Sunday, 28 June 2009

If I Were Teaching a Course... Creative Writing, I would give (at least) these four assignments:

1) Write a sonnet with complete meter and a traditional rhyme scheme. Try to use some sonnet conventions.
2) Write a free-verse poem, with no rhyme, which is to some degree about a physical, existing location.
3) Write a short prose piece (at least three pages) including dialogue between 4+ characters.
4) Write a short prose piece that does not contain any dialogue or adverbs, and contains no more than one adjective per paragraph (average). Use perfectly formal language: no contractions, no fragments, no comma splices or run-on sentences.

I would also offer as an optional 'challenge' the writing of a sestina or a villianelle. Haiku sequences would also be a good idea.

I was thinking about this last night. Now, why would I assign these particular tasks?

I truly think that learning to write at least half-decent poetry is a major step toward writing excellent prose. You can write good prose without being able to write poetry, and you can likely get toward excellent without it, but I can assure you that being able to write poetry hugely improves your ability in prose. Hence two poetry assignments.
However, being able to write decent free-verse poetry (which most poets these days choose to write) requires, in my opinion, a stronger sense of form poetry. Sonnets are a good place to learn form, but I think haikus might give you certain skills as well. If you only write free-verse, I think you have a harder time learning rhythm. If you have something which forces a rhythm upon you (ie. metre), you get a sense of that rhythm better. It's a similar idea to learning the rules before you break them. So in order to write good free-verse, you need to be able to write at least half-decent form poetry. Or, at least, it helps.
Oh, and if free verse gets too abstract, it sucks majorly. So that's why it's about something concrete.
OK, the dialogue piece. Why? Well, most people struggle with dialogue. This will help with that. Also, you'll eventually need to learn how to manage multi-person conversations (as Jon can attest to), and this challenge should equip you for it.
Finally, the last prose. Why the ban on modifiers? Because modifiers are cheap ways of communicating. Verbs and nouns are more powerful, so use these whenever possible. Use adverbs when only an adverb can convey what you want to say. This is a rule most modern "literary" authors use. It does improve the elegance of your prose...and if you want to break this rule, you still have to know it. So write without adverbs and with few adjectives for a while, and once your communication skills have improved, you can let the modifiers back in.
Why the formal language? Again, you want to get a grip on structure and perfect communication. Once you've mastered this, then you can venture into breaking the rules.

Now, the caveats.

This is my own career. If you look at some of the stuff I was writing free-verse in my earlier university career, it lacks the structure, the pacing, and the design that the later free-verse has. This is because I hadn't sufficiently learned how to use this. Some of my improvement came from writing more formed verse. The thing is, though, that's not all that helped. Reading my peers' free-verse and reading 'professional' free verse. Also, Wayde Compton's 49th Parallel Psalm. That uses awesome line-breaks, which are crucial to writing poetry that doesn't suck badly. If you have a copy of Lake Effect 4, I'd say you should look at the free verse in that, and I'll particularly direct you to "south-end headphone seraphim" by Adam Wray, "black dog on repeat" by Anna Maxymiw, and "without consent" by Angela Hickman. Any will do, though. Look at their line breaks and rhythms. That is how one can write good free verse. I have also written some newer free verse of which I might be more inclined to brag; the earlier stuff is mediocre, as I said.

Other people, however, learned differently. Some started with free verse and have never ventured seriously into form, unless required to for an assignment. I think Anna Maxymiw took this course. Some began with prose and worked into poetry by force...and a good thing, too, because their poetry rocks (Sean Seal, in the anthology). But I still maintain that my assignments are good, because they work different muscle groups, and regardless of the order you prefer, I don't think anyone will argue that these skills don't reinforce each other.

That is all for now.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Writing Package

This is a list of all possible 'resources' that I have posted on my blog that writing-type people might find useful. Some of them are kind of a stretch, yes.

All posts that have the label 'words.'
Different figures of speech.
How to use figures of speech (maybe).
How to use a semicolon.
Character groundwork.
Contemplations on being published.
All posts that have the label 'publishing.'
On writing outside of my means.
How goals shape writing.
When convoluted writing is educational.

If you're more interested in the literary theory end of it, which I haven't included here, you can click on "literary theory" and "journal series" in the list of words down in the left-hand bottom corner of the page (ie. in the sidebar). For things I have written, you could try "poetic form." I currently do not have a label for my own writing. [Edit: Actually, now I do.]

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Working in Fort McMurray: Episode Umpteen

G'day, Internet.

It is currently Wednesday, but it feels more like Thursday to me. This will inevitably end in disappointment. The reason it feels like Thursday is that I worked Sunday, helping at National Aboriginal Day. It was not a difficult day as far as working goes, but it means Monday felt like Tuesday and it all dominoed from there.

I have said that cleaning boats has given me time for thinking, though productive thought isn't a guarantee. It's more wandering around sort of thinking, producing weird, repetitive, and usually forgetable 'results.'

'Result' 1: A previous discussion on Cait's blog about past and future selves disagreeing over the quality of one's work made me think of plural selves among my friends. OK, I think about plural selves fairly often in my on-going questioning about the nature of identity and of multiplicity. Anyway, I remember way back in first year that we were talking about something and Jamie (some of you readers know Jamie; others won't) said that something I had said made her feel sort of like two people in one skull, an out-going Jamie and a reserved Jamie. According to her, her selves got along fine. I think I remember Cait saying that if she became two people, her selves wouldn't get along very well. This made me think about other people's selves interacting: two Roz would probably be very awkward together, and I can imagine two Kays sitting around talking about their emotional situations very--rationally is the wrong word, as is calmly--honestly. But I have a hard time imagining more than one of myself. Sometimes I can, but not often, and not often comfortably. I am somewhat attached to my singularity, even if I question it from time to time.

'Result' 2: I've given thought to literary theory. I'm trying to develop of school of criticism that combines formalist, reader-response, and authoral approaches. I am interested in the rigour and text-centricness of formalism, but cannot conceive of useful criticism which ignores a text's effect on the reader. How can you talk about a horror novel without discussing how the scariness of it influences the 'meaning' or ideology of it? How can you talk about a comedy if you ignore the humour? Formalism doesn't seem equipped to deal with these questions. No, scratch that. Formalism isn't equipped to deal with them. And I generally do not care one wit about authoral intent, but I do think it would be a worthy project to find a way to at least allow a critic to discuss the author, since some projects would be more useful/meaningful/relevant if you could bring the author in. Lots of people do anyway. Granted, the only examples I can think of at the moment are cranks, but, hey, there are likely legit ones. My professors, actually, come to think of it, often implied authoral intent as much as some of them were formalist. So finding a way to integrate that would be nice, but I refuse to do it if it doesn't seem honest to me. Anyway, I'm working on the epistemology/metaphysics of such an approach. I'll publish if I come up with anything insightful.

'Result' 3: I've been thinking about escapism. I have traditionally sat between two different factions on this one: those who prefer escapism--and sometimes think it fits outside of the reach of literary analysis, somehow--and those who think escapism is trash and I ought to be reading something more challenging (teachers and professors). I tend to think that the best escapism isn't really escapism at all, but teaches us things from within an awesome story. Cases in point would be Harry Potter (the value of courage, friendship, equality, honour, humility, and love) and The Chronicles of Narnia (too many lessons to go into, but at least one per book). This is what I would like to write.
But anyway, I re-read a post I wrote a while back about Domino, and that brought me to thinking about escapism which represents an act of escape. Consider Narnia: in many cases, the children are escaping an uncomfortable situation in a boring and morally oppressive environment to enter their adventures in Narnia. This exactly figures the reader (if approaching the story as escapism), in which they escape from their own messy and often frustratingly boring lives into the adventures of Narnia. Or a young boy is told that he is a wizard and taken from the normal world into a magical one. Or a woman is taken from dull lonely routine into an exciting intrigue with a mysterious stranger who makes her feel sexy (I imagine this is how romances go, but have no idea, so let me know if I'm off). Or an average citizen accidentally gets involved in an international security threat/is compelled to hunt down a cunning serial killer/must face a supernatural horror. Either way, the character moves from the dull to the exciting, recreating exactly the same journey as the reader. This is something I may want to explore more.

'Result' 4: I have given a little thought to the nature of artifacts. When does an object become an artifact? When the museum owns it, or when the paperwork known as 'accessioning' is completed? How do we treat these objects at the different points in their existence? It's like a rite of passage, only not for a person. There's liminal space. It's vaguely interesting to think about while working in a museum, and has some practical application in my interaction with these objects, but likely is of little interest to you readers. Also, this sort of thinking has likely already been done by people in Museum Studies programs.

Anyway, these are a sampling of my thoughts. Other than plot lines and character sketches (which are not going up here), they are maybe the most interesting for you to read about. Re-hashing arguments against Dawkins' claims isn't exactly exciting. If you really want to read those, I might as well direct you to the original posts, linked on the sidebar. I can't even remember what else I thought about.

I did, however, see some interesting things. For instance, assorted homeless people, who were predominantly Native, were dancing behind Rona. Later, they got in a bit of a shoving match and started swearing at each other. I could hear it from inside the engine room of the CCGS Miskanaw. Oh, I'm done the engine room now and have gone through some cabins. I'll be done with the Miskanaw tomorrow, at least for the time being. Also, according to the care taker, the dog Max hates Native people. I don't know what to make of this claim.

That is truly all for now.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Personal Resolution Not To Be A Blog Slave: Status = FAILED

I worked at Heritage Park today, helping set up for National Aborignal Day.

Yes, the government has set aside one day for the recognition of Aboriginal people. Before you get all antsy, I'll point out that the Earth gets an hour, and that's not even official. So a day isn't bad. Relatively speaking. Well, yeah, it's pretty bad, but that's beside the point. The point just so happens to be that I worked at Heritage Park today.


1) Cleaning the interiors of ships is not very hard work. Tedious, dusty, cramped, hot, finickety work, yes, but is not physically trying. At the end of the day I am sweating and dirty and my legs are tired, but I am not cardiovascularly exhausted. Preparing for NAD when you haven't been doing that sort of work for two months is. I was in much better shape by this time last summer than I am today. My perseverence is as good as it ever was (which is really the best thing I had going for me: I'd work past my "exhausted" point far longer than most of my coworkers, even if my exhausted point was sometimes sooner). My stamina isn't.

2) The fact that a girl is cute and cheerful and employed at the other site does not mean she is single. Rats. I'm not sure what I was expecting in Fort McMurray.

3) Working away at ships is good for contemplating literary theory, the philosophy of interpersonal relationships, and theology. Working away at events with loads of people is good for actually developing interpersonal relationships.

4) Drinking water when you're very thirsty can make you even thirstier for the rest of the day.

5) I haven't mowed lawns in four years. I haven't really had a lawn to mow, or at least not for more than two weeks at a time. Today was the first in that time. It's not that bad.

6) I am a slave to the computer screen. Or maybe I'm just a bit bored.

7) It's funny. I'm in a lieu period right now. My relationships are in stasus. I'm not developing new ones very much right now. I like my coworkers well enough, but I'm not making the step from 'coworker' to 'friend.' I have made that step once or so in the past, but it isn't really happening right now. And I'm sitting here re-evaluating all of my past friendships and maybe somewhat more than friendships, but I'm not discovering anything new or coming to terms with things I already new. I'm it all interally. My isolation isn't really allowing me to develop; perhaps I am allowing my isolation to prevent me from developing. I'm cryogenically frozen, but stuff's still going on anyway. Not much of note, but stuff. Hence blogging all the time, except, unlike Kay or Cait or, I see recently, Roz, it's not really me processing anything. It's just me doing what I always do on my blog, which is keep everything at an even longer arm's length than with people and with myself. My only new discovery is this one: my laid-back approach to relationships is just an excuse to not feel anything, and that goes badly when I can't help feeling something anyway, as I have forgotten how to deal with it. As a result, I am not particularly upset that I am not growing in relationships, even though I suspect cerbrally that it's a bad thing. That is my one new idea, and it counts for absolutely nothing, because over here in stasus, knowing that I am not growing doesn't help an iota. Knowing how to grow might, but I haven't got that figured out yet, and I am feeling too lethargic to figure it out.

8) I need to blog less. It takes up time I could be writing or reading or doing something productive. But I think I enjoy it too much to give it up. And somebody will squawk if I let it slide.

9) A good old-fashioned-looking tipi is really cool. So are older native folks (often elders). And old people in general. I like being around them. Little kids are great too. A little kid came up to me today and we talked about what I was doing, and then about the bumblebee in the flowers. And earlier today an Metis elder helped us erect the tent for the event on Sunday, and we talked about the time he worked on the river boat at the Park and the D250 at my work site.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Movie Adaptations

I have had an idea.

What if, instead of selling movie rights in perpetuity, we only sell rights to movie companies for three year terms--or, maybe, for fourteen months after first showing. By which I mean, if 20th Century Fox buys the movie rights to the Earthsea trilogy, they have the exclusive right to make that movie...until fourteen months after The Wizard of Earthsea hits theatres. At that point, the LeGuin estate can sell the movie rights again to another company if they want. Obviously, companies would buy the rights for far less (unless everyone played hardball). However, if the movies suck, you can get someone else to try making a better one.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

An Interesting Trend in Japan

Take a look at this link.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Heat and Tardiness

Well, it's hotter than cakes that sell quickly up here. Oh, man. The Albertan summer has arrived.

Today was a pretty good day. I was pleased at work. I'm not sure why, though. I can't be glad to be back at work--can I?

Anyway, I have a funny-looking hat now. It's a Penman. I think that's the brand. Is that a brand? Anyway, I'm sure I look like a n00b when I wear it, but that's better than getting my Dumbo ears burnt. I also wore my sunglasses and smeared myself with suntan lotion. I was working on those white decks all day, and the glare off that paint is something else.

Oh, and I finally climbed up to the very top of the Fort McMurray (that's a boat). The last ladder was freaky. It's WAY up there and designed poorly--there isn't much room for your knees when you climb it. But I did it, acrophobia and all. We needed to mount a phony owl up there to scare off the swallows.

After work I picked up my paycheque and deposited it at the bank, and then had to hang around the bus depot for an hour because an accident in Thickwood blocked up the bridge (again) and the buses were running very late. I got home an hour and a half later than usual. It's 8:30 and we're starting supper.

And that's my day. No epiphanies, sorry. I have writer's block, though. I need more time to just write through it. Oh, well.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Character Groundwork

For Creative Writing:

The idea behind filling this out is not to have information to use in your story (though it’s accessible at a moment’s notice if need be), but so they you understand your character and his/her motivations better and can then create more realistic relationships, decisions, and conversations.
For each of these questions, you can always add “Why?”

Appearance: (Height, body type, attractiveness)
Mode of transportation: (If car, what model? How well kept? How often repaired? How financed?)
Neat or sloppy? Neat at work, sloppy at home? Neat kitchen, sloppy bedroom?
Clothing: (variation between occasions? How afforded? Where bought? What style? How often change clothes, launder?)
How long does it take for them to get ready in the morning? Why?
Family history: parents names, occupations, origins, ages? Grandparents? How conscious is the character of all of this?
Friends: names, occupations, origins, ages? How did they become friends? What do they do together? How do they relate? (Even for friends who never appear in story.)
Significant other(s): see above. What sorts of people do they date? How do they understand their relationships?
Home town: still living there? How often moved?
Religion: In which religion was character raised? Still practice the same one? How seriously do they take it? How public are they about it? How serious is their home environment about it? Which church/temple/mosque/synagogue do they attend (and how often)?
Job: Is it a job or career? How dedicated? How much do they like it? How long do they plan on staying in this job stream? How much have they thought about it?
Living arrangements: Apartment, house, duplex, townhouse, trailer, commune, homeless, residence? Rent or own? How financed? With whom do they live?
Politics: political leanings? Are they partisan? What are their hot-button issues? How involved are they? How informed? How vocal?
Hobbies and Talents: is there any overlap? (ie. are they good at their hobbies?)
Pets: how many? How often? As kids? Which kind? How do they treat them? How important are their pets to them?
Philosophy of life: do they follow any movements? Any role models? Any catch-phrases or sayings? How good are they at ‘living’ their philosophies? Optimistic, pessimistic, middle-road?
Music: genres and artists? How often do they listen to music? When and for what reason? How seriously do they take music? Buy, download? Can they play?
Books, movies, art: answer same questions as for music, especially if they are important to character
Eating: well? What cuisine? Cook, order, eat out? Favourite snack when happy? Favourite snack when depressed? Least favourite vegetable? Favourite junk food? Binge or starve? What do they drink? How often? Do they eat differently in company than when alone? Food restrictions (ie. religious reasons, philosophical reasons, allergies)?
Reactions: to being surprised? To being insulted? To being disadvantaged? To being attacked? To being disgusted? To failing? To succeeding? To making a mistake? To being afraid? To being complimented? To being criticized? To be overworked? To being seduced? To being rejected? To martyring themselves? To being martyred for? To attention? To being ignored? To being wrong? To being right?
Flaws: what flaws do they know they have? What flaws do they not know they have? What traits do other people think are flaws but actually aren’t?
Habits: good and bad. What do they do without knowing it? Chew nails? Say ‘um’? Look away when they lie? Snort when they laugh? Wrap their fingers on the table? Counting things they see? Reading anything they see? Scratching? Biting their lips? Forgetting names? Saying people’s names too often when talking to them?
Fears: what are they afraid of (corporeal and abstract)? How do they deal with these fears?

Wind-Up Birds and Other Things of Trivial Import

Well, it is my third day of being home sick. Technically it is Saturday, so I wouldn't have been in to work on a regular week. However, since today follows two days of being home sick and since I was planning yesterday, when I was feeling a little better in the evening, to go in today for a few hours to finish something up, I feel as though I am skipping work again. Gah. Now my Saturday's all ruined with feeling sick and guilty again. Well, after I finish this post I will go grocery shopping. Get out of the house a bit. That might make things better. Also, I will set up my own computer for a bit so I can get some documents onto portable storage. I want to continue writing. Actually, a piece I just mentioned on a comment on Jon's blog--a conversation between a half-dozen characters--required finishing, so I'll tackle that maybe.
OK, on to the titular topic: I just finished reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Well, OK, I read an English translation. Anyway, it's quite enjoyable, if a little odd. It's about a man named Toru Okada trying to rescue his wife (and his life) from supernatural forces. Only "supernatural forces" doesn't quite cover it. I'm not talking so much about demons or ghosts or other things that Western lit fits under that title. It's more people who do supernatural things and some ambient-but-less-than-ambient force (tao, way, energy, qi) that permeates history. Trying to explain it does not good at all, because it's not easily categorizable or quantifiable. It's very reminiscent of Eastern religion in that sense. "The tao that can be explained is not the Tao." That's from the Tao Te Ching. It's right at the beginning.

Anyway, Okada is searching for his cat and then his wife, both of whom disappear. He encounters strange and interesting people, including a morbid but friendly sixteen-year-old girl struggling with the sorts of things rebellious sixteen-year-old girls struggle with, such as how to relate to her thirty-year-old male neighbour; an entirely mute young man and his rich and fashion-perfectionistic mother, who will buy clothing for and essential dress everyone around her; a "psychic prostitute" (that's a phrase from the back of the book), and her equally psychic sister; an unhappy war vet from the war in Manchukuo; and other strange and intricate characters. The point is, it's well written and was engaging from the moment I started. Something about it is strikingly Japanese, at least to my generally Asian-ignorant point or view. I wouldn't recommend the book for everyone, but if you're fine with novels that don't fit into traditional genre categories, I think you'll like it.


I watched For a Few Dollars More Thursday. This is the second of the Man with No Name trilogy, in which Clint Eastwood became famous for being a cowboy. The first is A Fistful of Dollars, and the third is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I enjoyed this one more than the first. Getting used to the older conventions, and the improper audio-visual alignment, took so work. The pacing was also a problem. However, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm not sure why. Something about the sunniness of it. And I just like the Western atmosphere, I suppose.


I watched Max Payne yesterday. Not a fan.

A life secluded in an apartment does not lend itself to interesting topics of conversation. Ah, well.

Over and out.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

:S = :(

Today is the first time in at least a year, but possibly two or three, that I phoned in sick. The last time I can remember is at Roger's Video, but it may have happened at Heritage Park the first year I worked there (which would be the summer I began this blog). In general, I go to work even if I don't feel well. I wanted to go home sick once or twice last year after Heritage Day, but couldn't because everyone else was also going home sick.

I always feel guilty about calling in sick. At least, I do now. This is why I so rarely do it. I figure if I can get the work done, I should go. Often I explain that I might as well get paid for suffering at work than not get paid for suffering at home. That's not really it, though. The truth is that I feel like I'm letting my employers down if I don't go, even if I'm sick. They might be depending on me to get my work done, and here I am skipping out on them.

When I was little I sometimes stayed home from school sick even if I wasn't sick enough to really justify it. Or, I'd get sick when I didn't want to go to school. My body seemed well trained so that nerves would make me ill enough to stay home when I really dreaded school. In high school I still got sick when I was nervous (and it sometimes still happens), but I stopped not going if I suspected that's all it was. This was especially true in grades eleven and twelve, in which I would go to school even if I was really sick because of yearbook commitments or for academic reasons.

For this reason I often go to work--or whatever other commitments I have--even if I am sick. If I at all suspect it's just "nerves" making me ill, and that it'll go away once I show up (as it usually does if it is just nerves), then I go. Sometimes it turns out I really was sick after all and I have to tough it out.

This morning, though, was different. Last night I was ill enough that I was in a bit of abdominal pain when I went to bed. Not only was I queasy, I actually hurt. This morning was not much better, and it comes and goes. So I phoned in. My employers were fine about it. I know that it's OK; I know they'll manage without me and that it's not so huge an inconvenience to them that they won't recover. And I'm not worried about the money. One day is not worth worrying about, and I refuse to go and get paid if I can't perform as I should be performing. And yet I still feel somehow guilty about not going to work. I suspect this is because I started feeling guilty about staying home sick in high school when I wasn't sure if it was just nerves or not, and now I feel guilty whenever I opt out of anything for not feeling well, regardless of how legitimate that illness is. Also, I feel like people suspect me of not actually being sick; if you're not coughing and sneezing, and if you're not actually vomiting, and if you're not running a fever, then there are no external signs of illness. You can't prove it. And so I always feel like people doubt me if I say I'm sick.

(And, on an epistemological aside, there's that horrid "proof" showing up again, making things difficult.)

The final twist in this abdominal knot is that there is the slight (very slight) worry that I'm getting sick from work. I'm working in the hold of a ship right now. I started getting headaches yesterday about an hour after going from the upper engine room to the lower engine room, but thought nothing of it. I broke for lunch and didn't spend much more time indoors, working outside instead, but still I felt off. Whenever I bent over to work on something--and I was spending most of my time on my hands and knees and crouching or on my side or some such thing to reach under odd little nooks and crannies on the deck--my headache about doubled and I got stomach cramps and nausea. It prevented me from working. What we've always been cautious of is stale air in the bottoms of these boats, and that's where this illness seems to have started, if not necessarily originated. Now, I'm wearing a mask, which helps block the huge quantities of dust from entering my lungs. Still, though, there is some concern that I am feeling sick because of this environment. I don't really think it's the case, and I very much hope it is not. I will have to return there to clean once I return to work. Further, I don't know if the sick-feeling would last until the next morning if that's what caused it. Nonetheless, my direct supervisor and my coworker brought the idea up independently, and it had occured to me as well.

But that's enough discussion about me being sick. Not a fun topic of conversation. Today must now be devoted to rest. Hopefully I feel better by this afternoon. I will perhaps finish reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle today.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


At the moment I do not think I have the energy, topic, or time to craft an interesting blog post. I realize it has been over a week--sorry. I will as soon as I feel that I have something of merit to say and a style to match.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Books and Things


I have for some time been picking through an anthology of the work of Lovecraft. H. P. Lovecraft, if you don't know of him, wrote "weird tales" (his term) which were forerunners of the later penny dreadfuls and other horror genres. His fiction has been an influence on things like Tales from the Crypt, Stephen King's work, and anything relating to the Necronomicon or the Cthulhu mythos (both of which he made up). Well, lately I've read a couple more tales from the anthology. Each one gives me a better sense of Lovecraft's style, and what I'm getting is that his writing is pretty repetetive.

He overuses adjectives in a bad way. In a sense it's form matching content, because he so frequently writes about the overgrown and florid--only it's not flowers but mold and fungus. However, it's still a style that is what Snediker (a professor at Queen's) calls "writerly," in that it calls attention to the fact that it is writing and therefore breaks the hypnotizing element of fiction; it does not allow us to be drawn into the text.

He is also obsessed with history and pre-history. He loves ancient secrets, but he also loves ancestral horrors. All stories with ghosts are stories concerned with the past, but his fiction isn't ghostly at all. It has more to do with cults, semi-humans, curses, and the walking and corporeal dead. Sometimes it involves cannibalism. Sometimes it includes ancient and evil gods. But it almost always has to do with the past, even if it is only ancient rites practiced by current but anachronistic folks. In some cases this works well: The Rats in The Walls, for instance, or Facts Concerning the Late Someone Who's Name I Forget and His Family. I'm sorry; that's not a very helpful title. Others feel more derivative: He and The Festival. I can read them, but I must take them slowly, as I'm never sure how good the next will be.

Loius L'Amour:

I bought a collection of short stories by Louis L'Amour last summer and never got around to it. I've poked through it since coming to Fort McMurray this year, and have been highly amused. L'Amour is an American author of Western-style stories. There stylistic faults are not the same as Lovecraft's; L'Amour is not at all over-florid but a little simplistic. And that's not Hemingway simplistic. That's just not a very great writer simplistic. Further, his romantic sub-plots are ridiculous. The guy gets the girl way too quickly, generally because he produced an impressive show of arms/horsemanship/quick thinking. That, and he's hunky, and she's been beset by so many bad men that she's a sucker for a good one. Feminists would likely scream over his mid-story philosophies about women.

But he's still a very readable and interesting writer. The stories, while simple, have the sort of ingenious solutions to tough problems that make heist movies and the like fun, and they also generally have down-to-earth but nonetheless idealistic characters I enjoy. Finally, there's just something about the Old West, stereotypes and all, that's just romantic and exotic enough to be engaging and yet "rugged" and familiar enough to dodge the bad taste in your mouth that the over-romanticized can give you. In all, I find him fun to read because of both his faults and his strengths.

The Handmaid's Tale:

To begin, I would like to say that I am not a fan of Atwood in general. I have read one short story which was supposed to be humourous but wasn't, pieces of literary criticism which I could not finish, and one novel which I disliked (Edible Women). If feminism drives you up the wall, you couldn't read this book. If feminism is your cup of tea, I'm sure you've already read this book. If feminism falls somewhere between these two in your interest spectrum, then I don't know what to say about that. What I can tell you is how I'm liking the book so far.

I think the book's primary fault lies in it's tunnel-vision for feminist ideology, though the awful copy-editing is a close runner-up. I think it was Woolf who said that a truly good author is androgynous, able to transcend their place and gender when writing a novel. She said that few can do this: Austen would have been one of the best authors ever if she could; George Eliot could; some male author who I can't recall could. She said a few authors could, too, but I can't recall them. Anyway, Atwood fails this test. Her novel is entirely preoccupied with the female characters. Yes, at the point where I have so far read, the Commander is becoming an actual viable character. But even so he's hardly there. And you can say, the interesting pov is necessarily the women because they're the ones who are being oppressed in this novel. However, the Catholic theologian and Carmelite nun Joan Chidester has pointed out that most systems which oppress women also oppress men, only differently, and this society seems no exception to me. I'm not saying that the main character's is not an interesting point of view, but that Atwood, in writing this novel, fails to demonstrate any understanding whatsoever of how male characters operate internally. They are non-characters. This seems fundamentally problematic to me. She does an excellent job with the book in general (at least I think so), excepting her portrayal of male characters. They simply do not strike me as real.

Well, almost an excellent job. The copy editing sucks. There are more than a few places where periods show up in sentences. unexpectedly. There are also places where commas show up but aren't necessary or, sometimes, allowable. It's frustrating. I wonder if she's doing it on purpose (she very well might be) and I'll find that purpose out later in the novel, but in the meantime it is truly aggravating. I have never read a book so poorly copy edited before. Never.

The Cost of Discipleship:

I have very little to say about this book right now. I'm not very far through it. I will say that it's by Deitreich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and a martyr in WWII. He tried to overthrow the Nazis from within Germany, and died for it. That isn't what the book is about, though.
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