New Forms, Chances Are

Most of what’s being written  about new publishing opportunities has to do largely with e-books, and some about new marketing opportunities, both involving the digital world.

But why not also involve the structure of writing itself?

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An idea has been slowly coming to me over the past couple of months involving just such a twist. We know that Tolstoy, Dickens, and others, made their writerly bones by publishing their novels in serialized form. The lure of getting a comely story in bits and pieces has the potential to enthrall readers, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t work today — in perhaps a more inventive form.

The novella I’m writing now – a dystopian piece – has me thinking broader and deeper, story-wise, and structure-wise. More on this experiment before the end of the year.

 

 

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.

The Wages of Rock And Roll Success

Heaven and Hell – My Life in the Eagles, by Don Felder

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Okay, by now you know I have more than a passing interest in popular music, particularly that since the ‘sixties. And I suppose there’s an element of postmodern voyeurism in the mix as well. But I try to restrict myself to the more interesting and well told tales of such personalities. Don Felder gives us in his book what seems an honest picture of what life is like behind the staged image of rock ‘n’ roll. And if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get to that level of musical capability, Felder gives you his own version of how those musical gifts are developed.

He begins with the story of his childhood in Gainesville, Florida, of his attraction to music, then to guitar playing, leading him to the black side of town, a chance meeting with B.B. Kin,g and a move north to Boston, New York, and finally to California in pursuit of his music dreams. It’s in California that he eventually becomes a founding member of the Eagles rock band. As the band’s success grows, so do the temptations. Their intense schedules lead to drug and alcohol abuse, and as groupies latch onto the band’s fame, the newly wedded Felder is tempted sexually. His picture of the band’s life is one of contentiousness, creatively and personally, and this never seems to go away. In fact, it seems to grow more pronounced as the years go by and as the band members age.

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In the end, Felder’s is a morality tale of the price extracted from one’s soul in chasing fame and money. Lives are for learning, and Felder shares his lessons with the readers, lessons that are basic, to be sure, but lessons that are not all that easy to learn.

 

My rating: 17 of 20 stars

 

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.

Midlist Crisis/NYTimes

 

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What Lopate doesn’t say here is that modesty and humility are the basis of the writer psyche. Even if you’re a successful writer, you still have to contend with the fact that the inspiration to write comes through you; it isn’t innately you.

NYTimes

 

 

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A Private Eye in Elizabethan England

Heresy, by S.J. Parris

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There’s one sure way to scan the health of a literary genre: to note how easily it embraces other genres. And this is what we’re now seeing in the realm of historical fiction, which takes on romance, mystery,  and even suspense. In S.J. Parris’ capably written novel we find elements of both mystery and suspense wrapped in an Elizabethan setting. Does this approach hold to its historical underpinnings, i.e. does it shed light on its historical era? Yes. Is it historically believable? Very nearly so.

 

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Here, Italian monk Giordano Bruno has escaped the Inquisition by fleeing papal territories and eventually arriving in England, where he’s recruited into a role of spying on Oxford college denizens, a way of unearthing papists in Protestant England. Bruno arrives at Lincoln College ostensibly to take part in a debate on Copernicus, but he’s quickly confronted with an apparent murder, then another, and yet another. Why Bruno feels the need to investigate these connected killings is unclear, but investigate he does, and this begins to roll back a curtain of secrecy on secret Catholic meetings in Oxford.

The author pulls every twist and turn possible out of her hat to build suspense and to deepen the intrigue here, but to what end? Clearly, to the end of depicting history in a deeply ingrained manner. She has skillfully lain out the depths of the Catholic/Protestant conflict at the time, the terror it induced in the citizens of England.

Yes, to cast the monk Bruno in the role of medieval private eye is a bit clumsy, and some of the furtive hijinks seem a tad overdone. But, forgiving these, the author has done a bang-up job of giving readers a rare peek into the Elizabethan world.

 

 

My rating 16 of 20 stars

 

 

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.

The Alchemy of Irony (Redux)

I’m reposting this – after gussying it up a bit, because it’s well, important, and I suspect there’s something here that will lead us out of literature’s wilderness.

 

This is something of a postscript on a previous post on a popular subset of postmodern literature, something you can find here.

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Despite postmodernism’s recognition of literature’s limitations – and this includes the limitations of history’s previous accountings of events, as well as our attempts to explain the human experience through philosophy – this particular, popular strain of literature has fallen prey to ego, in particular writers’ egos. The crux of this corruption is in irony. But let me explain.

Irony is the juxtaposition of opposing forces, viewpoints, linguistic twists, etc., usually for one of two purposes: humor and emphasis. We all need humor, for sure. And it’s well and good to have in one’s arsenal such a tool as irony to add texture to whatever is written. Even though humor is meant to be a gentle shove toward correcting social mores, actions, and attitudes, its corruption comes when the humorist, the implementor of humor, uses it in a condescending fashion, to debase and demean its objects, rather than to correct them. And when too much is made of irony in the context of emphasis, the corruption is essentially the promotion of the user’s ego.

But how does this translate within postmodern literature?

In the post linked above, I sat down hard on overuse – and overemphasis on – narration. In nineteenth century novels, the narrator was the proxy oral storyteller (we were not yet that far removed from oral versions of story, it seems); thus the narrator was omniscient, able to speak to all phases of story and character – as if a literary god. After more than a century of modernism in storytelling, in which the reader was invited in, ever so intimately, to his or her own take on the story’s significance, the plumbing of character, etc., we now see a return to narration – not for the benevolence of story or character, but to express the self-consciousness of the writer. But why would a writer want to create a story in which all aspects of it revolve so obviously about the writer’s psychology? Sadly, to place the writer on a pedestal, above the character, the story, and the reading public.

And this is where irony begins to tarnish. Where once the writer was the instrument of literature’s muses, and to paraphrase McLuhan, the writer is now the message – the ultimate, abstracted end result of the “me” phenomenon. Here, irony turns cynical, egoistic, mean, literarily destructive. Where once irony was a tool to add depth to characterization and story, its modern corruptions make characters flat, story meaningless.

 

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If we were to return to irony as a social corrective, a tool to create literary terrain, what would be the effect on the postmodern perspective?

  • the return of story as a social construct – incorporating history, philosophy, ethics – but with a more universal emphasis.
  • the surrender of writerly ego to the presence of literature itself.
  • a renewed ability of readers to embrace characterization as part of themselves – even when the characters aren’t within the reader’s personal experience.
  • the continued democratization of literature.

Clearly postmodernism is a transitory step in social evolution. What will emerge from that tunnel’s far end? I can guess, but I’d likely be wrong. But one thing’s for certain: were we to continue in the current path of postmodern literature, we would soon be presiding over the demise of literature itself.

 

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At 28, Writer Is Youngest to Receive Booker Prize/NYT

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I love this statement of Ms Catton’s: She then thanked her publishers for striking the “elegant balance between making art and making money.”

 

NYTimes

 

 

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The Andrew Wylie Rules How the literary agent still makes millions off highbrow/New Republic

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I always enjoy interviews with crusty, irreverent people. Laura Bennett’s interview (linked below) with literary agent and renegade publisher Andrew Wylie is downright entertaining, and it points up some truths about the publishing industry today:

  • The industry’s intransigence over digital publishing and awarding respectable digital revenues to writers. 
  • Amazon’s co-opting of publishing (along with Apple) while not bothering to use their leverage to get their books into stores. 

NewRepublic

 

 

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