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Friday, December 4, 2009

Twitter Lit

Much has been made about the current state of the publishing industry: that sales are down, no one reads print media anymore, etc. And yet, despite the difficulties of the major publishing houses, or maybe because of the difficulties, there has arisen some interesting ways of supplying the modern consumer with literary options.

In searching for new markets to place my fiction I stumbled across the heretofore unknown to me subset of the publishing industry, Twitter Lit. Essentially a subgenre of flash fiction, Twitter Lit requires that the author tell an entire story in 140 characters or fewer. For those of you who have ever tried to write good flash fiction you will recognize how incredibly difficult it is to write short shorts, let alone something under 140 characters*.

Some may argue that this is all just one more symptom of our ADD society and that no one has the attention span to write, let alone read, great American fiction anymore, but I say bullocks to that. If you can move me in 140 characters or fewer you, sir or madam, are a damn fine writer. Cheers!

For more information and some good examples of Twitter Lit go here or here or here.

*For a taste of how difficult this is, this post is approx. 927 characters long.

Word of the Day!

connubial [kuh-noo-bee-ul; -nyoo-]
Of or pertaining to marriage, or the marriage state; conjugal; nuptial.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Road

About a third of the way into The Road, the Father turns to his Son and says, “I will kill anyone who touches you because that’s my job,” and that grim sentiment lies at the heart of John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition) horrifying but powerful vision of fatherhood. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country For Old Men) lyrical, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Road is by turns complex, appalling, beautiful, and deeply moving.

Set in a bleak and cold landscape, the movie takes as its focus a Man and a Boy as they trek along a road, bound for the coast and hopefully warmer climes. The cause of the apocalypse is never explained, just as the characters remain nameless, and it is one of the film’s great triumphs that neither of these choices disrupts the emotions that sit heavily at the center of this harrowing story. This is a film about fathers and sons and about family and good and evil; names and causes have no role to play, other than as a catalyst for stripping the world down to it’s barest, ice cold, wrinkled skin. There is only a Man (Viggo Mortensen) and a Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee*) and whatever they can collect to survive on the road south. And there is also hope, even if it is quickly fading.

The Road is not an easy film to watch. Slavishly devoted to McCarthy’s equally bleak novel, the film is all grays and blacks with only brief flares of fire to break up the darkness. There is screaming, guns and arrows, starvation, grunting and persistent coughs, and at least one horrible (even if it isn’t particularly graphic) depiction of cannibalism. Yet for all of the darkness the glory and beauty resonant in the Man and Boy’s relationship as they cling to one another against the impossibility of survival, makes for one of the most moving filmic experiences of the year. This is not darkness for darkness’ sake; it is a treatise on what remains in men’s hearts once everything else is gone, love, hope, food, warmth.

And the answer that The Road compellingly posits is that what remains in most men’s hearts is nothing more than animalistic need, a cold, detached frenzy that can only be quenched by death. But in some men there remains a flame that endures and must be passed on if humanity, not just people but that which makes men human, is to survive. Thus the film relentlessly juxtaposes the inherent difficulties in choosing to carry that flame. The Man and Boy are besieged by roving bands of cannibals, are forced to decamp in whatever shelter they can find, and spend much of everyday scavenging for something, anything to eat.

It is a vision of humanity that leaves very little room for happiness, or even hope, and yet there are moments in this film of such sublime joy that Hillcoat almost tips his hand, belies the fact that this is not a mean-spirited depiction of the evil of men. No, this is a film about the elemental quality of the relationship between a father and his son. This is a film about the flame that parents pass to their children, about the urgency of that exchange and about the power and selflessness inherent in parenthood.

Essentially this is a film about love. And it is one of the best of year.

*Smit-McPhee, it should most definitely be noted, turns in one of the most natural and amazing performances by a child I have ever seen in my life. There isn't a single moment in the film where you doubt he is the Man's son, never any of those "That kid is trying too hard" moments. He is brilliant. On a second note it is funny to me that 2009 should produce two of the best child performances ever (Max Records in Where the Wild Things Are and Smit-McPhee in The Road). Are we to expect great performances from children now? Perhaps we are.

Word of the Day!

mephitic [muh-fit-ik]
1. Offensive to the smell; as, mephitic odors.
2. Poisonous; noxious.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Noble Three featured by AOL Music

Noble Three, a musical side-project of mine with singer-songwriter Patrick Rickelton, will be featured on the main page of AOL Music for the entire month of December. This has been made possible through AOL Music's partnership with and since Noble Three has been really very successful on OurStage, we seemed a good fit for the feature.

To check us out at AOL Music click here.

Raymond Carver

One of my all-time favorite authors, Stephen King, wrote an insightful and thoughtful review of Carol Sklenicka’s Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life for the New York Times last week and I thought I would share it with y'all if you didn't read it already. Raymond Carver was an incredible short story writer who was credited with helping revitalize the short story as a popular medium. This article is a multi-leveled treat because not only is it an engaging piece about what sounds like a great biography about a great author, but it also is a pretty interesting peek into the potentially toxic relationship an over-eager author can have with a domineering editor*. Much is made about the importance of a good editor on the success of a good writer (think about a really interesting bush that just needs the right gardener to prune the bush into something of superlative beauty) but there has been much less written about the opposite, the editor who abuses their relative position of authority to bully the writer into becoming a creature of the editor's creation. In this article King uses the review of Sklenicka's book to launch into just such an investigation. Well worth the read.

To read the article click here.

*As well as it is an excuse to read about 4000 words of Stephen King's prose. I am convinced that, even if his originality is beginning to dry up a bit, King gets wiser, more incisive, and downright wittier as he turns into an old prune. For more hilarity from Uncle Stevie check out his series of random columns he writes for Entertainment Weekly.

Word of the Day!

vagary [vay-guh-ree; vuh-ger-ee]
An extravagant, erratic, or unpredictable notion, action, or occurrence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Writer's Block: Five Sure-Fire Ways to Smash the Block

Ahh, writer's block, the great mythical specter that haunts every writer's dreams, and turns beautiful gilded story ideas to festering, poisonous mush. Writer's block has been around as long as there have been writers, and it has stymied many a literary vision. As with other ubiquitous calamities, like the common cold, there are nearly as many cures for writer's block as there are books starring teenage vampires.

As a reader of, and subscriber to, about 4 million writing blogs, magazines, and newspapers I have heard just about everything imaginable when it comes to "smashing the block", and yet, strangely, nearly every solution is targeted at the symptom and not the root cause of the blockage.

Word of the Day!

renege [rih-nig; -neg]
-intransitive verb
To go back on a promise or commitment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NY Times Book Review Top 100 of 2009

The New York Times Book review recently released thier choices for 100 Best Books of 2009. It's a bit of a misnomer since the books were actually chosen from all of the books reviewed between 7 December, 2008 and 29 November, 2009 but you get the idea. I haven't read a single book on the list, but I'm sure they are all really good books. If you've read any of them let me know because I'm curious what non-New York Times book reviewers think.

To see the list click here.

Vonnegut: Funny, even in wartime

Here is a post on the always interesting "Letters of Note" blog, which is noteworthy on my own esteemed blog because it is about the incredible author Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut, as you may remember from High School English class, is the author of Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions. When he was a young man he was taken as a POW by the Germans in WWII and was subsequently caught in the firebombing of Dresden, the horror of which is the subject of this letter he wrote home immediately after being saved by the Russians. Note that even after going through the horrors he describes he never loses one whit of his wit.

You can check out the letter here. Pay no attention to the eerie similarities between this blog and my own.

Word of the Day!

impregnable [im-preg-nuh-buhl]
1. Not capable of being stormed or taken by assault; unconquerable; as, an impregnable fortress.
2. Difficult or impossible to overcome or refute successfully; beyond question or criticism; as, an impregnable argument.