The Old Man of the Moon

The Old Man of the Moon (Penguin Little Black Classics) by Shen Fu

Please note: there are some slight spoilers for the story below.

You could be justified in thinking, based on previous posts and comments I have made, that I am not a big fan of romance. It’s not an entirely untrue assumption, but it is more that I am not a big fan of the way that romance is portrayed in the media. I can read or watch a love story with no problems; include an unnecessary romance in an otherwise solid narrative, or imply that a romantic ending is the only kind of happy ending, and then I will take issue. And when I take issue on this topic, I really take issue: just ask my family about my reaction to the last episode of Downton Abbey. But I am stating for the record here that I am not opposed to romance in media, and I am capable of reading (and enjoying) a love story which is just a love story. Case in point: Shen Fu’s The Old Man of the Moon. Read more

Dear Life

Dear Life by Alice Munro

I realised, upon sitting down to read Dear Life, that I had actually started to read it a while ago: the opening story, ‘To Reach Japan’, simply hadn’t appealed to me and so I had lost motivation to go any further. I wonder whether this is fairly common, since areaderofliterature mentions a similar situation in her review of Munro’s Runaway. Nevertheless, I eventually came back to the collection of short stories and I am very glad that I did: I enjoyed my second attempt at the book, admiring Munro’s strength of writing and connecting with the characters in a way I was not expecting. Read more

Foreign to Familiar

Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier

I think I have mentioned before that my job involves working with International Students. One of the challenges of my work lies in building cross-cultural friendships: no matter how strong the friendship is, we are all coming from different cultures, with different rules, customs, and expectations for relationships. The potential for very real confusion and hurt is high. As such, it is important for me to be as culturally sensitive and aware as I can, both with regards to my own culture and those which the students are from. Part of this involves good communication with my friends: asking what they find strange about British culture; listening to their stories about their home countries; and checking with them when I get the feeling that I might have done something culturally insensitive. It’s a learning process, and I am by no means an expert.

But I have also been helped by great resources which clearly identify some of the key differences and points of similarities between cultures. I was reminded recently that I am very lucky in having easy access to such resources and recommendations, so I thought that it might be an idea to build up a list of recommended cross-cultural resources on this blog. Since I am in Christian ministry, some of these will be specifically Christian resources and some will not. I’ll indicate this distinction in each post as well as in the ‘categories’, for those who would appreciate the heads up. Read more

King Lear (RSC, 2008)

King Lear (RSC, 2008) directed by Trevor Nunn

King Lear is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays but I find that I have to be in a certain kind of mood for it. After all, it’s hardly a happy or simple narrative; whether you view it as a history (as the original 1608 is titled) or a tragedy (as it is titled in the revised 1623 version), you can probably still agree that it is a fairly depressing play with a plot which requires some effort to piece together. For this reason, my copy of the RSC 2008 film (featuring Ian McKellen and Romola Garai) has sat, unwatched, on my shelf for a while. However, I recently found myself with a free morning and decided that I was in the right frame of mind to sit down and watch something heavy. Read more

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

How Much Land Does a Man Need? (Penguin Little Black Classics) by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy is quite on-trend in the UK at the moment. With the BBC adaptation of War and Peace currently airing, I seem to be coming across many people who are reading his novels or, at the very least, wanting to discuss them. I’ll be honest: I’ve never read War and Peace (I know, I know). It’s downloaded on my tablet, and has been sitting there, judging me, for over a year. Similarly, Anna Karenina looks out at me from my bookcase, wondering if it will ever get read. However, I actually do have a contribution to the ongoing conversation about Tolstoy in the form of a post about two of his short stories: ‘How Much Land Does a Man Need?’ (considered by James Joyce to be the “greatest story that the literature of the world knows”) and ‘What Men Live By’. Read more