To Write, To Write, To Write

 

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Poets & Writers, May/June 2013

 

These days I’m more interested in learning/ discovering how to wedge a place for myself in the publishing game, but there was once a time when writerly chops were hardly developed. And P&W is as good a source as any for fostering that. The mag is slowly going techie, since that’s where writing and publishing are going, but this issue deals squarely with the pen-in-hand, fingers-on-the-keyboard phase of creative writing.

 

Benjamin Percy, in his essay, “Writing with Urgency,” urges simple steps on how to structure a story or essay.

Ruth Ozeki in “A Crucial Collaboration,” talks chemistry between writers and readers – one of my favorite subjects.

And Daphne Kalotay regales us in “The Clam Before the Calm” with anticipatory thoughts of the post-acceptance phase of having a novel published – in this case, hers.

Another subject: writing contests – do they matter? Not according to a number of fuzzy cheeked editors and agents. There’s not much money in them (see page 16), and no one has much faith that your next piece will be worthy of accolades or publishing.

The most intriguing article for this writer is Michael Bourne’s piece, “The Novella E-Revolution.” Novellas used to be the between-the-stools bit of writing – too long to be a short story, too short to be a novel. It’s been talked about more and more in recent months, but now e-publishers are taking note.

 

Although I feel , perhaps more than a bit egoistically, that I’ve outgrown a lot of what P&W has to offer, it is a mag for and by writers, and its bi-monthly issues, along with its web site, are true troves for writers with their feet not yet on the ground.

 

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Selling the Obvious

 

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The Atlantic, May 2013

 

If you’re a political and cultural junkie like me, then you surely know that the media delivers its insights on those phenomena in a multi-repetitive way. This issue of The Atlantic is an example of that, but you can’t really blame them; some harried people want their news pre-digested. In a world of insta-reportage, repeated on the hour, this mag gives us what Time and Newsweek used to.

Do women win elections? Duh. All the time – and they seem to be representing their constituencies better than men.

The emoticons’ uses on the Internet. Really?

Atheist Sam Harris feels a need to own a gun for self protection. In a country rabidly and militantly Christian? You bet.

Martin Amis’ love life and how that intersects with his writing. Yawn.

Using a tuning fork to stir a cocktail? C’mon!

Henry Kissinger is sensitive with regard to his policies? Maybe he is, or maybe he’s just trying to soften his image.

And this month’s biggie: We keep coming up with ways to harvest fossil fuels, thus a neverending supply of ‘em. But they’re hurting our environment. Ever hear of EPA?

Thomas Pierce’s short fiction piece, “The Critics,” about a father’s relationship with his daughter as the daughter slowly morphs into a writer, perhaps of the screenplay persuasion, breaks no real ground subject-wise or structurally, but it’s decent writing and entertaining.

Okay, a lot of this is going to sound overly cynical to you, but I don’t mean it that way. I know cultural and news summaries are valuable to readers, and The Atlantic is doing a service by repeating the “this just in” stuff one more time.

 

 

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

 

To The Bone

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Harper’s Magazine, May 2013

Harper’s Magazine is peopled by idealists. Whether that’s a good thing, of course, is an argument I won’t have here.

Jeff Madrick’s “The Age of Cruelty,” in true progressive fashion, portrays the Reagan Era (1974 to 2008), as the title suggests, a time when parsimony has governed over our obligations to one another as a nation.

The centerpiece report, “The Way Of All Flesh,” by Ted Conover lets us peer deeply into the cattle slaughtering business, including  some dozen photos that are art in themselves.

A photo portfolio by Katy Grannan, shows us faces – faces of the more or less dispossessed in our society, and they are as stark as the subject matter.

But my favorite piece is Charles Baxter’s story, “Loyalty.” It’s the story of two scheming nurses (well, one, anyway) who orbit like planets around the sun that is a hapless auto mechanic named Wes. Astrid has talked Corinne into leaving Wes (“…walk out the door and you’ll achieve happiness.”) so that Astrid can move in with the guy. Time rocks on. Astrid and Wes have a child, Lucy, and Wes’ son with Corinne, Jeremy, all but forgets his birth mom. Then Corinne shows up again.

What are the effects of Corrine’s reincarnation on the kids? The usual kiddie confusion. So what’s the story? Baxter seems to want to paint a picture of how difficult it is to have a little bit of life for yourself with so many other people complicating things. And that, in summary, is life in the 21st century.

But then the editors of Harper’s Magazine know this.

 

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

A First Podcast!

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Finally – another dream made real! The link below will take you to the first GridleyReview, a re-do of last week’s post on W.J. Cash’s THE MIND OF THE SOUTH.

Check it out at the link below, which will take you to my website. Let me know what you think.

 

GridleyReview

 

 

Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Audio From Sam’s Place and Other News

SamsPlace

 

I’ve been spreading the news around, but in case I missed you, or you missed the news, I’ve recorded an audio book of my latest, Sam’s Place: Stories. You can buy them one at a time or as a complete book HERE (I’m betting you’ll be hooked after the first file), and they should play on any mobile device that accommodates sound, or on any desktop geared for audio recordings. You’ll also find a book trailer there for Sam’s Place. Please let me know how you like the audio book, and please pass this news on to anyone who enjoys audio books while driving.

And next week will be magazine week. I post on these magazines, partly because readers need to have some idea of what they’re getting into when spending hard-earned bucks on magazines in this time of constant editorial and format change. And partly to keep you writers up on what’s of value to you in the magazine world.

Quite soon my book review posts will be available on my website as brief podcasts. Please keep checking back, and let me know what you think of those as well.

A Literary Repent

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Iron Horse Literary Review, Volume 15.1, Open Issue 2013

 

Okay, I’m prepared to repent. I’ve dissed IHLR more than once in this blog, and while earlier issues seemed worthy of such scorn, this issue and the one prior are worth admiration and praise. Such praise follows:

This issue contains the work of four poets and two short fiction writers, and all are eminently readable and enjoyable. I’m not a poet and don’t feel worthy of much in the way of poetic critique, but I found Bret Foster’s selected pieces here thoughtful, well-written, and poetically vibrant.

 

Of all the pieces here, I enjoyed Sarah Mollie Silberman’s story, Breakables, the most. Her dialogue sparkles, her characters are real and varied in their makeup, and the story roars by like a runaway locomotive. If there’s one thing that I felt approaches weakness here, its the faddish present tense she uses. It works fine in scene and dialogue, where things are of the moment, but in narrative you feel its distancing effect.

 

Michael Cooper’s Conchs is a worthy story, too, even though it begins a bit sluggishly, only to gather speed as it goes along.

 

Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you. I’ll soon be adding podcasts of selected book reviews to my website, as well as an opportunity to buy mp3 files of my reading of Sam’s Place – Stories, so look for those.

 

 

Star Trek Into Darkness – the Movie

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There’s nothing quite as fascinating – or as hopeful – as the re-creation of an old movie or, in this case a TV series. But you never experience a good reboot, it seems, or if you do, it’s a man bites dog affair.

The missus and I went to see the ’09 version of this reincarnated series back then, and it mildly interested me – it had the feel of a prequel, what with the bildungsroman versions of James T. Kirk and Spock. This one, though, may be causing me to lose interest, but I’ll get to my ambivalence in a moment.

The ’09 version, if you remember, had Kirk, Spock, Uhuha, Bones, Scotty, Chekov, et al sent on a moment’s notice to put down a Romulan attack. Jim Kirk, nee Chris Pine,  became the new version of the famed starship captain without leaning too heavily on William Shatner’s version. And Spock and Uhura became an item. All this is so much blah-blah, but the interesting thing for an old Navy guy was to note how the Federation’s Space Fleet mimicked the training and mindset of 20th century navies.

In this year’s version, an old character is reprised: Khan – played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and the scene-stealer of the movie. But this Khan neither engenders the fear of the original nor projects that elder one’s rage. Instead, this Khan leaves us wondering whether he’s the villain or the hero. As the flick’s name implies, this one urges us toward a noir sensibility, but it’s only present in the cinematography. The movie is replete with the obligatory spectacular crashes, action, fisticuffs, and other such superficial stuff, and expends little of the cerebral fodder the original series was known for. As befits a dumbed-down age, I suppose.

In the end, what? Our intrepid crew takes off on a five-year voyage to boldly go where no one has gone before, with the original series’ theme music blaring. I can only hope that, where the original series asked us in the manner of art to reconsider Vietnam, shallowness, racism, and a number of other 20th century failings, the next movie – and the next – will have us reassess out 21st century culture in the same way.

 

My rating 14 of 20 stars

 

 

Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you. I’ll soon be adding podcasts of selected book reviews to my website, as well as an opportunity to buy mp3 files of my reading of Sam’s Place – Stories, so look for those.