Monday, May 16, 2005

May... what the hell's the date anyway

I've been writing a lot to prepare for the creative writing program at SIU. I have two months to bolster my portfolio (and by portfolio I mean all of the two hundred odd pages of first draft-Word documents that have not been erased through acts of (self-inflicted) malice or weather), so hopefully I'll add a hundred or so pages - and this isn't much, really, if I write 2-5 pages a day as I plan. The problem is when you're writing creative fiction, you really can't read creative fiction - otherwise I'll find that me and Saul Bellow write with much the same style and conviction in spite of his jewishness and my agnosticism. So, I have to read a lot of nonfiction, so as to keep the wheels turning. The hard part for me is to stay focused on my story, when I'm writing it - otherwise something that I think is clever may just take over and take the story in the direction of a shitty-sitcom. I have to force myself to be serious (but not maudlin) and avoid trying to be witty (I'm not saying I'm succesful at wit, either) some times. I was curious to see what writing styles were being employed at SIU so I checked their literary review (here) and if the cover photo didn't keep you from making a negative value judgement about the work as a whole, you're not alone.
Anyway, the poetry was pretty good - I was surprised. Most poetry written at this age is either entirely too mannered or personal or shite (you mean you used the same rhyme... for the whole thing?), but the stuff here is pretty alright. As for the fiction... I do hope it was written mostly by undergrads, because no one cares to read about someone's barely fictionalized break-up stories. And you know what? "Salsa kisses?" not all that creative a title. Sorry. Christ, I'm gonna get torn to pieces by these kids when I go there, aren't I?
It's not even a matter of writing one barely fictionalized break-up account, it's that most of them are like this, and most of them are self-pitying, sad-bastard, listen-to-OK-Computer-when-I'm-pining bullshit stories. So the good news is I won't be entirely out of place, then.
The story that should bring shame upon it's writer though, was the genre piece. My brother, another product of the english program of Marquette, was talking about Prof. Hribel and how every year he outlaws genre-writing in his writing workshop. I first thought that may be a little harsh, but seriously, you must experience genre writing firsthand to understand how awful it is. By genre-writing, I mean people like Raymond Chandler and Ray Bradbury and, I suppose, John Grisham and Dan Brown could be included there, as well. This is to say, the plot supercedes character (and character development, of course), style, and theme in terms of importance. (That is not the standard definition, I'm sure, but it's what I see it as). Almost always, the result is shitty prose. If you think the best writer in the world today is Dan Brown, you are an idiot. Interesting, sure - I especially like how he pissed off people with a 5th grade understanding of religion - but his writing is truly awful. Anyhow, the genre story in the mag is a heinous piece about an archeoligist who is chasing a stone that made it's discoverer go insane (I'm murky about the details, as I had to stop reading). How do I treat something like this equitably if it comes up in the workshop? There's no way I can tell the person to continue writing it - Brown, Grisham, Michael Connelly - they can be considered to have a certain level of expertise in their fields. A 20-odd year old has no such experience, no matter how many movies and books he or she has seen to this end - the story will go nowhere (unless I am overrating the average American reader, and judging by the success of certain books in this country, I am). It will not get published. Certainly, I have a minute chance of being published, as well, at this age or any time in the near future, as well, but I am trying to write what I know with some embellishments.

Another note - our president lied about the diplomatic effort at peace before he blew Iraq to pieces. There is no disputing this, and so it becomes evident that he acted, knowingly, in spite of evidence damning his case for war. Isn't this a war crime? And isn't he directly responsible, then, for the deaths of Iraqi civilians and American troops because of how unprepared his occupying force was in the aftermath of the war? I'll remind you again that Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000. I'll also remind people that they said they were relieved to have Bush in office on Sept. 11th, and glad we had a president who wasn't afraid to act in terms of war. He misled the public about Sept. 11th to justify his war, and the war itself has failed thus far because of egregious errors made by people he put in place. So what exactly is relieving about having him in office now? I remember when at the start of the way, when pro-war people said I was supporting Saddam Hussein by opposing the war, when I said the reason I was against was because this administration had no understanding of the Muslim world, because they could blow shit up but didn't know dick about re-building, and because they'd be more interested in payoffs for their cronies than about true democracy. With the millions (if not billions) skimmed out of the rebuilding efforts by Halliburton (formerly chaired by Dick Cheney) and the various reports of ridiculously large amounts of money simply gone missing, I'll take this opportunity to tell those of you who said these things to me, I fucking told you so. Where's my apology?

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