Wednesday, August 29, 2012

T.C. Boyle in The New Yorker

Let me switch over to my literary fiction hat for a moment, literary fiction being shorthand for things harder to classify.

"Birnam Wood" by T. Coraghessan Boyle sets a near perfect emotional tone as its first-person narrator describes a relationship on the precipice.

A struggling young, but not quite married, couple try to make ends meet as they move through a series of challenging and chilly residencies until they stumble upon a great housesitting opportunity in a mansion with a pool table.

Of course, things aren't perfect even with great digs, and Boyle makes relationship woes and their roots all new.

It reminds me a bit, in a remote way, of Raymond Carver's "Chef's House." It's a great read for anyone interested in crafting realistic characters in the midst of realistic travails.

Check it out while it's free in its entirety. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mrs. Bates

I'm not sure I'm 100 percent enthusiastic about a  Hannibal  or a Bates Motel television series, but the announcement Vera Farmiga of The Departed and Up in the Air will be take the role of Mrs. Bates in the latter suggests the level of the game for the A&E Series.

I know, I know, a branded property is a probably easier to launch than something unknown in today's busy landscape of entertainment options. So, if this gives Carlton Cuse of Lost an opportunity to tell great stories, I understand.

I suppose the casting hints at the point at which the story will drop into the lives of Mrs. Bates and her son and future Psycho, Norman.

Unless the plan is to have Farmiga in heavy aging makeup--and really, why would you?--we'll be dropping in on a young Norman and a youngish mom.

I remember the old NBC pilot called Bates Motel. Hey, we had like three channels in those days, OK?There wasn't much on.  That would have had  Bud Cort of Harold and Maude as Norman's buddy from the mental health facility taking over as hotel proprietor. Each week he would have played host, Love Boat and Fantasy Island style to different quirky guests.

Sounds like the new series will be a little different, with interesting character and event territory to explore. Norman's taxidermy training?

With A-list actors, it doesn't sound like it's going to be allowed to be low rent.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Write a Short Story - A Review

I periodically stop by Joe Bunting's Write Practice blog, which as the title suggests, is a spot designed to  keep writers churning out words. I was, thus,  pleased to receive a review copy of his new e-book Let's Write A Short Story, which is just hitting the downloadable realm.

Flipping through the electronic pages I could quickly see it's a great and concise guide for understanding what a short story is, how to craft one, and how to fight writer's block. Who could ask for more?

Beginners need the first two, and seasoned keyboardmeisters sometimes need help with the third.

Bunting also offers an interesting argument in his opening for the short story as laboratory. That's what I found most interesting, and he substantiates his ideas with compelling evidence. Chiefly, Hemingway.

In the Nick Adams stories, Bunting contends Hemingway explored character territory that later turned up in many of his lead characters including Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. That suggests a short story can be a place to develop ideas and themes for whatever longer work you have the burner.

As mentioned, the book is not short on writing advice. Bunting breaks down the role of plot, character and length in the short story and looks at when it's possible to break the rules. He also throws in a generous offering of writing prompts to explore themes such as death and more.

It's a great guide for writing with an inspirational tone, so it's well worth a look.

Additionally, Bunting is planning a Let's Write A Short Story community, so this effort looks like an interesting experiment in numerous ways.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Settling In

I think I'm settling into the whole creative writing instructor gig, and I'm finding I like working with student writers to polish their fiction quite a bit

I'm sure I'll get tougher, but at the moment, I'm working to deliver criticism with a gentle touch. I've had times when criticism was needlessly brutal. I've also heard stories from friends of brutal feedback.

I suppose it has its place, but when I was on the receiving end, I didn't care for it as a pedagogical approach.

If I can achieve improvement without turning into a curmudgeon, or more of a curmudgeon, I'll continue the gentle approach.

Life's still a little in flux beyond the teaching. We've found a Florida house, and I'm in it, but I'm feeling a little like a squatter. I'm sitting on cardboard on the floor to read, standing up to eat and sleeping on a cot. The guy at the wilderness store was right. It's a pretty nice cot, but I'm still a stiff in the morning.

Transitions aren't always easy, but so far, I don't miss the corporate world as a day gig at all. 
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