Espresso Expressions: Times and Places and Stories

black espresso

Is there a time and place for everything?

…in literature?

This week’s spotlight!

Okay, the basics: what is your name, how old are you, and what is your life in a nutshell?

My name is Tyler-Marie & I’m 17 years old. Describe myself? I’m about to begin my second year of university life. I love everything & anything English (hardcore Doctor Who, C.S. Lewis, and tea fan)…Yet, getting on a deeper side, I’m sort of in a love affair with story. I want to watch great stories, read great stories, write great stories, and live great stories. This probably explains why I’m an English & Journalism major.

Real and Fantastical stories—they all fascinate me. I’m also a believer of Christ. He is truly my reason for everything. I could only hope to incorporate Christ like truths into everything I write and do. Well, here’s a quote that describes me a little better: “She quietly expected great things to happen to her, and no doubt that’s one of the reasons why they did.” Zelda Fitzgerald.

What’s your blog name, what’s it all about, and what’s been your biggest challenge?

Livingwithfrecklesandwords. It’s quite a vague name—I mean what kind of blog is that? But, that’s sort of the fun part about it. The readers have no idea what to expect when they read the blog. It’d be the same thing as if they met me. All they would see is my freckles and hear my words. Yet, that’s just at a first glance. Once they read my blog, they see so much more. So, that’s basically what my blog is—it’s getting to know me.

My biggest challenge has been building up a community via cyber space. I sort of feel like the new girl who just moved in a completely new house in a completely new neighborhood in a completely new city—it’s intimidating. At first, you just sit by yourself at the lunch table, wondering if anyone is really hearing you. I’m sort of at the “new kid at the lunch table” phase.

Favorite book? Worst question EVER, I know.

Jane Eyre. Sort of a funny answer. I absolutely adore the moral center of Jane though. She makes one of the toughest decisions, since she has to turn down her love and do what is right. Jane Eyre isn’t just a good book to read, but one that teaches lessons. Jane’s the kind of character that gives you something to yearn for. Alice in Wonderland is also a close second.

Currently reading?

Divergent! Yes, I have been reading classics for a while and decided to hop onto the Young Adult Lit train while I could. I already love it so much. It’s nice to read a novel whose author isn’t dead.

Lastly (and most importantly), what caffeinated goodness can we find in your hands most often?

Earl Grey tea with French Vanilla creamer. Yes, there are many Starbucks frappes that I love, but nothing beats this drink. In the morning. In the afternoon. Or at night. I love Earl Grey tea. A perfect companion to any story.

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          Tyler-Marie suggested that we explore how time periods affect literature. I absolutely believe that time periods affect literature. But how? It’s one of those things that we pretty much take as a fact when someone says so without stopping to wonder why. Then I got to thinking that the greatest novels—the ones that many a high school student vetoed in favor of Spark Notes—communicate themes and ideas that are universal. These ideas don’t expire or become less applicable in changing cultures and periods of time. Yet, their novels rely heavily on the culture of the time. One of my most favorite novels, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, falls into this category.

For such a timeless story, I still couldn’t see it taking place in, say, 1973 or 2013. Only the Roaring Twenties, with its ridiculously lavish parties, vast gap between the wealthy and the poor, ever-loosening morals, and gilded carelessness could handle this story. Gatsby works diligently towards his wealth so that he and Daisy can build a life together. Their love burns ever so brightly…and then burns out quickly, affecting everyone around them. The Twenties was a decade of extreme prosperity that lasted for just a blip in time and burned out just as quickly and just as terribly. I know that this has been a very condensed comparison, but my point is that the novel mirrors its time period and the country’s mood.

Other times, the settings within books trigger the “what if” questions within the said time period. Entering the 21st century, less and less people—especially teenagers—care about what goes on in the world around them. I find myself (as an adult) trying to shy away from current events and politics all the time. Dystopian novels, such as The Hunger Games and Delirium show us pictures of what our world could be if we ceased to care about the happenings in the world around us. I know that dystopian stories have been told decades previously, but the mood in the 21st century seems to be asking these “what if” questions more than any other generation.

Even Shakespeare, whose iambs will never come easily to me, communicates themes in plays like Hamlet and King Lear that have remained relevant for centuries. However, his time period inspired him. Obviously today’s society is completely inadequate for these Shakespearean plays. Creative as we are, we do not have the glory of the Renaissance enriching our work.

Call me crazy, but THIS is why I love Hemingway and Lauren Oliver, Fitzgerald and Veronica Roth, C.S. Lewis and Julie Kagawa. Each author, of stories both realistic and fantastical, finds themselves influenced by different time periods, different cultures, and different backgrounds. Oh, literature.

How do YOU think time periods affect literature? Quite a bit or not at all?

Don’t forget to send me an email with an Espresso Expressions topic at coffeeshopreads@gmail.com!

Espresso Expressions: Readers And Their Characters

I’ve decided to begin “Espresso Expressions” as a weekly feature on my blog that will explore a range of thoughts on books, readers, characters, literary themes…you name it! Actually, you name it. I want your topic suggestions. I want your opinions on these posts. If you email me a topic that you’d like me to cover, I will do a quick spotlight on you! After all, it’s interesting to know more about who suggests a topic and why! (I won’t be featuring anyone this first time since I selected the topic.) I’m supremely excited about this new feature. I will post my Espresso Expressions on Sundays; Sundays are, after all, great days to become introspective and investigative.

You DO NOT have to be a fellow blogger to participate! You can find my email on my Contact page. Thank you in advance to everyone who participates! It will be so much fun!

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This week’s topic: “Like calls to like.” –Leigh Bardugo

The Darkling. So intriguing. So enticing. His power acts as a magnet and draws me to him. So tempting. So unlike me. I’m good, right? I make mistakes sometimes, I do bad things, but I’m a good person, right? Except that my fascination with The Darkling’s darkness seems to come from my very core. It’s natural. I can stay engrossed in his darkness because I’m not actually doing anything wrong…right?

These are the thoughts that run through my mind, and, from my conversations, the minds of numerous others. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

**Disclaimer: Don’t get the wrong idea! I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing and characters. **

All of the greatest characters in literature both contemporary and classical are figures to which we can relate. Whether it’s the young adult female protagonist who is a book nerd, a trait that nearly every person reading the book likely has, or whether it’s the Shakespearean tragic hero who ponders the meaning of life through convoluted, Renaissance-era prose, we often find something inside of them that mirrors something inside of us. In Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, one of the fundamental principles of the Small Science is “like calls to like.” The magic in the person calls to its counterpart that exists in the universe that surrounds the person.

One of the main characters in the book, the Darkling, has received a lot of popularity even though he represents evil and remains a villain through and through. This phenomenon was so unusual that I started to contemplate why he became so popular. Sure, he’s got the “bad boy” label down to a tee—he probably created the entire appeal of “bad boy.” But the bad boy usually uses the title as a shield to cover some sensitive romantic side or dark past or even finds himself being redeemed! Someone or something will come along and show him that he has a soul, that he can offer the world something, or that he is bigger than his past. The Darkling may have a dark past, but…he created it. He is darkness. He is not sensitive or even remotely romantic. He is manipulative, self-serving, power hungry, and destructive. He tears countries in two, he kills without mercy, and he is a ruthless hunter. He has no redeeming qualities.

And we adore him.

Why is that? I think it’s because we can understand him. There’s a part of every person that battles with the temptation to commit wrongdoing. I’m willing to bet that even the most perfect saints in our history dealt with it. The difference between them and the vast majority of the human population is their relentless pursuit of goodness and refusal to give in to their dark desires. If we look back to Greek mythology (or Percy Jackson), the gods and goddesses are very relatable. They’re all gods of human emotions, needs, and ambitions. They may know more than humans, but they aren’t omniscient. They may be more powerful than humans, but they aren’t without weakness. The Greeks found it hard to worship a God that they couldn’t understand. They understood Aphrodite; they understood Ares; they understood Athena. Even the great Zeus has his faults.

Such is the importance of dynamic characters. They allow us to explore ourselves objectively; they allow us to see ourselves reflected. What are your thoughts on this idea? What types of characters are most important to YOU when you read a story?

coffeeshopreader

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