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Showing posts from April, 2012

A Cross Section of Genres

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The Defense, by Vladimir Nabokov. A touching yet tragic story about a grandmaster's fixation on chess and the sympathy his somewhat morose genius engenders in his fiancée and her family. After his nervous breakdown, he’s prescribed abstinence from the game. And it isn't until near the end of the novel that his inherent need for the board inveigles him into plunging irretrievably into its familiar rows and columns. Nabokov is a genius with language, and his love of word play morphs into a dizzying merry-go-round of sly puns and mind games. You’ll smile at his similes and marvel at his metaphors throughout.
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. Crime/mystery novels rely almost exclusively on dialogue and terse detail. This generally fails to satisfy my reasons for reading in the first place. I believe literature is a superior form of storytelling over film primarily because narrative does what film can’t – allude, sometimes ingeniously, to things wholly separate from the thin…

Literary Impressions

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I’d read a book of short stories by Stephen Crane years ago, but apart from “The Open Boat” and “The Blue Hotel,” which I know were included only because I’d made a note about liking them, I don’t remember the names of the other stories or even what they were about. As I say, it was years ago. But I’d also made a note: “One day I'll have to find The Red Badge of Courage. It's supposed to be Crane's best work.” Over the weekend I did. I can see why he’s considered such an important writer despite his short life (Crane died at the age of 28). Although complete and unabridged (which is how I prefer all my books), like his life, the book is relatively short. It was published in 1895, but there’s none of the awkward diction or stoic syntax you might expect from a book published over one hundred years ago. It’s a very smooth read. Crane’s vivid descriptions, paired with a liberal and insightful use of metaphor, approaches the profound. I’ve read a number of war novels over the y…

A Darkness Forged in Fire, Book One of the Iron Elves, by Chris Evans.

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Easily one of the worst novels I’ve come across since William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Forget character development or story structure for a minute. Let’s consider the basics. Like the musician memorizing scales before building a repertoire for his recital, the writer should familiarize himself with a few common principles long before considering the elements of story or publication.
1) Avoid clichés. Nothing kills your writing faster than tired terms and catch phrases.
2) Be precise. This doesn’t mean use name brands or the metric system. But as Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Be particular. Instead of a run down of every article of clothing Rob wears, pick one item – his glossy alligator boots. Rather than a list of the furniture in the room, zero in on the Great Dane curled up on the fireplace hearth. A single detail will satisfy the reader’s curiosity about the cowboy’s outfit or the den’s décor, allowing him to …