Monday, June 27, 2011

Benjamin, do you want me to seduce you?

I am currently wrapping up reading Charles Webb's The Graduate, published in 1963. It was a free Kindle read---so I figured, what they heck? But reading it, I was struck by how closely the film followed the book. I mean almost line by line and quote by quote. It's impossible to read the line: "Benjamin, is that what you want? Do you want me to seduce you?" without hearing Anne Bancroft's growly cougar voice.

Of course, Webb's writing is so sparse, it could have served as a script. So sparse that one wondered how it got published---this is Heminway sparse, with little to no description. And perhaps its sparsity is part of its brilliance. The novel's humor isn't slowed in any way...instead there is satiric setup and delivery with the commentary coming in the white spaces.

Webb is an interesting individual, and an author who never really capitalized on a chance to make it big in the literary world. While most people have read seen the film, relatively few who enjoyed that experience read the supposedly semi-autobiographical novel. Not that The Graduate wasn't a best seller in 1963, but it could have opened so many doors to the eccentric Mr. Webb, who has written several other novels.

In 2006, Mr.Webb wrote the sequel to The Graduate. The book, which many approached skeptically, detailed life for Benjamin and Elaine Braddock some twenty years after the end of the first novel. According to the description for Homeschool, the story once again involves Mrs. Robinson, who moves in with the couple in their upstate New York abode after the death of Mr. Robinson. She digs in and the couple contrive to drive her out by bringing in a counter-culture family of homeschoolers. Admittedly the premise sounds weak; it probably wouldn't have passed as a pilot on Fox, but many who have read the book have given it mild acceptance.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Once More Unto The Breach

A few people have asked whether The Ravening will see a sequel, and what else I might be working on. Well, I have a short story or two which should see publication, but I will hold off talking about those, except to say that they are in the Lovecraftian arena; however, yes, there will be a sequel to The Ravening. The working title is Zagreus Rising, Book Two of The Ravening. 

Besides Zagreus Rising, which I promise takes the story in unexpected directions, I'm wrapping up The Breach with Christine Purcell.
The Breach is steampunk. For those of you who might not follow this subgenre of fantasy and science fiction, I'll just say it takes place in early Victorian England. And while I'm not spilling much about the plot at this time, anything with airships fashioned after designs by Leonardo DaVinci, and featuring the lost tomb of Alexander The Great and the manipulation of realities, can't be all bad! Hopefully, this is the first of the adventures of the irresponsible if not charming Peter Styles, and the brilliant and courageous Ember Quatermain.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What is Story?

One writer said: "Story is about character development, it's about the connection between the reader and the protagonist." Another author said, "It's about what happens." Yet another said, "it's the connection between author and reader."

And all are right.

I recently wrote about story when putting together an introductory unit for a class I am constructing with Joe Ponepinto on creative writing. As I started constructing the introductory material, I stopped and considered what a nebulous term it was.

Everyone story , intuitively, but when it comes to defining the term the responses are often amazingly varied. And yet within the different answers is the heart of the definition.

To put it simply, "story is the aggregate of plot, character development, theme, and setting." Rather a sterile description. However, it helps us understand the phrase "that was a bad story." For usually when the statement is elaborated upon, we hear that the reason the story was bad was because the author failed in developing character or the plot was poorly constructed. Or perhaps the parts simply failed to gel as a whole.

And yet, the idea of story in terms of elements of writing still doesn't do the concept justice. Rather, one needs to go back to the most elemental basis of story, the idea of the communication of culture and knowledge between generations and the critical fulfillment of a need for the writer to connect and to share with an audience on an primitive level. This is the essence of story. It is the force that captured the hunter who held sway around a campfire before there was written word. It is the force that guided the hand of the artist who painted his emotions and ideas on the wall of a cave.

Story is our shared identity, and without it, we are lost.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: AREA 51

Summer's here.
Need something interesting to read? I did..and so I picked up a copy of Annie Jacobsen's Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base. This fascinating book gives us a new look at one of the favorite subjects of conspiracy theorists. Furthermore, it's a peek back at the Cold War mentality that so gripped this country during the forties, fifties, and sixties- a time when the American psyche was balanced between hope and desperation, between innocence and snarky awareness. This era, often distorted through romanticization (is that even a word?) and a need to reshape history for various reasons related to ideology and political correctness, is a complex and compelling time to study. And while Ms. Jacobsen doesn't set out to examine culture, her book nonetheless gives insights to that time and adds another piece to the puzzle.
So what's in Area 51? Annie Jacobsen's researched the topic, pouring through declassified material and interviewing employees who were once sworn to secrecy.. Her writing is convincing and ultimately the secrets revealed are what you would expect them to be. Area 51 was a site used for developing new weapons systems. Here scientists and the military worked on all manner of stealth technology and delivery systems.

The book is a quick read, and compelling. And of course, Jacobsen throws a few curves through the narrative, such as when she dishes speculation about what was recovered at Roswell. I won't spill the  beans on that one, but if you want more check out the videos below (all from, specifically the third video.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Musical Interlude

I posted this some five years ago and stumbled upon it again while browsing through the archives. This is a priceless bit of musical video...enjoy

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Forgetting To Remember

Is it my age that makes me worry about memory loss, or cell phone radiation? That being said, after recently procuring a copy of Moonwalking With Einstein, a pretty interesting tale of an author who covered a memory competition and ended up training for one himself, I decided to do something about my own difficulties with memories, namely my inability to remember numbers.

I'm in awe of people able to hear a phone number and tuck it away for immediate recall. Me? I have six seconds to write it down or my eyeballs bleed. I might decide to use one of the methods in the book, but more immediately, I will probably embark on an experiment with what is called the "Consonant System Mnemonic." It's also called The Major Memory System.

Essentially, you assign sounds to numbers and then make up words to recall them, and with large numbers the words can become a sentence or a larger picture. If you're interested, there's a great explanation of how to achieve this on the website .

I will be experimenting with this system and report back on my progress if I can remember to do so.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Writing Darkly

Must...survive...two more weeks...till end of school....

Okay, with that out of my system, I must say it's been a long year. God bless summer, and god bless the hours ahead devoted to writing.

And may I indulge in a bit of self promotion? Of course I may.

I've been experimenting with a blogging system called SCOOP IT. It's been fun,and it makes blogging easy. You steal from other people. Okay, you don't steal, but instead you promote other people's writing in your own format.

Anyway, I would love for you to check on my site: WRITING DARKLY, and let me know what you think. Check in regularly, and I'll see what I can do to keep things interesting on there. Also, I feel free to check in on my twitter account some time.