Tag Archive | literature

Writers on Writing

What a fun little video! Sarah Negovetich, the author of newly-released Rite of Rejection, demonstrates how to write a novel in 90 seconds.

What?! 90 seconds?! Just 90?!

Well, yeah. It’s doable. Sarah did it 🙂 and Rite of Rejection is a fine novel (read my review on this blog or on amazon.com), and now she shows us all the steps.

Looks sooooo eeeeeasy! I’ve never tried to pin flashcards on a board, but I’ll try it with my next novel.

Thanks, Sarah! 🙂

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Writers on Writing

I remember what one of my English professors at TWU said about a better time when to start writing fiction–while you’re still young, when your imagination, skills, and energy are at their peak.

Here’s a contradictory opinion. Lee Child, the author of the best-selling Jack Reacher series, believes that “not only can you, but you should start (writing) late, because you’ve lived, you’ve gotten experience…” which young people lack.

Also having started writing late, I can’t agree more with Mr. Child.

Book Review: Joshua Ferris’s “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour”

91q1PSDZ9KL[1]Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is a literary novel about a man in his late thirties searching for meaning of life and his own place in the world.

Paul O’Rourke, a successful dentist in Manhattan, is a man of contradictions: he’s cynical and self-centered, but he genuinely cares about his patients; he’s an atheist, but he’s drawn to religious people; he’s a huge Red Sox fan, but he gets upset about the team’s major victories; he feels aversion to the Internet, but he is obsessed with his smart phone.

Suffering from insomnia, Paul stares at the ceiling night after night, pondering such issues as his perception of himself and the perception of him by other people, as well as asking such questions as: When you meet a person for the first time, how do you present yourself to them? Do you show them your true self? When you fall in love with someone, how much of yourself do you share with that person? What if you lose your identity to them?

(Don’t we all ask these questions too?)

Paul searches for answers because he’s been unfortunate (and thus, insecure) in love. Growing up poor and fatherless since he was nine, he craves for a warm, loving family. That’s why each time he falls for a girl, he falls in love with her parents too, and he wants their acceptance and love in return. But he tries too hard to be loved—to the point that his efforts backfire.

Well, it’s bad enough that all those questions keep Paul awake at night, but then he finds out that someone has impersonated him online, created his professional website, and begun posting “his” opinions on Twitter and Facebook. That’s when things go from bad to worse. To his horror, those opinions are of a controversial nature, discussing religion, citing from the Bible and other holy texts, thus upsetting his acquaintances and people he cares about. But since “his” posts have gone viral, Paul is powerless to do anything to stop them. Fortunately, he identifies his impersonator, but that person makes Paul ask bigger questions about himself: Who is he, really? What’s his identity? Does he really know himself and his heritage? Etc. (Once again, it resonates with us because identity theft is an actual problem these days, isn’t it?)

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this yeah, which was my main interest in it, assuming it must be a great literary achievement, but, frankly, I can’t say that it has met my expectations. Yes, it is profound and thought-provoking, and it is funny too, but (and I hate to say this) it’s also tedious, in places. Paul’s narration sounds almost like stream-of-consciousness—painstakingly detailed descriptions of his daily routine, his watching baseball games, his thoughts on religion, his correspondence with his impersonator…on and on it goes, sometimes ad nauseam. I even wanted to quit reading it. What kept me going, though, was Paul’s great sense of humor and his flashbacks (many related to his relationship with his ex-girlfriends and their families) that peppered the novel. His little jokes and anecdotes made me laugh so hard, at times, that I had to put the book down to wipe my tears.

You may or may not like the novel, but one thing I can promise you: after reading this dentist’s account of his patients’ dental problems, resulting from insufficient care, you will start flossing twice as vigorously after each meal and snack. 🙂

Joshua Ferris is a gifted writer and I’ll definitely read his previous two novels.

Author Interview: Writers on Reading

This is an amazing piece that I stumbled upon on YouTube: Writers discuss the importance of reading.

So why do we feel the need for literature?

For Nicole Krauss, “everything falls away, when she opens a book: she’s in a world where everything matters.” And as a writer, she sees writing fiction as “a chance to create herself.” On a blank page, you can say anything, and you can become anything you want. (My thoughts exactly!)

Richard Ford thinks that “reading is an attempt to make our experiences more valuable.” (Isn’t true? Because no matter what we read about, we can’t help but compare the experiences of the fictional characters to those of our own.)

Siri Hustvedt gives an invaluable advise to follow your own passion or curiosity in reading. Don’t just listen to those who point out something “great” with a capital “G.” (Yes! We, as individuals, need to pursue whatever drives our own curiosity, even if it’s not very popular.)

Well, there’s much more in this video.

Enjoy! 🙂

Author Interviews: On Writing

Readers talk about books. Writers talk about writing them.

Martin Amis says, “Literature is a war against clichés,” and he expressed this belief in his book, The War Against Cliché.

Fran Lebowitz exclaims, “Nothing lives up to books!”

Zadie Smith states, “A book is your best self.”

Jonathan Franzen‘s goal is to “take his experiences and share them with people.”

In the video below, these authors elaborated on their statements. Very interesting!

Enjoy! 🙂

Alan Brennert’s “Moloka’i”

Pix_Molokai_Rev_6.2011[1]We didn’t have the scare of Ebola last year yet, but as if by premonition, someone in my book club suggested that we discuss Alan Brennert’s Moloka’i this year. How timely, because as I was reading Brennert’s novel about people suffering and dying from leprosy, and the overall fright and panic at the possibility of being infected by the terrible disease, I couldn’t help but think about the fear of Ebola that the world is now experiencing.

Moloka’i is a riveting saga of the life of Rachel Kalama, a Honolulu native, from 1891 till her death in 1970. She is the daughter of a sailor who spends several months at a time in far-away countries, from where he brings her exotic dolls as gifts. A precocious child interested in geography, Rachel dreams about visiting those places someday, too. But this is not to be. In 1891, at the age of seven, she contracts leprosy. She is ripped out of her home and shipped to a quarantined colony for leprosy patients on the island of Moloka’i. Thus not only are her dreams crushed, but her very existence is now precarious: Will she be cured and leave this place someday, or will she share the fate of her unfortunate friends who are dying young from the disease?

But there is no cure, because “leprosy at present eludes doctors’ understanding.” Since it is contagious, there’s panic among the population. And stigma against the unlucky ones. But the sick aren’t the only victims. This horrible disease takes its toll on their families, too. Siblings of a sick child are shunned at school and in the neighborhood, parents and relatives lose their jobs and are ostracized.

Parents’ sacrifices! One mother chooses to give up on her sick child in order to save her other children, uprooting them from their home and moving to another town where the stigma won’t ruin their lives. Another mother leaves her children with their grandparents, practically abandoning them for good, so that she could tend to her sick husband in the colony, thus sacrificing herself. A father desperately wishes to be a leper so that he can join his daughter on the island.

Can you judge one or another? Not really. You understand each of them, for each one makes their decision out of love and out of despondency.

Alan Brennert describes in vivid detail the tragedy that has befallen the sick in the settlement—their deplorable living conditions, their meager provisions, their deteriorating health, their shattered lives, and worst of all, their isolation from the outside world. They feel even more disadvantaged than prisoners who are jailed for life, because they can’t have visitors.

If doctors are helpless in understanding the causes of leprosy, then how can the sick comprehend the reason why they’re stricken with it? They wonder if “the sickness comes from the soul, from a person’s past actions and state of mind.” 180 Yet, they cling to life, despite death staring into their faces, and their zest for life, perseverance, faith, and strength are admirable.

Alan Brennert is a very gifted writer. Moloka’i is rich in memorable characters, beautiful description of the scenery, and historical information based on extensive research.

Highly recommend.

Paulo Coelho’s “Adultery”

9781101874097.225x225-75[1]Paulo Coelho’s Adultery is a story of a woman in her thirties who has everything—head-turning looks, a good education, a successful career as a journalist, a loving husband and two children. Her husband is one of the richest people in Switzerland and, after ten years of marriage, he is still “madly in love with her.” They eat at expensive restaurants, they travel abroad, and they socialize with the crème de la crème of Geneva’s society. In short, Linda has everything any other woman would kill for. Yet she doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and get going. What’s the matter?

Linda is depressed.

However, she doesn’t understand the nature of her problem until she interviews a writer who admits that he prefers a life of passion and danger to a life of happiness and satisfaction. This admission makes Linda realize that the root of her dissatisfaction with her life is her boring routine—going through the same things every day over and over and over again. It occurs to her that she never takes risks; she always goes with the flow. That has to stop. She has to shake things up. Yes, she loves her husband, and he loves her, but is love alone enough? She needs a change. She wants a change. Desperately.

What happens next is obvious—even the novel’s title suggests the obvious.

Adultery.

For the first hundred pages you commiserate with Linda, because she’s suffering and she isn’t passively accepting her condition but trying to understand it and to find the cure. She makes appointments with one psychiatrist after another, explaining to them what is happening to her, “begging them to help her control the monster that is rising up and threatening to escape her control.” 139

You sympathize with her because her dissatisfaction with the sameness, her need to question her role in life, and her search for the meaning of life, resonate with many of us. Especially with those of us who are, or have been, depressed. We may condemn adultery, but we still try to understand the reason behind it. Especially if we find the person committing it sympathetic.

Well…

After a hundred pages, my attitude toward Linda changed drastically. I disliked her for her actions, and then, after I learned about a certain streak in her personality, I hated her.

Linda justifies her actions (other than adultery) by examples from history and literature, saying that “…good and evil coexist in all people….when we release our dark side, it will completely overshadow the best in us…. That is how dictators are born.” 136

“Everyone has a dark side. Everyone wants a taste of absolute power. I read stories of torture and war and see that those who inflict suffering are driven by an unknown monster when they’re able to exert power, but turn into docile fathers, servants of the homeland, and excellent husbands when they return home.” 130

She’s right about the inherent duality in all of us. But not all of us act on our dark side, especially those of us who are as educated and well-read as she is, and are capable of assessing the situation.

Practically all writers claim that if the reader doesn’t find the protagonist sympathetic, he won’t be interested in reading the story. I totally agree. Once I started to despise Linda, I stopped caring about her “suffering.”

I kept reading Adultery only because Paulo Coelho  is a fine writer, and I like his philosophical take on love, life, marriage, and values. And because I love his novels The Alchemist and The Zahir.

Favorite line: “Love isn’t just a feeling; it’s an art. And like any art, it takes not only inspiration, but also a lot of work.” 187