All posts tagged: Literature

marcovaldo-artwork

Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo: Seasons in the City

Bedridden with the flu on a recent writing retreat, I had resigned myself to focus on recovery rather than to get any writing done. I had not expected, between the coughing fits and the fever chills, to find new inspiration from a familiar source. But there it was, sitting eye-level on the third shelf of a corner bookcase at a stranger’s vacation rental, all 128 pages of glory: Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo, translated by William Weaver. My experience with Calvino is uneven. On more than one occasion, my awe of the Italian author’s way with words outpaced my ability to keep up with the quickness of his intellect. I gave up halfway through The Castle of Cross Destinies because my mind could no longer hold the labyrinth of interconnected narratives together, and while I admired and strove to emulate the stylings of his Cosmicomics, many of those journeys across time, space, and imagination remains beyond my comprehension. Yet when Calvino’s work connects, he leaves an impression upon me unlike any other author. Even as I have professed …

Unless - The Lorax

The Lorax and Literature’s Moral Obligation

I recently came across a wonderful piece in The Atlantic exploring some of the ideas that have been rattling around in my head ever since I started Ekostories. Using Dr. Seuss classic The Lorax as a starting point, author Lydia Millet makes a case for the importance of activist-minded fiction. What role should literature play in voicing the great and pressing challenges of our time? Should it convey messages and courses of action? What constitutes preaching? What can transcend it? Here are a few sections that resonated with me: On the urgent need for eco-literature: “Shouldn’t the cascades of extinction and rapid planetary warming register in our literature? And yet, despite the fact that most Americans support the work of saving species from winking out, and increasingly support strong action to curb climate change, the highly rational push for the preservation of nature and life-support systems often appears in the media—and certainly appears in most current fiction—as a boutique agenda. Climate change is shifting that marginalization, but not fast enough.” On what makes the Lorax powerful: “What makes …

Maple Trees Canopy

The Tolkien Ensemble: Treebeard’s Song

On more than one occasion, I’ve been tempted to write a feature on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The trilogy along with The Silmarillion is dear to me, a master feat of world-building and myth-making that remains unrivalled in scope and grandeur. (I remain one of the unfashionable few who enjoys the irreverent songs and lengthy descriptions) Even a cursory glance at the text reveals a host of themes and motifs ripe for an Ekostory exploration: The pastoral Shire threatened by looming machinations; the fading of the Elves giving way to the coming age of Men; the propensity of power to corrupt all with noble and pure intentions; the quiet courage of ordinary folk. And yet, I hesitate. So much already exists in terms of Tolkien scholarship – I don’t feel like I have anything original to contribute. The work speaks for itself. But while I may not be up for analyzing Tolkien’s magnum opus, I can at least express my appreciation for some small portion of it. It’s not quite autumn here yet, …

Cheung Chau Beach

On Place and Loss: Flyway’s Shells

Regular visitors of Ekostories may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as much over the past few months. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to write about or stories to explore. Actually it’s been the opposite! Over the last little while, I’ve been channeling my energies towards other creative ventures, but they still revolve around the same themes I’ve explored on Ekostories for years – the power of stories; the intersection between science and art; notions of nature; the influence of culture; journeys of identity. Many of those endeavours are starting to come into fruition, so starting today and over upcoming weeks and months, I’ll be unveiling them here, along with new and original essays on beloved tales. First off: I’m excited to announce that Flyway, a fantastic Iowa State University-based journal focused on writing and environment, has published one of my creative shorts, Shells. If you’re looking for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and visual art that “explores the many complicated facets of the word environment – at once rural, urban, and suburban – and its social …

A Boat in the Desert

Look Up: Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars

Unlike millions around the world, my first encounter with the works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry did not involve La Petit Prince; I am ashamed to admit that I have not yet read his most famous work. What I have read, and what continues to stay with me, was the man’s memoir and the inspiration for what is arguably one of the most beloved children’s stories in history. Winner of the National Book Award and hailed by National Geographic as one of the Top Ten adventure books of all time, Wind, Sand and Stars (an English translation by Lewis Galantière of Terre des Hommes, or “Land of Men”) is a work I return to when I grow weary or unsure of life. In the brief tome I am lifted by the soaring spirit of a writer at the height of his craft, by a pioneer of an age past who saw a vaster picture and dared to ask the great questions. Within its pages, I find a soul who believed wholeheartedly in human potential, a man open to the simple joys …

The Road Fallen over poles McCarthy

No Nature, No Culture, Only Love: The Road

Over the past few entries, I’ve touched on the importance of staying optimistic in difficult times. This week, I want to look at a story that puts that to the ultimate test, a story in which hope arises from utter despair: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.There are some who read this post-apocalyptic tale only as an ecological parable, a potential scenario if humanity continues to damage the earth’s life support systems. I don’t. McCarthy doesn’t dwell on the cause of his world’s demise, and neither will I. Instead, I’m more interested in exploring the impact of a ruined earth on the human psyche. How do these characters make sense of the world where nature and culture is beyond recovery? How do they cope with constant and unrelenting despair? What compels them to go on when the past is lost, never to return? The Road touches on these difficult questions. Yet despite seeming like the type of story that revels in violence and nihilism, it is really a tale about the very essence of what it means to …

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On Handling Praise

I am terrible at accepting praise. Those who know me will know that this is not a boast, but rather a hard admission to a deep character flaw. When offered accolades, my first instinct is to deflect and downplay their significance. But I have come to realize that this is a dishonest impulse, a drastic, dramatic form of self-effacingness that not only hides my true feelings, but can actively damage my relationships with others. To reject praise from others for the sake of being humble is, in a sense, to negate their opinions, to call them liars. Rebuffed by this constant dismissal, I see how even genuine goodwill can eventually turn sour. I don’t want that to happen. With gentle but firm reminders from friends and family, I am working to accept praise better, especially when it comes to writing, partly out of a desire to better respect the opinions of others, and partly because I believe my work is worthy of recognition.  Orwell once wrote in his famous essay, Why I Write, that “it is …