Four Literary Questions

Janet Fitch's Blog

This question was posed for me by a reader on my Goodreads page. For me, the best questions are the ones that make me think more deeply about the issues involved. This was a good one:
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 “What makes a great story/book? There are so many writers out there, but only a few get any acclaim, and some of the best posthumously. It is a herd mentality that snowballs into popularity?”
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The questioner is actually asking four separate questions here.
1. What makes a great story?
2. What makes a great book?
3. Why do only a few books get acclaim?
4. Is it a herd mentality that snowballs a book into popularity.
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I answered them in order–but Number 2 is the one that interests me most.
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1. A great story is one which satisfies the question it raises in the beginning. It can be a…

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The Slow Boat to China

The Disorder Of Things

The following post is the first in a series of oceanic dispatches from Disorder member Charmaine Chua. She is currently on a 36-day journey on board a 100,000 ton Evergreen container ship starting in Los Angeles, going across the Pacific Ocean and ending in Taipei. Follow her ethnographic adventures with the tag ‘Slow Boat to China’.


“In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.”

– Foucault, Of Other Spaces

cc_EPL2_IMG_0666 Source: Author

There is uncanny beauty in the monstrous. This, at least, is the feeling that seizes me as I stand under the colossal Ever Cthulhu[1] berthed in the Port of Los Angeles. The ship’s hull alone rises eight stories into the air; even from a distance, I am unable to capture its full length or height within a single camera frame. In describing the…

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Paddington’s dangerous cousin

TwilightBeasts

Arctodus simus by Sergiodlarosa via Wikimedia CommonsArctodus simus by Sergiodlarosa via Wikimedia Commons

North and South America were the last continents to be conquered by humans. We have been in Africa since we first evolved, Europe and Asia for over a million years, in Australia for about 60,000 years, but in the Americas for only about 15,000. Considering that reaching Australia required a treacherous ocean voyage but you could walk to Alaska without getting your feet wet via the flat, treeless, mammoth steppe of Beringia (with plenty of game to hunt en-route), why did it take people so long to reach the promised land? Some researchers have suggested that perhaps people did reach Beringia much earlier, but what they met there prevented them from penetrating any further. Along with the mammoths, cave lions, bison, and horses, Beringia had something else. Something that would have been completely unfamiliar to the humans who encountered…

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Taking Death Valley

Bespoke Traveler

Around me lay an ocean of sand dunes, broken now and then by scrub brush and solitary petrified branches, which I was using as trail markers. I stared behind me trying to locate the previous lone dead tree trunk I had passed, but it was lost in an expanse of quartz crystals. As I stood on the slope of my hill, the warmth seared through the bottom of my hiking boots until I felt I was walking on top of a lighted grill. I took a look at my right sole and found the rubber warped by the high temperature of the sand. I was in the lowest and driest part of North America. For three days and two nights I had also been inundated with some of the hottest temperatures in the world. But I wasn’t going to let Death Valley get the better of me. 

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In which the kids are fine, shut up

Welcome to infinitefreetime dot com

A note, before I start: I had to do research and learn what the hell the difference is between Holland, the Netherlands and Denmark before writing this post.  So obviously I am supposed to be writing right now.

Anyway.  This picture’s making the rounds:

tumblr_ngp1r0FJEa1qz6f9yo1_1280Here’s what you’re supposed to do: you’re supposed to look at this picture and go arr wharglebargle kids these days yarr, and be all mad.  In case you don’t recognize it, that painting on the wall back there is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, which isn’t actually called that officially but whatever.  The idea is that these kids– who look, to my eyes, to be maybe eighth- or ninth-graders, are in the presence of Priceless! Artwork! and instead of reverently gazing upon it they are daring to look at their phones.  Horror!  Terror! Decline of society!  Wharrgarbl!  Facebook is so angry about this, guys.

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Looting is a Response, Not an Opportunity

Scott Woods Makes Lists

We need to reexamine looting.

Regarding its critics, let me start by saying that, at the level of determining solid community building options, critics of looting are right: it’s not productive. What is built from looting? Not much. Certainly nothing in the concrete world. On top of that, looting is illegal. It is against the law to break into a building and take what’s inside of it out. I don’t think anybody is confused about that, or believes that taking things out of a liquor store or burning down a Little Caesars should be confused with an urban renewal initiative. None of this, however, means that looting has no merit as an act.

Looting is a response, not an opportunity. Looting doesn’t randomly happen. Looting is what happens after something else has happened to a group of people that feel disenfranchised. There are not bands of random black people running…

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On being “discontinued”

bookconscious

I’ve been writing The Mindful Reader column for The Concord Monitor since April 2012. Thirty-three columns, one a month on the Sunday book page, reviewing dozens of books, all by New Hampshire or northern New England authors, many published by small presses. It’s been a wonderful experience.

People often stop me when I’m out and about to tell me how much they liked a column, or to ask my opinion about some aspect of one of the books I read. They come into the library, where I am the librarian in charge of adult services, and our local indie bookstore, where I was once event coordinator and bookseller, to ask for the books. That’s been a thrill — there is nothing better for a writer than knowing your work not only reached someone, but moved them enough that they wanted to participate in the thing you’ve written about. And the…

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Slow Writing by Chris Galvin

QWF Writes

Chris bakes muffins too

Like bread dough, my writing seems to require time to rise in a warm, draft-free place. The long proofing period is necessary; turn up the heat to hurry the rising, or don’t leave it long enough, and I get a stodgy, dense loaf.

Under ideal conditions—solitude, free time and excitement about what I’m writing—the words pour forth quickly. It’s exhilarating. But normally, I write when I can. I like to have control over an essay or story as it forms, and I edit as I write, considering each sentence as I put it to paper—does it say what I want it to say, or does it imply something else? I read what I’ve written aloud—does it have the right rhythm? Is my translation of Vietnamese dialogue as true to the original as possible? Does it sound natural?

The second proofing of the dough is as important as the first. Even…

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What happens when your New Year’s resolution is “Draw More”?

Myfanwy Tristram

My new year’s resolution for 2014 was a fairly complex one, but in essence it boiled down to two words:

draw more.

…and it has felt like I’ve drawn a lot this year. Not as much as someone who doesn’t have a day-job and a child, of course, but a steady stream of stuff nonetheless.

Some of it I was pleased with. Some of it I was not – and I’ve learned to call that stuff part of the learning process, rather than a failure.

January

It was my husband’s birthday and I made him this card:

Dude birthday by Myfanwy Tristram

February

February first is Hourly Comics Day! I entered into the spirit of things, and tried not to care about putting out unpolished work – after all, that’s what it’s all about.

MyfanwyTristram_Hour3_2014

I’m quite looking forward to the next one already – and let’s face it, February is not usually…

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