Dystopian / Post-apocalyptic Genre
One of the amazing things about reading fiction is that it is an exercise in reflection. Sure, there is the immediate entertainment value, which is and ought to remain the primary reason for writing or reading fiction. Telling a good story is the first objective of the fiction writer, even if social or moral commentary makes its way through the pages. But one rewarding aspect of fiction is that both writer and reader can have a discussion of sorts, the writer raising questions that the reader is encouraged to answer. Both dystopian fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction can be the catalyst for such a discussion.
Dystopian fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction are often grouped together, although they aren’t necessarily in the same story. A dystopia, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “an imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible.” It is the opposite of the “utopia,” or the perfect world made famous by Thomas More’s novel of the same name. Dystopian novels often take place in an autocratic environment, and many times this world is thought to be perfect as the story begins, due to some cultural, environmental, or political achievement.
The story in a dystopian novel often involves the main characters waking up to the idea that not all is well with the world and then trying to remedy the situation. One of the most interesting things about dystopian literature is that it can raise questions and spark discussions about morality and political life for the reader, such as: how can we best create a society? Is it even possible? Who should decide how this shall work? Why them? It should not be surprising that many dystopian novels appeared in the twentieth century, after America and the world had seen the horrors of the authoritarian state, most dramatically embodied in Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalinist Russia.
Classics of dystopian literature include George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. More recently, we’ve seen Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series. However, my personal favorite is Lois Lowry’s The Giver, in which a twelve-year-old boy lives in a “perfect” world, completely devoid of all suffering, as well as all joy. He alone is given the responsibility of being the keeper of memories, and he begins to struggle with the fact that he alone knows the truth of the world. The book is excellent, but it was also made into a movie recently starring Jeff Bridges.
Post-apocalyptic fiction, as the name implies, is set after some tragedy or catalyst in which the society falls apart and humanity is left to move forward among the ruins. This event could be a nuclear war, a mass pandemic, some environmental catastrophe, or the machinations of political figures. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s The Stand are examples of this genre. The Hunger Games would also be in this category as well. In television and film, we have The Book of Eli and The Walking Dead as post-apocalyptic stories.
This genre often asks the reader to contemplate the basic impulses of the human heart. What would we do (what would I do?) in order to survive? Do the ends truly justify the means, or do my moral convictions require me to hold my humanity intact, despite severe tribulation? One of my favorite aspect of storytelling (whether literature, theatre, or film) is that good stories raise questions that philosophy and religion seek to answer. As Mississippi author Walker Percy pointed out (while he was recovering from tuberculosis), all the modern science in the world, as good as it is, cannot tell me what it means to be a human being living in the world. Percy turned to literature, philosophy and religion to address this issue; he would go on to write his own post-apocalyptic novel, Love in the Ruins.
So if we’re looking for a good story, our world is full of them. If we’re interested in having philosophical or political discussions, we have venues for that as well. But sometimes authors combine their stories and their questions into one experience, showing us the possibilities, the triumphs, and the tragedies of human nature and community life. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a gripping novel or film, be sure to reflect on the experience: What questions is this story raising? What answers, if any, does it provide?
Cody Daniel is head librarian at the Corinth Library. He can be reached at 662-287-2441 or emailed at email@example.com.
‘Through the Lens’ of African-“American Photographers Exhibition at Corinth Library.
In celebration of African-American history month, the Corinth Library has hosted an exhibit of local African-American photographers Torrance Pollard, Jerry King and Queenie C. Christian sponsored by the Community News Flash. A closing reception with music, food and beverages will be held at the library on Saturday, February 25 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. Visitors will be able to meet the photographers as they enjoy beautiful artwork from each.
by Cody Daniel
When one is surrounded by books, by the great variety of literature, facts, opinions, stories, and random information that exists in the libraries of the world, one may often be surprised at how a small point of truth appears in the simplest children’s book, no less than in the deep philosophy of the sage.
This point has been in my mind this week as I’ve contemplated the purpose of reading literature, particularly reading fiction. In our modern world of instant information, databases, search engines, and continuous news services, we can easily forget that some of the most important things we learn can only be acquired through experience, through time, and through struggle. This could be your experience or mine; it could be real or imagined—and it is this quality that provides an answer to the question posed by some readers: why would I read something that isn’t true?? When I have history, politics, technology, or hobbies to keep my interest, why would I waste my time reading something that never happened—and possibly, never could happen?
As a reader and librarian, I’ve reflected on this question a number of times, but most recently it was due to the children’s book by Mo Willems called “I’m a Frog!” It stars an elephant named Gerald and a pig named Piggie. This particular pig just decides to be a frog one day, hopping around and ribbitting across the pages. Gerald, who does not have Piggie’s imagination, quite simply freaks out as he tries to figure out what has happened to his friend (and he worries that he himself might mutate into a pig). Fortunately, Piggie tells Gerald that he is only pretending, but that pretending can be quite fun. Even adults do it (“all the time,” as Piggie says).
Why do we pretend? Why read pretend stories? Why does every culture across the globe and throughout time have its own rich history of folktales, fables, and parables? Some of my favorite answers come from C.S. Lewis (if you know me, you know I’m a fan of his). Most people know Lewis through his Christian apologetics or children’s stories, but he was, by profession, a teacher and scholar of English literature. He wrote a book-length introduction to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as a detailed analysis of the medieval courtly love tradition in An Allegory of Love. The recently reprinted collection Image and Imagination contains his educational theories on the teaching of English, as well as his first review of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
However, for our purposes, we’ll look into one of his last scholarly works. In An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis gives this answer to why we read fiction: “we seek an enlargement of our being…we want to see with other eyes…to feel with other hearts, as well as our own.” He concludes his essay, emphasizing the aspect of reading fiction, “Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented…In reading great literature, I become a thousand men and yet remain myself…I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see.” He compares this with other qualities that are unique to the human race, such as faith, love, virtue, and knowledge. In reading, Lewis writes, “as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”
As I said, some truths are found on the bookshelves of the philosopher just as easily as in the books of the child. But we shouldn’t be surprised at this. More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote that all philosophy begins in wonder—that is to say, it begins with perhaps the most noticeable quality found within a child. We can—like children, like philosophers—wonder at the world. We can, to our benefit, even begin to pretend.
Cody Daniel is the head librarian at the Corinth Library. He can be reached at 662-287-2441 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tuesday Book Club meets the second Tuesday of the month at 1:00 p.m. in the Corinth Public Library Conference Room.
Upcoming titles include:
January 10 – Beau Geste by Percival Christopher Wren
February 14 – Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
March 14 – A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
April 11 – The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
May 9 – Persia: The Final Jihad by Mike Evans
June 13 – The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
July 11 – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
August 8 – Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
September 12 – Watership Down Richard Adams
October 10 – Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
November 14 – The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
December 12 – Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley
January 9 – Dune by Frank Herbert
February 13 – A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
March 10 – To Be Decided
April 10 – The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Studman
Corinth Librarian Cody Daniel
The Northeast Regional Library is pleased to announce Cody Daniel as the new Head Librarian at the Corinth Public Library.
Cody has a place in his heart for Northeast Mississippi. He grew up in Iuka and attended high school in Corinth, where he has lived since his return from college in 2008. He is a graduate of Northeast Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi and has worked with the Northeast Regional Library for a total of five years, most recently as the Assistant Librarian. Before that, he worked as a library clerk for two years. Cody has also taught English at Corinth High School.
Cody is a strong supporter of culture and the arts in Corinth. He serves on the board of both LINK and the Crossroads Poetry Project, and he has been active with the Corinth Shakespeare Club for several years. When he is not at the library, you might also find him onstage at Corinth Theatre-Arts; he was in Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues in 2013. Cody is often a visitor of local schools as well, either as a judge for book fairs, or as a performer with the Crossroads Poetry Project.
Of course, as a librarian, he has a love of reading as well. When asked about his favorite genres, he said that his first choice is either ‘supernatural thriller’ or ‘armchair theology’. “Stephen King and C.S. Lewis are two of my favorite authors. As of last month, though, I’ve been on a ‘Star Wars’ kick. I’m currently reading Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith, which gives some of the history of Darth Vader.”
Cody vividly remembers one of his first memories of the Corinth Library. “I know I was in high school, and my aunt had gotten me into reading Stephen King. I remember being in the library, looking at the Stephen King books and thinking, ‘I could get any of these. Maybe even all of these. For free!’ ” After spending more time at the library, Cody said, he soon learned that patrons can, in fact, check out as many books as they like.
Cody says that, in addition to all the free books and movies, he looks forward to seeing more of the people of Corinth. “I’ve gotten to meet people from Corinth, as well as visitors from other states, sometimes traveling from around the country to do family history research or explore Corinth’s Civil War history. It’s a pleasure to be a part of what they’re doing, and to help them with whatever they need from the library.”
Cody will also be continuing in his role as the Story Time reader for preschool children. “I love seeing the kids; reading to children, whether a story or a poem, makes you see it differently. They’ll react in very unexpected ways!” The children know him as “Mr. Cody,” and he wants to invite all children of any age to come by on Thursdays at 10:00am for Story Time. “It is geared towards children ages 2-5, but everyone is welcome to come.”
On the weekends (when not reading, that is), Cody is often visiting family or playing board games and card games with friends. He also serves as a class leader and Sunday server at St. James Catholic Church in Corinth.
Cody extends an open invitation for everybody to come to the library. “I want to meet you,” Cody said. “If you need books (or movies), if you need to write a resume, or if you just want to stop by and say hello, come visit us. We’ll be looking out for you.”
Assistant Librarian Spotlight
Corinth Assistant Librarian
Recent visitors to the Corinth Public Library may have noticed a friendly new face as Teresa Templeton joined the library staff in April. Teresa’s favorite part of working at the library so far has been meeting all the library’s patrons and reconnecting with other people from the Corinth community, many of whom she meet while working with Girl Scout cookies sales and through her work at the Salvation Army. Teresa relates, “I am also loving getting to know the little kids who come to Storytime with Mr. Cody.”
Another part of her job that Teresa loves is finding new authors to read, both for herself and for library patrons. She particularly enjoys reading biographies and mysteries. Janet Evanovich, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton and Anne Rice are a few of her favorite authors. When she’s not at the library, Teresa enjoys fishing, hiking and working on interior design and home improvement projects. She also loves to spend time with her family. Teresa and her husband Stan have been married for 33 years. They have two daughters and two grandchildren – a boy and a girl, with another one on the way!
Teresa attended Northeast Mississippi Community College and Mississippi State University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Business, Psychology and Sociology. She has already lent her design touch to the bulletin board and display cases in the library, so come by soon, see her handiwork and meet the new Corinth Public Library Assistant Librarian, Teresa Templeton.
Corinth Library (Northeast Regional Library headquaters)
1023 Filmore Street
Corinth, MS. 38834
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Librarian: Cody Daniel – email@example.com
Westlaw Database Now Available
The Alcorn County Bar Association has donated a computer and a subscription to the Westlaw database to the Corinth Library. Use of the database is free of charge to the public. For more information,
call the Library at 287-2441.