So, things are different now and we don't do the TV gabfest around here so much, but I feel the need to create a spoilery haven for discussion of the movie (which we just watched on Amazon streaming, and I will probably watch again later!), if people want to.
Ye olde Veronica Mars Talk returns.
Let me know what you thought in the comments, if you're so inclined.
|Carl Perkins and band entertain the young 'uns|
Yesterday morning I tweeted a handful of insomnia-fueled things related to some discussions that have been floating around in the ether this week:
My Heinlein policy: Whenever someone at a con opines to me wistfully about 'the juveniles,' I go straight to the bar and have a drink.— Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) March 12, 2014
Never let anyone make you feel bad about your reading history. If *you* feel there's a gap or are interested, read it. If not, don't.— Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) March 12, 2014
Last thought (must shower!): our reading does help define who we are so attempts to police = another fake geek/keep-out argument. Which, no.— Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) March 12, 2014
But then I realized I wanted to unpack some of this a little more and make an auxiliary point or two, as you do. So rambly post, it is.
After I made these tweets, I skimmed the post that touched off this latest round of discussion about Heinlein and whether someone has to read the SF classic canon to be a fan of the genre or a contributing member of the field, and also went and read Scalzi's reaction to it (which I very much agree with).
Even having been around the field as long as I have, I don't really feel like I understand fandom very well, so I'm not going to talk about that much.
What I mainly want to do is throw out a few ideas about reading.
So, first tweet, my Heinlein policy: I'm only half-joking here. Ask most YA authors or professionals who've attended SFF conventions and they'll confirm that at most of them, whether it be chatting in a hallway or on a panel, someone will ask you about the Heinlein juveniles or express their regret that they don't make books like that anymore and this new-fangled YA stuff has just taken over or tell you about what they want the next trend to be (note: Heinlein-y stuff!*).
It does get tiresome--especially because YA science fiction and fantasy has been in the midst of a new golden age for more than a decade, as far as I'm concerned, and if people want to write it (as many of the people who say the stuff above do), then they should be reading current YA. Which isn't to say you can't read old stuff or classic works can't inform us now. They absolutely can. But to assume that the progression of excellent fiction and exciting worlds and ideas and work stopped decades ago, when you were a kid reading the stuff, well... I just have to go to the bar. Be right back.
Also, you all know one of the things I hate most is when people have Strong Opinions about a genre or subgenre or type of book and have read zero to a number of examples that can be counted on one hand of that genre or subgenre or type of book and decided that they then understand the entirety of offerings under the umbrella. (Extra hate if they're writing about it in the Wall Street Journal or similar and pearl-clutching about the children, the children.)
Being really well-read in one genre or in all sorts of genres is a beautiful thing. Most of my favorite people on earth are. But to the second point I made yesterday morning, I have zero patience for reader shaming or for making people feel lesser or unwelcome or clueless because they haven't read the same things you have from some inevitably problematic canon checklist.
For kicks, here's a little excerpt of some thoughts I posted about my issues with The Canon as a thing at the Nervous Breakdown several years ago during a censorship controversy:
I don’t want to lay all this at the foot of The Canon, certainly not. But, hear me out, I do think that the elitist desire to rank fiction–when the rankers always, always have an agenda, be it a clear-cut one or not–ends up contributing to certain crazy ideas people hold about literature, especially people who don’t get out enough. And by get out enough, I mean who don’t read contemporary fiction, because it hasn’t been stamped by the mighty passage of time. Do I believe that history sorts out good books from the pack? Sometimes. Do I believe excellent fiction gets swallowed up as the years pass? Sure. Do I believe that the only healthy approach to reading involves throwing some newer stuff into the mix? With all my brain.
(Always nice when you still agree with yourself after time goes by.)
And yet, despite that, I'm actually not bugged by the Heinlein juvenile rhapsodizers not being current on modern YA--if it's not their thing, it's not their thing. What I'm bugged by is the casual dismissal of a body of work they're not familiar with, a determined averting of the eyes from it with their explicit or implicit insistence that the old classics are somehow innately better than books they haven't read.
Back to what I said yesterday morning: Never feel bad about your reading history--it's yours. And we're all still living our reading lives, which means if you encounter a blind spot and are interested in filling it in or giving something new a try, then you can do that.
I certainly have. When I decided to go to Vermont, one of the major reasons was because I didn't feel like I had enough context to fully understand children's literature and YA. Sure, I'd read plenty of current YA and I was writing it. But I hadn't read many of the classics of that field and I wanted a better grounding. My very first residency had a survey course, for which I read something like 70 books ranging from picture books to middle grade to YA, both older and newer, and then for the next two years, I read along that spectrum nonstop.
I like sinking into a new genre's worth of reading, picking up techniques and an idea of how different fields and genres and subgenres have evolved and continue to. But I absolutely don't expect everyone else to do this. I love recommending books, but I'm never offended if people pass on the recommendations.
If there's something you aren't interested in or haven't been interested in yet--or that you tried and didn't like--hey, fine. Your reading life is your own.
Re: point the third that our reading helps define who we are. I think we all know this, right? Books become a part of us. Everything we read enough of or react to strongly does. A reader is a person books are important to.
And so attempts to claim people don't belong or have the right frame of reference if they haven't read this or that is basically a complaint that people are trying to come to your party who aren't exactly like you. It does strike me as a variation on the "fake geek" argument, an attempt to put a sign on the old clubhouse that says No Admittance, not getting into this party without the stamp of approval.
But isn't it a way more fun party if new people show up, people who don't care whether you approve of them or not?
Which brings me to the real reason I wanted to do a post, because there's something I didn't touch on that I think is important.
While your reading history--past, present, and future--is your own, I do recommend giving some periodic thought to it. If, for instance, when asked to come up with a list of your ten favorite books every one of them is, say, written by a man or there are no authors of color included, then you might want to notice that and think about why it might be. Same if the last ten books you read can be described that way. But your reading is your own, ultimately, and while I suspect it would be richer if you got out more and mixed things up (and while such lists make me crazy), if it's a list of favorites, then your favorites are your favorites.
The problem comes when that list somehow gets mentally shifted from a personal favorites list--a this-is-what-I-like-best--to an empirical** best list--a this-is-the-highest-quality-example-of-b
When people point that kind of omission out or the attitudes that lead to it, that is not policing reading. That's inviting more people to the party.
*Nothing necessarily wrong with that, just no vacuum-sealed, as if it was gently lifted from a time-capsule stuff, please.
**Same problem as canon. Reasonable people can try to agree, but there will always be issues.
|Raquel Welch on Cross|
Publicity Still for 'One Million Years BC'
Photographer: Terry O'Neil
I'll be on a writing retreat for the next three days and therefore won't be on-line again until Monday -- so I'm throwing the conversation here at Myth & Moor over to you, with a question:
In Dani Shapiro's lovely book Still Writing, she speaks about the value of developing a writing rhythm that includes periodic breaks in order to give the mind a chance to ponder creative problems in an unstructured way. (She calls this "ritualized dreaming.") For previous generations of writers, this often took the form of cigarette breaks -- but almost anything else will do: going for a walk, making a cup of tea, etc., etc. Anything, that is, besides the Internet -- which Shapiro calls "crack cocaine for writers."
"This," she says, "may be the most important piece of advice I can give you. The Internet is nothing like a cigarette break. If anything, it's the opposite. One of the most difficult practical challenges facing writers in this age of connectivity is the fact that the very instrument on which most of us write is also a portal to the outside world. I once heard Ron Carlson say that composing on a computer was like writing in an amusement park. Stuck for a nanosecond? Why feel it? With a single click of the key we can remove ourselves and take a ride on a log fume instead.
"By the time we return to our work -- if indeed, we return to our work at all -- we will be further away from our deepest impulses rather than closer to them. Where were we? Oh yes. We were stuck. We were feeling uncomfortable and lost. And how are we now? More stuck. More uncomfortable and lost. Our thoughts have not drifted [in order to uncover a solution to whatever problem is at hand] but, rather, have ricocheted from one bright and shiny thing to another."
Zadie Smith agrees. Number 7 on her list of writers' "dos and don'ts" (in the Guardian article linked to yesterday) states in no uncertain terms: "Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet."
Almost every writer I know wrestles with this. The Internet is a wonderful tool for fostering community among creative folks, promoting one's work, and engaging with readers. It's an equally wonderful tool, alas, for procrastination and "feeling busy" while never actually writing. Some writers (artists, etc.) eschew the Internet altogether, or have Internet-free spaces for creative work, or use Internet-blocking tools like Freedom or Anti-Social...others are on-line practically 24/7 and have created careers that rest on constant enagement with their fans...so there's a wide variety of approaches to this issue; and, obviously, the only one that is "correct" is the one that works for you.
But it's clearly a thorny issue, for I don't personally know very many writers who feel like they've gotten their on-line/off-line balance exactly right; and I admit that it's an issue I occasionally wrestle with myself. When I get the balance right, then this blog and other forms of social media add a rich dimension to my creative work, supporting the writing, editing, and painting I do off-line. But it's all too easy to tip that precarious balance over...and when that happens, spending time on-line can leave me feeling drained and jangled, not invigorated and inspired.
Real life, for me, takes place outdoors, at home, and within my local community. I want my art to reflect these thing; and my Internet use to support these things (as well as engagement with the larger, worldwide community of folks who make and love Mythic Arts); but neither art nor life-online is intended to replace these things altogether.
I'm genuinely curious about how the rest of you engage with the Internet, how it effects your work, and whether you control your on-line time in any specific way. And yes, it's ironic that I'm asking this question while engaging with you all through cyberspace.
The Internet is both a blessing and a curse...but the aim, for me, is to keep this powerful communication tool in the blessing column just as much as possible. Achieving that goal is a work in progress, constantly re-evaluated and adjusted. What about you? What works, or doesn't work, for you? I look forward to reading your comments when I return.
The Pre-Internet, writing-related photographs above: Woman Writing by Louis Edward Nollau, 1936; an old typewriter; Suffragette (The National Woman's Party), 1919, by Harris & Ewing; Edwardian Woman Writing by Cochrane, exact date unknown; and Women at a Paris Cafe, 1952, photographer unknown;
|Movie Director: Russ Meyer|
Means: Actor John Lazar, with false breasts by John Chambers
Production: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
'There was a kind of record man,' Wexler has said in what might almost serve as an idealized self- portrait,'that was the complete record man, a Renaissance man if you will, who did the whole thing. First, he had the brass to imagine that he could do it, that he could find somebody who would spend a dollar, a good hard - earned American dollar, for his phonograph record. Then he had to find an artist, find a song, con the artist into coming into his studio, coax him into singing the song, pull the record out of him, press the record;then take that record and go to the disc jockeys and con them into putting it on the radio, then go to the distributors and beg them to take a box of twenty - five and try it out . That's the kind of experience that very few people get anymore.'
(from Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick)
On Thursday, I listed Jane Kenyon's instructions to herself for writing (via a quote from Dani Shapiro) -- which reminded me of an article in The Guardian a few years back in which contemporary authors were asked to list ten "dos and don'ts" for writing fiction (inspired by Elmore Leonard's "Ten Rules for Writing," originally published in The New York Times in 2001).
The writers polled included Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, Andrew Motion, Michael Moorcock, and Philip Pullman...an interestingly wide-ranging list. The variety and contradictory nature of their "rules" makes it clear how individual such things are...and yet the lists make for fascinasting reading, and contain a few gems of advice.
My own personal favorite is Neil Gaiman's list, which is limited to eight:
2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
3. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you've never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
5. Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
7. Laugh at your own jokes.
8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
Helen Simpson is more succinct:
"The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying "Faire et se taire" (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as 'Shut up and get on with it.' "
If you were asked to list your own ten "dos and don'ts" for writing or other creative work, what would they be?
Or, if you're a rebellious soul put off by the notion of "rules" altogether, then what are some pieces of advice you wish someone had given to you when you were younger...things you've gleaned over the years of working in the arts and/or living a creative life?
Barbara Bel Geddes in Blood on the Moon (Robert Wise; 1948)
This week, three fine singers from Scandinavia:
Above, "Words," by the great Ane Brun. Brun was raised in a musical family in Molde, Norway, and is now based in Stockholm, Sweden. This song comes from her sixth CD, It All Starts With One (2011).
Below, Brun sings "Off the Road" with Anna Ternheim, a young singer/songwriter from Stockholm who now lives in New York City. The song was recorded for Ternheim's fourth CD, Leaving on a Mayday (2008).
"The Curse," by Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel, from her beautiful new album, Aventine (2013). Obel was raised in Copenhagen and now lives in Berlin.
The cast for episode #5
Joseph Garza Medina
John Calvin Story