Archive for the 'Writing' Category

HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO GET OUT OF A NONFICTION BOOK?

Dear Readers,

I recently finished reading Colin Fletcher’s The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968) and Caroline Bancroft’s Silver Queen: The Fabulous Story of Baby Doe Tabor (1955). I didn’t plan to read either book; they just appeared while I was sorting books for Westminster Public Library’s used book sale.

I decided to read The Man Who Walked Through Time because it deals with the author’s two-month walking trip, under the Rim, from from one end of Grand Canyon National Park to the other. I plan to write a story about my experience of being stranded just west of the park, so I thought I would study how he describes the canyon then borrow some of his geological vocabulary, as I have few words of my own.

I read Baby Doe Tabor because I’d kept hearing her name in conjunction with off-kilter legendary Colorado figures, plus I’d been wondering why anyone would be called Baby Doe. Was she tiny with childlike features, doe-like eyes? Was she considered a great beauty because of this?

As it turned out, Baby Doe Tabor’s family in Oshkosh, WI gave her the pet name Baby when she was a child, and somehow Central City, CO silver miners got wind of this and decided to call her Baby too. And Doe? No exciting explanation. It was her first husband’s last name.

But I learned other things too, like who the heck was Horace Tabor, the guy responsible for building opera houses in the late 1800s (and whose name is attached to a Colorado bill that has hog tied the state government).

And The Man Who Walked? Fletcher painstakingly, even boringly sometimes, recounts setting up and breaking camp as well as his decision making processes. Yet his in-depth descriptions of canyons, ledges, eddies, vegetation, and wildlife reflected his intense appreciation of this land and gave me clues for how to describe it in my story.

Have I answered the question How much should I expect to get out of a nonfiction book? Maybe.

I should expect as much as I can find.

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Should I or Shouldn’t I Recommend THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG?

Dear Reader,

I’m stumped by how to review Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. For the most part, I found it boring, but my sister-n-law recommended it, so I forced myself to read the whole thing. Nothing much happens besides a middle-aged well read concierge and a bright twelve-year-old girl’s toughts while they narrate their own chapters. (Some reviewers said the narrators were pretentious. Which is what people who don’t understand people like these two would naturally say.)  I often thought what they said could have been condensed; but, at the same time, they seemed to be journal entries, which are prone to long windedness and frequent sections of little point. It’s clear the novel wasn’t plot driven; but then it wasn’t so much character driven either.

For the lesser part–or is it the greater?–Barbery wrote several things that I just had to record so I could savor them later. For example:

  • “Art is life, playing to other rhythms.”
  • “As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone.”
  • “… the capacity to do harm is often and item of family capital.”
  • “Apparently, now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is. They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go. The most intelligent among them turn their malaise into a religion…” 

But do a few memorable lines negate a lot of unmemorable ones? Or the other way around? I don’t know. Do I have to give this book a grade, a # of stars?

What do you think?

Sincerely,

Faye

Why I Like Jon Krakauer’s Writing Style

Dear Reader,

I like Jon Krakauer’s writing style in UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A STORY OF VIOLENT FAITH, just as I did in his books INTO THIN AIR and INTO THE WILD. He starts with a single event, in this case a murder, diverges, diverges some more, then returns to the murder and asks the reader to look at it through a variety of lenses (defined by me): insanity, fanaticism, passion, stupidy, belief, and more. He explores the history of Mormonism, but he could just as well have focused on Christianity or Islam–with a great deal more difficulty, of course, as they are centuries old, compared with Mormonism, which is still in its infancy–and how easily people hijack religion to further their non-spiritual agendas. Krakauer’s style leaves room for readers to develop their own questions and draw their own conclusions, which is much better than putting up with a didactic author. I picked up this book because the title intrigued me, and because I wanted to learn a bit about the history of the Mormon faith and, thereby, something about the religion as it is practiced today. I learned enough about the history to know there’s a lot more to learn, and very little about the practice of Mormonism, which is really okay, by me; that would require serious study. (It’s interesting that as I reread the subtitle of the book I realized I’d repeatedly thought it said “A Story of ‘A’ Violent Faith,” which states that Mormanism is violent. Take out “A” and it refers to any faith, as an act.)

What’s an ARTObiography? Read STORM OF THE i to find out

Dear Reader,

Tina Collen’s Storm of the i: An Artobiography is an autobiography/memoir that is:

  • Satisfyingly heavy (a compact paperback weighing as much as a hard-core tabletop book),
  • Densely appointed (composed of luscious illustrations; touching, humorous, and/or clever photos; pop-ups; foldouts; cutouts; and other surprises),
  • Beyond creatively designed (the author is also a visual artist with a strong graphic design background), and
  • Compellingly written (utilizing journal entries, hers and others’ poetry, snippets of letters, casually written notes, song lyrics, and personal narrative).

Collen’s words keep the reader asking questions like:

  • What is Collen going to discover next?
  • What is her problem with her father?
  • What is her father’s problem with her?
  • Is there really a problem between them, or is she just imagining it?
  • Will her perceptions change as the book progresses?
  • Will she change as person as a result of writing this book?
  • Will she accept responsibility for who she was and is, or will she just cast blame?
  • Why was she driven to write this book?
  • Will I, the reader, change as a result of reading this book?

How did Storm of the i affect me?

  • I began to urge myself to explore my creativity/thoughts through making colleges.
  • I re-remembered that I want to try sculpting with clay.
  • I realized I’ve used the excuse of not being a trained artist to keep me from making art.
  • I began to question my assumptions about the meanings behind “hurtful” things my parents said in my past.
  • I wondered how other women might learn about themselves through combining visual art and writing.

Dear reader, Storm of the i is an experience you’ll want to share with (buy for–you’ll want to keep your copy) people you love.

Sincerely,

Faye

***

If you’d like to see a bit more about how Artobiography came into existence click here.

To purchase a personally autographed copy of Storm of the i go to www.TinaCollen.com

(In the comment box include how you’d like it signed.) Books are also available at Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon. If your favorite bookstore doesn’t have it on the shelf, they can order it for you.

Tina Collen is giving an autographed book away in a contest, asking people to leave a comment answering this question:

Oftentimes the objects we hold onto contain cryptic clues that point towards something deeper about ourselves. Take a look around your house (or your room) at the things with which you have surrounded yourself. Is there anything you are still hanging onto that seems to contain a hidden message for you? What do you think it is?

What Backstreet Boys, Joe Cocker, and Justin Timberlake Do to Me

Dear Reader,

I have to tell you what’s going on right now. I’m supposed to be writing a direct mail letter, but I can’t focus because I’m listening to my 22-year-old daughter sing the Backstreet Boys’ song “Everybody” (Denniz PoP, Max Martin, 1997) while she paints my bathroom. I’m wriggling in my seat as she bellows, “Everybody, rock your body. Everybody, rock your body right. Backstreet’s back, alright.” My daughter’s happy again. Happy. She’s back in 7th grade, crushing over Nick Carter, and prodding her dad and me to take her to Florida so she can bump into him on the street. Like a coupon fiend, she’s cutting photos of the boys. “If you want it to be good, girl, get yourself a… bad boy.”

Now I’m YouTubing Joe Cocker singing “Cry Me a River” during his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. “Now you said that you love me after being so untrue. I want you to cry (cry me a river). I want you to cry (cry me a river) … Oh, I cried a river over you.” (Arthur Hamilton, 1953) Unlike “Everybody,” “Cry Me a River” doesn’t send me to the past, as I have no past with it. But Joe Cocker’s performance makes me want. Now! I want his shredded voice as my passion, his syncopation as the force that jars my poems from complacency, and his spark as a trigger that mushrooms my poetic courage.

My daughter has finished with the bathroom and has begun to paint her former bedroom. I’m back to wriggling in my seat, this time to Justin Timberlake singing, “I’m bringing sexy back. Them other boys don’t know how to act. I think it’s special what’s behind your back. So turn around and I’ll pick up the slack.” (Nathaniel Hills, Tim Mosley, Justin Timberlake, 2002) I’m happy too!

Respectfully Yours,

The Editor

http://www.QuamEditorial.com

Why I Watch the Special Features on Movie DVDs

Dear Reader,

I never return a rented DVD before I’ve watched its special features. Sometimes I don’t like the movie, but that doesn’t keep me from learning about how it was made. For example, on the music special feature for Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood, I see a man standing behind a wooden box that resembles a 1940s radio which is called a theramin. He presses his left thumb and forefinger together and then, as if waving a conductor’s baton, he coaxes from the air eerie, human-esque “o-o-ooo”s, like hollow voices stretched by tinny whistles.  Theramins accompanied many 1950s sci-fi and horror films.

In another feature I see Martin Landau made up to look like Béla Lugosi. He describes how the makeup artists change his nose and jaw line to resemble Lugosi’s. This is interesting, but what’s more interesting is how he duplicates the way Lugosi, a native Hungarian, spoke. First Landau learned to speak Hungarian. Then he taught himself to act like a native Hungarian who speaks English with an American accent. What?

Next there’s Enemy at the Gates, which dramatizes “a duel of the eyes” between a Russian and a German sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad during WWII. The screenplay is based on a famous event that’s celebrated in Russia but hardly known about elsewhere. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud says he cast Ed Harris as the German sniper because “I needed the powerful eyes of birds of prey. Those eyes [Ed Harris’s] were like a light in the darkness.”

Then there’s “Costumes: Road to Perdition,” in which I learn about the challenge of costuming actors to portray the mood of a Depression-era winters. The costume desigbers says in winter “everything is dead,” so she wants to illustrate the bleakness of that time by using heavy, textured fabrics in muted grays and browns that absorb, rather than reflect, light.

I love watching special features. (In case you didn’t already figure this out.) My writing improves because I listen to composers, actors, directors, costume designers, lighting and set designers talk about their work, their decision making process. They provide a new approach to defining characters and settings I wouldn’t have thought of by myself.

Respectfully,

The Editor

http://www.QuamEditorial.com

More Than A Drug Addict: Glen’s Letter To God

Dear Reader,

Glen O. wrote the following letter while he was in a drug rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado.

Dear God,

Thank you for my moment of sobriety, this moment

Thank you for the dirty toilets and my desire to clean them

Thank you for my heart that wants to love and be loved and isn’t afraid to love

Thank you for every woman you have placed in my path

Thank you for the breath I take, and the miracle of my human body

Thank you for my children, Paul and Hannah

Thank you for the God spirit in me that wants to be reborn, that wants to be a man

Thank you for my mind and the talents and the forgiveness of who I am

Thank you for my sense of humor and willingness to see the humanity in me

Thank you for my addictions and the special yearning and seeking challenges they present

Thank you for another chance to get back up here at safe harbor

Thank you for the forgiveness and mercy I feel through your love

Thank you for the belief that pushes me to find something to believe in

Thank you for this world and the resolve around me

Thank you for my loneliness

Thank you for everything I haven’t thanked you for

But especially thank you for right now, this moment of doubt, faith, fear, confusion, love, anger; many of these emotions are states that were within me that let me know that I am still alive and that it isn’t over yet

I’m still alive, that it isn’t over yet

That I still want to grow and not just exist, that I still have a mission and purpose for which I am blind

Thank you Oh Lord for the possibilities

Glen

(©Sept. 2002)

Glen died in a crack house two weeks after he wrote this letter. His friends glow with Glen-ness whenever they talk about him. His outrageous  sense of humor, his artistic genius, his innate need to  go all out.

Glen wasn’t an addict. He was addicted to drugs.

Dear Glen,

It isn’t over yet. You still exist.

You still exist.

God

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