Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 Books You Probably Haven't Read

Every so often, you happen across a book that is not The Help or The Hunger Games. By which I mean, a book that, despite being kind of wonderful, no one you know is talking about. Below are some books I've read that fall into this quiet little category.

Why you should read this: It's a wonderfully quirky peek at the poor "serfs" who worked at the Microsoft campus in the early 1990s. The story is presented as a series of diary entries on a PowerBook... sound familiar, fellow bloggers?

Why you should read this: Language. Language. Language. Probably some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read.

Why you should read this: Simply put, this book is a masterpiece. There's a reason it won the Pulitzer.

Why you should read this: Because it's Joan Didion. The memoir is an insightful mix of Didion's personal history with that of the great state of California's.

Why you should read this: Because it's the only book I've read that is told from a second-person narration (other than Choose-Your-Adventure). The perspective fully engages you in the story - you are the protagonist, after all. It's delightful.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Moral of the Story

When you write, do you try to tell a story, or teach a lesson? Is it possible to do both?

There is a passage in Ian McEwan's Atonement, where young Briony, an aspiring author herself, contemplates this question. She concludes: "There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have."

But here's the rub: When you create fictional characters in a fictional world, is this in any way a true representation or different minds in the real world? The more I study fiction writing, the more I realize that fictional characters aren't supposed to act like real people. In fact, in Scene and Structure, Jack Bickham states that "fiction must make more sense than real life," and that involves creating characters who, to some extent, make sense also.

But do people make sense? Kant wrote that "We can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action." In The Social Animal, David Brooks describes our attempt to define our character in life as virtually impossible. Instead, life is a series of fragmented events, where we are sometimes motivated by ambition, money, etc., and sometimes not. We wear different masks, but is there a true self beneath these masks?

Sebastian Faulks wrote "Books explain the real world." Do they? Or do they just explain the world we'd like to believe in?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thank you for being a friend...

So, the wonderful Angie Cothran of Live to Write generously granted me The Liebster Award. Angie is among the many talented writers I have met in the past few months. Her posts are always thoughtful, informational, and worth the read. If you haven't visited her blog yet, check it out. Now....

I've kind of been absent from the blogosphere the past few days, and many of the people who I had wanted to share this award with have already received it. Even though the Liebster Award train has already left the station, I still wanted to share the love and highlight some of the blogs I've encountered:

Curtis Moser is hilarious and an exceptional writer. I know, because he let me read the manuscript of his latest novel and it was wonderful. Also, he recently made a collection of short stories available on Kindle. For more info, check out his blog.

Shelly Brown - oh, wait. I don't need to tell you about her. She is fast becoming one of the most popular bloggers on the planet. But I need to give her a shout out, because she has been so supportive of me, and reading her posts always makes me smile.

Girl Wizard - Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I have access to the mind of one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, creative people on this planet. I luckily stumbled across her blog one day, and I am so glad that I did. If you haven't had the chance to get to know her, check her blog out. It will knock your socks off.

Hektor Karl is another virtual acquaintance that I've been happy to make. If you're up for reading something that will test you're brain capacity, read his blog. And, as an added bonus, there's always plenty of engaging dialogue going on in the comments.