Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I watched the movie The Hours again for the second time. And while I always thought it was a very good movie, and knew it had something to do with the writer Virginia Woolf, I now know and believe that if you have never read Mrs. Dalloway, you really haven't seen The Hours. The homosexual inlay become not just obvious, but pertinent, and the thread of mental instability provoked by societal expectations and the status quo become another character in the story. If you've read the book, then you should enjoy this story. If you've enjoyed the movie, but couldn't quite make all the connections, the book will make everything clearer.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's All In the Bag...(but, not really)

So, you want to carry a really nice handbag to impress your friends, right? But, you can't afford to buy the latest Prada, or Dolce and Gabbana, or
Vintage Hermes. Well, as if we don't have enough stuff to indulge our consumer jones, the website, Bag, Borrow or Steal is here to solve all your needs when it comes to your expensive, (and ridiculous) taste in handbags.
For the low monthly price of $5 bucks, or an annual fee of about $60, you can rent the handbag of your dreams.
Now, like the next female, I like a nice, fashionable but practical, well-made handbag. But, I generally like to carry a purse that doesn't cost more money than I have in it; or one that I don't have to take out a small loan to purchase, or one that I'd have to rent, with a monthly bill attached to it, (no matter how small they make it seem). But, hey, if Burberry is your thing, (and you have absolutely nothing else to do with your money), this might just be the website for you!


Friday, December 07, 2007

Lessons Learned in a Creative Writing Class

So, I began an Advanced Prose class this semester with some ambivalence because, on the one hand, I don’t think you can be taught to be creative. On the other hand, if you have some creative talent, I think that it can be made better by learning and practicing the mechanics of writing and grammar, and by doing exercises that help generate a better flow of ideas. But, I’m always skeptical about taking a creative writing class where people who already think that they have some talent come expecting to leave a genius. (Not me, of course. I still have a hard time believing it when people tell me I’m good…but, I’m coming around.) Furthermore, in these classes, except for a midterm and final portfolio, you spend the rest of the semester being critiqued and evaluated by your peers. I understand that it might be challenging for a professor to have to read the feeble efforts of students’ (10 to 15 of them), week in and week out over the course of the semester. But, I didn’t pay $360 to hear some third year undergrad tell me my story is no good because it doesn’t involve a twenty-something, real estate mogul/stripper with a Ph.D. whose man is cheatin’ on them. I want the doctor in the room to tear it apart.

However, I did find that there were some things I learned that I can use. The text that we used for this course Writing Fiction Step By Step by Josip Novakovich included some simple exercises that make me believe that writer’s block could very well be a thing of the past. I found exercises on scene building and character profiles that I think will help me to develop better stories with more complex characters. New Sudden Fiction, ed. Robert Shapard & James Thomas and Short Fiction by 33 Writers, ed. Mark Winegardner provides a treasure chest of some of the best short stories to read and learn from. Overall, I think this class has shown me, perhaps, how rigid I have been. I tend to write in a linear way, that is, my histories tend to happen in a straight line. At least on paper they do. But, I am excited about the possibilities of moving back and forth in a story through scenes. I think this will allow me more flexibility and freedom in my storytelling. What’s more is that I think I am a little more open to the experience of a creative writing class, and I believe that I may even turn out to be a better writer as a result.

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Live Cargo by Pauls Toutonghi

Live Cargo is a fascinating collection of short stories by Pauls Toutonghi that I wanted to highlight. We used this collection in my Advanced Prose class this semester as well as a few others. I found Toutonghi invigorating, classic and wise beyond his years. I love how he juxtaposes histories as in he does in “Still Life”, where he places side by side a story about the death of a friend of Pablo Picaso, with the experiences of a grandfather in the trenches during World War I. And in “The Lives of Saints” he infuses humor with Greek philosophy while exploring the possibilities of Socrates as a male, exotic dancer. I’ve wanted to read contemporary short stories that restored my faith in the short story form, and in the kind of literature that I want to read and write, and Toutonghi does that for me. This is a great night table book!

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