Archive for the books Category

Ideas On How To Review Stuff, Part 2

Posted in art, beer, books with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2014 by cueball

Here is Part 1.  I didn’t know it was going to be a part 1 until I started writing this morning.  Sometimes I think I really should come up with a plan for what I write.

“Whose there?”

This is a great way to start a story about a young man finding himself.  (It’s from this little play by this guy here.)

That has always been the hardest part of writing fiction for me.  How do you start?  What are the first evocative words to pique the interest of the reader and get them to read on to the next sentence?

You are staring at a blank page with all these ideas running around in your mind and now you have to put something down and get it started.

When I’m reading a short story or a novel, I am fascinated first by the opening then everything else the author tries to do.  When I’m reading something, especially something new, I read it on two levels.  The first is just to enjoy it.  I’m reading and letting myself become part of the world the author created.

On the second level, I’m analyzing and deconstructing the different parts of the story as I encounter them.  I’ll encounter a new character or parse the details introduced because these details are there for a reason and I am trying to understand the reason and figure out what the author is trying to make me feel or see.

I can still enjoy what I’m reading on the first level, but I am completely engaged by the second level.  My enjoyment on that first level has no bearing on my intellectual assessment on that second level.

I actual enjoy almost everything I read, as long as it conforms to the internal logic it has set up and written truthfully.  I have the ability to allow myself to believe completely in the world that I am reading about.   Then, I try to step back and outside that world and look at whether the work does what it thinks it is doing.  I’ve found I do this with every creative art I enjoy.

In any creative endeavor, the creator has an idea of what he/she is attempting.  They have a plan and an idea and they try to make it really.  That is a truly brave thing, taking a part of who and what you are and placing it out in the world for everyone to judge.  I think it is incumbent on those who presume to review those creative endeavors to take it as seriously as the people who create.

Craft beer is a creative endeavor for the brewer.  I have been reading a lot of beer reviews recently, and I find much of what are labeled reviews are severely lacking in treating beer seriously.  That does not mean you can’t have fun and be interesting, but you have to believe that craft beer is an endeavor worthy of your time and intellect.  Someone took the time to come up with this recipe, brew this beer, ferment this beer, package this beer, and sell it.  The least someone can do is come up with a little more than, “This beer sucks” as a review.  A simplistic review does not help you as a drinker of beer nor does it help the brewer to figure out what they did right or wrong.  At the end of the day, do you like is all that really matters, but you should really try to think about why or why you do not like it.

I am discovering that reviewing is an important part of the creative process when done right.  Good criticism helps everyone raise their level.  When that happens we all benefit by getting better product.  For this to happen, the reviewer has to give considered criticism and the creator has to be willing to take criticism.

I promise there are beer reviews coming.

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Faulkner Is…

Posted in books, life with tags , on March 29, 2013 by cueball

After I made the last post I went to wash dishes and it hit me, who the basketball comparison for Faulkner is:  Moses Malone.  They spent a very short period of time in college before going pro and still made the Hall of Fame (or won Nobel Prize).  Boom.  Done.

Who Would Faulkner Be?

Posted in books, life, music, rock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by cueball

This was the moment I trusted my own taste.

The radio in my mother’s car only got AM radio.  It was the factory install on a 1973 Chevrolet Laguna and it would become my car in high school, with a much better radio.  Anyway, the car only got AM stations so my first musical memories are of John Cougar Mellancamp, Eddie Rabbit, and Juice Newton.  Then, the only FM station we could get at home with any clarity was a top 40 station.  The only other music I really listened to at home was my parent’s 60s and 70s R & B.  That tells you where all the musical likes I have alt. country, 80s pop music, old school R & B developed.  Over the years I added rap and 60s music to my musical loves.

However, that all became OK with those first moments of Vernon Reid’s guitar open to “Cult of Personality” on the Arsenio Hall Show.  Seeing four black guys on stage playing hard rock/heavy metal told me, “OK, you’re not strange.  It makes sense now.”

The bands that made me who am goes like this, Living Colour, Fishbone, The Black Crowes, Jimi Hendrix, Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco.  These and the bands that have joined them in the forefront of my musical tastes all have in thing in common:  They are their own thing and moved out on their own limb to do what they wanted, damn the consequences.

The Mount Rushmore of music for my life is Living Colour, Fishbone, Jeff Tweedy/Jay Farrar (I can’t separate them), Jimi Hendrix.

What about the books?  Hmmm.  What books and authors made me fall in love with words?  First, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.  That is the first book I can truly remember reading and being affected by as a kid.  After that the next thing that really affected me was Red Badge Of Courage and then A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.  It was soon after that I found The Great Gatsby.  Then I read Dubliners and that changed how I saw short stories.

What would my writer’s Mount Rushmore be?  This is where I’ve changed.  The music is still important to me, but the books are more important to me.  I have recently gone a binge of dead white guys.  Particularly of the American kind.  Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner, plus a lot of Shakespeare has been in my reading queue for the last couple of years.  Then there is James Joyce.  Probably my least read of this group, but the one who has affected me most.  For whatever reason, Joyce has become a romantic figure in my estimation of writers.  The guy who toiled endlessly to write how he wanted to write regardless of what the public or the establishment thought.  He toiled endlessly through obscurity and poverty to write one of the greatest pieces of art to come out of the 20th century.

I don’t think of writers in terms of Mount Rushmore.  I think of them more as basketball players.  Who are the basketball comparisons for my favorite writers?  Shakespeare is Bill Russell.  He has all the rings and helped create this world of writers.  Hemingway is Michael Jordan.  Maybe he was not the most naturally talented one, but the one who wanted greatness the most and worked everyone into the ground to get there.  Fitzgerald is someone like David Thompson.  The one who did have all the natural talent, but the drugs and the alcohol just got in the way too often.  Joyce is someone like Connie Hawkins.  Someone whose talent got its most shine outside the popular glare of most of the sports world, but whose legend grows with each passing year.

Who would Faulkner be?  That is a good question.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about a lot of this in the recent weeks as I get ready for Camp NANOWRIMO starting on Monday.  The questions of influence and style ramble around in my head while I’m trying to go to sleep with the countdown looming.  That is partially why this post is so rambling and kind of disjointed.  Not enough sleep. Off to do some more pre-work and to set up my writing schedule for the coming week.