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Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Wallet posted:

One of the things that really blew my mind taking literature courses in college was that the same preoccupations that high school English teachers have with cataloguing the features of literature instead of actually analysing how they work and what they accomplish persists into higher education.

There were a few delightful exceptions, but even at a university with a solid English department I feel confident that three quarters of the professors would feed you some nonsense about "the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man in literature" if you asked them why it's worth studying.

Indeedy. It's doubly insane now. Like, there are always going to be high school English teachers, but the outlook for college literature programs is dim at best. You'd think that, with the future of the profession on the line, people would be lining up to give, like, detailed and articulate explanations for what students are supposed to learn by reading Moby Dick.

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Toph Bei Fong
Feb 29, 2008

You can't see me at all...



Eugene V. Dubstep posted:

This is basically right but can we at least be clear that, crude humor notwithstanding, Ulysses is a formally difficult novel. You're not likely to pick it up for the first time and understand what's going on, and for that matter the plot isn't even the reason the book is so widely admired and studied. Literature professors are positioned well to guide students to an understanding of it that they would never achieve without a much broader and more involved independent reading of the whole canon before Joyce, not to mention Irish history.

Same goes for GR.

Absolutely, and that formal difficulty is definitely part of the point of the book. See here for what Ulysses looks like not written well.

But at the same time, when put "I like fart jokes written with difficult words and complex sentence structure", it's easy to see why one could get defensive about one's enjoyment of that. Some people are going to find that fun, while others find it tedious, and no amount of convincing is going to make a piece of art beyond criticism.

And I think that can lead into an interesting discussion about form vs content, and whether a book/movie/play/whatever that can be enjoyed just as much by reading the plot summary on Wikipedia is as good as one where the words/images/dialogue/whatever are necessary and the point.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Toph Bei Fong posted:

Richard Rorty, a famed American philosopher, spoke about this in an essay called Trotsky and the Wild Orchids. Growing up in a Marxist household, he was constantly wracked with guilt over his enjoyment of studying and looking at wild flowers.


He eventually comes to the conclusion that flowers and Marxism have nothing to do with one another, and that this is okay. One can enjoy something without tying it to a particular ideology.

I'd never read this before.* Just another reason to like Rorty.


* Or don't remember having read it. The "read it but don't remember having read it" bucket is pretty big and pretty full.

Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science



Brainworm posted:

Indeedy. It's doubly insane now. Like, there are always going to be high school English teachers, but the outlook for college literature programs is dim at best. You'd think that, with the future of the profession on the line, people would be lining up to give, like, detailed and articulate explanations for what students are supposed to learn by reading Moby Dick.
So, you kinda ducked the implied question. Want to take a stab at it? I'm curious as to what you would consider the main take-aways a college student should take away from a literature course. Especially a non-LibArts student.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




TBH as a university early modern lit guy (John Donne today!) I perpetually struggle with coming up with a grand unified statement for "why we do this," though I can offer lots of smaller examples of benefits of doing the things that we do. Most of these orbit understanding representation as a concept and practice - to be able to read a text, to understand the abstract ideas in it, to identify how the text communicates those ideas, and then to be able to explain that process to someone else is a useful and transferrable skill.

Lots of the English class vocabulary - one particularly crunchy one that came up recently a discussion was trochaic inversion - is just there to help communicate that process. The problem is that a term like "trochaic inversion" is simply descriptive, and it doesn't have any inherent significance beyond giving someone a term for describing wtih precision how a poem's rhythm changes. It's not like (e.g.) Spenser "does" a trochaic inversion to "signify disorder" or something, but it's worth noting that stanzas with disorderly/chaotic content more often have trochaic inversions....

Sometimes I feel like an odd combination of translator and history teacher too, as if my role is often just to make sure that the students get through the text (and its often alien language), understand the basics of its content and context, and then have a glimpse of just how much is going on beyond the obvious that contributes to the whole of the text.

idk I often get self-conscious about discussing these questions because it sets off my impostor syndrome circuits. I'm sure I'm not alone in that anxiety.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Dik Hz posted:

So, you kinda ducked the implied question. Want to take a stab at it? I'm curious as to what you would consider the main take-aways a college student should take away from a literature course. Especially a non-LibArts student.

Sure. There are two big reasons to study lit. Which reason matters more to you depends on what you want.

You Want to Write Stories. Storytelling is a big business, and it's also fiercely competitive. Despite some of the party lines you might have heard about writing stories -- "be authentic" or "art comes from within" -- the plain fact is that storytelling is technically complicated, and you need to understand much of that technique if you mean to do it well. Nobody would ever tell you to "look in your heart" to build a cabinet or program a computer.

So if storytelling is what you want to do for a living, great. Study lit., learn your technique, practice your writing, and take your shot.

Also: it's OK to do something -- and even to study how to do it well -- even if you've not spectacular at it, and even if it's not going to make you a living. Like, you can have a Twitch stream, or play the guitar, or play baseball, or write stories even if nobody pays you (or pays you very much) to do it. If you want to learn something about the technique of writing, well, a good English program is the place -- the same way that College is the place to learn how to play football the way the Pros do.

You Want to Understand Art. Life is complicated, and art helps people make sense of it in ways that are emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually resonant. The big truth behind literature, or at least behind stories, is that we have to change in order to get what we want. Every novel, play, or short story you'll read in any English class is built around that basic observation, and -- like most big truth -- we don't just magically benefit from knowing it in the abstract. Instead, you work with that truth until you find some version of it that resonates with you. Even better: you find some story that tells that truth in ways that become more deeply meaningful as you learn and grow.

I has a boss -- a guy named (no poo poo) Rob Terwilliger -- who said "the only things that will ever change you are the people you associate with and the books you read." Like, he owned a Kirby distributorship and was otherwise a man of limited wisdom, but on that point he was absolutely correct.

A variant of this is "I like to read and I want to learn how to do it better." Totally, totally valid. If you're joining the College baseball team to learn how to be a better shortstop, you can sign up for a class that will help you learn whatever you need to know to get something out of Shakespeare. Likewise, you're missing out on a lot if you like poetry but don't know how to make sense of John Donne.

TL;DR: Art can make your life better, but you've got to meet it halfway.

There are other reasons to study literature, too, but they're familiar territory: reading stories and poems is one way to understand the diversity of human experience. Like, if you read fifty poems about New York (like Teasdale's "Broadway" and McKay's "Tropics"), you're going to understand something about how every writer's experience is different from everybody else's. You're also going to be more comfortable with the language that people use to describe how they think and feel.

Also, you'll learn some technical skills (like writing clear prose, navigating a library, managing a publication, and doing basic research) that are professionally useful if you're gonna be a lawyer, librarian, editor, teacher, etc.

Finally: the world needs critics. I don't mean people who tell you what's good or bad. I mean people who can help others understand the history of literature (or cars, or programming languages, or shoe styles), and tell e.g. which innovations ended up mattering and which ones didn't. The world doesn't need tons of these people, but there's always some demand for good ones.

litany of gulps
Jun 11, 2001



Fun Shoe

Wallet posted:

One of the things that really blew my mind taking literature courses in college was that the same preoccupations that high school English teachers have with cataloguing the features of literature instead of actually analysing how they work and what they accomplish persists into higher education.

Speaking as one of those teachers, I think I can at least provide some insight into some of the reasons behind this.

Poorly written curriculum can promote this kind of teaching. Take, for example, on page 5 of the curriculum document below - the language of the poetry analysis skill (or any of them, really, from the 2009 curriculum, page 6 is full of similar examples). While it does say that you should teach the student to analyze the effects of the listed literary features, the emphasis of the phrasing is on the literary features rather than the analysis. Now assume your boss isn't someone with a literature background. If they're evaluating your performance, they want to see kids talking and writing about controlling images, figurative language, irony, etc. That's what the curriculum says, right? The revised 2017 curriculum more clearly emphasizes what actually matters - the effect or purpose that the author was trying to achieve, rather than the vehicle that they used to achieve it.

https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/English%20I%20Side-by-Side_2009_Mar%202020.pdf

You can even see this in more advanced courses. The AP English course skills were recently revised to more clearly emphasize effect and purpose and theme over literary feature or device, but the older AP exams were often testing you as much on whether or not you can identify a poetic form or whether you know a bit of jargon, not your ability to say something insightful about a poem or piece of literature.

This stuff wasn't necessarily coming from your English teacher being a myopic idiot (well...). The system imposed or still imposes a bizarre emphasis through curriculum, evaluation, and testing that pushes teachers to prioritize features that largely miss the point of the practice.

mariooncrack
Dec 27, 2008


Brainworm, your words about Moby Dick reminded me of this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afWLwPZZv2w#t=23s

I've been looking for things to read and I think you've inspired me to go read some classics like Moby Dick or the Scarlet Letter.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

litany of gulps posted:

Speaking as one of those teachers, I think I can at least provide some insight into some of the reasons behind this.

[...]

This is awesome. Textbook case of "you get what you measure."

So I do this thing, right? Whenever I'm writing, any problem I write about -- dim LEDs, nonsense curricula, budget deficits -- it automatically happens because there's some group of people who are too stupid or lazy to think The Right Way.

And I should know better. I have about a thousand former students teaching High School and they constantly run up against well-intentioned policy like this. The obvious things about it are totally true:

(a) you need to measure student improvement,
(b) the things that are easiest to measure are rarely the most important, and
(c) it's hard -- sometimes impossible -- to justify anything other than the cheapest, quickest assessment process.

College assessment runs into this constantly. The only saving grace is that accreditors are too disorganized to insist that any group of colleges standardize on the same flawed process.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


On a writing forum I often encounter the sentiment that there are no new ideas in fiction, that in thousands of years of human existence all possible stories have already already been imagined, told, and written. It's usually accompanied by a pithy quoting of Ecclesiastes. People will say things along the lines of, for example:

quote:

Kubrick's Space Odyssey? Yeah, creative and fresh - except for HAL is pretty much a modern take on the old Jewish golem rebelling against its creators. Or Dune, which is an amalgam of countless myths, historical references and clever philosophical nods.

Shakespeare didn't come up with anything new when writing King Lear or Hamlet. Those stories had already been told somewhere else by someone else - except for we never knew about them. Maybe that proto-Shakespeare was a Mayan poet whose works got forgotten during the Conquista. Maybe he was an Indian scribe who never managed to get his stuff published before he got executed by his raja for fraud.

I don't know what to make of this sort of belief. My instincts strongly rebel against it. Would you concur with it?

FPyat fucked around with this message at 10:20 on Feb 27, 2021

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

FPyat posted:

On a writing forum I often encounter the sentiment that there are no new ideas in fiction, that in thousands of years of human existence all possible stories have already already been imagined, told, and written. [...]

I don't know what to make of this sort of belief. My instincts strongly rebel against it. Would you concur with it?

True story: I read your post before I went to bed and woke up with a roaring case of double conjunctivitis. I look like a cartoon crab peeking out of its shell. I can't be sure, but I think my brain is blinding me in order to spontaneously abort this arrogant, illiterate rape baby of an idea.*

Thing zero: let me preserve this quote for posterity:

quote:

Kubrick's Space Odyssey? Yeah, creative and fresh - except for HAL is pretty much a modern take on the old Jewish golem rebelling against its creators. Or Dune, which is an amalgam of countless myths, historical references and clever philosophical nods.

Shakespeare didn't come up with anything new when writing King Lear or Hamlet. Those stories had already been told somewhere else by someone else - except for we never knew about them. Maybe that proto-Shakespeare was a Mayan poet whose works got forgotten during the Conquista. Maybe he was an Indian scribe who never managed to get his stuff published before he got executed by his raja for fraud.

Like, there are at least two ways that this is flat-Earth wrong. I mean this apart from it being the kind of handwaving, self-certain, reasoning-from-first-principles syncretism that makes weed philosophers and seminary students so goddamn insufferable.

First: We already know that Shakespeare didn't "come up with anything new" in King Lear or Hamlet because he named the plays after the source texts.

Shakespeare quite literally titled Hamlet Hamlet in order to invite comparison to an earlier play, also called Hamlet,** which was written by (probably) Thomas Kyd about a decade earlier. Ditto King Lear, which is straight out of Holinshed, Mirror for Magistrates, and goes at least as far back as Monmouth.

What is this quote's woo-woo about Indian scribes and Mayan poets? How loving stupid does that sound? "Did you know that the story in the movie Fight Club was already told somewhere else -- maybe by a Mayan poet but nobody knows for sure?" "Did you know that the story in Disney's Snow White was already told somewhere else -- maybe by an Indian scribe, but who can say?"

Shakespeare literally tells you where the story came from. It is the opposite of a mystery. Jesus gently caress. I have never wanted to stab a person in the face so badly.

Second: This is a straight-up smoothbrain approach to art. I don't know what to say other than that there's widespread agreement among, like, everybody who writes about art that conventions are what make art intelligible.

And here's this dickhole. Like "Did you know that Frank Lloyd Wright wasn't really an innovative architect because his buildings had doors and windows and rooms, just like all those other sheep?"

So yeah. I agree with you. This idea is illiterate and, what's worse, it reads like Goop ad copy. Thank you for giving me something to fume about that isn't my oval office slit eyes.





* Actually, the kids brought home a stomach bug that floored my wife and I, and I'm pretty sure that this is fallout. I'm just in a bad mood.

** And which, to prevent confusion, critics call the "Ur-Hamlet." The play itself is lost, but we know it exists because people saved the reviews. Which were scathing.

(USER WAS PUT ON PROBATION FOR THIS POST)

Toph Bei Fong
Feb 29, 2008

You can't see me at all...



FPyat posted:

On a writing forum I often encounter the sentiment that there are no new ideas in fiction, that in thousands of years of human existence all possible stories have already already been imagined, told, and written. It's usually accompanied by a pithy quoting of Ecclesiastes. People will say things along the lines of, for example:


I don't know what to make of this sort of belief. My instincts strongly rebel against it. Would you concur with it?

If you abstract things badly, sure, there aren't any new plots. as John Gardner didn't say, "There are only two plots: A stranger rides into town, and A man goes on a journey."

The problem being, of course, that if you summed up all of Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West as "A man goes on a journey", while you're technically right, you're also so completely wrong that one would wonder if you'd even read the book. And that novel is very different from The Odyssey or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Back to the Future, even though they're all "Man goes on a journey" type stories.

For an even more blatant example, check out E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime. It's a straight up rewriting of Heinrich von Kleist's 1811 novella Michael Kohlhaas, and Doctorow has publicly stated that Kleist's work was the inspiration for his novel. Except that, well, it's not. The story of Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime is only one of many, is very different in detail from the original plot (Coalhouse Walker is black, for example), and the idea that one could get everything out of Doctorow's novel by reading Kleist's instead is laughable.

And this, unfortunately, gets to the real heart of the problem: if just knowing the plot is enough to know the work, then it probably isn't worth reading. If I can get as much from the Wikipedia summary as I can from reading the actual novel, the author hosed up big time. As interesting as things like the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index are, and as useful as they are for drawing comparisons between works, they generally aren't a substitute for actually engaging with the text itself.

In my experience, this sort of dismissive criticism is generally an attempt to mollify the poster's own feelings and inadequacies (i.e. "Shakespeare isn't so great, he just wrote other people's stories, therefore I don't have to put in the work or be creative either"). The inability to see that, to use their example, that while the scene where Bowman is trying to remove HAL's processors is similar to the changing of the words on the golem's forehead from "emet" to "met" to kill him, the entire story surrounding this scene is vastly different and had very different things to say about the nature of humanity, is just, frankly, lazy. HAL is not the creation of defensive hubris coming back to attack his creator; he is a new lifeform lashing out at those who think he's dangerous, and, interestingly, displays far vaster ranger of emotions than his pretty robotic human counterparts. (Frankenstein is obviously the better comparison, but I'm guessing that the poster read that Frankenstein was just a rip-off of the golem, too.)

This video is talking about art, but I think it applies to literature as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67EKAIY43kg

If Hamlet is just an easy play dashed off as a copy of some tribal guy's work, go ahead and write one. Many people have: Infinite Jest, Gertrude and Claudius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead, The Dead Father's Club, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Nutshell, The Black Prince...

Toph Bei Fong fucked around with this message at 19:33 on Feb 28, 2021

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


I feel vindicated.

Eason the Fifth
Apr 9, 2020


Which modernish authors do you recommend reading for prose, genre notwithstanding? I know that's a stupidly broad question, so to hopefully narrow it down a little: I love Elmore Leonard's simple-but-smart stuff (his westerns are okay, but he really shines with late-century crime stories like Get Shorty and Swag), but I also love the biblical acid-trip vibe I get from Cormac McCarthy. Denis Lehane is pretty good but (not to be a prick about it), he uses the same compound adjective play ("A suspect left hook....kept him from fighting professionally, but his butcher-knife left jab combined with the airmail-your-jaw-to-Georgia explosion of his right cross dwarfed the abilities of just about any other semipro on the East Coast") to a point where it goes from distracting to self-parody.

edit - lmao at your probe. Your posts are the best things on the forums.

Eason the Fifth fucked around with this message at 00:46 on Mar 5, 2021

litany of gulps
Jun 11, 2001



Fun Shoe

Eason the Fifth posted:

edit - lmao at your probe. Your posts are the best things on the forums.

But are you laughing at the injustice of the probation, the oddity of the probation, or the absurdity of the probation?

I am personally most amused by the idea of punishing someone who has a 14 year record of posting once every several days by prohibiting them from posting for a day.

Anachronist
Feb 13, 2009




I like this thread, I've been following it for a long time and appreciate the content. But that post was bad, or rather it was a fine kernel of a post with some totally unnecessary bad posting smeared all over it, and deserved the probe. Sorry you were sick and hope you feel better, but drat.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Eason the Fifth posted:

Which modernish authors do you recommend reading for prose, genre notwithstanding? [...]

I don't go for "lyrical" prose. I even have short patience for Blood Meridian. What I like most in a writer is understated, compact prose -- the kind you get (for some reason) from writers who did time in the armed services (Leonard, Vonnegut, Thompson), with the patented Cornell Sense of Humor, (White, Morrison, Vonnegut), or who wrote a lot of pulp (Heinlein, Vonnegut, Leonard, MacDonald).

In my mind, the best prose reads like the eye of a writer's imagination sees something especially clearly. You get this unforced coordination between a whole bunch of storytelling elements. Here's an example from MacDonald's One Monday We Killed Them All:

John D. MacDonald posted:

Brook City is in the middle of dying country. It’s just dying a little slower than the hill country around it. They came a long time ago and pulled the guts up out of the earth and took what they wanted and went away, leaving the slag and the tipples and the sidings that are rusting away. There’s nothing left in the hills but the scrabbly farms and the empty faces and the hard violent ways of living.

Four sentences, and it's what Stephen King calls "an instant buy." The clear-eyed accounting of injustice, the clinically-moderated rage -- I absolutely want to see this narrator get mixed up in some hill country poo poo. He's a bomb just waiting to go off. (John MacDonald is incredible like that. Skip his Travis McGee books and read One Monday and The Executioners.)

Here's some dialogue from Be Cool that does the same thing:

Elmore Leonard posted:

"I know you did okay with Get Leo, a terrific picture, terrific. And you know what else? It was good."

This is Tommy as he and Chili have lunch in the Hills. The second Tommy says that Get Leo was "terrific" and "good," I'm convinced that Elmore Leonard sees Tommy really, really clearly. Maybe I don't see Tommy just as clearly yet -- although I've worked with development editors and have Views on what kind of person means "good" as higher praise than "terrific." But it doesn't matter. I've been promised an evocative portrait of a specific kind of rear end in a top hat by this little piece of dialogue, and I will by God read until I get it.

That kind of evocative dialogue is part of the pulp writer's toolkit, along with the brisk and unpretentious metaphor. Heinlein, skeezy gender politics aside, was a master of this. Here's a few from Have Space Suit Will Travel:

Robert Heinlein posted:

They fit like socks on a rooster.

Robert Heinlein posted:

I felt like a juiced orange.

Robert Heinlein posted:

[...] too beat to lick a stamp.

I could read that poo poo all week.*

I'm also a sucker for anything that elevates insensitivity to an art form. Somehow, Cornell cultivated this quality in its writing students for better than fifty years. Here's Toni Morrison in Beloved, where Baby Suggs rejects her daughter's idea of moving out of their house just because it's haunted by her (Suggs's) dead granddaughter:

Toni Morrison posted:

Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief. We lucky this ghost is a baby. My husband's spirit was to come back in here? Or yours? Don't talk to me. You lucky. You got three left. Three pulling at your skirts and just one raising hell from the other side. Be thankful, why don't you?

This isn't quite the "your poison womb is making heaven too loving crowded" school of lecturing mothers about their dead babies, but it's still pretty good.

Here is E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web and other children's classics, pontificating on the use of the word "Flammable" in The Elements of Style:

E.B. White posted:

Flammable: An oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word meaning "combustible" is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- and think inflammable means "not flammable." For this reason, gasoline and explosives are now marked FLAMMABLE. Unless you are operating such a truck and hence concerned with the safety of children and illiterates, use inflammable.

"Only a truck driver would care about the safety of an illiterate" is, like, exactly the right amount of classism for a textbook. Love it.

And Kurt Vonnegut makes a career out of exactly this kind of casual cruelty; he's a big-hearted humanitarian in the long arc and one mean sonofabitch sentence-by-sentence. Here's his take on Barbara in Slaughterhouse-Five:

Kurt Vonnegut posted:

This was a fairly pretty girl, except that she had legs like an Edwardian grand piano.

That might not be objectively great writing, but it's what I like. Other writers skilled in the art of casual brutality include Shirley Jackson (you want Hill House and Bird's Nest) and Virginia Woolf (you want Flush, which is not her most ambitious novel but is definitely her funniest. For instance: A young woman's dog hates her so much that it commits suicide.)

Apart from not going for lyrical poo poo, I definitely don't go for writers dropping SAT vocab unless it's in the mouth of a character who's supposed to be insufferable. Stephen King has an irritating habit of using long words when short ones will do. He drops "crepitating" in Salem's Lot, for instance. Twice. It was enough to take me out of the book. Same with his use of (I think) "batrachoid" -- or some other synonym for "froglike" -- in IT.** If you kick off your career writing Carrie, Salem's Lot, and The Shining just one, two, three, straight out of the gate -- man, you've got nothing left to prove.

Eason the Fifth posted:

edit - lmao at your probe. Your posts are the best things on the forums.

That's kind of you. I didn't notice the probation until you pointed it out.

It's a fair probation -- I said I wanted to stab somebody in the face because they dared to be wrong about something on the internet. Which is stupid. There's no point insulting someone (or their ideas) unless you can actually harm them by doing it.


*FWIW, there's a contemporary of Shakespeare's -- a guy named Marston -- who I think was the first English language writer to really nail this. Here's an example from The Malcontent:

quote:

Pietro: [...] relate: short, short.
Malevole: As a lawyer's beard.

** Where what's-his-name -- the kid who runs away because his dad beat the little brother to death with a hammer -- gets strangled by The Creature From The Black Lagoon beside the canal.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 16:38 on Mar 5, 2021

Eason the Fifth
Apr 9, 2020


Brainworm posted:

Recommendations

Great suggestions, thank you. Morrison and Vonnegut were threaded throughout college and grad school for me -- they've been the heart of all my best lit classes for a reason -- but I've somehow completely missed John D. MacDonald, and from that excerpt he definitely fits what I'm looking for. This might be one of those times where I start off with one small thing from an author and end up reading their whole body of work.

Brainworm posted:

It's a fair probation -- I said I wanted to stab somebody in the face because they dared to be wrong about something on the internet. Which is stupid. There's no point insulting someone (or their ideas) unless you can actually harm them by doing it.

Anachronist posted:

I like this thread, I've been following it for a long time and appreciate the content. But that post was bad, or rather it was a fine kernel of a post with some totally unnecessary bad posting smeared all over it, and deserved the probe. Sorry you were sick and hope you feel better, but drat.

litany of gulps posted:

But are you laughing at the injustice of the probation, the oddity of the probation, or the absurdity of the probation?

I am personally most amused by the idea of punishing someone who has a 14 year record of posting once every several days by prohibiting them from posting for a day.

This really isn't the best place to discuss PROBE JUSTICE but since I was dumb enough to bring it up, I might as well explain my reasoning here: As posts go on forums.somethingawful.com, even with the anger and swearing, it's still funny, informative, and interesting, and so far as I know, doesn't break any of the forum rules linked on the left of the posting page. SA, historically, has always been a manic and volatile mix of the crude and brilliant, and despite using some gosh darn mean phrases and lashing out at some nameless goober on the internet, the post didn't insult anyone in the thread or otherwise offend anybody specific. I respect that mods and admins have probably the shittiest volunteer position in the universe outside of porta-john vacuum operators and I don't envy them the job at all, but in my opinion, the probe came off like getting a letter about unmown grass from some HOA Karen. Especially in a thread that's otherwise one of the most interesting and useful things to come out of SA's entire history.

Eason the Fifth fucked around with this message at 18:39 on Mar 5, 2021

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




Eason the Fifth posted:

This really isn't the best place to discuss PROBE JUSTICE but since I was dumb enough to bring it up, I might as well explain my reasoning here: As posts go on forums.somethingawful.com, even with the anger and swearing, it's still funny, informative, and interesting, and so far as I know, doesn't break any of the forum rules linked on the left of the posting page. SA, historically, has always been a manic and volatile mix of the crude and brilliant, and despite using some gosh darn mean phrases and lashing out at some nameless goober on the internet, the post didn't insult anyone in the thread or otherwise offend anybody specific. I respect that mods and admins have probably the shittiest volunteer position in the universe outside of porta-john vacuum operators and I don't envy them the job at all, but in my opinion, the probe came off like getting a letter about unmown grass from some HOA Karen. Especially in a thread that's otherwise one of the most interesting and useful things to come out of SA's entire history.

A plot needs conflict

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Eason the Fifth posted:

Great suggestions, thank you. Morrison and Vonnegut were threaded throughout college and grad school for me -- they've been the heart of all my best lit classes for a reason -- but I've somehow completely missed John D. MacDonald, and from that excerpt he definitely fits what I'm looking for. This might be one of those times where I start off with one small thing from an author and end up reading their whole body of work. [...]

That is exactly John D. MacDonald. I read Deep Blue Goodbye on a recommendation from my dad, of all people, and then ripped through about twenty more of his books over the next week. I'm not a detective novel person, and most of his Travis McGee books are good detective novels -- no fun if you can't tolerate the genre. I can, but have no love for it.

But One Monday we Killed them All and Executioners (and probably more than a few others) are a totally different story. Straight-up dad-book bangers. I would 100% teach One Monday along with e.g. Carrie as examples of superbly-crafted novels.



EDIT: I still can't see well enough to read, so I'ma start a Dad Books thread.

My local library has a long list of audiobooks by Allan Eckert, Larry McMurtry, John Grisham, Tom Clancy. They even have James Clavell. If it's a Dad Book, I can listen to it.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 20:39 on Mar 5, 2021

Eason the Fifth
Apr 9, 2020


CommonShore posted:

A plot needs conflict



Brainworm posted:

That is exactly John D. MacDonald. I read Deep Blue Goodbye on a recommendation from my dad, of all people, and then ripped through about twenty more of his books over the next week. I'm not a detective novel person, and most of his Travis McGee books are good detective novels -- no fun if you can't tolerate the genre. I can, but have no love for it.

But One Monday we Killed them All and Executioners (and probably more than a few others) are a totally different story. Straight-up dad-book bangers. I would 100% teach One Monday along with e.g. Carrie as examples of superbly-crafted novels.

Sold!

Wallet
Jun 19, 2006



Brainworm posted:

EDIT: I still can't see well enough to read, so I'ma start a Dad Books thread.

I think I have a different kind of Dad than you do. Five or six years ago I found a thin Teddy Bear brown jacketless hardcover copy of Willard and His Bowling Trophies trawling through a shelf in a rarely used guest room at 2 AM. It was a surreal thirty minutes. I stole it after I finished and now it's on a bookshelf in my hallway.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Wallet posted:

I think I have a different kind of Dad than you do. Five or six years ago I found a thin Teddy Bear brown jacketless hardcover copy of Willard and His Bowling Trophies trawling through a shelf in a rarely used guest room at 2 AM. It was a surreal thirty minutes. I stole it after I finished and now it's on a bookshelf in my hallway.

My dad spent the '70s selling insurance and was about as counterculture as Bob Haldeman. Most of his reading is straight out of the airport bookstore. I have never heard of Willard but as soon as I can see again I'm reading the gently caress out of it. It sounds like a post-hippie social-novel sex comedy like Engel's Bear. Which is, like, the kind of book you might stash in a rarely-used guest room when your boss comes over for dinner.

Wallet
Jun 19, 2006



Brainworm posted:

My dad spent the '70s selling insurance and was about as counterculture as Bob Haldeman. Most of his reading is straight out of the airport bookstore. I have never heard of Willard but as soon as I can see again I'm reading the gently caress out of it. It sounds like a post-hippie social-novel sex comedy like Engel's Bear.

I believe it's intended as a parody of self-serious tragic literature but that does sound like the right vibe. I'm not sure you'll get the same thing out of it that I did going into it blind but I'd be interested to hear what you make of it if/when you do read it.

Wallet fucked around with this message at 23:48 on Mar 5, 2021

Furious Lobster
Jun 17, 2006



Soiled Meat

Brainworm posted:

That is exactly John D. MacDonald. I read Deep Blue Goodbye on a recommendation from my dad, of all people, and then ripped through about twenty more of his books over the next week. I'm not a detective novel person, and most of his Travis McGee books are good detective novels -- no fun if you can't tolerate the genre. I can, but have no love for it.

But One Monday we Killed them All and Executioners (and probably more than a few others) are a totally different story. Straight-up dad-book bangers. I would 100% teach One Monday along with e.g. Carrie as examples of superbly-crafted novels.

Thank you for this post. I have been wandering around the last couple of months for something to sink my teeth into and with the first page of Deep Blue Goodbye staring out at me from Libby, I can't wait to devour the entire series. I also requested One Monday we Killed them All.

I opened Deep Blue Goodbye to start reading it and the introduction, by Lee Child, really got to me instead. Mr. Child talks about how John Dann MacDonald was born with a silver spoon, had an Ivy League undergraduate and graduate education, served in World War II as a first lieutenant and finished as a lieutenant colonel.

The question posed by Mr. Child is:

Lee Child posted:

Why did a middle-class Harvard MBA with extensive corporate connections and a gold-plated recommendation from the army turn his back on everything apparently predestined, to sit at a battered table and type, with an anxious wife at his side? No one knows. He never explained. It's a mystery.

Mr. Child speculates that

Lee Child posted:

This strange, weary blend of nobility and cynicism is MacDonald's signature emotion. Where did it come from? Not, presumably, the leafy block where he was raised in quiet and comfort. The war must have changed him, like it changed a generation and the world.

The point of where Mr. Child's introduction went with me, is to ask if you have any other recommendations for works, true or not, that talk about the experiences in war that so fundamentally changed its participants? I am always looking for more.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Furious Lobster posted:

Thank you for this post. I have been wandering around the last couple of months for something to sink my teeth into and with the first page of Deep Blue Goodbye staring out at me from Libby, I can't wait to devour the entire series. I also requested One Monday we Killed them All.

I opened Deep Blue Goodbye to start reading it and the introduction, by Lee Child, really got to me instead. Mr. Child talks about how John Dann MacDonald was born with a silver spoon, had an Ivy League undergraduate and graduate education, served in World War II as a first lieutenant and finished as a lieutenant colonel.

My later edition of One Monday has an introduction by Dean Koontz that poses the same question. My blanket response is that writers, like lawyers, are fuckin' weirdos.* Whenever I get a chance to explore why an author does anything, I brace myself. You can get an answer, but it's like a Kanye West impression. Either that or it's totally banal, like listening to post-game interviews.

I probably shouldn't single out writers. People are bad at understanding their own motives, and that's frustrating when we expect them to explain why they did something interesting or how they do something well.

quote:

The point of where Mr. Child's introduction went with me, is to ask if you have any other recommendations for works, true or not, that talk about the experiences in war that so fundamentally changed its participants? I am always looking for more.

There are some obvious canonical ones, like The Things They Carried and Slaughterhouse-Five.

I don't think I'm violating any trust when I say that the first Mrs. Brainworm has definite views on which writers and books persuasively capture the truth of her military experience. Those include Lois McMaster Bujold, a South African SF writer named Christina Engela,** and Joe Abercrombie.

She also once told me that the collected letters of Hunter S. Thompson (Proud Highway and whatever the second volume is) spoke to her experience of becoming a civilian. This was long after we were divorced. It's the kind of forehead-slapper that comes, like, years after it would have done anybody any good.


* Also on the list: actors (duh). Nurses, construction workers, and pet groomers are a different class of crazy.
** MB1 introduced me to all three writers. I don't recommend Engela. I think she's a self-published loon. It's not at all surprising that she and MB1 know each other, somehow.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 16:00 on Mar 7, 2021

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

EDIT: Double post? I'm deleting it and replacing it with this observation:

My wife and her friend took our four-year olds to Palm Beach this weekend, which means that I'm home with my one-year old son. He likes Sesame Street and has been watching it while I do this dishes.

So I walk in on the "Mr. Noodle" segment of Elmo's World, and Mr. Noodle is Daveed Diggs. That's right: the man who performed "Blood of the Fang"* also does pantomime for children's television. Good for him?

I could probably dig through Palimpsests and find a term for this kind of intertextual relationship (Epitextual?) -- one where a common element, external to the text, creates a connection between them. But does anybody know a term or concept for what happens when there's a real or perceived incongruity? Or any other examples?

Like, imagine Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter teaching kids about the Food Pyramid. Or Kevin Spacey's apology for being a Sex Monster that he delivered in the persona of Frank Underwood. I'm thinking of things like that.



* As clipping. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtyTrcNInuk Diggs was also in Hamilton and so the decision to not have him sing on a show that features frequent musical guests is kinda weird.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 17:06 on Mar 7, 2021

mariooncrack
Dec 27, 2008


FWIW Bryan Cranston is the narrator for audible's version of "The Things They Carried" and I highly recommend listening to it if you have the chance.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

mariooncrack posted:

FWIW Bryan Cranston is the narrator for audible's version of "The Things They Carried" and I highly recommend listening to it if you have the chance.

On my list.

Audiobook narrators don’t get enough credit. The best of them are genius.

I just listened to Bernadette Dunne’s performance of Hill House and there’s like a book in how she interprets and performs Eleanor. After hearing it, the print book is gonna feel like a transcription of the audiobook original, if that makes sense.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Speaking of Child, what do you think of him, Brainworm? I randomly stumbled across one of his Reacher novels a few years ago (I don't remember how, probably found it in one of those free book exchange boxes that have sprouted up around my neighborhood) and was impressed by how well-crafted it was as a thriller.

Wallet
Jun 19, 2006



Brainworm posted:

Audiobook narrators don’t get enough credit. The best of them are genius.

I wish I could enjoy audio books. My brain can't focus on two things at once so I can't listen in the background if I want to not constantly be lost, and they take so loving long compared to reading that I can't stand to listen to them without doing something else. Maybe I just need to pick books I don't care about missing half of.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Fuschia tude posted:

Speaking of Child, what do you think of him, Brainworm? I randomly stumbled across one of his Reacher novels a few years ago (I don't remember how, probably found it in one of those free book exchange boxes that have sprouted up around my neighborhood) and was impressed by how well-crafted it was as a thriller.

I read Killing Floor back in '99 or 2000 and remember being pretty impressed. Those were my early-in-grad-school days and so I read a lot -- like a leisure book or two before I started in on my class reading after lunch -- and so the only thing I remember about it is in line with what you mentioned: it was well-constructed.

On a related note: I've been interviewing Creative Writers for years. One thing that's struck me is how differently novelist MFAs and scriptwriters approach scene construction. Most novelists and short story people, weirdly, don't deal with it at all. But for scriptwriters, there are right and wrong ways to do scene and dialogue.

And so I'm never surprised when someone with a television or screenwriting background writes a novel where the scenes are well-constructed and where scene-to-scene relationships are, like, especially tight. It's a strength of Lee Child's (at least in Killing Floor), and of Joe Abercrombie's, and often of William Goldman (in e.g. Marathon Man).

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Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Wallet posted:

I wish I could enjoy audio books. My brain can't focus on two things at once so I can't listen in the background if I want to not constantly be lost, and they take so loving long compared to reading that I can't stand to listen to them without doing something else. Maybe I just need to pick books I don't care about missing half of.

I used to only listen to audiobooks while I was driving. Then last Saturday I got double conjunctivitis. I need huge font and crazy backlight to read anything, and even then it's hard to go for more than five minutes. I'm typing with an icepack over my eyes -- the blindfold kind you keep in the freezer so you look all smooth-eyed in the morning. So it's been audiobooks or nothing.

Here's what I've learned:

1) Wireless earbuds just loving rule. I can listen to books while I sweep, vacuum, do the dishes, or bottle-feed the baby. That's just bonus reading time, because you can't one-hand any of those jobs or, bizarrely, do them with corded headphones.* I think my point is that there's more listening time in a day than I would have guessed, and this is especially true when you're using wireless earbuds rather than listening to something on the stereo.

2) You can crank up the speed. Anywhere from 1.25x to 2x is comfortable, depending. That's not as fast as reading, but it's better than nothing and it's not a contest, anyway.

3) Some audiobook renditions (performances?) are extremely worthwhile. I often recommend that students new to Shakespeare read along with the Arkangel audio productions because the actors are very good at making sense out of difficult-to-read passages. The same thing has been true for the audiobook productions of Wrinkle in Time and Haunting of Hill House I've listened to over the past week. In those -- for instance -- the narrator has made definite and informed decisions about when the House influences Eleanor's thinking and to what degree. It's cool to experience Hill House without the cognitive overhead that comes with making those decisions on the fly.


* Before this week, I was a devotee of the OG iPod. poo poo has really flipped on me.

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