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Useful Vocabulary to Speak about Books and Authors


1. Authors (writers, poets, critics, essayists, pamphleteers, novelists, playwrights): famous/outstanding/talented/brilliant; promising; contemporary; the author’s background; literary activity, literary career; to be a success ≠ to be a failure, to gain/win recognition; to try one’s hand at drama ( a play, a short story); to be at work on; to be at the height of one’s popularity.
2. Aspects of a story: subject, theme; ideas, views, attitudes; plot (setting, exposition, conflict, climax, outcome); character (main/principle/central ≠ minor; positive ≠ negative; typical; imaginary)/hero/literary type/figure/image; to draw/portray/depict a character; to give a character sketch of; language, style (good ≠ poor; graceful ≠ ungraceful; easy ≠ heavy, clumsy; polished ≠ crude; brief ≠ wordy, verbose; vivid ≠ dull; lively ≠ monotonous); spirit, atmosphere.
3. Types of books: modern, historical, war, adventure, psychological, detective novel; short story; love story; novelette; tale, fairy tale, folk tale; romance; thriller; fable; fantasy; fiction ≠ non-fiction; science-fiction (sci-fie); biography; autobiography; life story; memoirs; classic(al); with subtle irony; sparkling humour; happy, tragic, unexpected ending.  
good, interesting, enjoyable, entertaining, fascinating, brilliant, original, unusual, amusing, funny, witty, imaginative, exciting, powerful, convincing, true-to-life, complex, profound, well-written, easy to read dull/boring, uninspiring, slow-moving, lacking in originality (or action), superficial, pretentious, unconvincing, heavy-going, depressing



Phrases for Rendering

1. The author reveals the drawbacks (demerits) of …; preaches a humane (altruistic, considerate, merciful, etc.) attitude to …; mocks at; criticizes; ridicules; makes a laughing stock of; idealizes; glorifies; declares; proclaims; wants to make us: think, meditate on, ponder over, feel ashamed for smb./sth.; arouses in us a feeling of (guilt, regret, remorse, sympathy, etc.); expresses some interesting ideas about/on (family life).

2. The author is sure (unlikely, likely) to make us reconsider our attitude to, look inside ourselves, reveal the inner motives of, take sides with, take up a firm attitude, not to jump at conclusions, etc.

3. The idea of (individual responsibility) is introduced right at the beginning and developed throughout the book. The idea of (racial equality) is never explicitly stated/expressed, but it is implicit in all his works.

4. The author raises; deals with; dwells on; touches upon the problem of …

5. The story entitled (headlined) … is about …

The subject matter of the story is sentimental, tragic, banal, romantic, dramatic, etc.

6. The scene is laid; the setting of the story is; the action takes place; the events unfold, the plot runs as follows; the plot centers on the fate (relations, behavior), round the events; the plot unfolds this way.

7. The author creates/evokes an atmosphere of (mystery and suspense) from the very first page. The light-hearted atmosphere of the book makes it ideal holiday reading. The spirit of the book stayed with me for a long time.

8. I share the author’s opinion (doubts, hesitation, meditation, etc.).

I strongly disagree with the author’s opinion (view).

I also feel very strong about smth. (charity, mercy, compassion, humanness, etc.).

That remains to be seen if …

It would be right/wrong to assume that …

It is fair/unfair to suggest that …


Story (Book) Review

I. Introducing the author: his biography and literary heritage (if the information is available).

II. Identifying the main elements of the story:

1. What problems does the story deal with?

2. When and where is the scene in the story laid?

3. Who are the main characters?

III. Assessing the story:

1. What type of literature does the story belong to?

2. How are the characters presented (directly or indirectly)?

3. Are they typical representatives of their social stratum?

4. What is the nature of conflict(s) the characters face?

5. Is the theme of the story significant in human, social and moral terms? Is it stated explicitly or implicitly?

6. Are the elements of composition easily defined?

7. What is the tone of the story (sad, pessimistic, encouraging, light, romantic, pathetic, humorous, satirical or sarcastic)?

8. Are the style and the language that the story is written in vivid and expressive?

IV. Sharing your impressions of the story, emotional response and feelings the story evokes:

1. Did you enjoy reading the story?

2. Is it involving, interesting and captivating?

3. Is the plot dynamic?

4. Do the characters seem to you true to life?

5. Would you like to read some other stories by this author?



Speak on the following stories according to the given outline. Use in your text interpretation the suggested phrases for rendering.


William Saroyan





It is the opinion of my grandmother, God I bless her, that all men should labor, and at the table, a moment ago, she said to me: You must learn to do some good work, the making of some item useful to man, something out of clay, or out of wood, or metal, or cloth. It is not proper for a young man to be ignorant of an honorable craft. Is there anything you can make? Can you make a simple table, a chair, a plain dish, a rug, a coffee pot? Is there anything you can do?

And my grandmother looked at me with anger.

I know, she said, you are supposed to be a writer, and I suppose you are. You certainly smoke enough cigarettes to be anything, and the whole house is full of the smoke, but you must learn to make solid things, things that can be used, that can be seen and touched.

There was a king of the Persians, said my grandmother, and he had a son, and this boy fell in love with a shepherd’s daughter. He went to his father and he said, My lord, I love a shepherd’s daughter, and I would have her for my wife. And the king said, I am a king and you are my son and when I die you shall be king, how can it be that you would marry the daughter of a shepherd? And the son said, My lord, I do not know but I know that I love this girl and would have her for the queen.

The king said that his son’s love for the girl was from God, and he said, I will send a message to her. And he called a messenger to him and he said, Go to the shepherd’s daughter and say that my son loves her and would have her for his wife. And the messenger went to the girl and he said, The king’s son loves you and would have you for his wife. And the girl said, What labor does he do? And the messenger said, Why, he is the son of the king; he does no labor. And the girl said, He must learn to do some labor. And the messenger returned to the king and spoke the words of the shepherd’s daughter.

The king said to his son, The shepherd’s daughter wishes you to learn some craft. Would you still have her for your wife? And the son said, Yes, I will learn to weave straw rugs. And the boy was taught to weave rugs of straw, in patterns and in colors and with ornamental designs, and at the end of three days he was making very fine straw rugs, and the messenger returned to the shepherd’s daughter, and he said, These rugs of straw are the work of the king’s son.

And the girl went with the messenger to the king’s palace, and she became the wife of the king’s son.

One day, said my grandmother, the king’s son was walking through the streets of Bagdad, and he came upon an eating place which was so clean and cool that he entered it and sat at a table.

This place, said my grandmother, was a place of thieves and murderers, and they took the king’s son and placed him in a large dungeon where many great men of the city were being held, and the thieves and murderers were killing the fattest of the men and feeding them to the leanest of them, and making sport of it. The king’s son was the leanest of the men, and it was not known that he was the son of the king of the Persians, so his life was spared, and he said to the thieves and murderers, I am a weaver of straw rugs and these rugs have great value. And they brought him straw and asked him to weave and in three days he weaved three rugs, and he said, Carry these rugs to the palace of the king of the Persians, and for each rug he will give you a hundred gold pieces of money. And the rugs were carried to the palace of the king, and when the king saw the rugs he saw that they were the work of his son and he took the rugs to the shepherd’s daughter and he said, These rugs were brought to the palace and they are the work of my son who is lost. And the shepherd’s daughter took each rug and looked at it closely and in the design of each rug she saw in the written language of the Persians a message from her husband, and she related this message to the king.

And the king, said my grandmother, sent many soldiers to the place of the thieves and murderers, and the soldiers rescued all the captives and killed all the thieves and murderers, and the king’s son was returned safely to the palace of his father, and to the company of his wife, the little shepherd’s daughter. And when the boy went into the palace and saw again his wife, he humbled himself before her and he embraced her feet, and he said, My love, it is because of you that I am alive, and the king was greatly pleased with the shepherd’s daughter.

Now, said my grandmother, do you see why every man should learn an honorable craft?

I see very clearly, I said, and as soon as I earn enough money to buy a saw and a hammer and a piece of lumber I shall do my best to make a simple chair or a shelf for books.


Questions on comprehension:

1. What is the narrator’s profession? In his grandmother’s opinion, what should he be doing instead?

2. In what way does the grandmother attempt to make her point to the narrator?

3. Explain how the king’s son wins the hand of the shepherd’s daughter and how he engineers his own rescue from the den of thieves. What is the moral of the story, according to the narrator’s grandmother?

4. At the end of the story, what does the narrator promise his grandmother he will do?

5. What do you think the narrator feels toward his grandmother? Do you think he accepts her opinion of the kind of work he does? Why or why not?

6. Besides the craft that he learns, what other talents and abilities enable the king’s son to win his freedom from the thieves? In what ways might these talents make the king’s son resemble the narrator?

Questions for discussion:

1. Would you argue that writing is also “an honorable craft” producing “solid things, things that can be used”? Why or why not?

2. In what way is the narrator’s promise to his grandmother at the end of the story a “whimsical wink”?

3. What is the stated theme of “The Shepherd’s Daughter”? Be sure to look for a complete sentence that states the story’s theme and takes the narrator’s viewpoint into account.

4. Explain how the story about the king’s son develops the theme stated in the frame of “The Shepherd’s Daughter.”






“My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel, ” said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen. “In the meantime you must try and put up with me.”

Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

“I know how it will be, ” his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; “You will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the nice division.

“Do you know many of the people round here? ” asked the niece, when she judged that they had sufficient silent communion.

“Hardly a soul, ” said Framton. “My sister was staying here, at the rectory, [1] you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here.”

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

“Then you know practically nothing about my aunt? ” pursued the self-possessed young lady.

“Only her name and address, ” admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An un-definable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

“Her great tragedy happened just three years ago, ” said the child; “that would be since your sister’s time.”

“Her tragedy? ” asked Framton. Somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

“You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon, ” said the niece, indicating a large French window[2] that opened on to a lawn.

“It is quite warm for the time of the year, ” said Framton; “but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy? ”

“Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor[3] to their favorite snipe-shooting[4] ground they went all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.” Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. “Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing, ‘Bertie, why do you bound? ’ as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, something on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window –“

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

“I hope Vera has been amusing you? ” she asked.

“She has been very interesting, ” said Framton.

“I hope you don’t mind the open window, ” said Mrs. Sappleton briskly. “My husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn’t it? ”

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic. He was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

“The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, and absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise, ” announced Framton, who labored under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one’s aliments and infirmities, their cause and cure. “On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement, ” he continued.

“No? ” said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention – but not to what Framton was saying.

“Here they are at last! ” she cried. “Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they muddy up to the eyes! ”

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window. They all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: “I said, Bertie, why do you bound? ”

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat. The hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

“Here we are, my dear, ” said the bearer of the white mackintosh, [5] coming in through the window; “fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up? ” “A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel, ” said Mrs. Sappleton; “could only talk about his illness, and dashed off without a word of good-by or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost.”

“I expect it was the spaniel, ” said the niece calmly. “He told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges[6] by a pack of pariah[7] dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly-dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make any one lose their nerve.”

Romance at short notice was her specialty.


Questions on comprehension:

1. Why is Framton visiting the countryside?

2. How does Vera explain the fact that the window is left open? What is the real explanation?

3. Why does Framton rush from the house? How does Vera explain his departure to her aunt?

4. What traits in Framton’s personality might make him accept Vera’s story?

Questions for discussion:

1. Explain how the way in which Vera presents her story to Framton makes it seem more believable.

2. What effect did Vera’s first story have on you? What about her second story?

3. What word other than romance could you apply to Vera’s activities? Why do you think the narrator chose this word?

4. Give another example of the power of the imagination. Do you think everyone is susceptible to the power of suggestion? Explain.

5. Look up the meaning of the name Vera. How might Saki’s choice of this name be an example of verbal irony?

6. In what way is the story’s last line ironic?

7. Find two other ironic statements in the story.





The Plot

One bright summer afternoon just after Whitsun Sir Giles Fortescue was found murdered in his study at the Grange, Barnham. An Indian dagger removed from the wall had been plunged into his back as he sat writing at his desk. His old butler, who had served him faithfully for many years found him and estimates the time of his death at 15.45 hours as he had just heard the clock strike the quarter. The family doctor later confirmed the time at the autopsy.


The Suspects

Detective Inspector Sludge, after extensive interviews with all those known to be near the scene of the crime at the fatal time, finally eliminated all the household on the grounds of long and faithful service and lack of motive. He narrowed the field down to the three guests who had been staying with Sir Giles at the time.

All three guests knew that they were named as beneficiaries in the will in which Sir Giles had accounted for his very considerable estate since he had read the will to them the evening before.

All three suspects had gone out that afternoon. Accounts of their activities derived from Inspector Sludge’s notes are given below in alphabetical order.

1. Colonel Adams, a retired officer of the Indian army, was helped with his fishing tackle by the butler to the 14.57 bus travelling to Plumtree Halt. From this bus he claims he caught the train to Snitterton Bay for the day. There he fished for the entire day and saw no one. He retains half his return ticket as proof that he was on the train. No one at the station remembers him but it was very busy that day with day-trippers.

2. Miss Blake, a young lady of 22, left the house to go shopping in Barnham village at 15.15. She was given a lift to the bus stop outside the Grange gates by Mr Clarke. He saw her onto the 15.20 bus. A dress shop assistant remembers serving her at 15.30 and a post office assistant sold her some stamps at 16.05. She claims she was having tea in between these two visits but no one remembers her at the tea-shop as it was very crowded that day. She met no one other than Mr Clarke that afternoon before returning to the Grange.

3. Mr. Clarke, a young aspiring executive of 26, went out in his red sports car to see an antique dealer with whom he had an appointment for 16.00 at Mulchester, 15 miles away. The butler saw him drive away at 15.35. The antique dealer says he was on time for his appointment.



Extract from the Barnham District Bus and Train Timetable


I. Buses
Barnham dep. 14.52 Plumtree Halt dep. 15.12
The Grange dep. 14.57 The Grange dep. 15.20
Plumtree Halt arr. 15.07 etc. every hour Barnham arr. 15.25
II. Trains
Plumtree Halt dep. 15.10 Snitterton Bay dep. 13.40
Snitterton Bay. arr. 16.15 etc. every hour Plumtree Halt arr. 14.45

I. Solve the psychology quiz by answering the following questions.


1. Colonel Adams

Inspector Sludge: If he committed the murder? How would he have done it?

Police Constable: If he had done it, he ….

Inspector Sludge: How could he have got back to the Grange in time?

Police Constable: He…

Inspector Sludge: If he had done this? Would anyone else have seen him?

Police Constable: If he had done this? … seen him when ….

Therefore he … (could have / couldn’t have) done it.

2. Miss Blake

Inspector Sludge: If she had committed the murder, how would she have done it?

Police Constable: If she had done it? She (have to) …

Inspector Sludge: At what time would she have done it?

Police Constable: She … between … and ….

Inspector Sludge: How would she have got back to the Grange?

Police Constable: She could …

Inspector Sludge: If she had done this, would she have had enough time?

Police Constable: It seems (likely/unlikely) that she … unless she (run) all the way.


3. Mr. Clarke

Inspector Sludge: If she had committed the murder? How would he have done it?

Police Constable: If he had done it? He probably (leave) his car … and ….

Inspector Sludge: If he had done this, would he have still been in time for his appointment?

Police Constable: He… not … in time for his appointment unless he … 15 miles in less than 15 minutes.

Inspector Sludge: If he had done this, at about what time would he have crossed the bridge?

Police Constable: He (cross) the bridge at about …


II. Express your own opinion of the case.





Here was once a farmer called Jack o’Kent who had a small piece of land near Kentchurch in Herefordshire; he grew enough to support himself and his family, though he did but poorly at the best of times.

One morning when he was ploughing his field he had just reached the end of the furrow and was turning the horse round when he looked up and saw a Boggard, standing with his arms folded and feet planted far apart and scowling down at him.

“This is my land, ” he growled. “What are you doing on it? ”

The farmer was secretly very frightened, but he answered quietly,

“You haven’t been here for so long, I was ploughing it up for you, ready for this year’s crops.”

“It’s mine, ” answered the Boggard, scratching his shaggy chest, “but you can work it for me.”

“That will suit me, ” said the farmer, gaining confidence. “Suppose we share it. I do the work and you give me half the crop for my wages.”

The Boggard laid a dark, horny hand on the plough and said,

“How are you going to share the crop? ”

Jack the farmer thought a moment.

“This year, ” he replied, “you take everything above ground and I take the roots – you have the Tops and I the Butts.”

This seemed to satisfy the Boggard who agreed to come in the autumn to collect his share of the crop. The farmer watched him lumber away over the ploughed field, look for the stile which couldn’t find, and blunder through a gap in the hedge.

The crop that year was turnips. When the Boggard came to claim his half of the crop he got the leaves and the weeds while Jack the farmer carted off all the fine round roots and stored them in his barn.

The Boggard was angry and puzzled, but could not deny that the agreement had been kept. He rootled about among the heap of turnip leaves and cadlock hoping to find something of value, but in vain. At last he said,

“Next year we’ll have it the other way round. You’ll have Tops and I’ll keep Butts.”

The farmer readily agreed. This time he ploughed and harrowed the ground most carefully and sowed a fine crop of wheat.

The Boggard arrived just as the harvest wagon was taking the last golden load across the field. All the harvesters – men, women, boys and girls – were singing as the big shire mare lifted her fairy feet, solemnly and carefully dragging the precious sheaves towards the farmyard.

Only gradually did the Boggard realize he had been tricked. The stubble and the corn-roots were even less use than the turnip leaves. It was not worth his while to plough them on.

But everyone was very kind to him at the Harvest Home and he drank a great deal, scoffed some hot bag-puddings, and even tried to dance a sort of a jig, but fell down before he had reached the capers. Then he sat quietly in a corner watching the merry-makers until at last the party was over and all the harvesters had gone home.

“See here, Jack, ” he said to the farmer, ‘I think you’ve got some pins about you, lad. Next time we’ll share the crop above ground.”


He laid his great paw on the farmer’s shoulder and looked down earnestly into his face.

“We’ll start reaping together and each shall have whatever he reaps.”

Jack o’Kent accepted this arrangement and the Boggard stumbled off.

The next year wheat was grown and a fine upstanding field it was, rippling like a golden sea in the breeze.

But the farmer had been to the blacksmith and got him to make some iron rods about three feet long and as thick as a clay pipe shank. These rods he stuck into the ground at irregular intervals in the Boggard’s half of the wheat field.

The time for the reaping match arrived. Each reaper sharpened his scythe well beforehand and when the church clock struck five they both began to reap. The farmer got on well; his scythe went swishing through the straw, and the corn fell down with a rustle at every stroke.

But the Boggard did not get on so fast. He had not reaped a dozen yards before the blade of his scythe was hacked in several places.

“Hey, I must stop and wiffle-waffle, ” he cried, by which he meant he must whet his scythe with his hone.

The farmer laughed and went on reaping – he had already covered twice as much ground as his rival.

“This corn must be full of real tough burdocks with old stalks like sticks of iron, ” complained the Boggard, looking ruefully at the jagged edge of his scythe.

The farmer was away down the field almost out of earshot by now. The sun was getting higher and the dew on the corn had dried. But the Boggard could make no progress at all, for his battered scythe would not reap even when he had a clear patch of corn. He flung it down on the stubble.

“You can take your mucky old land, and keep it! ” he said in despair. “I won’t have any more to do with it. I’m as sick as a toad of it, and of you an’ all.”

And off he went and never came back and the farmer never saw him again. But he kept the Boggard’s jagged scythe and hung it in his barn.

And now his grandson shows it proudly to his friends to testify to the truth of the story, and he warns young fanners not to be frightened by bullies, for a wise man will get the better of them.


Questions on comprehension and for discussion:

1. What makes Jack o’Kent a typical folktale hero?

2. Do you recognize the plot of this tale? Are there any differences in comparison with the Russian folktale?

3. What kind of words and phrases are repeated through the tale? What is the artistic effect of these repetitions?




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