Monday, February 22, 2010

How Jake Got His Groove Back

Just a quick post.

I have just recently been through another big road block with my book. The last time this happened was near the beginning of the rough draft, and the way I broke through the block was to just force myself to write. It worked wonderfully and a very crucial scene came out of that. Sadly, though, that scene will probably not be in the final product.

This latest bout of writer's block has been going for about three solid weeks now. I was determined to do like I did last time and just force myself to write. Every time, however, that I tried to do such a thing my mind just would not let me even go there. I could not focus. The words on the page were slippery and my mind just would not let my eyes look at the screen for more than a few seconds. You could call it a strange case of sudden ADD.

I am convinced, now, that it was just that my mind needed to recuperate and refocus. I had worked really hard to get the rough draft done and I think I was pushing my creativity too hard by jumping right into the rewrite.

It has helped to have a little notebook with me. My friend Matt gave me a Moleskine notebook for Christmas and it has been used extensively already. I love it. I have written down ideas as they come to me and just by re-reading those ideas I have been able to pick my way through this constipation of creativity.

Here's to hoping there is more smooth sailing ahead. I'm not going to wish that these blockages never happen again because it is during these times that I can prove my worth as a writer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fighting Ruben Wolfe

My mom introduced me to this great author, Markus Zusak, when she gave me one of his books for Christmas a couple years ago. This book was The Book Thief. If you have not read this book, you must go out now and go to your nearest book store or library and get a copy. It is fantastic and definitely one of the most original and astounding books in modern literature I've ever read.

When I find an author I like I read everything of theirs that I can get my hands on. I have all of Zusak's published books and have now read three of the four books. His second book I read was written just before The Book Thief. It is titled I Am the Messenger.

The Book Thief had such an amazing voice to it. Zusak's writing is fresh and different. He uses colors and symbolism in ways that you don't see in literature these days. You see it a lot in classic literature. In I Am the Messenger, Zusak still has his magical turn of phrase and mastery of plot.

Now, as I finally get to my point, I just read his very first published novel. First novels are interesting because it is the chance for the author to prove himself. I'm not sure what I was expecting with Zusak's first novel. I was not disappointed.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe is really short. If it weren't printed in a tiny paperback with larger printing it would probably only be about 50 pages, I'm estimating. I was impressed that Zusak, even in his first book, was still an amazing writer. I could tell he was just barely finding his voice, his style, but it was apparent that he was comfortable with the direction he was going.

Something I noticed that wasn't really seen that much in his later books was that he uses a lot of fragment sentences. It has a nice effect in this book.

Instead of going on about how great Zusak is I will, instead, give you a taste of what he's like. This is an excerpt from Fighting Ruben Wolfe and one of my favorite parts. Enjoy.

When I'm there Rube's eyes fire into mine. Make sure you get up, they tell me, and I nod, then jump up. The jacket's off. My skin's warm. My wolfish hair sticks up as always, nice and thick. I'm ready now. I'm ready to keep standing up, no matter what, I'm ready to believe that I welcome the pain and that I want it so much that I will look for it. I will seek it out. I'll run to it and throw myself into it. I'll stand in front of it in blind terror and let it beat me down and down till my courage hangs off me in rags. Then it will dismantle me and stand me up naked and beat me some more and my slaughter-blood will fly from my mouth and the pain will drink it, feel it, steal it, and conceal it in the pockets of its gut and it will taste me. It will just keep standing me up, and I won't let it know. I won't tell it that I feel it. I won't give it the satisfaction. No, the pain will have to kill me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentines Schmalentines

I usually rant on Valentines Day about how much I hate the holiday because I never have anyone to dote on during that holiday. No one to send flowers to. No one to profess undying love to. This year, however, I have decided that I actually hate the holiday for other reasons.

1. It's love but it's commercialized. It's totally a way for retailers to get out of the slumps in January during the aftershock of Christmas. No one is out shopping after Christmas, it's time to give them an excuse to come back to the stores.

2. Valentine's is for Losers. I'm beginning to think that Valentine's Day is for schmoozers and losers who think that, by giving their significant other great big bouquets, chocolates, etc, they are being romantic and wonderful. Wrong-o. Think about it. Doing something hugely romantic on Valentine's is predictable, cliche, and booooring because EVERYONE and their dogs are doing the exact same thing.

3. I don't need a day set aside in order to show love. Honest and truly, I want someone to dote on, someone to spoil and to make them feel like they're loved. But really? Do I need to have Valentine's Day to do something I should/would/could already be doing with my significant other? Maybe this is coming from a naive mind of a guy who has never had a girlfriend. I think it would be far greater to show the love in random, spontaneous, and unexpected ways instead of waiting for February 14th to send flowers to my girl.

4. Think of the History of Valentines. February 15th was long celebrated as a fertility festival. It's also a day commemorating a martyr who died because he believed it was unfair not to let soldiers marry in the third century. Maybe this is a leap in logic, but it's like how we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day and, say, in 2,000 years we find that people are celebrating MLK Jr. Day as a day to wear hats and say "Bonjour" to every person you see. I don't know. That was all I could think of. But you see my point? The holiday is not, today, what it was originally meant to be. I guess the same could be said for other holidays.

5. Lovey-Dovey Crap. I get ill seeing all these couples walking around being all showy with their love. PDA is not attractive, folks. A little smooch here and there, a little holding of hands, that's great. I was at work by myself awhile ago, around Valentines and this couple came in. The whole time they sat in this chair and they could not keep their hands off each other. They weren't making out or anything but I was disgusted the whole time. Even from clear across the store I felt uncomfortable.

On another note, we sell a bunch of Valentines stuff at work and WOW. Are you serious? It's all about "Love is Forever and Always because Love Never Grows Old." Any cliche statement you can think of about love, we've got it at Deseret Book.

So there you have it. I may be singing a different tune next year. Who knows? But for now, those are my feelings about this stupid holiday. I'm going to leave you with a poem written by someone who isn't your typical Valentine poet. Emily Dickinson wrote a few Valentines that aren't very well-known mostly because they are so atypical of her. Here we see a cynic who actually sees a chance at love and I take some hope in her words.


Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,
Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!

Oh the Earth was made for lovers, for damsel, and hopeless swain,
For sighing, and gentle whispering, and unity made of twain.
All things do go a courting, in earth, or sea, or air,
God hath made nothing single but thee in His world so fair!
The bride, and then the bridegroom, the two, and then the one,
Adam, and Eve, his consort, the moon, and then the sun;
The life doth prove the precept, who obey shall happy be,
Who will not serve the sovereign, be hanged on fatal tree.
The high do seek the lowly, the great do seek the small,
None cannot find who seeketh, on this terrestrial ball;
The bee doth court the flower, the flower his suit receives,
And they make merry wedding, whose guests are hundred leaves;
The wind doth woo the branches, the branches they are won,
And the father fond demandeth the maiden for his son.
The storm doth walk the seashore humming a mournful tune,
The wave with eye so pensive, looketh to see the moon,
Their spirits meet together, they make their solemn vows,
No more he singeth mournful, her sadness she doth lose.
The worm doth woo the mortal, death claims a living bride,
Night unto day is married, morn unto eventide;
Earth is a merry damsel, and heaven a knight so true,
And Earth is quite coquettish, and beseemeth in vain to sue.
Now to the application, to the reading of the roll,
To bringing thee to justice, and marshalling thy soul:
Thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone,
Wilt have no kind companion, thou reap'st what thou hast sown.
Hast never silent hours, and minutes all too long,
And a deal of sad reflection, and wailing instead of song?
There's Sarah, and Eliza, and Emeline so fair,
And Harriet, and Susan, and she with curling hair!
Thine eyes are sadly blinded, but yet thou mayest see
Six true, and comely maidens sitting upon the tree;
Approach that tree with caution, then up it boldly climb,
And seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or time!
Then bear her to the greenwood, and build for her a bower,
And give her what she asketh, jewel, or bird, or flower—
And bring the fife, and trumpet, and beat upon the drum—
And bid the world Goodmorrow, and go to glory home!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Swan Thieves

I just finished The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian. Now, I have not read The Historian (I do plan on reading it) so this was my first exposure to Ms. Kostova's writing. At first glance, this book does not seem really exciting because it's about a painter who attacks a painting and the psychiatrist who tries to figure out what drove him to do it. Andrew Marlow, the psychiatrist, ends up having to go to the women in the painter's life in order to figure out the mystery because the painter refuses to speak.

Kostova's writing is beautiful and descriptive. She has a knack for turn of phrase. I am usually a bigger fan of sparse writing that gets a little more to the point, mixed with good dialogue to break the monotony of exposition and description. This book is filled with beautiful descriptions and is pretty light on dialogue, but I never felt overwhelmed by the lack of dialogue. She has the perfect balance of both to make a book that I could not put down. I just had to know what was going to happen next.

You can also tell that Kostova knows her history, painting methods, and that sort of thing. She is an intelligent writer who knows how to tell a thrilling and beautiful story. Throughout the book she interweaves letters written from a woman and her husband's uncle who lived in 1879.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys great modern literature, painting, and history.