Saturday, December 29, 2007

Postmodern Model for Book Reviews

Most book reviewers use two traditional approaches. Either they take the bland way of simply being descriptive, or they present a vigorous—and often negative—critical angle.

Here is the traditional reviewer’s approach:
1. Immediately mentions the full name of the author and the title of the book.
2. Isolates the theme of the book. A theme is the main topic which could possibly be reduced to a brief sentence; for example: “Billy Budd deals with good and evil,” or “Anna Karenina is about rebellious love and social conventions.”
3. Mentions the genre (essay, novel, short story, romance, science fiction). Readers are by now conditioned to expect a genre.
4. The reviewer is expected to put forth personal opinions as to his likes and dislikes.
5. Describe the setting (in both time and space)
6. Identify the specific tone (irreverent, playful, serious, and solemn).
7. Main traits of the characters and what makes them act in certain ways and not others, paying special attention to the protagonists.
8. Briefly outline the plot without giving away the climax, reversal, and denouement.
9. Quote bits and pieces from the work to highlight certain points, or to buttress the reviewer’s opinion.

My book reviews take a non-traditional approach:

I call this the ‘the eccentric approach’ because I try to present ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Although the traditional presentations have merit and are useful, today’s readers deserve something else; namely, they deserve freshness, something unexpected, something exciting, and yet something that contains a self-evident truths that can challenge the reader’s intelligence.

Therefore in my Book Reviews I place high value in language because not only do we use language to represent the real world, but also the fictional world. Thus, only through well crafted sentences and a skillful use of rhetorical figures can art—literary art—be created.

Here is my formula:
1. Examine the figures of speech, tropes, nominative absolutes, and rhetorical figures that the author utilizes with success or not.

2. Check the sentence openers. If I see the pattern Subject-Verb-Complement (S-V-C) repeated throughout the first few pages, then I can be reasonably sure that the author lacks the required skills to write with sufficient sentence variation to make the narrative exciting.

3. In reviewing a work of fiction I try to avoid biographical data about the author. A book review is about the book, not the author. If I review The Great Gatsby, I scrutinize what the narrator says, and I don’t attribute the narrator’s remarks to the author Scott Fitzgerald.

4. I look for the appropriate use of regular and correlative conjunctions (e.g. either/or). Should these conjunctions be absent from the narrative, I will consider the writing substandard.

5. As I work through the above points (1 through 4), I include—as needed, but not all—the information that traditional reviewers include.

In the market place of ideas, one shouldn’t be shy of criticizing what is substandard. I love writing book reviews because it pleases me to share my point of view with as many readers as possible. And in a modest way I add to the merits of good works, and also help identify works that do not deserve our time.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's bestseller and indispensable writing manual:

www.write rivetingprose.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ten Great American Business Novels

It has always struck me that the best business novels are interactive. In them, the world of commerce is driven by people whose reality is made palpable to us but whose values, attitudes, and biases often compel us to question our own: As a businessperson, how would I relate to the kind of complex, unpredictable circumstances in which all-too-real fictional characters commonly find themselves? The great business novels I know are salutary, not because they afford us an escape from our office routines but precisely because they turn us back on ourselves and promote the indispensable habit of self-scrutiny. I’ve grouped the following 10 novels according to the diverse characters they portray—from predators and visionaries to escape artists and eccentrics.

PREDATORS
One of the most memorable characters in the fictions of business is also the nastiest. William Faulkner’s Flem Snopes gives fresh meaning to the term self-interest. The Hamlet is a kind of demented depiction of the American dream. Snopes typifies the frightening ease with which an individual endowed with entrepreneurial shrewdness and killer instincts can rise from poverty to a position of wealth and commanding power over an entire community. Faulkner’s novel shows us also how powerfully fear and intimidation can force the complacent and unwary to ignore their better judgment, abdicate their authority, and, in The Hamlet, literally give the store away. Faulkner’s setting is a small Southern backwater—but it might just as well be a highly competitive corporate environment.

Theodore Dreiser’s The Financier describes the rise to power and wealth of Frank Cowperwood, a turn-of-the-(twentieth)-century titan who flouts conventional notions of morality with a winner-takeall mentality in building his empire. Unlike the abhorrent Flem Snopes, though, Cowperwood emerges as a sympathetic, even heroic, figure in a commercial frontier driven by political influence and dealmaking. In our own age, power brokers like Cowperwood, who know how to charm, cajole, and manipulate to achieve their ends, become celebrities, and we, like Cowperwood’s contemporaries, follow their schemes with fascination (and perhaps even envy).

Hardly less predatory in his way, yet the least visible character in American business fiction, is JR, the sixth-grade entrepreneur of William Gaddis’s darkly comic novel of that name. A National Book Award winner in 1976, JR uncannily anticipates the age of e-commerce by following this precocious youngster as he uses a telephone in his school as a base for building a diversified (paper) empire from a mail-order shipment of surplus Navy forks. Savvy stockbrokers, marketers, and administrators line up behind this shadowy Wunderkind, sacrificing their adult judgment, experience, and ethical principles to greed. Like most companies built on pure speculation, JR’s empire eventually crumbles. Lost in the process, though, is more than overvalued stock; Gaddis insists that the real loss in a society so driven by the market is a common culture, a sense of civility, an educated mind—in short, an understanding of what it means to be human.

VISIONARIES
First cousin to the predator in the fictions of business is the visionary—the individual who stands out from journeymen executives in his single-minded drive, his willingness to take immense risks, and his commanding style. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Monroe Stahr, modeled on the movie producer Irving Thalberg, is the hero of the author’s uncompleted novel, The Last Tycoon, a graphie depiction of how business is done in corporate Hollywood. Like all great business leaders, Stahr couples idealism with a realistic view. Stahr’s command-and-control management style may be frowned upon these days, but he is an artist at exerting autocratic will when his vision of what a great movie studio ought to be requires just that.

Hank Morgan, a mid-level efficiency expert, finds himself in a sixth-century time warp in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. With nineteenthcentury hindsight, Morgan perceives the need for an overhaul of England’s communication and transportation systems. Shrewd Yankee that he is, though, he understands that to establish credibility with the rank and file, he needs to best his rival, Merlin, which he does by performing a godlike miracle. Duly knighted by popular acclamation, this Master of the Universe brings advanced technology to his people—only to discover, to his great disillusionment, how strenuously people resist change, especially revolutionary change, even when it appears to be in their best interest.

ESCAPE ARTISTS
The escape artist in American business fiction is, to all appearances, well adjusted to the workaday routine; but another part longs to flee, to shed a skin, and start life over again. In Rabbit is Rich, John Updike’s aptly named Rabbit Angstrom inwardly bridles against his life as head of a family automobile franchise that he has conveniently eased into but that leaves him spiritually and emotionally adrift.

Aware that life is passing him by, Rabbit longs to “break out, to find another self.” Unable to do so, he sees his son’s increasingly insistent claims to succession in the family business as a severe personal threat. Heartbreaking encounters between one generation and the next dramatize the passions that can divide and all too often destroy closely held family businesses.

Joseph Heller’s Bob Slocum is a man on the edge. This mid-level executive is a master of spin control—converting lies into the truths that his corporate superiors want to hear. The truth of the matter, though, is that Slocum has ingratiated himself with top management and subscribed to the company gospel he has helped to perpetuate at the price of his own integrity. The voice we hear in Slocum’s wrenching internal monologues is shot through with the despair of someone who is lost to himself. Progressive self entrapment is Heller’s great theme in Something Happened.
Alan Lightman’s novel The Diagnosis is also about an executive whose job is processing information—“the maximum information in the minimum time.” Unlike Slocum, though, Bill Chalmers has no time to think about his state of mind. Fully accessorized with cell phone and laptop, he is unable to “do anything but run, run, run.” One morning he develops amnesia, forgetting where he’s going and even who he is. Then physical paralysis immobilizes him, and doctors can’t properly diagnose his illness. Lightman interlaces the story of Chalmers’s struggles to recover a sense of himself with an account of Socrates’ trial and last days. The contrast between the philosopher’s selfpossession in the face of death and the dying Chalmers’s desperation to redeem a life ill spent underscores the value of self-examination. Lightman is not suggesting that philosophers make better businessmen, only affirming that now as then the unexamined life is not worth living.

ECCENTRICS
Great business fictions remind us that in our efforts to define corporate values and to routinize work, we may ignore valuable eccentrics in our midst. Such a one is lgnatious Reilly, in John Kennedy Toole’s comic epic, A Confederacy of Dunces. Reilly’s contempt for conventional thought processes and behavior relegates him to the fringes of New Orleans society. Eventually hired as a filing assistant by Levy Pants, an ailing manufacturing concern, Reilly vows to set the company straight—his way. Forging the absentee owner’s name, he responds to a customer’s complaint about quality with a scathing rebuff that results in a pending lawsuit for slander. Pursuing his theory of social justice, he organizes a labor walkout. Predictably, lgnatious gets himself fired, but his outlandish actions ironically bring a measure of sanity and creativity to the very people he has antagonized.

By contrast, Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener concerns a self-effacing soul hired by a Wall Street lawyer to copy legal documents. Bartleby is at first decorous and diligent. But then one day the scrivener refuses the lawyer’s request to verify a document, saying quietly, “I’d prefer not to.” Soon afterward, to his boss’s mortification, Bartleby refuses on the same grounds to do any work at all. The lawyer, for reasons he cannot fathom, can’t bring himself to fire his perverse employee. To the contrary, he finds compassion gradually overriding anger and frustration as he is drawn to the forlorn Bartleby by “the bond of a common humanity.” Bartleby the Scrivener mocks conventional methods of “resolving conflict.” It is about profoundly human yet often inexplicable impulses to resist conformity to established workplace culture and routine.

Robert A. Brawer is the author of Fictions of Business: Insights on Management From Great Literature.

Back to main page

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thomas Harris, Hannibal Rising

Thomas Harris’ tragic character Hannibal Lecter was revealed in his youth form for the first time to the public eye when he bounced into our laps in the 2006 novel Hannibal Rising (2006), a novel which forces us to reflect on the true horrors of war, ponder to what effect karma actually has on our lives, and question the sugar-coated meaning of the word “love”, asking ourselves on the way how far humans would actually go for such a debatable, and under-defined emotion.

This early 21st century thriller novel follows the story of the grievous character Hannibal Lecter, afflicted forever by the horrors he experienced while in-hiding on the WWII war front. The story begins (as most thriller or horror novels do) with happy times at Lecter Castle, the castle that Hannibal’s father owns. Harris is not clear as to exactly where this story takes place in the beginning, but it is safe to assume that this is in Russia, because at the end of the first chapter he writes, “It was the second day of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s lightning sweep across the Eastern Europe into Russia.” (Harris p. 9).

After just a few paragraphs, readers see the happy times of the Lecter family begin to slowly dissolve as Harris writes, “The children felt three hard thumps in the ground and the water shivered, blurring their faces. The sound of distant explosions rolled across the fields. Hannibal grabbed up his sister and ran for the castle.” (Harris p. 6) After the Lecter family flees to their hideout, Hannibal’s parents fall dead and the shelter is taken over by looters, who soon run out of supplies and feast on Mischa. The cannibalism of Mischa little sister is a turning point in the story, because Hannibal cannot escape the images in his mind, the ones said to create who he is: “Mischa suspended in the air by her arms, twisting to look back at him.” (Harris p. 85). Lady Murasaki, Hannibal’s beautiful Aunt, is the one who propelled Hannibal’s killing spree, for as he grows fonder of her, he also grows more protective.

The book’s strengths may be numerous, but they are also debatable. Although this book was thrilling, fast paced, and kept the reader turning pages and wanting more, it only pertains to certain audiences, ones wanting something to ponder or an occasional chill on the back of their spine. But this book would not be recommended for someone searching for positive reading as this book always serves the question “How well do you know your loved ones, the ones closest to you?” This book is not a good choice for those looking for a piece of light reading. This book is a very good choice for those wishing to reflect, as we see prompts of thought pertaining to karma and love.

The novel makes us think about karma and revenge when paired together, and how it is a vicious cycle. Karma first appears in the book during the cannibalism of Mischa, as we see Hannibal later on hunting down the cannibals one by one. Another prompt is the book’s use on the word love, as the literary relationship between Hannibal and Lady Murasaki deepens. Hannibal’s feelings for Lady Murasaki are revealed little by little until after his liberation of her when he says, “I love you, Lady Murasaki.” (Harris p. 346). She responds by saying, “What is left in you to love?” (Harris p. 347) and then running from the cabin, disturbed after seeing Hannibal kill all the men on the ship. This scene holds for a discussion on the nature of love, and the reality of it. During the plot of the book, we see a sexual attraction forming between Hannibal and his Aunt, Lady Murasaki, but they react differently. As Hannibal fights for her and goes to all lengths to protect her, she fights against her feelings, not willing to give up her moral discipline for a relationship with the troubled nephew, seeing what he’s become. Sadly, they don’t know what kind of love their emotions fall under, or what love truly means, so they’ve confused it for their mere sexual attraction.

The book’s weaknesses fall under the author himself, Thomas Harris. Harris’ writing style tended to lack appeal, as somewhat awkward sentences, such as “Hitler’s lightning sweep across Eastern Europe into Russia.” (Harris p. 9) would break the flow. The author’s writing style is simplistic and straight to the point, and although this is not necessarily a negative thing, he lacked the charm of words needed to balance and pull off such a style. The final and most negative aspect of the novel is the blatant way that Harris breaks the original idea and characterization of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In an earlier novel, Harris stated that Hannibal has no official psychological condition, but this novel is full of moments which prove Hannibal to be psychologically unstable. In this book it is obvious that Hannibal is far above the average IQ when he solves calculus equations all before the age of 11, there is evidence of Hannibal’s mind not being psychologically connected to his body, there’s instances in which Hannibal shows skills of deceit such as the one where he fools a polygraph test by changing his stage of mind, and there’s many sections where Harris makes a reference to Hannibal controlling his heart rate. Harris has created the perfect outline for someone who is psychologically unstable. Harris still pulls out his old ideas of Hannibal having no known psychological condition, but just having a strong rage and temper, such as the scene after the polygraph test. Inspector Popil, a minor character in the novel, says to Hannibal after the test, “War crimes do not end with the war, Hannibal”, (Harris p.142) which gauges out his emotions of anger, forcing him to show a revealing tone of voice.

Although the author’s style was inevitably faulty, the book was fast paced and thought provoking, bringing out ideas and emotions those we never knew we had. With the fourth and most revealing piece literature involving this character, readers can be sure that the infamous and tragic character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter will be seared into our memories for years to come.
Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Garcia Marquez, Of Love and Other Demons

In this aptly titled novella, Of Love and Other Demons, Garcia Marquez demonstrates the evenness of his oeuvre, for it exhibits the same quality of his major work One Hundred Years of Solitude. I said it is aptly titled because readers get to experience first hand a repugnant type of love that still exists in contemporary civilizations: a demonized love.

Eros is missing; nowhere do we find it. Instead we experience the demonization of human love; that is a hatred of sexual attraction, approved and sanctioned by the Inquisition and the Catholic Church together with their rituals and insane exorcisms. The absurd customs transplanted into Latin America from the motherland Spain make one shudder about the unbriddled power that was concentrated in the Church.

While in the American Colonies--later to become the United States--the founding fathers wrote in the Constitution that titles of nobility were anathema, in Latin American, nobility thrived and there was no separation of church and state. The heroine, Sierva Maria, the only child of a noble family endures the brutal punishments that the powerful Catholic Church inflicted on eccentrics, mad, possessed, demented, and ravid alike.

In the able hands of Edith Grossman, the translator, we enjoy Garcia Marquez's prose as he weaves his story through fragmented time. Events unfold smoothly--in a no nonsense manner, galloping ahead of us--to fill our senses with the sacred and the profane, with heresies, pagan rites, and cruelties. The work is mesmerizing.

The secret of Garcia Marquez's galloping narrative lays in his sentence openers, in his predilection of Past participles followed by prepositions: guided by, lashed by, dazed by, conquered by, defeated by, etc.

In addition, we feel the juxtapositions of physical adjectives and verbs that qualify abstract nouns ("The city lay submerged in its centuries-long torpor" "simmering in rancor").

In this novella Garcia Marquez reaches new heights of simplicity. Nowhere do we find the rhetorical turns of One Hundred Years; nowhere do we see the magic realism, nor do we feel the irreverent tone. His prose is terse; more grammatical than rhetorical. I underlined passages that show his already famous technique of enumerations. Follow this description--more spiritual than physical--of Sierva Maria's father, the Marquis:

"In exhile he acquired his lugubrious appearance, cautions manner, contemplative nature, languid behavior, slow speech, and a mystic vocation that seemed to condemn him to a cloistered cell."

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's bestseller and indispensable writing manual:

www.write rivetingprose.com



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tags3

ebook writing
fantasy novel writing
fantasy writing
fiction writing
life story writing
manuscript writing
mystery writing
novel writing
novel writing-tips
online fiction writing
publishing writing
romance writing
romantic writing
science fiction writing
script writing
selling writing
the book on writing
tips for writing
tips on writing
travel writing
writing
writing and publishing
writing career
writing children's books
writing coaches
writing course
writing ebooks
writing fantasy fiction
writing magazine
writing nonfiction
writing novels
writing published
writing reviews
writing short-stories
writing short-story
writing story
writing teens
writing tips
writing workshops

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cervantes, Don Quijote


Cervantes' genius never ceases to amaze me. I will comment on two points that always catch my attention: First, his use of the literary device so called 'the frame;' and second, his use of antitheses.

By introducing the frame of a found manuscript , Cervantes quickly begs the reader for his suspension of disbelief to the fantastic, fabulous, wild stories, and events that will befall the last of the knight errants: Don Quijote of La Mancha.

According to Cervantes, the story isn't really a story (fiction) but a history of a Spanish hidalgo whose adventures are recorded in the annals of the region called La Mancha. The narrator is not a common storyteller like Scheherazade, raconteurs like Chaucer and Bocaccio, or interested witnesses like Nelly Dean and Mr. LockwoodWood who tell Heathcliff's story in Wuthering Heights. No.

The writer is an Arab historian named Cide Hamete Benengeli, of whom Cervantes has this to say:

"If any objection can be raised regarding the truth of this one, it can only be that its author was Arabic, since the people of that nation are very prone to telling falsehood, but because they are such great enemies of ours, it can be assumed that he has given us too little rather than too much."

Cervantes declared that his success as a writer was due in great part to his mastery of the use of anthithesis, a rhetorical figure that he uses throughout the long narrative. The translation by Edith Grossman is so far the best I have encountered. It is fresh and faithful--unsurpassed.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

Toolbox for Writers


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina



The central love story between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky is compelling and tragic. Anna and the Count have an affair, causing much talk in society. Due to the double standards of the time, while Vronsky may still hold his head high in society, Anna is forced to stay inside and hide her shame.

Anna turns to Vronsky─a dashing military man─as a refuge from her passionless marriage to a pompous, despotic bureaucrat--a move that results not only in the loss of her position in the world, but also in total social ostracism. A situation that fills her with self-doubt, and which ends up destroying her confidence.

A parallel plot follows the contrasting fortunes of Levin (Tolstoy's alter ego, with his deep love of the land) and Kitty, whose marriage thrives and prospers because of mutual commitment, sympathy, and respect. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy reaches deep into his own experiences and his observations of family and friends to create a picture of Russian society that reaches from the high life in St. Petersburg and Moscow to the idyllic rural existence of Kitty and Levin.


Tolstoy shows Anna Karenina as a young woman who finds herself in a loveless and hopeless marriage. But this fact might not have seemed so intolerable had she not met and fallen in love with Count Vronsky. But she did and the affair commenced. In contrast to Anna's tragic affair, we hear about the relationship between Kitty and Levin, a conjugal, idealized love match. Levin is first rejected by Kitty because she has her heart set on Count Vronsky whose affections are already taken by Anna Karenina. Brokenhearted, Kitty eventually turns back to Levin for love and marriage.

In the character of Anna, Tolstoy creates a woman fated for tragedy.


Anna falls in love blindly with Count Vronsky. Although she could well have continued the relationship in secret she defies the "rules," by having her affair in the public’s eye. For this she is forced to lose all contact with her son; she is shunned from proper society, and forced to pay the ultimate price.

The length of this novel might be overwhelming to many readers. But─in a work of art─it couldn’t be otherwise as each character had to be depicted in detail and each situation covered fully.

This book is rich in psychological insights as it gives you the feeling that is really about people. Their personalities are worked out so well that you can really feel their pain as well as their pleasure. At the beginning, I had the odd impression that all the characters were presented as good people, but later we see them for what they are: some good, others bad, and a few really repulsive.


We follow the eponymus heroine─loveless, unloved, a doomed pariah─to social ruin and ultimately to her death. Beneath the drama and the tragedy we find discussions of Russian politics and the introduction of some socialist ideas, topics which are interesting indeed─but inimical to the towering humanity of Anna Karenina.

The characterisations are dazzling and the prose superb, lyrical at times. Although the novel is long, the plot moves at a rapid pace. The sense of impending doom is palpable and in some passages it becomes almost unbearable. Tense. Tout like the strings of a violin. Tolstoy shows his understanding of the human heart in this masterpiece.

The story is undoubtedly one of the greatest of all times. Worth reading again and again. Re-read, or give a this book for Christmas--you'll be remembered for it. So, order a few copies and make your friends and relatives happy!

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

www.writerivetingprose.com



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

"Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station, his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart."
With these words Edith Wharton begins Lily and Selden’s tale of woe. Since 1905, the year of publication of The House of Mirth this tale has been the true depiction of the plight of the 19th century American women─women financially dependent and socially victimized

How things have changed in one hundred years! Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique started it all with her clarion call to identify "the problem that had no name." The problem still has no name, but the solution does: Feminism!

Today no longer do we find Lily Barts, but strong professional women such as Helen McCain, CEO. Or, Laura Standish─socialite of rich pedigree─but ambitious investment banker with an MBA and a law degree. Or, take Dr. Ann Norris, with a Ph.D in microbiology. These women who populate Marciano Guerrero’s novel The Poison Pill, are women who command respect; women who fight for what they want, be that wealth, recognition, or ownership.

All this in fictionl. In reality, a woman--Hillary Clinton--could become the next president of the United States.

While Edith Wharton chronicled Lily Bart’s frailty and dependency, Guerrero portrays tough professional and sure-footed women who are players in the rough and cut-throat business sector.

This is the “Republic of the spirit” that Lawrence Selden--the weak hero--spoke to Lily Bart about; something unreal then, but a reality today. A republic in which the spirit of the entrepreneurial women would flourish and compete with men. Although the august halls of Congress still sound with the tread of men, in due time that will change, too. And in the Executive side: a woman for president!

Any post-modern woman owes it to herself to read at least three books: House of Mirth, Feminine Mystique, and The Poison Pill.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

www.writerivetingprose.com



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum

What is noble in Gunter Grass is that his creation, The Tin Drum, has done more than anything else ever done by anyone else to advance peace and the creation of a freer and progressive Germany.

Also, it is hard to imagine magic realism without Grass’s prototype: Oskar Matzerath, the boy who willed himself to stop growing.

The influence that Grass had on Rushdie, Borges, Garcia Marquez, Calvino, Vonnegut, and other literary novelists is undeniable. But what makes The Tin Drum a book for all the ages to come is the sheer depiction of the terror that pernicious ideologies can acid-rain on humankind--pernicious ideologies, be they political, economic, social, or religious: to wit: radical Jihadist Islamists, Christian Evangelicals, Neo-Conservatives, Supply-side fundamentalists, or war mongers such as Norman Podhoretz.

Take a second and compare just one page--yes one page alone--of the Tin Drum to all the warmongering books written by Podhoretz, and ask yourself: which is more noble?

While Garcia Marquez tricks us with transcendental magic (Remedios the Beauty levitating to the heavens), or Borges with the Aleph, or Rushdie with his implausible children, Gunter Grass convinces that the other dimension is within us in full benign splendor as well as in evil darkness.

Apart from its contribution as an anti-novel with a quirky anti-hero, Grass managed to make clear that the arts (works of the imagination, but music in particular) will not only counterbalance power but also disrupt it, outweigh it, and ultimately outlast it; a legacy that is soothing to the soul.

If critics and warmongers want to shout out Gunter Grass's voice, they should begin by asking themselves: have I lived a noble life? Is my work good or evil?

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

www.writerivetingprose.com



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anthony Trollope, Autobiography

This is wonderful book, to own, to treasure, to read and re-read for a lifetime!

Trollope's Autobiography is a perennial source of wisdom--besides being inspirational--to writers, but in particular to fiction writers. The book in general is an ABC of perfect, round sentences, and sentence variation, which of course makes for agile prose.

However, personally, I find three chapters that are unsurpassed in English letters: Chapter VII which contains his 'Scheme of Work;' Chapter X on plots, and the homage to Thackeray; and Chapter XII On Novels and the Art of Writing them.

Chapter VII is the most poignant as it shows how this humble man wrote so much--and all of excellent quality--by sheer determination. And let's keep in mind that he accomplished all that inmense literary output while holding a full time job with the Post Office.

Trollope discovered that "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules." And never did he deviate from his alloted daily writing. This quotation is taped on top of my computer to remind me to do my own "small daily task," faithfully.

Although I love all his novels,this is the book--An Autobiography--I would save from an all consuming holocaust. No writer's library should be without it--order it now.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

www.writerivetingprose.com



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

Monday, November 26, 2007

R L Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Up and down, wide and narrow, love and hatred, are a few examples of the dualities we observe in physical nature as well as in human nature. From Heraclitus to Hegel to Derrida, philosophers have used these categories—dichotomies, contraries, antitheses; and from Structuralism onward, binary oppositions—as a way of knowing. Although thinkers like Hegel and Karl Marx attempted to shatter this established way of knowing with their thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, they did not get very far.

Robert Louis Stevenson in his novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde explores the duality of good and evil in us—human mortals

The writing is nervous and quirky, much apropos its theme; yet, exquisite. But what drew my attention, in this re-read, was Stevenson’s use of the “d” sound—throughout the book—to stir repulsion and revulsion.
Something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet, I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhat.

And later he continues to pepper his prose with: dwarfish, disgust, troglodytic, decay, idol, diabolical, and divine. The author must have discovered that humans develop a visceral reaction to specific “d” sounds, but more than anything else to the odor of: danger, demise, demons, and death.

Masters of phonology channel the readers' emotions by the timely and precise use of specific sounds. Related sounds of disgust are "ch" words: Butch, bitch, scratch, croch, roach, and so on.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's indispensable writing manual:

www.writerivetingprose.com



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page