivial by mammon, the novel takes wing. His revolt resolves itself on his return to society, after a period of defiance and ostracism. He has been purged and renewed and, in the words of his son, is now “really going to be human”.

Babbitt’s adventures, narrated episodically, are designed to illustrate Lewis’s argument and to cohere into a persuasive satire against US bourgeois conformity. Babbitt, like Galsworthy’s Forsyte, whom – spoiler alert – I have chosen not to include in this series, is a symbol of American capitalism; Lewis a key transitional figure from Twain, especially, to the great postwar writers of the 1940s and 50s.

A note on the text
Babbitt, Lewis’s eighth novel, was published in a hardback edition of some 400 pages in 1922. It was an immediate bestseller, and “Babbitt” entered the language to denote a “person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards”.

In its first year of publication, Babbitt sold almost 150,000 copies in the United States, becoming a notable bestseller (a term then coming into vogue). Lewis had already enjoyed astonishing success with Main Street (1920). Inevitably, both books were contrasted, with opinion fairly equally divided. HL Mencken, the great American critic and columnist from Baltimore, adopted the cause of Babbitt, declaring himself “an old professor of Babbittry”. Mencken brushed past Lewis’s satire to find a passionate work of realism, in which George F Babbitt becomes a crucial archetype, representing those inter-war American city dwellers, sold on Republican conformity. Babbitt, according to Mencken, stood for everything that was wrong with American society.

Nevertheless, Babbitt fever swept the American reading public, and also caught the eye of critics, poets and writers. Vachel Lindsay wrote a poem entitled The Babbitt Jamboree, and in 1927 the English writer CEM Joad published The Babbitt Warren, a critique of US society. Babbitt is part of the reason Lewis was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1930, the first American novelist to receive the honour.

Three more from Sinclair Lewis
Main Street (1920); Arrowsmith (1925); Elmer Gantry (1927).


Tema Baca dan Opini Bareng 2015

Baca Opini Bareng 2015

Halo teman-teman BBI-ers!!!

Tak terasa kita sudah sampai di penghujung 2014 dan kegiatan Baca Bareng kita di tahun 2014 sudah hampir habis.

Sebelumnya, Divisi Event mohon maaf apabila masih terdapat banyak kekurangan dari kegiatan Baca Bareng di tahun 2014 dan semoga di tahun 2015 dan seterusnya, kegiatan ini akan menjadi lebih baik lagi dan tentunya semakin dinikmati teman-teman member.

Naaaaah…. sebagai bagian dari harapan tersebut adalah dengan kemasan baru untuk kegiatan Baca Bareng 2015.

Di tahun 2015, selain mengajak teman-teman member BBI untuk sama-sama membaca buku bertema sama, Divisi Event juga ingin mengajak teman-teman member BBI untuk sama-sama belajar menilai bacaan teman-teman lebih dalam lagi sekaligus latihan menuangkan opini.Yep yep, selain Baca Bareng, di tahun 2015 juga akan ada Opini Bareng.

Kegiatan Baca Bareng

Masih seperti tahun-tahun sebelumnya, setiap bulan, Divisi Event akan menentukan tema bacaan tertentu.

Tema ini cukup luas dan teman-teman bebas memilih buku yang teman-teman anggap sesuai dengan tema—bisa fiksi maupun non fiksi—untuk dibaca dan dipos resensinya di blog masing-masing pada tanggal yang telah ditentukan di pukul 09.00 WIB.

Gunakan banner berikut di awal posting, ya.


Tema Baca Bareng:

  • Januari: Buku Secret Santa, dipos tanggal 30 Januari 2015.
  • Februari: Profesi, yaitu buku-buku yang di dalamnya dijelaskan cukup rinci mengenai profesi tokoh-tokohnya. Misalnya, Twivortiare Ika Natassa yang menjelaskan profesi bankir. Dipos tanggal 27 Februari 2015.
  • Maret: Adaptasi buku ke film atau film ke buku, misalnya The Fault in Our Stars, Supernova, dll, dipos tanggal 31 Maret 2015.
  • April: Buku yang sudah diterbitkan yang sebelumnya dipos online (wattpad, blog, forum, dll), misalnya Coup(L)ove Rhein Fathia, Kambing Jantan Raditya Dika, dll., dipos tanggal 30 April 2015.
  • Mei: Buku bertema Hak Asasi Manusia dan kritik sosial, misalnya I am Malala, Kumpulan Puisi Wiji Thukul, A Time to Kill John Grisham, dll., dipos tanggal 29 Mei 2015.
  • Juni: Budaya dan setting Indonesia, misalnya Laskar Pelangi Andrea Hirata, Lampau Sandi Firly, dll., dipos tanggal 30 Juni 2015.
  • Juli: Kenakalan anak-anak, misalnya serial Malory Towers Enyd Blyton, serial Anak-anak Mamak Tere Liye, dll., dipos tanggal 31 Juli 2015.
  • Agustus: Seputar Perang Dunia I dan II, misalnya Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein, A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway, dll., dipos tanggal 28 Agustus 2015.
  • September: Sastra Eropa, misalnya buku-buku Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, dll., dipos tanggal 30 September 2015.
  • Oktober: Horror, misalnya buku-buku Eve Shi, R.L. Stines, dll., dipos tanggal 30 Oktober 2015.
  • November: Detektif / Thriller / Misteri, misalnya Gone Girl Gillian Flynn, Da Vinci Code Dan Brown, Agatha Christie, dll., dipos tanggal 27 November 2015.
  • Desember: Baca bareng 1 judul, ditentukan kemudian, dipos tanggal 28 Desember 2015.


Kegiatan Opini Bareng

Opini Bareng ini bentuk kegiatannya lebih fleksibel dan bebas daripada Baca Bareng. Intinya adalah, Divisi Event memberikan tema yang harus teman-teman eksplor dalam satu bulan. Namun, bagaimana cara teman-teman menyampaikan tema opini tersebut adalah bebas; teman-teman bisa membuat satu pos berisi opini teman-teman terkait tema, bisa membuat daftar bacaan sesuai tema (Top 5, Top 10, dsb), bisa juga memilih buku-buku bacaan selama sebulan sesuai tema opini bareng dan menulis resensi dengan menitikberatkan pada tema Opini Bareng.

Tidak ada tanggal khusus posting bareng dan teman-teman bisa membuat 1 pos atau lebih bertema sama dalam 1 bulan.

Silahkan gunakan banner Opini Bareng di awal posting kamu, ya.


Di bawah ini adalah tema Opini Bareng dan pertanyaan pancingan (tidak harus kamu ikuti, tapi bisa jadi panduan kalau kamu bingung mau membahas apa)

Tema Opini Bareng

♥ Januari: Ekspektasi

Pernahkah kamu ingin membaca suatu buku karena mendengar buku itu bagus atau merasa sepertinya buku itu “gue banget”? Bagaimana setelah kamu akhirnya membaca buku yang kamu inginkan itu? Atau pernah sebaliknya, menyangka tidak akan suka suatu buku tetapi ketika kamu selesai membacanya kamu malah menikmatinya?

♥ Februari: Karakter Tokoh Utama

Apakah kamu lebih menyukai karakter utama yang serbasempurna, mirip dengan kepribadianmu, atau yang hidupnya penuh dengan masalah dan ketidaksempurnaan? Apakah kamu menyukai tokoh utama yang cerewet atau pendiam?

♥ Maret: Alur Cerita

Apakah kamu tipe yang ingin alur cerita maju teratur atau melompat-lompat? Buku dengan alur yang paling menyenangkan dan paling menyebalkan yang pernah kamu baca?

♥ April: Hubungan dengan Pembaca

Apakah kamu pernah merasa terhubung dengan suatu bacaan? Apakah kamu pernah mendapati buku yang pesan moralnya sama sekali bertentangan dengan pendapatmu? Bagaimana menyikapinya?

♥ Mei: Realita Sosial

Pernah merasa buku yang kamu baca sangat jauh dari kenyataan? Sangat sesuai dengan kenyataan? Kemungkinan akan menjadi kenyataan dalam waktu dekat?

♥ Juni: Setting dalam buku

Bagaimana penulis menuliskan latar buku yang kamu baca? Apakah membuatmu dapat membayangkan tempat itu pada waktu itu?

♥ Juli: Side-kick characters

Pernah membaca buku di mana karakter utama memiliki teman baik? Apakah si teman baik itu berhasil mencuri perhatianmu? Apakah si teman baik berpengaruh besar pada si tokoh utama?

♥ Agustus: Amanat

Apakah buku yang kamu baca membuatmu belajar sesuatu dan sampai kini kamu terapkan dalam kehidupanmu?

♥ September: Peran Wanita

Pernahkah kamu membaca buku di mana wanita tampil sebagai tokoh yang sangat kuat dan patut dikagumi? Atau justru sebaliknya, tak berdaya dan menyusahkan? Dari buku yang kamu baca, bagaimana peran wanita dalam buku itu?

♥ Oktober: Klimaks

Apakah buku yang kamu baca memiliki titik di mana rasanya kamu sangat deg-degan, geregetan, dan sebagainya? Ataukah datar saja? Mana yang lebih kamu suka?

♥ November: Logika dalam Cerita

Apakah buku yang kamu baca masuk akal? Apakah kamu tidak keberatan membaca buku yang tidak masuk akal secara logikamu?

♥ Desember: Bebas

Pilih satu hal yang menurutmu menarik untuk dibahas. Bisa terkait selera bacaan pribadimu secara umum bisa juga terkait bacaanmu bulan ini.


Untuk tahun ini, Divisi Event tidak akan mengadakan voting posting favorit setiap bulan. Namun, untuk peserta Baca Bareng dan Opini Bareng teraktif, Divisi Event menyediakan masing-masing satu paket hadiah.

Diingatkan kembali untuk memudahkan penilaian, selain mengisi linky yang disediakan Divisi Event setiap bulan, mohon agar teman-teman juga mencantumkan label “Baca Bareng” dan “Opini Bareng” di tiap posting dan mencantumkannya di sidebar blog teman-teman, untuk memudahkan pendataan dan pengecekan.

Sekian informasi mengenai Baca Bareng dan Opini Bareng. Semoga teman-teman berpartisipasi dan menikmatinya!!


Salam baca,

Div. Event

The 100 best novels: #46 – Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)

1922 is one of those extraordinary years in the history of English literature – the moment when Modernism came of age, and after which nothing would ever be the same again. TS Eliot‘s The Waste Landappeared, first in magazine and then in volume form towards the end of the year. By then, James Joyce had already seen Ulysses, a text of approximately 265,000 words, privately published in Paris by Sylvia Beach, the philanthropic proprietor of the bookshop Shakespeare & Company, after a tortuous gestation in which his novel had been prosecuted for obscenity, and almost hounded into oblivion.

Joyce, however, was creatively obdurate. Earlier, in his autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he had made an unforgettable declaration of artistic intent. His answer to the challenge of the 20th century was to declare independence. He wrote: “I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile and cunning.”

Today, novelists writing a hundred years after the composition of Ulysses still write in the shadow of this extraordinary achievement. Occasionally, it is said that English-languagefiction since 1922 has been a series of footnotes to Joyce’s masterpiece.

Ulysses began as a discarded chapter from Joyce’s first collection, Dubliners (1914) and for all its length it retains the fierce intimacy of a great short story. The action of the novel, famously, occurs on a single day, 16 June 1904, coincidentally the date of Joyce’s first outing with Nora Barnacle, later his beloved wife. On “Bloomsday”, the reader follows Stephen Dedalus (the protagonist of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), Leopold Bloom, a part-Jewish advertising canvasser, and his wife Molly.

The connection to The Odyssey is informal (Bloom is Odysseus, Stephen matches Telemachus and Molly is Penelope) and the chapters roughly correspond to episodes in Homer (“Calypso”, “Nausicaa”, “Oxen of the Sun”, etc.). Joyce himself revered the book that had inspired his masterpiece. The theme of The Odyssey, he said in 1917, while working on his novel, was “the most beautiful, all-embracing theme… greater, more human than that of Hamlet, Don Quixote, Dante, Faust”.

Ulysses is often said to be “difficult”, but really it is not. Joyce’s word-play, rivalling Shakespeare, whose teeming vocabulary he surpasses, is intoxicating, and deeply Irish. One of the best ways to encounter the novel is through any good audiobook recording. As Stephen Dedalus remarks: “Every life is 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.”

A Note on the Text

The textual history of Ulysses, first published on 2 February 1922, is every bit as complex as the novel itself, and what follows is a necessary over-simplification of an editorial cat’s cradle. For instance, I have referred to the 1922 edition published by Sylvia Beach, an edition I have owned for years. To a Joyce scholar, however, that is like working on Shakespeare exclusively from the First Folio. By some calculations, there are no fewer than 18 separate editions of this book.

Yet it had all begun so modestly, in about 1907. “When I was writingDubliners,” Joyce told Georges Borach, one of his language students, “I first wished to choose the title Ulysses in Dublin, but I gave up the idea. In Rome, when I had finished about half of the Portrait, I realised that the Odyssey had to be the sequel, and I began to write Ulysses.”

The first appearance of pages from this astonishing new novel occurred in 1918, in The Little Review, whose foreign editor was Ezra Pound. From the first, the text ran into difficulties with the authorities on the grounds of alleged obscenity. By 1920, this first serialisation was over, and The Little Review was no longer publishing monthly instalments. Joyce, who was now living in Paris, had met Sylvia Beach, the proprietor of Shakespeare & Company, a celebrated left bank bookshop. Beach offered to publish the novel privately, avoiding censorship.

Now began the second, chaotic stage of Ulysses‘ progress towards full and final publication. For Joyce, his novel was always evolving; he could never quite leave his text alone. Every proof that was pulled became another invitation to yet further revision. The current draft of the novel was always a palimpsest of the author’s second and third thoughts. In addition, there were numerous misprints, many of them attributable to the French typesetters’ ignorance of basic English, let alone the allusive, polysyllabic stew we know as Joycean English.

After the Shakespeare & Company edition, Harriet Weaver of the Egoist Press also published an “English edition” in 1922. This, for some, is the first canonical text (the current OUP paperback version, for instance, adopts this edition, warts and all). But then the 1922 text was banned and the novel forced underground. In 1933, Random House successfully applied to the US courts to overturn the ban, and published its first, American edition in January 1934. This was followed, a generation later, in the 1960s, with new editions from Penguin Books, The Bodley Head and Random House in the US. To scholars and some critics, the text ofUlysses was still “corrupt” from the tortuous process of the novel’s gestation. This, it was argued, should be put right with a full-blown edition representing Joyce’s intentions. But how to achieve that? The answer was not obvious, which may have been Joyce’s unconscious wish from the first.

Finally, in the late 1970s a German critic and scholar named Hans Walter Gabler began the task of preparing a “corrected text”. This was finally published in 1984, and greeted with, first, acclaim, then doubts, and finally outrage. From a deep split in English and German textual theory, the status of the all-important “copy-text” (either the 1922 edition or Joyce’s chaotic and imperfect manuscript) became the subject of a fierce scholarly debate between Gabler and his nemesis, John Kidd. The climax of this crisis occurred in June 1988 with Kidd’s article in the New York Review of Books, entitled “The Scandal of Ulysses”.

Since then, the row has gradually subsided, with a loose consensus forming in support of Gabler’s “synoptic” text, while nevertheless acknowledging that it, too, contains some rank inconsistencies. Today, the first 1922 edition, a text of huge historical consequence, stands as the shortest route to the author’s intentions, despite numerous Joycean “misses in print”.

Three More From James Joyce

Dubliners (1914); A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916);Finnegans Wake (1939)


Daftar Tempat Wisata Buku

Berasal dari obrolan – obrolan kawan BBI, tercetus ide untuk mengumpulkan artikel – artikel dari blog – blog BBIers yang mengulas tentang wisata buku. Wisata buku ini disebut Literatourism , sebuah istilah yang diusulkan Dhieta, salah satu anggota BBI ( My Perfect Solitudes,  follow her Twitter di @miss_bloss :) ). Apa itu Literatourism? Well, itu cuma singkatan dari Literature Tourism, alias wisata buku. Kudos to Dhieta to find this new terms! :D

Berikut ini adalah artikel – artikel Literatourism. Semoga ada yang jadi pengen pergi ke tempat – tempat yang dimaksud dan mendapat pengalaman yang baru

Oleh – oleh dari Negeri Paman Sam ( by Astrid from Books to Share)

Book Hunting in Chennai & Bangalore (by Dewi from Through Tinted Glass)

Berburu Buku di Delhi (by Dewi from Through Tinted Glass)

Bras Basah : Cinta yang Tak Pernah Mati (by Dewi from Through Tinted Glass)

Shakespeare & Company, Paris (by Made Melani from ma petite bibliotheque)

The “Bookshop” in Spring and Summer ( by Made Melani from ma petite bibliotheque)

Perpusda Prov. Jateng ( by Tezar from Mari Membaca)

Dijon Bookswap, Cara Bawa Pulang Buku Tanpa (banyak) Dosa ( by Ndari from Bibliophilic Bipolar)

Let’s Get The Party Started! ( by Astrid from Books to Share)

De Slegte – Den Haag ( by Dhieta from My Perfect Solitudes)

Berkunjung ke Perpustaan Umum Balai Budaya Surabaya (by Dinoy from Dinoy’s Book Review)

Perpustakaan Umum Daerah Jakarta (by Farazziya from Farazziya’s Bookshelf)

Get lost in Library: Bersenang – senang di Perpustakaan UI (by Fadhila from Kilas Buku)

Oh ya, kami juga dapat link keren dari Dhita, yaitu Literary Tourist, yang taglinenya itu The Travel Planner for Book Lovers. Wow, keren banget buat kita yang mau ngadain wisata buku terutama di luar negeri :D

Bagi pengunjung site BBI  jika dari kalian ada yang mau berbagi pengalaman berburu buku di daerah kalian atau di luar negeri silakan share disini :). Oh iya, harus toko buku yah, bukan yang sistemnya belanja online (karena semua juga bisa). Dan utamakan untuk toko buku selain yang sudah umum buat masyarakat kalau di Indonesia (jadi Gramedia, Toko Buku Agung dsb, itu jangan deh, hehehe). Gimana dengan pengalaman baca di perpustakaan? Sangat dianjurkan. Kan wisata buku tidak terbatas hanya belanja buku di toko, bukan? :)

The 100 best novels: #45 – The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)

Edith Wharton (nee Newbold Jones), who was born into a rich and distinguished New York family in 1862, is perhaps a great city’s greatest novelist. From The House of Mirth (1905) to The Custom of the Country(1913) to her masterpiece The Age of Innocence, Wharton’s subject was the changing scene of New York City, the foibles of its fashionable elites and the ambitions of the “new people” who, she felt, threatened its traditional culture. Wharton was also close to Henry James whom she described as “perhaps the most intimate friend I ever had, though in many ways we were so different”. Together, from 1900 to the end of the Great War, the work of James and Wharton dominates American literature.

The Age of Innocence tells the story of a forthcoming society wedding, and the threat to the happy couple from the appearance in their midst of an exotic and beautiful femme fatale, a cousin of the bride. Newland Archer (the name makes a nod to James’s heroine Isabel Archer) is a distinguished lawyer looking forward to his marriage to shy, lovely, sheltered May Welland. But when he meets Countess Ellen Olenska, scandalously separated from her European husband, a Polish count, he falls hopelessly in love and blights his marriage to May by failing to break off his relationship with the countess. Meanwhile, in a typical Wharton twist, Newland Archer’s bride may be timid, but she is determined to marry her fiance and uses all the power of New York society to bring him to heel.

The social tragedy of Newland Archer’s unhappy union was informed by Wharton’s own marital breakdown, a crisis brought on by her husband’s acute nervous collapse. By 1913, however, Wharton was divorced and free to explore her gifts as a writer of fiction.

As with all her New York novels, The Age of Innocence makes an ironic commentary on the cruelties and hypocrisies of Manhattan society in the years before, during and after the Great War. Strangely, when it won the 1921 Pulitzer prize, the judges praised it for revealing “the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood”. Today, while not as merciless in its analysis asThe House of Mirth, Wharton’s late masterpiece stands as a fierce indictment of a society estranged from culture and in desperate need of a European sensibility. This had been an issue for American writers since Washington Irving, Melville and Hawthorne. Some critics would say it remains unresolved to this day.

A Note on the Text

The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton‘s 12th novel, which takes its title from a 1785 painting of A Little Girl by Joshua Reynolds, was first serialised in four parts during 1920 in the Pictorial Review. It subsequently appeared in book form from the American publisher D Appleton & Company of New York. In 1921, The Age of Innocencebecame the first novel written by a woman to win a Pulitzer.

The book has inspired many film, television and theatrical adaptations: most recently, in 1993, Martin Scorsese directed a film version starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Countess Ellen Olenska, Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer and Winona Ryder as May Welland Archer.

Three More From Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth (1905); Ethan Frome (1911); The Custom of the Country (1913).


BBI at IRF 2014 – Update


Halo.. halo…

Tak terasa, tahun 2014 sudah beranjak menuju penghujungnya. Sudah akan keempat kalinya, Festival Pembaca Indonesia (IRF) diselenggarakan. Dan tahun ini, BBI akan ketiga kalinya menjadi salah satu penyemarak acara IRF itu.

Festival Pembaca Indonesia 2014 akan diselenggarakan di Museum Nasional – Jakarta, pada tanggal 6-7 Desember 2014, mulai pukul 09.00 WIB sampai pukul 16.00 WIB. BBI akan menempati booth B2-B3.

Seperti tahun lalu, kami ingin mengajak teman-teman untuk berpartisipasi di booth BBI. Untuk itu, kami mengadakan beberapa kegiatan di antaranya:

  1. Berfoto bersama bukumu! BBI akan menyediakan booth untuk pengunjung yang ingin berfoto bersama buku kesayangan, teman, atau keluarga. Foto tersebut ditwit-pic dengan mention @PenerbitMizan dan @BBI_2011. Bagi foto terpilih akan mendapatkan hadiah dari Mizan.
  2. Game Merangkai Judul.  Seberapa kreatifkah kalian dalam merangkai beberapa judul yang diberikan dengan waktu terbatas? Tentu saja game ini berhadiah!
  3. Games Apa dan Siapa. Seberapa luas wawasanmu tentang buku-buku lokal dan terjemahan? Temukan jawabannya di game ini. Berhadiah, lho!
  4. Game Darts. Ayo pertaruhkan keberuntunganmu dengan melempar dart pada papan yang telah disediakan di booth! Hadiah bagimu tergantung pada ke mana dart tertancap.
  5. Catch Me If You Can. Temukan seseorang yang kau bahkan tak tahu siapa dia. Akan diberikan clue untuk menemukan siapa orang yang dimaksud. Untuk tebakan yang tepat, akan mendapatkan hadiah.

Ada begitu banyak hadiah di booth BBI. Apakah kalian masih akan melewatkan event keren ini?

Tak lupa, BBI juga berpartisipasi dalam workshop Menulis Resensi dari Hati, mulai pukul 10.00 WIB hingga pukul 12.00 WIB pada hari Sabtu, 6 Desember 2014. Berlokasi di Ruang Pameran. Akan ada banyak ilmu mengenai bagaimana menulis resensi yang bisa kamu dapatkan, seandainya kamu masih ragu untuk menulis resensimu sendiri.

Di booth BBI sendiri, akan ada Klinik Resensi. Jadi, jangan sungkan-sungkan untuk berkonsultasi mengenai menulis resensi. Akan ada banyak yang membantumu di sana.


Ayo datang ke IRF2014!

Booth BBI di IRF2014 ini disponsori oleh Penerbit Mizan dan didukung oleh Periplus Bookstore.


~ Divisi Sosial Media ~

The 100 best novels: #44 – Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham (1915)

In Aspects of the Novel, EM Forster wrote: “The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, of anything else that we cannot define.” He might have been writing about W Somerset Maugham‘s masterpiece, Of Human Bondage. For English readers, this is a Bildungsroman we mostly first encounter as adolescents. It earns its place in this list for the edgy economy of its dark, often cruel narrative more than its style (prosaic) or its humanity (tormented). Maugham’s unforgettable portrait of Philip Carey is one that teenagers, typically, will ingest like junkies, not least because Maugham poured so much of himself into the plot of the novel and its strangely sympathetic protagonist. Perhaps not since David Copperfield, an obvious inspiration (No 15 in this series), had an English writer mined his own life so explicitly or so ruthlessly.

Philip Carey is an orphan hungry for love and experience. Like Maugham, who was a homosexual with a bad stammer, he is afflicted with a disabling deformity, a club foot. Raised by his clergyman uncle, the boy is imprisoned in late-Victorian vicarage life dreaming of his release from bondage, and praying to an indifferent God to have his disability healed. After a closely observed passage through boarding school, Philip escapes to study in Heidelberg, enjoys a brief spell as a struggling but failing artist in Paris, and then returns home. Now begins the most poignant and memorable passage of the novel, Carey’s hopeless affair with Mildred, a waitress.

Maugham was a self-hating homosexual, and his picture of Mildred as Philip’s love-object reflects the trials of a young gay man in the aftermath of the Oscar Wilde case. Mildred is “boy-like”, vulgar and contemptuous of her crippled lover. She often betrays him, going off with his other men friends, steals from him, and scorns his sexuality. Theirs is a sad, on-off affair, during which she gets pregnant by another man, while Philip remains obsessively in love. Finally, after a hideous crisis in which Mildred wrecks his flat and shreds his wardrobe, she leaves to become a Shaftesbury Avenue prostitute. Only then does Philip realise he no longer loves her. He escapes her spell just in time to redeem himself, and marry a girl called Sally, a sentimental conclusion that does no justice to the savage honesty that permeates the heart of the novel.

A note on the text

Of Human Bondage was initially called The Artistic Temperament of Stephen Carey, then Beauty from the Ashes, a quotation from Isaiah. When Maugham discovered that this title had been used already, he borrowed his final title from one of the books in Spinoza’s Ethics. It was published in Britain by William Heinemann on 13 August 1915, during an annus mirabilis for British fiction. This series has already listed entries forThe Good Soldier, The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Rainbow. From a long list of titles published that year, I’ve also excluded some other big names: Woolf’s The Voyage Out, Wodehouse’s Psmith Journalist, and Conrad’s Victory.

The novel’s history is interesting. Maugham first wrote the manuscript that would become Of Human Bondage when he was 23, having just taken his medical degree after five years at St Thomas’s. He sent it to Fisher Unwin which, while he was still a medical student, had published his first novel Liza of Lambeth to some acclaim. Maugham asked for an advance of £100, but was refused. “Rebuffed,” he wrote later, “I put the manuscript away.” He turned to writing for the theatre, where he enjoyed considerable success. “I was no sooner firmly established as the most popular dramatist of the day,” he writes, “than I began once more to be obsessed by the teeming memories of my past life.”

Maugham was at pains, however, to insist that this was “not an autobiography, but an autobiographical novel”. It was, in short, a mash-up of fact and fiction, seasoned with his own emotions, even when some incidents were borrowed from elsewhere. Whatever the process of composition, it satisfied its author. “I found myself free from the pains and unhappy recollections that had tormented me,” he wrote later.

Maugham was always fiercely self-critical. “I knew I had no lyrical quality,” he once wrote. “I had a small vocabulary and no efforts that I could make to enlarge it much availed me. I had little gift of metaphor; the original and striking simile seldom occurred to me.” But he did have an instinctive gift for storytelling. Many would say that his short stories embody his best work, and he remains a substantial figure in the early-20th-century literary landscape. Although Maugham’s former reputation has become somewhat eclipsed, Of Human Bondage can still be cited as his masterpiece, a 20th-century English classic with a devoted following.

Three more from Somerset Maugham

The Moon and Sixpence (1919); Cakes and Ale (1930); The Razor’s Edge (1944).