A thoughtful post by Thomas Lee at Ploughshares’ web site on the “meaningless” excuse of “I don’t have time to write.” One for the bookmark files to read when I feel like I don’t have time.
As part of the trifecta writing challenge … a love story in exactly 33 words:
First is longing from afar. You become brave. There’s body language. We date. Years pass. We buy furniture and get a joint checking account. But we grow in different directions and must part.
The whole “Shit people say …” meme has been pretty ridiculous. I’m all for memes – especially video memes – but I’ve had trouble getting into the Web’s latest installment of what’s-interesting-this-month.
The first one I truly found funny and kind of identified with was the Shit New Yorkers Say:
Looking at comments about this video on Youtube and other sites that wrote about the video brings to light the old “What makes you a New Yorker?” conversation. [N.B.: If you are engaging and arguing about who a real New Yorker is, you're probably a real New Yorker. Just sayin'.] These two weren’t real New Yorkers; and, they sure as heck weren’t born here, the comments said. How anyone can tell if these two were born here from this video is beyond me. Was it because they are young? They are trendy dressers? One of them is gay? Who knows. But, it wasn’t long until the following video made its appearance (people being as predictable as they are):
Not only is the content of what these native (supposedly) New Yorkers say different, their accent is more typical of New Yorkers. Of course, that is not to say that every person who was born in New York has any level of r-lessness. But, these guys are real New Yorkers, native New Yorkers – because they were born here. Anyone else could never, ever call themselves New Yorkers, no matter how long they’ve lived here. Or, that’s the argument.
Again, how we can tell that the two makers of the first video aren’t native New Yorkers is beyond me. Certainly, one can be born here and not have the accent and be young and live in a trendy neighborhood and avoid Queens. But, as the result of a few linguistic markers (and other identity markers) they are labeled as “not real” and “transplants”.
I used to sit in faculty meetings when I was a high school teacher and keep track of all the “war language” that teachers used in reference to students. We had to “draw a line in the sand” and “be on the offense.” The way we use language when talking about social contexts colors how we think about these situations.
Not surprisingly, one of the most public ways this plays out is in politics. While I’m not big into blaming the media (and I think that Fox News referring to the other networks as the “mainstream media” in the same breath they taut that they are the #1 cable news network is just the tip of the iceberg of their hypocrisy), I think how newspapers and the media frame the political discussion is both a symptom and a cause of the horrible political climate and the decline of public discourse. Examples and more thoughts after the jump.
I am a huge fan of all things zombie. Okay, not ALL things zombie – there are pretty bad zombie movies out there and, no matter how interested I am in zombies, I won’t be doing the NYC Zombie Parade. But, other than that.
The Walking Dead on AMC is simply a great, character-driven show based on an equally interesting comic book. The French have also created some high-quality zombie cinema (e.g., The Horde). But, what of literature?
The New York Times recently published an article on zombie poetry. Frankly, I found some of the example poetry to be childish and not at all quality work. My question is will mainstream, literary publishers be interested in short fiction that has a zombie context, but that deals with human emotion and relationships just as any other story? Or, will possibly high quality work be summarily dismissed without real consideration because of the context and deemed more appropriate for the sci-fi/horror genre? I ask these things because I started a zombie story (after the jump, in a very, very rough form) and consider it literary fiction rather than genre fiction. This, of course, leads to bigger questions about genre versus non-genre and the separation between the two.
“The need to translate experience into something resembling adequate language is the writer’s blessing or the writer’s disease, depending on your point of view.”
-Mark Doty, The Art of Description
A poem based on an exercise from the class I take at The Writers Studio.
by Tim Fredrick
Distance can be measured
in miles, inches, feet, yards, kilometers, meters, millimeters, centimeters, light years,
and who knows what other units scientists have come up with.
They – the scientists, that is – are pretty ingenuous with that
I heard somewhere that with new technology and the ability to study distances farther and farther away, they have to make up new units of measurement.
Some units of measurement are not as science-y as others.
When you take your driver’s test,
you try to measure distance by car lengths.
We also talk of football fields being a common length of distance,
but to be honest, that’s still 100 yards,
so I’m not sure that counts in the “alternate units of measuring distance” category.
There are some pretty interesting numbers
when it comes to distance.
The sun is about 93 million miles from the Earth.
Even at that distance, if the sun were to just “go out,”
it would take a week for the Earth to reach 0 degrees Fahrenheit,
a year to get to -100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The moon is about 238,854 miles from the Earth
depending on where you measure to and from
when you do the measuring.
Paris, where you were born,
is 3626.944 miles away from NYC,
where we live now.
The place where I grew up, Glenshaw, PA,
is 312.798 miles as the crow flies,
380.812 if you have to stick to the actual roads.
My place of work is three miles from where we live,
or 5 subway stops, which is sometimes how we measure distance in the city.
You are much farther away than any of these,
laying here right next to me.
This distance has no unit of measurement.
I first came across Phillip Roth several years ago when The Plot Against America was released. The plot – about an alternate time in which Lindbergh was voted President of the United States – intrigued me, so I bought the book and started reading. I don’t remember why, but I found the book dreadful and put it down. Phillip Roth immediately found himself on my do-not-read list (poor guy, what did he ever do to me?).
Until the week before Christmas, that is, when I found American Pastoral at a used book stall at the Brooklyn Flea. It won the Pulitzer and that was enough for me … Well, it was also cheap and I needed a third book to receive an even bigger discount making this book effectively free. So, why not?
When I sat down to read it, I was enthralled by the voice of the narrator and how a tangential character was telling the story of the main character, Swede Levov. I found the technique that Roth was using particularly effective and, as a writer, instructive. A few chapters later, though, the narrator changes to a third person narrator who is highly mobile both in time and space, though, almost always staying “with” Swede. The narrator whizzes around telling the story of Swede’s childhood, early adult years, and – mainly – the years surrounding his daughter’s bombing of a local general store and post office in protest of the Vietnam War. This action wrests Swede out of his idealistic life as manufacturer/husband/father and thrusts him into the world of the “berserk”. The effect of such a highly mobile narrator works well with the subject matter. Just as Swede’s world becomes a whirling dervish of memories and feelings, Roth’s narrator spins a tale that keeps the reader incredibly ungrounded. The strength of the narrator is also its difficulty; the book is not an easy read and I found myself skipping parts which often lead to confusion about the time period in which the narrative was taking place.
The only other aspect of the book on which I would like to comment is the subject matter. The Vietnam War and the decades of the 1960s and 70s are not my favorite historically. But, luckily, the emotional heft of the story got me past my usual biases against that period in American history. The plight of Swede and his family is rather timeless. His journey is one of reconciling a view of the world and the people who fill it with the unrelenting reality. At one point we think our lives are going in one direction only to find out that they are indeed headed in a direction not of our choosing. As the years pass, I have begun to understand that this is the way of the world and Roth’s book masterfully brings out this universal – if not unfortunate – truth.