Category Archives: 20th century literature

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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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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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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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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Death Comes for the Archbishop

“It was no easy matter for two missionaries on horseback to keep up with the march of history.” In Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, Bishop Jean Marie Latour and his Vicar Joseph Vaillant travel to America to lead the new diocese of the Catholic church in the territory that the United States had …

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The Art of Quitting

I literally could not put this book down. I read it all in under two hours. I think I do have a problem with not being able to quit things . . . In The Art of Quitting, Evan Harris explains the many attitudes, techniques and styles that can be applied to quitting. She also …

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The Great Gatsby

“The whole caravansary had fallen in like a card house at the disapproval in her eyes.” In F. Scott-Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway narrates his summer spent with his cousin Daisy Buchanan, her husband Tom Buchanan, and their neighbor Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is the traditional American self-made man; he went from being a …

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A Room with a View

“If they were hypocrites they did not know it, and their hypocrisy had every chance of setting and becoming true.” In A Room with a View by E. M. Forster, Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, take a trip to Italy. They meet some odd characters, such as the enthusiastic novelist Miss …

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