Friday, July 16, 2010
It occurred to me, as I wrote, that I haven't written a literary essay for journal publication in almost two years. Maybe even longer than that. I was a full-blown essayist when I graduated college, and thought that was my path until I decided to throw myself into grad school. I've gotten a few essays published - some of them are linked in the sidebar - but ultimately chose fiction as my MFA concentration because I felt like I had more to learn there. Like I said, I'd been writing essays/non-fiction for a while, and had gotten published, so I felt like any more learning I had to do on that front could be done on the job, so to speak. I hadn't seriously pursued fiction for ages and, to be honest, I missed it. I missed writing stories, and the rush of creation, and the satisfaction of completing a draft. It's entirely different from completing an essay, which is also satisfying but not as much. I still read non-fiction because I think it helps my voice, but I don't miss essays. Besides, I have my Adfreak/Brandfreak work and my monthly column in the Gettysburg Times (link) to carry any lingering essayist ambitions for me.
I'm also nearly done with The Alienist - I tore through it in NC and on the train, and it's a thumping good read. Like all plot-based thrillers, the characters are familiar and archetypal, but they don't feel stock to me. And Caleb Carr does an excellent job handling Teddy Roosevelt, even quaintly maintaining the facade that he was a human being instead of a clockwork tin robot. That aside, there's a very organic feeling to this book - a heartbeat that comes through in the sometimes overly analytical dialogue, the setting details, the characterization, everything. And it's a real page-turner, on top of everything else. I'll agree with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's criticism that the protagonists' views of gays and black people is too immediately tolerant for the period, but that isn't really something I have a problem with - aside from the Flashman novels (in which Harry Flashman's various prejudices are spoken through his own irrational voice), Victorian novels with period social outlooks seem to indulge that era's intolerance a little too much.
However, the Post-Dispatch's dismissal of the female lead as too modern and feminist ("a tough-minded career woman who's unafraid to pack a pistol and spout a bit of scatological English") doesn't hold water. Women back then, much as now, were as tough and resourceful as their circumstances demanded, and if Ma Barker could exist, then so could Sara Howard.
Anyway, I still have a long day of Artscape to contend with, so I'd better go get ready for work. I'll have more about irrational voices later on.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Well, THAT certainly wasn't the result I expected. Cool, though. I do like me some Twain.
Currently vacationing in NC for a few days, relaxing and writing and venturing out into the heat on Tuesday to tour the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, located in the building where the Woolworth's of 1960 sit-in fame used to be. It was pretty cool, and our tour guide was deeply taken by the subject matter, so this wasn't so much a dry lecture as it was a performance covering a few generations' worth of struggle for equality.
I also picked up The Alienist, which I am thoroughly enjoying, and finally, officially started Kafka On the Shore, which I am also liking quite a lot. As books, they couldn't be more opposite, but as we all know, I like it when narrative voices clash in my brain. I'll have a nice long train ride on Thursday to spend writing, as well. At the moment, life is peaceful. My return to Baltimore on the 15th will restore insanity and sleep deprivation, but for now I'm enjoying the relative calm.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Here are some photos of paperback books/'zines that I've made so far. Pictures 1 and 3 are of my summer project, the aforementioned Gouts of Angry Mist; 2 and 4 are of a book (titled For the Love of God, Montressor) that I made for my Literary Publications class. I'll be selling them at my open mic/lit. reading appearances at some point, I'm sure.