Author Archive: literaryllama

Life and Death in Shanghai

“Are you going to confess, or do you want more punishment?” Life and Death in Shanghai is Nien Cheng’s autobiography of her imprisonment in Shanghai’s No. 1 Detention House during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Since Cheng had been a high-ranking official in a foreign company and had many foreign friends, the Chinese Communist Party accused …

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Suddenly, a Knock on the Door

“You want a knock on the door? Okay, have your knock on the door. Just so long as it brings us a story.” Suddenly a Knock on the Door is a collection of short stories by Etgar Keret. These stories are funny, absurd and occasionally heart-wrenching. I first heard about this book on the This …

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The Catcher in the Rye

“You’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior.” In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield is kicked out of yet another prestigious prep school and sinks into depression and disillusionment. He returns to New York, but stays away from …

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My Name is Red

“Color is the touch of the eye, music to the deaf, a word out of the darkness.” In Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, a group of miniaturists, their masters, and Black Effendi (nephew of one of the masters) all try to solve the murder of Elegant Effendi, another miniaturist. At the same time, each …

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Amy Falls Down

“I am here accidentally and just for the moment.” In Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett, author and teacher Amy Gallup falls and hits her head on a birdbath. She is left with a mild concussion, but decides not to seek medical help until after her interview that afternoon. The interview, which makes her seem …

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Letters to a Young Poet

“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his Letters to a Young Poet to Franz Xaver Kappus, someone he never met, but with whom he easily identified. Kappus …

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles

“This question of a woman telling her story – the heaviest of crosses to herself – seemed but an amusement to others. It was as if people should laugh at martyrdom.” In Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess, a poor country girl in her late teens, is raped by a man she thought was …

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The Joy Luck Club

“Then you must teach my daughter this same lesson. How to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.” In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan relates the lives of four mother-daughter pairs, all living in California and all from China. Each week, their families meet as “the Joy Luck Club” for …

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The Age of Innocence

“His whole future seemed suddenly to be unrolled before him; and passing down its endless emptiness he saw the dwindling figure of a man to whom nothing was ever to happen.” In Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, set in New York in the late 1800s, Newland Archer attempts to live according to the societal …

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Crime and Punishment

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.” In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, former university student Rodion Romanovitch (who also goes by Rodya and Raskolnikov) theorizes that if great people murder for a good reason, then they will not feel guilty. Poor and unemployed, but certain …

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