Hello World

In Intro on July 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Contrary to popular opinion, the enormous books assigned by vindictive English teachers are not only useful for things like propping open doors and shutting your roommate up when she annoys you.  Anna Karenina does more than cure insomnia; The Lord of the Rings did a lot more than just launch Orlando Bloom’s career, and Shakespeare is responsible for the beauty and elegance of the samurai-film genre.  Throne of Blood, by Akira Kurosawa – Netflix it.

Le Footnote[1] is going to explain why books like these are called ‘great works of literature’.  That phrase gets tossed around a lot – you’ll be standing in line at Barnes & Noble clutching your copy of Breaking Dawn and someone will go, ‘Oh, that’s a great book!’  What the hell does that mean?  That the author’s use of language, imagery, and symbolism were so beautifully synthesized that the resulting narrative opened spectacular new vistas and horizons in the speaker’s intellectual and emotional life?  Or that the speaker really liked how she felt when she was reading it?[2] Very generally it’s the latter.  However, there’s a pretty big difference between an entertaining story and a great story.  What exactly is that difference?  That’s what we at Le Footnote are going to explain to you.

Here’s why you should care about learning the difference: we all are, in a certain sense, living out our own stories; stories that really aren’t so very different from the lives of the characters we’re reading about.  The old adage says that art imitates life, and many of the great authors drew from their own life experiences and those of the people and world around them to create the literature of the age.  Reading about these people and what they do serves a very useful pedagogical (that’s a new word; look it up) purpose, as it enables us to imagine how we would react in certain circumstances and situations.

So why are we calling ourselves Le Footnote?  Well, a footnote is an explanatory note added to a body of work which might include commentary, a clarification of something found in the text, alternate explanations for certain theses proposed in the text, or additional information designed to further illuminate the reader’s mind. Remember the little number ‘one’ that you saw after ‘Le Footnote’, or the number ‘two’ you saw in the Breaking Dawn sentence?  Go read their corresponding sentences now.  Get it?  A footnote’s supposed to help you better understand what you’re reading – you’re supposed to read it and go, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ not, ‘Well, that’s two minutes I’ll never get back.’  That’s what we’re going to do – help you understand those big, bulky, wordy, books so that you’ll actually want to skip White Collar and 30 Rock to read them instead (the books, not the screenplays).  Think of us as the talking-heads version of Cliffs Notes – in our shortly forthcoming podcast (our fearless leader is even now wining and dining prospective patrons into fronting the benjamins for this outfit), we will be giving a lot of general information, as well as scholarly and personal opinions about the weekly selections, in order to do three things: 1) to help you understand why it’s a ‘great work of literature’; 2) to show you why it matters to you, and 3) to prove conclusively that books like Anna Karenina stand on their own merit, not Oprah’s good opinion.  The blog will serve as a ginormous ‘footnote’ to the podcast – you’ll get more information, more resources, and funny anecdotes about Jane’s life as program specialist, and Brooke’s life as an admin and the one female Manchester United fan in SoCal.

Happy Reading!

[1] We’re using the French definite article because someone else had already taken the English for their GMail account.  There’s no way on God’s green earth we can exist without a GMail account, so we went with Le Footnote instead.  It sounded sexier anyway.  We have to be sexy.


[2] We guarantee you it’ll be a ‘she’.  The chances of a man referring to Breaking Dawn as a ‘great book’ in an enthusiastic tone without a gun being held to his head are slender in the extreme.

  1. I am looking forward to reading your blog, it looks promising! I do suggest a minor addendum to the above thoug. Shakespeare certainly wrote some excellent plays which Kurosawa used as the setting for a few of his films, but Kurosawa was certainly elegent and beautiful without Shakespeare (and there were several samurai-genre films that had very little to do with either Shakespeare or Kurosawa, at least immediately).

    • Far be it from me to deny Kurosawa’s genius, Shakespeare notwithstanding – my point was that it was Shakespeare’s influence that lent beauty and elegance to the genre. Yes, that’s a very strong statement, but I have yet to hear of or see a samurai film that was done without direct reference to Shakespeare that may be considered beautiful or elegant. Totally open to correction, though – shoot me a list!

  2. Does the novel “The Hot Flash Club” by Nancy Thayer, (that I am reading now) qualify as a literary work of art? Probably not, but it is truely what you were talking about…art imitating life…or the truth about women getting older…. And it IS funny! Not that I am old…..

    • Yeaaaaahhh…..without having read it, I’m gonna go ahead and say probably not. Books with kicky little titles like those (i.e., ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’, ‘The Friday Night Knitting Club’, ‘The First Wives’ Club’) make for fun cult-camp film, but not for great literature, as a general rule. It’s too old for you anyway, Mom.

  3. With your permission, I submit the following:

    1. “The Sword of Doom”, directed by Kihachi Okamoto. http://www.criterion.com/films/925-the-sword-of-doom

    2. “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club”, by Charles Dickens, and “The Suicide Club”, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

    Respectfully yours,


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