Literary Listening

Literary Listening

Today I’ve decided to do something fun by giving you a Literary Listening list, which includes podcasts, steaming radio, and YouTube. If you’re a book lover like I am, but also someone who enjoys book talk like I do, then these programs might be worth checking out.

I decided to do this blog post after I asked for literary podcast recommendations in my Literary Fiction Writers group on Facebook (if you write lit fic, please join us!). From the interest the post generated and the lack of submissions from the group, I realized that either we’re all reading books all of the time or, more likely, we writers are just as prone as everyone else to binging on (let’s face it) social media garbage. So, if we can’t always turn to books, at least we can entertain ourselves with something intelligent. And while there is actually plenty of great content online for learning science, art, history, and whatnot, this is a literary blog, so it’s my Literary Listening list and not my other brain-expanding lists I’ll be sharing today.  On this list are things I listen to and watch when I’m in the mood for book talk. There’s also programs I recently discovered and enjoyed. Some of these are well-known, others are not. So, in no particular order:

  1. The History of Literature Podcast

    I think I discovered this podcast waaaay back when only a couple of episodes were released. I promptly forgot about it and am quite surprised that I didn’t discover it again earlier. I’ve listened to couple of episodes this week and I really like the content. It’s informative, informal, and the host’s voice is soothing.
    It looks like the podcast covers individual books, authors’ oeuvres, and short stories with a smattering of interviews and other topics of literary interest.

  2. It’s Lit

    This PBS produced show features Lindsay Ellis, a YouTube-famous video essayist. On her own channel she covers mostly the big screen. But in It’s Lit, she talks books. These videos are binge-worthy short, and you can probably spend an easy evening watching them all. The animation is good if a little dorky, and the same can be said of the topics Ellis covers.

  3. Bookworm

    Hosted by Michael Silverblatt, this KCRW produced radio program is all about the author. Featuring interviews with authors for over the last two decades, this show is a treasure trove of the talented and the famous. If you’re interested in hearing one of the most well-read interviewers speak with great novelists, poets, and even some of our great essayists, then this show is a must for you.

  4. The Book Chemist

    Mattia Ravasi loves to talk about books. On his YouTube channel you’ll find book reviews, a deep read of Gravity’s Rainbow, and more. I like to watch his channel both to discover new books and to see what he has to share about my favorite classics. His videos are a bit rough around the edges, but I still encourage you to give him a try. He’s bound to improve over time, especially if we support him. And we all want our literary booktubers to improve, grow, and thrive. What I really like about him is that he often loves the books and authors I don’t, and vice verse. And yet I still find what he has to say compelling.

  5. For the Love of Ryan

    Another YouTuber who loves to discourse about books. Ryan talks about great writing and great authors. I especially like when he does close readings of short fiction. He’ll provide a link to the story so you can read it before finishing his video. More recently he has been doing a reading challenge and livestreams. You can see Ryan’s passion for literature on his face when he’s talking about his favorite authors. Like most amazing book nerds on YouTube, he could use more support. So, for the love of Ryan, check him out.

  6. Write Now Podcast

    Hosted by Sarah Rhea Werner, this podcast is all about the the writing process and the author. Broken into two types of shows—interviews and monologues—you’ll easily find an interesting episode. I personally love her monologues. Hearing Sarah give advice and reflection on the writing life gives me a boost when my inner-muse is feeling lethargic. The Coffee Break episodes feature authors Sarah has interviewed. You can even find an interview with me somewhere in the archives. Out of all the shows on my list, I’d say Write Now is the most open to all types of readers and authors.

  7. Entitled Opinions

    Hosted from the campus of Stanford University’s KZSU radio station, this program is all about life and literature. Entitled Opinions may have a pretentious name, but the expertise of the host and those he interviews give the title another meaning, one that speaks to a lives lived in pursuit of knowledge and deep learning. Not all shows could get away with a name like Entitled Opinions, but this one most certainly can. The show revolves mostly around literature, philosophy, and art with occasional forays into science, politics, and other topics that anyone interested in the world them will also enjoy.

  8. The Virtual Memories Show

    This podcast was recommended to me in my Literary Fiction Writers group on Facebook by a friend of the podcaster. The first season is pretty bare bones, but it picks up quickly from there. Interviews, literary readings, and literary ramblings are in store on this show about books and life. Episodes are currently listed at the bottom of the home page.

  9. C21 STL

    This seminar-related podcast was founded in 2018. Sadly, it only has four episodes, but I kind of love it. It’s generally a Q&A format covering a range of contemporary literary topics. It’s student-led, having different interviewers running each episode. This might be why there’s not too many of them up yet (no one particular host whose vision runs the thing). So take a listen and maybe even contact Melanie Micir at mmicir@wustl.edu to ask about upcoming episodes.

  10. Shaelin Writes

    This YouTube channel is an amazing source of writing advice. If you’ve ever wanted to know about the how in writing fiction, this is a great resource. From plotting to editing, from developing characters to incorporating flashback, this channel has some practical advice for all writers. Now there are probably tons of great writing channels out there on YouTube, but I’ve gravitated to this one because she’s so often focused on aspects of the writing process I either don’t think consciously about or don’t use at all; I find it intriguing, plus it gets me examining what I typically do by instinct.
    You’ll also find a good mix of recent reads and writing vlogs on this channel, so you’ll not only get advice but also get to know Shaelin along with receiving some great book recommendations.

Literary Listening

I do have a list of about 9 other podcasts and programs I want to check out. As I listen to these and make my assessments, I’ll add them here if I like them.  If you have any recommendations, please do share them in the comments. I promise I will give them a gander.

Remember, if you can’t feed your brain books, book talk is a great alternative. Goodnight and happy listening.

Dreaming Your Characters

Dreaming Your Characters

It finally happened. I’ve heard of it from other writers, but I’d never had the experience myself before now.

I dreamed my characters.

Not only that, but I was writing them. It was an odd, but thrilling experience.

dreaming woman

When we dream, our brain does this thing we call sleep spindles. As tuck.com describes them: “sleep spindles are sudden bursts of oscillatory brain activity . . . that occur during stage 2 of light sleep. These brainwaves are called sleep spindles because of how they look when printed out on an EEG reading.”

Scientists have linked these sleep spindles to areas of the brain that have been used during the day. So if you do a task for a prolonged period of the day like sewing, teaching a class, shooting hoops, mindless factory work, or writing then your brain “practices” this activity at night in your sleep, giving you sleep spindles in the exact same area of the brain.

Those who sleep talk are oftentimes acting out their sleep spindles. My wife, for example, is a frequent sleep-talker. She is almost always teaching, admonishing kids to quit goofing around, or gabbing with other educators in her sleep.

I imagine that since I’ve been writing even more each day than last year, that my brain has been spending ample time exercising my writing muscles while I sleep.

Dream Catcher

Here’s the thing about sleep spindles and your sleep talking dreams: you shouldn’t be able to remember them. It’s only your rapid eye movement (REM sleep) that you remember. These are typically the more exciting dreams where you’re trying to find something, accomplish a task, get somewhere, are maybe flying, or (if it’s a nightmare) trying to get away from something. In fact, when we talk about dreams and dreaming, we’re almost always talking about REM sleep.

So, while I’ve been brain spindling it up with an increase of 2 to 3 more hours a day at the writing desk this year, it’s still surprising to see my characters come to life in my dreams. While it’s most likely that I was in REM sleep, just the manner of my dream makes me wonder if I hadn’t somehow managed to remember a sleep spindle dream. If I did, then my writing sleep spindles look pretty cool.

sleep spindles

I won’t give every detail, but here’s the gist of the dream: I was dreaming about two of my characters—the two which are the principle characters of the current chapter I’m writing.

Jazzy and Miles were at a white wrought-iron table in an outdoor cafe, and Jazzy was being offered alcohol. I wasn’t in the dream, but I could hear myself narrating what was happening in exactly the same manner that I hear myself think when I write. The scene had to do with whether Jazzy would accept the alcoholic drink or not due to her Christian beliefs which don’t forbid alcohol but do frown on it in practice.

Then my dream switched to a scene with Maha and a more minor character. It’s a parallel scenario with Maha at a wooden table in at a bar and restaurant in the heart of Delhi. In this scene, Maha is having the same issue, except her Islamic beliefs don’t allow her to drink alcohol at all. I again hear my voice narrating the scene and the actions. Like with Jazzy, I can see my character fully, both from a distance and up close. Her face is troubled because she’s in a delicate situation of appearing rude if she doesn’t accept the drink but will be sinning if she does.

Then, suddenly, a line comes to mind that has to do with Miles back at the previous scene. The dream jumps over to Jazzy and Miles who are sitting at the same outdoor table. This one beautiful line flows out of me so intensely that I see it being written in my handwriting at the bottom of the scene below their table. I don’t see my hand, I just see the words appearing in my unique chicken scratch. After this, the dream goes immediately back to Maha’s dilemma, and I wake up right before I’m about to narrate what she decides to do.

Note: neither of these exact scenes appear in my book, but the characters I envisioned do exist in my mind. What was so cool was that they appeared exactly as I picture them. In fact, they seemed even more vivid and lifelike in my dream than they do when I’m writing their story. They looked much more human. The sweat on their brows, the pores on their faces were all clear when the dream was examining them closely.

It was a crazy positive experience that tells me I’m doing something right. And that thing is writing. If I’m writing enough in the day that I spend time writing in my sleep, this means I’m really giving myself over to the thing that I want to do with my life, which is bring a book into existence through words in my mind being transferred onto a page.

Let me know if you’ve ever dreamed about your characters in the comments below.

book and brain

Notes:
All photos except the sleep spindle graph are from Pixabay. The graph is from Goodnights.rest
I also want to make it clear that sleep spindles appear to do more than help us learn. We’re actually still learning about them. Sleep has always fascinated me, and I think sleep spindles and the unconscious processes of learning are some of the most amazing aspects of unconsciousness—even more interesting than REM sleep. What I’ve written above is what I remember about sleep spindles. So do your own research to see what’s new and what other studies might have to say in agreement or opposition to sleep spindle learning.

Holiday Book Haul 2018

Holiday Book Haul

HOLIDAY BOOK HAUL

Book Haul 2018

The holidays are over, and I got a few new books. First up is Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. This one was given to me by my wife. It was the only book on my holiday wish list I actually received. We started a new tradition this year where we exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend an hour or two before bed reading our gift. I got her Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. We’ve both already read our novels! Libs will be adding hers to her Middle School classroom library. Mine will be finding a space under the D’s on my shelves.

The next two, from my in-laws, are by Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles and Circe. I hadn’t heard of these books before, but my librarian mother-in-law insists they’re getting a lot of attention in the literary world right now. I’m sure I’ll get around to reading these at some point long after they’re either cemented into the literary canon or are a forgotten fad.

The fourth one is Whose Names Are Unknown by Sonora Babb. This was given to me by my best friend, Michael Convery. It’s a book I discovered from this article about how John Steinbeck stole from Babb’s notes to help write The Grapes of Wrath. While it wasn’t on my wish list, I did tell him I wanted to read this novel, so was not surprised when it landed in my hands right before Christmas. For Mike’s gift, I bought him a Swedish translation of Gravity’s Rainbow. It’s a bit of a novelty item, but he was really pleased with his gift. He’s been studying the language recently, and he usually explores languages by translating poetry. I figured a favorite, huge novel in Swedish would be equally both a surprise and appreciated.

The last one is Latin Verbs, a book that my mother-in-law was culling from their family library. I have studied Latin on and off for fun, so I totally appreciate this gift. Maybe 2019 will be my year of Latin??? Though from the looks of my daily schedule, I have my doubts (Just trying to be realistic, ya know).

I would have time to study Latin if I didn’t wish to prioritize reading over straightforward studying. I read a lot of books. Way more than my goodreads page would have you believe; I never listed all the books I read or was reading when I was actually active on goodreads. While I want to get back to studying Latin again, writing will be taking up both daytime and evening hours this coming year. And I won’t trade in study for reading at this point in my life. In fact, I want to read even more books in 2019 than I did this year.

It’s always been a goal of mine to have a big personal library from which I could choose a wide range of authors. If you’d like to support me this dream, you can also buy me a used or new copy of a book. (When selecting the shipping address, don’t accidentally select your own. My masked address will appear under your “Other addresses” section.)

Of course, the best way to support me is to buy a book of mine from Amazon or from your favorite bookseller (Descriptions of Heaven, my one book for sale right now, is never unavailable to buy; if Amazon says out of stock, it simply means out of warehouse copies . . . Barnes & Noble and the publisher carry copies too). The second best way to support me is to leave an honest review if you liked the book. But if you still want to do a little more between book releases, make sure you’re subscribed and gift a book to me, the GreenGuy.

Thanks for all the support! Happy New Year, bookworms!

Bonus: 

I got this book of poetry before Christmas, and tweeted about it already, so I decided to add it as a bonus at the end of this Book Haul post. The book is Blud by Rachel McKibbens. This one also came from my mother-in-law who, like a good librarian, is always introducing me to new and interesting literature.

Blud by Rachel McKibbens

 

 

Things I Thought My Mother Said

Things I Though My Mother Said

This week’s dialogue is “Things I Thought My Mother Said,” which is about the relationship a girl has to painful memories of her mother. (Gee, I’m starting to see a pattern here). This story twists the issues explored in “Tarnished Time” in a new direction. I’ll let you all know when it gets published. You can find more info on my dialogue writing challenge here.


This week in my life I:

  • did a lot housework I’d been putting off, including filing paperwork that piled up while the office was in transition.
  • finished shelves my books. Yes, my library is completely put together! With two new bookshelves that I helped my lovely put together, we now have a fantastic looking home library where the lion’s share of our books can live.
  • met a pastor who’s also an author. He was doing a street survey, which I’m sure was an evangelistic tactic. Our conversation would have continued on a little further had not a homeless man started cursing at the priest and his crew, paranoid that they were going to get him in trouble, and also crying because he didn’t know where he was going to stay (my wife and I had given the homeless guy a dollar earlier, as he need 75 cents more to afford a meal). I gave the priest my business card, so hopefully we can continue our conversation about the meaning and purpose of life over email.
    Baby Naked Breast Act Female Nudes Woman Mama

The Nihilist and the Strangler

The Nihilist and the Strangler

This week’s dialogue for my 2018 writing challenge is The Nihilist and the Strangler. This creative conversation explores the fundamental meaning or lack thereof of life and the ever after.

Morty Nihilist Quote

Nihilism sort of brings up the absurdity of working for money, an abstract and transitory thing, when you’re going to die someday, having worked a good majority of your own finite existence here on earth for $$$ instead of actually living a meaningful life.

Well, I’ve been living, just without free weekends, for almost three years now. I feel like I played the system. I wasn’t free, really; I just found a way to make time and money work for me. But the system is harder to escape for the working class artist like myself than it is for those who run the system at the top. This is especially true when you have crippling student loans like my wife and I do. Other things compounded and caught up to us (things like a new A/C and new tires for the car) and here we are with me picking up a second job just to keep us afloat.

I don’t plan to hold two jobs permanently. At least not two non-writing-related jobs. And like I said in my last post, I’ll be using my precious free time wisely to finish my novel. Like any millennial worth their salt, I value the quality of life. So two dead end jobs aren’t a permanent solution. But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to work to get to where I want to be. And work hard I will at the hotel, at the gas station, and at my writing.

Arthur cartoon nihilism

 

About the author:

About the Author

May I have my fiction with a side of meta?  🙂

Today’s post is both to announce the title of this week’s dialogue for my weekly dialogue-only writing challenge and also to make an announcement.

First the dialogue. . . . The dialogue-only story for today is a bit of a meta piece wherein two characters are discussing the author: me.
I hope it’s clear from the artwork exactly where this story is going. Truth be told, this is the only piece I’m worried about getting into the book. It feels to me like it might be an even more problematic piece than Insults Two by Two. It’s not so much the content for About the author: but how I want to use the story in the book, which is something I also feel is terribly obvious.

Well, despite my worries, I’m still putting this one down as my next dialogue. It may be meta, but it’s a fictional story through and through.

kill the writer

Now, a little bit about me, the author.

As some of you may know, I have been writing full time for a about three years now. I work weekends at a hotel. Every Saturday and every Sunday I come into work at 3am and leave at 11pm. That’s sixteen hours a day, back to back. In other words, I’m putting in a thirty-two full time job hours in two days.

This doesn’t cover my bills. I’ve been okay for 2.5 years, but with my wife’s student loans recently coming due, an unexpected increase in monthly repayment for both of our loans, and the loss of rent from two roommates, it’s become tough. So instead of wasting my time building a platform for Patreon, I went and got a job.

I will admit, I did see this coming. I actually started working a sales position with an online company but didn’t make any sales in two months. I liked it since I set my own hours and worked from home. I liked that it was incoming calls. I liked everything, except for the fact that nobody wanted to buy what I was selling, even if it would help their own businesses. Beings I only got paid on commission, that job got kicked to the curb early last month.

After applying all over the place and having to turn down positions that would require weekends (and not pay enough to make up the difference of losing my hotel income) I have landed a job at a travel center. You know, one of those gas stations that serve as a home away from home for truck drivers.

Truck drivers are a huge part of my life. Father, grandfather. Great grandfathers. A huge portion of the hotel’s clientele. So, yeah, this will be my job four days of the week. It won’t necessarily cut into my writing time, which I tend to do in the morning. But it will cut into my family life (my social life is pretty insubstantial). I don’t really like my family time being cut into (don’t like it at all in fact), but I can use that to my advantage.

What advantage? Well, for one, the constraints of a second job will certainly eliminate the illusion of boundless amounts of time. I believe a second job will force me to set a ridged schedule. Right now my writing schedule looks like this: WAKE UP —> EAT—> READ —> WRITE UNLESS IT’S TOO NICE OUTSIDE, THEN JUST KEEP READING OUTSIDE —> LUNCH —> SHOWER —> HANG WITH THE WIFE, etc.

As you can see, my writing schedule has recently been more like a loose suggestion than a rigorous routine. I function better as a routine guy. I used to go to a cafe and write daily. Then I became poor and my routine was gradually broken.

Now that I won’t have the luxury of five full days of unstructured time, I’ll have to treat my writing more like a job. Or a passion. Because, hell, it is my passion. I can blame my love of books, stress, the online sales position, or sunny weather on not putting my writing first, but really when it comes down to it, the reason is me. I know I need structure and scheduling. I am more productive with it than without it. That’s why I went to the coffee shop even though there were far more distractions there than at my house—the coffee shop gave me a routine.

writing routine cartoon

In the end, even though I’ll be losing time doing the things I love for the cash I need, I know that this will actually make my writing output increase quite a bit. I’ll admit that I’m going to miss all the relaxation, romance, and routine I’ve built around evenings with my wife. The truth is, we don’t know if we’ll be able to emotionally handle it once the school year starts since she teaches from 7am to 3pm and I’ll be working 3pm to 11pm. She already loses me all weekend to my job at the hotel. But we do need the money, and this will help me cement a daily writing routine. Yeah, I’m being a glass half-full kind of guy. But I think working six days a week will motivate me to write better and write more so I don’t have to hold a day job. Though I’d rather hold a job and write than not need a job but be pen and paperless. If anything, I think this summer of too much free time has taught me to stick with a schedule—a rigid one, even if it’s totally artificial.


Thanks for reading, bookworms. Leave a like or comment and let me know if you have a writing routine.

 

 

 

Personal Update

Randal Eldon Greene Facebook liked by 666 people

Well, I reached 666 Facebook likes. Anyone who hasn’t already done so, please like my page ASAP!

                          😈😈😈


In more fun news, you remember that thing I wrote: Standoff With Bigfoot Deep in the Remote Woods.  It’s the one weird experimental one I wrote about not long ago (#SuperInnovative #©MyIdea #ScriptioContinuaIsTotallyMyInvention). Well, I’ve decided to try to get it published. So stay tuned. It may be appearing in a zine, magazine, journal, or review near you.

 

Standoff with Bigfoot Deep in the Remote Woods by Randal Eldon Greene


I also want to give a quick shoutout to everyone who has been liking my posts recently. I love seeing those likes. If you do read my published stories, I’d love to know your thoughts as well. I know the modern world is busy, and you’ve got other things to read, click, and like, so I appreciate those who spend a few of those precious minutes choosing my creative work as their source of entertainment, and I’d love to know who you are and what you think.

You all have a great day, and don’t forget to subscribe.

 

Holiday Book Haul

Holiday Book Haul

I only asked for one book this year, and I ended up with seven. So bookworms, here’s my 2017 Holiday Book Haul:
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This 1947 treasury came from my mother-in-law. It has many authors I’ve heard of and a few that I haven’t. Broken into 19th century Europe and America and “Our Time” Europe and America, I feel like some of these authors aren’t known to me not due solely to my ignorance (though some undoubtedly are) but because we simply don’t read them anymore. I like the fact that this book is compiled by a woman, as most of my anthology collections with a single compiler have a male selecting the stories. I’m hoping I’ll find some unique stories in this little book.

The Odyssey by Homer translated by Emily Wilson
I read Robert Fagles translation of the Odyssey a little over a year ago. While I own the Samuel Butler translation and do want to read Robert Fitzgerald’s translation, I’m curious what I’ll find in the first ever female translation of Odysseus’s journey home.
Here’s the first line(s) from Emily Wilson’s translation: Tell me about a complicated man. Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy.
Compare that to the Butler translation: Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he sacked the famous town of Troy.
And the Fagles translation: Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
In truth, while I’m only working with first lines, I’m in love with the imagery of the Fagles translation. Wilson’s is the second best, and maybe more “correct” or accurate. But the more truthful hero is not the ingenious one, nor the complicated one (though Odysseus is both ingenious and unarguably complicated), but he is the man of twists and turns. I’ll enjoy the Wilson translation, I’m sure, but hopefully she doesn’t sacrifice too much of the poetic for the sake of accuracy in translation.

IMG_0745

Destiny and Desire by Carlos Fuentes was the sole book on my wishlist this year. I heard about it on Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm radio show. Fun fact: it’s narrated by a decapitated head floating in the ocean. My besite, Mike, bought this baby for me.

IMG_0744

My bestie also bought me Le Morte D’arthur by Sir Thomas Malory with original spellings! Seriously, probably my favorite surprise book this Christmas. I can’t wait to jump into it sometime this year.
Here’s a sample from “How Uther Pendragon Gate Kyng Arthur”: Whan hit was delyverde to thes kynges, Ban and Bors, they gaff the godis as frely to theire knyghtes as hit was gevyn to them. Than Merlion toke hys leve of Kynge Arthure and the two kyngis, for to go se hys mayster Bloyse that dwelled in Northhumbirlonde. And so he departed and com to hys mayster, that was passynge glad of hys commynge. And there he tolde how Arthure and two kynges had spedde at the grete batayle, and how hyt was endyd, and tolde the namys of every kynge and knyght of worship that was there. And so Bloyse wrote the batayle worde by worde as Merlion tolde hym, how hit began and by whom, and in lyke wyse how hit was ended and who had the worst.
And you thought you had the worst spelling day ever? It just goes to show that spelling standards do change, so it’s okay if you make a typo or misspell a word or two now and again. In a few hundred years everything you’ve written will look an awful lot like a misspelling or a typo to readers anyway.

IMG_0742

LitMag, a new literary magazine. This is their inaugural issue. My lovely wife gave me this book. The picture is a wee bit blurry, so here’s just a few of the famous  authors they’re publishing: William H. Gass, Harold Bloom, John Ashberry, and Kelly Cherry. I didn’t check, but I believe they rejected a short story of mine that I submitted at some point in 2016. The wife didn’t know, but that’s okay; it’s not like a rejection would keep me from buying or subscribing myself! I’m taking this magazine to read in my downtime at work.

IMG_0741

Old issues of the Iowa Review hold some of my favorite writings. Even long before I lived in Iowa, this was a review I turned too for good prose. And now that I’ve lived in Iowa for a couple of years, it’s about time I picked up this review again. This issue was also a present from my wife.

IMG_0748

This last one is also from Libby. No, we don’t have any kids yet, but we hope we will, and the wife wants to make sure I know my colors for when the baby comes. This year I’ll be spending many hours studying how blue is the color of sky and blueberries, how green is the color of peas and frogs, and so on and so forth. I’m just glad she got me a book and not a doll with a changeable diaper, which is just one of many baby-related skills I’ve yet to try my hand at, let alone master.

Let me know what was in your holiday book haul in the comments below. Have a happy new year.

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Merry Christmas

poorly wrapped Christmas gift

Merry Christmas friends. I hope you had many gifts wrapped with love, if not skill. The picture above is the only gift I attempted to wrap myself this year. It’s a little something for my wife, and it’s a great conversation piece! When Libby saw it she laughed, kissed me, and said, “I love you.”

Have yourself some seasonal cheer, and if you missed it, check out this Christmas story I wrote for a little holiday entertainment. See you all next year!

 

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Goodreads Confession

Callout35

I have a confession to make. About Goodreads. And I’m sure I’m not the only one, but still I feel compelled to confess.

I don’t list everything I read. This might explain why sometimes a single book is listed for a month. It’s often that I’m reading two books in tandem, or I put my first book down and read whole other book before I pick up the first again. I also don’t list certain types of books very often.
This list includes:
nonfiction) I often am reading only chapters or parts which interest me or are relevant to my novel research. Because nonfiction is often not a story with a beginning, middle, and end, I find it easier to put down and not get back to for weeks, years, or ever—these particular nonfiction writings just don’t have any characters or story that makes me need to pick it up again where I left off. An exception would be a book like H is for Hawk.

really old books) To get through a book often means taking it with me to work, to my parent’s place, on picnics, etc. But I can’t do any of that with my really old books. When I do read them, it takes me quite a while since I can only read them at home. (And, of course, because I can’t take it with me, but still need reading material when away from home, I inevitably end up reading one or two other books during the course of enjoying my antique). I might sometimes find a contemporary edition to list online, but I don’t really feel like advertising that it can take me two or three months to finish a book.

poetry) Frequently I read a handful of poems here, a handful there. Especially for poetry anthologies. And I reread my favorite collections in a day or afternoon sometimes. I just don’t feel a need to list the books I sample from or those I reread frequently like I do with my favorite poetry collections.

short story anthologies) This last one I covered in poetry, but it’s equally true for short stories. In fact, this is a great example of why recently Requiem for a Nun by William Faulkner was listed for well over a month.

sanctuaryI had just read Sanctuary by Faulkner. Requiem for a Nun is a sequel to this novel. However, toward the last third of Requiem, I suddenly plunged into reading short story anthologies for over two weeks. I sampled from three different books, none of which I’d read since college. It was great fun getting reacquainted with some of my favorite short stories. . .a lot more fun than Faulkner for sure. There was T.C. Boyle’s “Greasy Lake,” Annie Proulx’s “The Half-Skinned Steer,” and Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” to name three. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Faulkner at his best and, in fact, the story proper of the novel was fine, that is, the parts of the novel that were written like a play. You see, Requiem is part play and part something else. One of the main characters—Temple— from Sanctuary is also the main character of Requiem. And her parts are written as a play with Faulknerian stage directions and everything. However, the play script proper is punctuated by long passages concerning past characters and history, especially the founding of the town of Jefferson and it’s important buildings.

 

Requiem for a NunIt’s these passages where I ran into a problem. The first one wasn’t too bad; it was actually quite funny and relatively interesting. But the second and especially the third one were just hard to slog through. They dragged, and I was having little luck connecting these “historical” passages with the play parts.

There is an obvious connection—the setting of each “act” in the play is the focus of each historical passage. But beyond this. . .well, I couldn’t find anything deeper, no thematic current tying the two together beyond simple location.

A part of me thought that perhaps it wasn’t the content or its lack of tie-in with the play portions, but the way it was written. The passages are un-indented, pages-long single sentences that liberally use the semicolon. Even where there are line breaks, the block paragraphs are connected due to the use of a semicolon. To be honest, I like long sentences, but I struggled with these.

 

So I took a break, read a bunch of short stories, and then came back and finished the whole third in one afternoon. I was left feeling it would have been much better had I just read the play bits and skipped the rest. And what I needed was something in between short story and novel, a good segue to get me back into longer works of prose because my mind was swirling with the form of short fiction, which isn’t really the best for me at the moment beings I’m in the middle of writing a novel. That’s when I remembered Seiobo There Below, a novel by László Krasznahorkai that I’ve heard is more like a short story collection than a novel. It being one a book I bought last year to celebrate the publication of my novel, I picked it, hoping it’d be just what I needed.

 

Seiobo There Below by Laszlo KrasnahorkaiUpon starting it, I thought I had made a mistake. Yes, it isn’t much like a novel and is really really like a short story collection. But all the stories have a similar voice. And they’re written in the same way, that is, in un-indented, pages-long sentences that liberally use the semicolon. Yes, it’s written almost exactly like the historical parts in Faulkner’s Requiem. The main aesthetic difference between Requiem and Seiobo is that Krasznahorkai uses a period between line breaks. Beyond this, Krasznahorkai‘s motto that the full doesn’t belong to humans, but to God, is followed to a tee.

Now that I’m approximately halfway through Seiobo, I’m very, very glad I did choose this book. It has shown me that it wasn’t the long sentences which made me seek other writing outside of Faulkner; it was the content itself. Faulkner’s long-ass sentences dragged because the content and style of that content (beyond being long and unpunctuated) was somehow uninteresting. Krasznahorkai’s semicolon-rich sentences push you along, are masterfully written to keep you reading, artfully maintaining a strong story momentum. Seiobo is hard to put down.

So I’ll probably be updating my Goodreads sooner than later to reflect yet another finished novel, or whatever you want to call Seiobo There Below. Or maybe I won’t. Because I might get distracted by another book, or even friends, movies, emergencies. I don’t know. What I will confess is this: I don’t list every book I read on Goodreads.

But if you are curious about what I do list on Goodreads (and sometimes rate. . .very occasionally review), just click the meme below.
Liz Lemon "I Want to Go to There" meme
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