Summer Breaks Over, Time for More Shakespeare

The Two Gentlemen of Verona 

Yet another harshly criticized gem from the master that everyone wants to cut down so that he/she will gain the top of the mount. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered another apprentice piece or possibly a cowritten play due almost completely to the ending: wherein Proteus (one of the Verona gentlemen) falls for Silvia, who loves Valentine (Verona gentleman number two), and attempts to rape her; Valentine jumps out and puts a stop to it; Proteus apologizes; Valentine accepts his apology; Julia shows up and forgives Proteus for attempting to cheat on her; the two couples live happily ever after. All of which takes place in the last and very short scene. There is an abruptness and finality to all of this that every critic gets stuck on when reading the play and forgets that the reason for it rests in the constantly reinforced subject of masters and servants.

Speed comically serves his master Proteus. Proteus’s father, Antonio, has Panthino call him master. Proteus gains another servant in Lance, who himself is a master and servant to his dog Crab (it really is a beautifully sad and funny combination of the two). Other servants and masters abound along with numerous lines from the gentlemen and ladies about who serves whom in relationships. So why do few critics even acknowledge the importance of this theme? Because very few people recognize the prevalence of master and servant relationships that exist today let alone the ego crushing realization that most of us are not the masters of our outer and inner lives as we so often believe.

Proteus falls perfectly into this mold with his first lines of the play. Valentine is off to see the world and Proteus replies

Wilt thou be gone? Sweet Valentine, adieu!

Think on thy Proteus when thou haply see’st

Some rare noteworthy object in thy travel.

Wish me partaker in thy happiness

When thou dost meet good hap; and in thy danger,

If ever danger do environ thee,

Commend thy grievance to my holy prayers,

For I will be thy beadsman, Valentine.                    (I.1.78)

Proteus gives well-wishes, but really states that he will forever be the servant, who partakes in his master’s happiness and prays for his master’s grief, of Valentine. Valentine is keenly aware of Proteus’s shortcomings and wants Proteus to come and enjoy the world for himself, but it has to be Proteus’s choice or it will be more servant status only abroad. A last pinch of wisdom cannot but escape from Valentine as he warns Proteus that “Love is your master, for he masters you” (79). Proteus quips that he is no fool but wise because some writers support his servitude to love. Valentine brings up a better counterargument reinforced with some more writers, but cuts it off recognizing that he must literally step away from being Proteus’s master if Valentine really wants to see his friend develop.

Shakespeare then gives the reader many different scenarios and wrinkles of the master/servant dichotomy through the characters I already listed above with one important distinction. In Act I Scene three Antonio shows us what a master type Proteus could evolve into. Proteus’s father is straight to the point with his servant Panthino in asking what he spoke about with Antonio’s brother a moment ago. It concerns, of course, Proteus and his unwillingness to travel and experience the world. Panthino includes his own opinion on the matter, while Antonio quickly agrees to the advice to force his inexperienced son out into the lessons the world will certainly teach. Again, Antonio doesn’t play with his words.

I like thy counsel. Well hast thou advised,

And, that thou mayest perceive how well I like it,

The execution of it shall make known.

Even with the speediest expedition

I will dispatch him to the Emperor’s court.                   (I.3.83)

Although it seems Antonio is not making this decision under his own free will but under the servitude of his servant, Shakespeare undercuts this immediately by having Antonio speak with that all-important pronoun ‘I’ in the beginning. The one true inner identification, the master of all thoughts and decisions, the singular ‘I’ enjoys Panthino’s counsel and advice and will use that advice to create an action supported by the top most decision-making intellect in Antonio. He could have mulled it over to see what the other parts of his mind might have to say about it or even what his son would think about it, but that would have devolved into inaction and the stumbling over the correct course to follow in order to meet all of the expectations and desires of countless voices. Antonio asked for counsel from a trusted servant, agreed with it as it fit with his master plan and then executed it. If that wasn’t obvious enough, Shakespeare adds the definitive note to Antonio’s singular existence ruled by himself and no other with the line “Muse not that I thus suddenly proceed, / For what I will, I will, and there an end” (83). Antonio’s willpower is absolute and absolutely under the guidance of that one master ‘I’. He governs his inner life, thoughts, desires, and emotions with the unbreakable fixture of identity that reflects in his outer life wherein actions complete and accomplish because they are under the servitude of one master.

Of course Proteus is not yet his father, because he has not yet been tutored through direct experiences only venturing out into the world delivers. That is why his first love crumbles in the presence of a just as beautiful Silvia, why his plans to woo her fall apart, and why he acts upon a fleeting thought of violence to then wrap it all up as complete. These outward actions can only fail because they are administered by many ‘I’s’ jostling for mastership within him, which makes him merely a servant to whatever new idea pops up. Valentine saw this in his friend when he left and sees it again as a prophecy fulfilled. What else would a man holding no clear identification of self inside do but bumble around until the failures developed enough frustration and anger for him to lash out with violence? And in this moment of delusion over who he is, Valentine reminds Proteus that he is a friend. A friend that can’t be trusted, or more specifically a servant that can’t be trusted. Proteus speaks swiftly of how guilty he is, and how he is willing to suffer in his sorrow for moving against Valentine. Yet Valentine has shown that he is still a master that has taken Proteus for a servant and if both of them are to move forward, swift and decisive judgments must be made. Valentine grants Proteus an “honest” place by his side that is free of doubt or other fleeting thoughts that may usurp this feeling of trust by stating one of the most troubling lines for critics, “And, that my love may appear plain and free, / All that was mine in Silvia I give thee” (106). The constant and free from feelings of guilt love Valentine showed to Silvia throughout will also be given to Proteus. If Valentine didn’t proclaim such a “plain and free” decision on their relationship, then where would his servant go? Proteus would degenerate further and into the faults and sins of his inconstant nature as Shakespeare reminds the audience,

Oh, heaven! Were man

But constant, he were perfect. That one error

Fills him with faults, makes him run through all th’sins;

Inconstancy falls off ere it begins.                                  (V.4.106)

Instead the master, Valentine, has come to a conclusion based on his will that he will see through completely less he lose his servant, Proteus, forever, and the chance to grow further. As troubling as the almost rape is, a less violent action would not be enough to convince the audience that these two could be separated or convince the audience that Valentine has evolved enough to be a strong enough master to quiet down second guesses about their roles. The servant must give opportunities to the master to demonstrate his command over the multitudes of voices wishing to usurp. While the master must also act as a guide for the servant to emulate until the servant can obtain his own mastership of the self. Valentine sees now that he must stay next to and treat Proteus as a part of him for both of them to reach something higher and Proteus sees it is in his best interest to follow Valentine honestly and unfaltering if he wants to gain as much as his friend.

Everyone is a servant to some master and believing otherwise quickly creates inconstancy in identifying ourselves. You can’t change identities until you first recognize what yours is. I am and hope to always be a servant to Shakespeare’s mastery as following him will take me far above any place I blunder to under my own guidance.


Avoiding Clichés by Confronting Them

Emily St. John Mandel dares the readers of Last Night in Montreal early on to drop her book that starts with so many recent literary clichés. But she keeps us dangling along to figure out why a young women can’t ever stay in one place with an unflinching examination of the stereotypical protagonist in most serious novels of late. Lilia at first runs into the story with a huge sign above her head reading stock Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is everything the sensitive, brooding Eli needs to jumpstart his crippling passive existence as a someday artist until we learn that this isn’t his journey; it’s hers. “She began to tell him a story in bed that night, a long story about deserts and aliases and driving away, motel pay phones and a blue Ford Valiant in the mountains” (25).

As alluring as the narrator, through Eli’s eyes, describes Lilia, “mind like a switchblade” (21), “four or five unevenly spaced freckles on her nose, like Lolita” (22), “sublimely abnormal” (24), I didn’t feel compelled to care for her until Mandel slowly unfolded Lilia’s conflict. It’s not just that she’s a runner, escaping the eyes of a private detective and bred for a nomadic existence, Lilia is a woman chasing after the missing part of her story. This furious pace leaves a trail of lovers/admirers behind as Michaela points out to Eli’s request to find Lilia, “‘You’d be amazed at how many people have said that in her lifetime”’ (227). And as heartless or destructive as this may seem she always remained up front with those drawn into her sphere of influence and is really the mark of someone driven by more than a desire to not be alone as Eli and Michaela share. That doesn’t necessarily create a character devoid of attachment. Lilia does want to settle down and be a part of life instead of passing through it. The attempted relationships on her trail to and in New York are evidence of that, but more so are the photographs she takes. “The pictures gave her a sense of continuity” (152). These moments of her life are important signposts along the way towards reaching that last destination on the Tiber River where “three lists fall from her hands: a list of names, ten pages, beginning and ending with Lilia; a list of places, nine pages, beginning and ending with the province of Quebec; a shorter list of words, of phrases, all Eli’s” (243).

Lilia had to gather up the setting and exposition that is the starting point of her map before she could trace out a course to the resolution she wanted to write.

I saw Lilia as Mandel wanted me to see her: someone “not missing,” someone who did “not want to be found,” someone who wished “to remain vanishing” (66) until the very end. That’s when the appealing but cliched “half mermaid, half girl” (33) became a compelling character. Something lacking in certain of my modern readings.

Love’s Labour’s Lost Review: The Continuation of the Complete Shakespeare Read-Through

Love’s Labour’s Lost

There is something truly curious about this play that I’m having a difficult time putting a finger on. I believe Shakespeare is sharing more about knowledge and wisdom than at first glance and it is making my brain itch in trying to pin point a conclusion about it.

Beyond the amazing word play that paints too perfectly how knowledge, especially only found in books, is not the concrete end goal to happiness or even wisdom there are so many more parts which contribute to a philosophy about learning that I must focus on one. Shakespeare gives us a key to true wisdom in Act III, Scene 1 through a moral and l’envoi or postscript/explanation. Armado says, “The fox, the ape, and the humble-bee/Were still at odds, being but three” (46). Mote adds the explanation to it, “Until the goose came out of door,/And stayed the odds by adding four” (46). Some scholars explain this away as a topical joke about certain officials in governing positions at the time, but an easier explanation can be found when applying these creatures to characters in the play as well as influences governing decisions inside of us.

The fox is known for its wit and problem solving especially when seeking a way out of circumstances that don’t agree with its natural way of living. A perfect fit for this quick animal is Berowne as he has wit to spare and is very good at finding pathways out of the secluded study quest that the King proposes at the beginning of the play. Another suitable way to see Berowne as the fox figure is through his sonnet.

“If love make me forsworn, how shall I swear to love?

Ah, never faith could hold, if not to beauty vowed!

Though to myself forsworn, to thee I’ll faithful prove;

Those thoughts to me were oaks, to thee like osiers bowed                 (IV.2.52)

The first four lines eloquently restate the logical flips Berowne is so adept at to achieve his goals. He is a problem solver that will sprout up as many thoughts as possible to find a way to get out of the latest foxhole. And thinking is the point for this influence. Berowne represents the part of us capable of connecting and twisting what we see into something according with our desires. We can’t expect to get far without first knowing what we want and having the capability to manipulate knowledge towards getting it.

Then there is the ape. An animal long connected with the concept of imitating or copying, but more specifically reflection. In this mirror we see everything about us, good and evil. Again Shakespeare makes plain the King’s role in his sonnet.

Nor shines the silver moon one-half so bright

Through the transparent bosom of the deep

As doth thy face, through tears of mine, give light;

Thou shin’st in every tear that I do weep                                 (IV.3.53)

The King shows his love to the Princess with words that emphasize reflection like a mirror. He believes her face better reflects light than the water does the moon and tells of how every tear of his will also reflect her face. Together they can be each other’s mirrors and help each other see the good with the intent of emphasizing it and the bad that they can hopefully stifle or obscure.

Shakespeare doesn’t follow the simple route in applying the last two beasts to the other men in the quartet, rather the two leading ladies symbolize the humble-bee and the goose. Rosaline best plays out the role of the humble-bee: a bug that diligently out works any other in the insect world for the good of the whole. Although she limits her speech, insight towards this outlook can be found in her appeal to Berowne or rather her appeal to put his great wit to a more diligent and humbling form of work.

How I would make him fawn, and beg, and seek,

And wait the season, and observe the times,

And spend his prodigal wits in bootless rhymes,

And shape his service wholly to my hests,

And make him proud to make me proud that jests!                 (V.2.61)

Rosaline is going to make Berowne into a working man that will conform to not only nature, time, but of course her own behests. Along with making him use his great wits and jests, she will teach him how to use them for the services of others and be proud/humble that it is for someone else’s benefit and not his own. Rosaline doesn’t just say this, she demands to see him put his wits to humble work of making the “speechless sick” (V.2.73) smile for a year before she will even consider him for marriage. A humble-bee indeed.

The Princess, lastly, is the goose. From her introduction outside the gates of Navarre’s court, to the end of the play when she learns of her father’s death the Princess is the epitome of perseverance in the face of everything, especially nature. She is also the one that gets the boys to literally come out of doors to pursue the women. Her speech is filled with nature references and her will cannot be stopped even by the sudden news of her dead dad. She sets on her way to fill her mourning duties and gives the King a way to show he still has a chance if he preservers with his original oath “Remote from all the pleasures of the world;” (V.2.73), in other words a more natural and isolated setting. And just to make it more clear, she tells him

If frosts and fasts, hard lodging, and thin weeds

Nip not the gaudy blossoms of your love,

But that it bear this trial, and last love,

Then, at the expiration of the year…

I will be thine;                                                              (V.2.73)

If nature doesn’t cool his love for her, she will know that he is worthy of it.

So is this the philosophy of wisdom Shakespeare so cunningly hid in his play for other curious young men and women to follow when that onset of adulthood approaches? Wisdom is yours if you can set the different pushing and pulling thoughts inside of you into a triad of problem solving, reflection, and diligence; then set that triangular perspective on the world outside of you with a perseverance that won’t be stopped by the spring, winter, birth, and death. Speaking of spring and winter, Shakespeare gives us plenty to fear and look forward to when they come around as sung in the closing of the play.

But whether my interpretation stands the test of time or not I also imagine there is a lot to be read into the gifts or love tokens the men gave to the women. Perhaps there is something more about knowledge and how we view the world upon closer inspection of the suitors’ four attempts at making a match. As always, Shakespeare has more on his plate to offer than I can digest. Hopefully with the second complete Shakespeare read-through I’ll be ready for more.

The Complete Shakespeare Read-Through

I’m doing it. Even though I’ve read most of his plays and poems, I haven’t read his complete works and what kind of fan can I call myself if I have yet to read everything the greatest writer has put down. So using my David Bevington The Complete Works of Shakespeare I plan to put to rest the nagging feeling in the back of my head. I will go in the order that Bevington laid out with the comedies first, then the histories, and finally the tragedies before finishing up with the sonnets. In between each play, I will read other novels that have been piling up on my bookshelf and plan to write reviews for the good ones, but every play and eventually every poem will get its own proper elaboration as they travel through my mind and eventually my fingertips to show up here. Here’s to the beginning of a long and illuminating journey!

The Comedy of Errors

My mind must be focused in on the topic of communication because that is again the dominant theme I read from Shakespeare’s supposedly earliest and supposedly weakest play. Well, communication coupled with identity. Shakespeare gets these ideas about communication and identity clearly across from the outset with a plot centered around two sets of identical twins. Even without this device characters express a wish for identity immediately by attaching themselves to their home country or a search for a new home in the case of Antipholus of Syracuse.

But let’s start it all with the communication part. At the beginning Egeon tells his story of woe to the Duke in order to be granted a day to pay off a fine that if not met will lead to Egeon’s execution. Words mean everything here as they stave off the law, which is in itself words that do not lead to the best results but still can create great damages as the rest of the play demonstrates. Then Shakespeare truly drives home the point when S. Antipholus and his slave/best friend S. Dromio take the meaning behind words to a ridiculous level. The two barely keep up with each other in double entendre, puns, and references that aren’t entirely clear to the audience or even the characters speaking them. This furthers into mistaken identities because of S. Antipholus and S. Dromio’s identical twins walking around the same market streets. Words create massive confusion and chaos for every ear that is around to take them in and misconstrue the meanings and intents.

The greatest part of all the misperceptions and misunderstandings is how they are ingrained with characters lacking identity. It might be a stretch to state that Shakespeare is clearly telling us that if you don’t know who you truly are then you can’t say anything with clear meaning because Shakespeare is here and in every piece of writing absent, which would preclude we can’t trust his words. The loop is as endless as any of his other plays and makes me think that he titled the play more deliberately than at first glance. This is ‘The’ comedy of errors. No other mistaken identity work gets at the essence of not knowing who you are. When that known core of the self is unclear to you then there is no possible way you will clearly express anything. Did Shakespeare know himself well enough to completely disappear in his work, so that we would not be caught up in creating identities reflective of his but rather reflective of ourselves? So we can then take his words as something true coming from an unassailable essence of a human soul, maybe? I think I need to be surer of whom I am first or I might just keep seeing the same themes in all literary work over and over in an endless loop.

Lastly, how can you hit it out of the park so well on the first try (supposedly) like Shakespeare did? I’m hoping my last at bat will come somewhere close to his worst.

Sorry for the baseball analogies; I’m coaching softball right now and it seeps out.

The Crying of Lot 49 Review

A welcome bit of inspired literature after reading two highly acclaimed yet disappointing novels over the last couple months. I may be biased or simply have a limited scope on what constitutes literature but when I approach a novel, poem, play, or the other written forms meant for more than simple entertainment purposes the expectation is to read something with excellent style and a graceful, expansive expression of a theme or connected themes throughout. In my short survey of more recent works of literature the style is very much present, but the themes seem to appear only in a select few.

I understand not everyone is a Shakespeare (or, with my definition of literature, a David Foster Wallace or Thomas Pynchon) but there should be an apparent striving to reach these top players when contributing to the art. Otherwise the contributions become more noise distracting the public from gaining insight into something more than their own perceptions of reality and self. I read that Pynchon felt he failed in the writing of 49 and maybe he did in his vision of literature, but I feel he did accomplish a writer’s goal of making art.

Although 49 shares the major theme of communication with Infinite Jest they do so in a disparate enough way to enlighten different portions of the innumerable facets related to humanity’s arguably most important tool. And like its more contemporary, giant counterpart 49 consciously uses style to elevate theme. To narrow down the theme into a more approachable manner, it’s best to focus on how Pynchon explores the breaking down of communication.  From the beginning of the short novel when the protagonist Oedipa Maas (the character names are a whole other form of communication/identity break downs) receives a letter in the mail, Pynchon makes it clear that as much as the character and the reader expects concrete answers from words we won’t be getting them. On the flip side of this pessimistic view, I believe Pynchon pushes just as hard an optimistic belief in the hope that language, both spoken and written, can lead us to a happier state of being and freedom once we understand more fully the weaknesses and strengths in this most powerful tool. Take for example the abstract advice Oedipa’s psychiatrist imparts on her before his arrest that she should cherish all fantasies because they are what make us human. Although Dr. Hilarious’s (greatest psychiatrist name ever) words should be taken with caution it is the best answer Oedipa and the reader get. We should indulge in the fantasies our minds and others generate through the many forms of communication, whether it be novels, plays, songs, television, telekinesis, or very simply talking under the influence of various substances or none. Yet we need to delve into imagination with the understanding that language is a construct of man and will never fully encapsulate the abstract forms of nature/the world/existence and so on because it’s not about capturing the answers to these things but acting on and with the best of words can bring us. That’s what beautiful literature is for.

Creating and Completing Art

I just finished the first draft of my second book Nothing Will Come of Nothing and as I labored over the last 10,000 words or so I couldn’t not think of the extraordinary strong pressure to give up. So close and yet at no other moments did I feel like giving up until the end. ‘You gave it your best try,’ ‘You can come back to it later,’ or ‘Nobody will read it anyway so why bother finishing,’ I told myself. But why did all of this have to come at the end? Why not at the beginning when I was scribbling down the amazing themes and metaphors I would incorporate or in the very middle of typing it out at 5:30 in the morning when I should have been sleeping? I know the answer, but not completely in a way that I know it when it happens or have the will to overcome it when it slaps me in the face and leaves my brain in a blank daze.

Although these moments come harder than a slap in the face sometimes and are really like a jolt of electricity to your chest that freezes everything. In that state of helplessness I want to find the easiest course away from that block and that means carelessly falling on the whims of outside influences: CLICK TO SEE HOW THE RICH USE CREDIT CARDS, EVERYTHING IS NOT AWESOME WITH THE OSCARS (The Lego Movie was totally robbed), MOST BEAUTIFUL ABANDONED PLACES. But I know about these obstacles and should know how to shock myself out of their influence and move on. Most instances I don’t and then I see how much time has passed and the amount of work I could have completed in that time if I would just wake up out of the cardiac lull. Eventually my eyes peak open enough to get started again, but returning to that wide-eyed state where thoughts flow free and bright in their journey from mind to computer is long in coming especially towards the end of creating art.

So what is the knowledge that I’ve been teasing out as the fix that’s easier said than done? Well it’s complicated. The most modern form that I know of is in Gurdjieff’s teachings. He describes the process of starts and stops that accompany everything, and most importantly in creating something, as the Ray of Creation.



You’ll notice the eight symbols follow the law of an octave do, re, mi, fa, so, la, si, do. The information and knowledge isn’t solely Gurdjieff’s. It can be traced to Plato in book X of The Republic, the Pythagoreans, and many others. Now I don’t plan to explain all the parts and possibilities of using this understanding, only the one I had such a tremendous time getting through recently with the completion of my first draft. According to this, and I’ve felt it before not just in my writing, the most difficult point to ascend in this chain of creation is moving from si to the second do. Others see it too and try to word it poetically like ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn,’ but truly finding the strength of will to move past the dark or si stage into the dawn or do stage is soul wrenching. Everything works against you at this point and everything seems to need to fall into a beautiful order before you’re granted permission to move forward. And even with that permission there is work, actual, metaphysical back breaking work needed to step out in the sun with a complete manuscript that eagerly awaits your next step onto the octave to start again at the bottom with rewrites.



Infinite Jest Review/Soliloquizing (Of Course There’s Spoilers)

It took just under seven months to get through the tome that is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace or DFW as the hundreds of posters before me have shorthanded. Honestly, it really didn’t feel that long especially after the 300 to 400 page mark where story beats and my own understanding of the characters ratcheted up to a very quick pace. It is long and involves dedication to get through, but overall it is definitely not some highly encrypted vault waiting for only the most intellectual of the bunch to break into. DFW even addresses this in the book through Hugh Steeply’s discussion of his father becoming fixated on the television show M.A.S.H. Other examples abound of addiction, which is one of the major themes, but I believe it’s to highlight something bigger in that we all have the same capabilities inside us. Anyone could read this book and be just as hooked on the intricacies of relationships and the fictional universe supplied here as they can with Harry Potter, the Marvel cinematic and comic book worlds, or hundreds of other television shows out there. We enjoy escaping into mythic worlds where we can recount the first time Ron showed feelings of more than friendship towards Hermione, how the Phoenix and Jean Grey were really two separate beings, or why a shoelace touching a public men’s room floor is a good enough excuse for Jerry to throw out his shoes. Those outside worlds that we take and make our own are so enticing because they’re easy to understand and easy to consume. We got a firm grip on them and thus we have a firm grip on life, or do we? Like the best, DFW doesn’t give you an answer because there really isn’t one. The question is the important part.

Like the question of communication. This is probably the most attractive theme from Infinite Jest for me, the addicted reader, because it is so illusive but so damn important in stepping away from fiction and into reality. I am horrible about communicating out loud, much like the protagonist Hal, and it creates so much conflict in dealing with the outside world. But this is not about me, it’s about Hal. Infinite Jest is Hal’s story; something I suspected (and Robert H. Bell or William R. Kenan, Jr or William C. Dowling [professors that posted together? about Infinite Jest] also stated) about halfway through the book but didn’t confirm until the ending and then rereading of the opening episode in which a hospital worker looks down at him and says, “So yo then man what’s your story?” Which is also a great way of emulating or mirroring Hamlet’s final request of Horatio to tell the world/Fortinbras what has happened. I think I also need to mention Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play; similar themes of communication and such that I haven’t been able to run away from yet or ever. And there’s the silver lining that lends hope to both of these tragedies. The protagonists’ stories do get told and, we can surmise, heard. The mouthpiece of these stories may be unconventional at first glance, but upon closer examination (I sound like Freud from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in my head here) it is the most true expression of character.

Himself, the Mad Stork, the Sad Stork, Dr. James Orin Incandenza, Hal/Inc.’s father (more great hints at character’s inability to express one true self to others) film career surrounded around the use of multiple lenses, some he created himself, to make art house pictures. These multiple eyes into the film director’s vision encapsulates the physical book Infinite Jest and Hal’ story. The reader doesn’t get chapters, we get scenes told through multiple lenses directed by Hal. His voice carries through/morphs with/fixes/suppresses/submits to dozens of other character’s voices and points of views with the purpose of, again, telling Hal’s story. And this is the only way Hal can communicate his identity, by accepting and using the influences around him. At first it may sound depressing that Hal’s identity isn’t fully formed by his will, morals, and principles but – now we get to come full circle – no one is. All those other lenses/voices Hal uses to tell his story are not solely identified by the owners. Each of them has influences pushing and pulling at them to varying degrees invisibly. Hal is our protagonist because he has seen all the strings and now tugs back to make an entertainment filled with infinite jest.

Well that’s as much as my morning clarity will allow because there are so many more pieces that DFW uses to beautiful effect in a novel that will probably be another lens added to the distortion of seeing my true self.

P.S. I’m going to cheat and use this post as a review on Goodreads as well. Shocking!

Stanley Kubrick Approved Book Trailer

I’m not a Kubrick specialist but if I were to play the favorite director game he’d be my pick. There’s something about the way his films seem to be every bit a film. They speak through visuals and sounds instead of trite character exposition or unnecessary narrators that don’t believe the audience is perceptive enough to pick up on what’s currently going on in a scene: “So the next day I had detention. Which, thanks to recent budget cuts meant cleaning.” That’s a lot to put together for an American teenage audience when it’s already happening on screen. Directors better explain it just in case.

But I didn’t intend to make this a rant. I want to focus on how so much story can be told in one long, unbroken shot. In Lolita, Kubrick delivered a gorgeous take of Charlotte Haze’s death from the moment she reads Humbert’s diary to her outburst that sends her running into the street in front of an oncoming car. You never see the impact of car and woman, but the camera pulls back from the house to the street in a classic unbroken take where the sounds and developing visuals tell you everything that’s happened.

Am I going to come close to replicating that beautiful bit of cinematic language? Of course not, but I do plan on ripping off his technique in my book trailer to hopefully get across half of the emotive power that Kubrick can summon up. Now that I’ve put that down for the vast world of the internet to read or ignore, the bigger question is whether or not my trailer will even reach a fourth of its aspiring master? Once we see the wizard behind the curtain a good chunk of the magic is lost. My trailer will be just a sad limping homage to one of the masters, but I think I’m good with that because it sounds a lot better than another forgotten Ken Burns’ bunch of pictures as movie/book trailer.

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

Imagination Vs. Reality

Uuuuuuhhhhhhh. This one feels extremely topical for me right now as my son watches the new Toy Story That Time Forgot again. But beyond Pixar’s amazingly tight storytelling (like TV poetry), I can’t not help think about one of the most difficult match ups in fiction the imagined world and the real world. I know it may sound a bit simple at first but when you really stare deeply into the forms of these two worlds it becomes a mess and headache to even come close to wrapping your head around possible answers or truths to go by.

So let’s try it anyway. The imagined world, kind of the easy one, is created by us and follows the rules we see fit even when the rules contradict one another.  And that’s the key. Everything bends and twists and re-shapes to take into account what we want in any given moment. We are God of the imagined world, but we’re not very good at it because it’s about what we want. That is the 99% dominant desire in the imagined space, a selfish one. So what is the purpose of such an inconsistent and vain vision of life? I think it’s to give us hope that changes can and will come. It also can give us perspective on our limitations when we actually take a moment to comprehend what we’re seeing isn’t really there. Ouch! I don’t know if I have the endurance to ponder and explain further on that world for now.

That means it’s time for the real world. A place that’s been here long before we were and will continue on perfectly fine without us. The rules are simple here; so simple that we forget them all the time even when they’re working so plainly in front of us or on us. We are the ones that bend and jump and hide from this world. We are the “wanton flies” hoping to stick around in God’s playground long enough to figure out one of those pesky simple rules and pass it on to our children so they can hold it in one hand and reach for another rule. Maybe they will be more than a pest in someone’s house. We have to learn those rules and keep to them or else they will break us. I can feel myself getting lost in the real world just through this paragraph.

What I want to finish on is how these two worlds dual in fiction writing. Most writing favors the imagined and most readers are drawn to this type as well which is completely fine and dandy because it is the easier of the two, the one that hurts less to get involved with. Less hurting means less friction, though. That’s why the real world pops up. Stories need a friction to create conflict and to move towards something worthwhile. Does that mean the balance of these two worlds in writing should be 50/50? I don’t know, but I do know the more I attempt (that’s all I can do now) to inject the real world the more difficult the writing becomes for me and I, fear, also for the readers. But don’t we secretly want to intellectualize those rules so that we gain a chance to use them? And wouldn’t more exposure to them lead to this? How much pain are we willing to take from the brutal, uncompromising real world when the imaginary is waiting to bend over backwards for us?

I need to stop ending with questions, but I’m really only at the stage of being able to ask them instead of answer them. No one’s left feedback or comments yet so please feel free to talk it up whomever might be out there reading this.

“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact.” Damn quotes again, saying it better than me.

Is a Tragedy Too Much for Readers Today?

I’ve been thinking again, which many times splits into something beautifully insightful or frustratingly crippling. Hopefully putting it down in the semi-permanent existence of the internet will lean the odds towards the former goal. “I don’t know what I think until I read what I say,” said someone with more success at reaching the beauty of thoughts than I’ve had. (I can’t help quoting others. They put words together so well).

So back to my ponderings, I think. It all started with another small bout of writers block that led to the question currently bouncing around in my head; do people want to read something sad? To further that question and to make my chain of thoughts more clear I moved next to ‘Why is it sad?’ I don’t want to make people cry although that would be a pretty good indicator that the writing has had an effect. But tears are so temporary and the effect I want my writing to have is much more. I want readers to come back to my work and find more with each visit until they’ve reached a point of permanency in being someone else because they encountered what I wrote. Lofty ambitions, I know.

Another question to add to the musings so far; will a tearjerker accomplish what I want? I want to strike at something true and through my perspective that means not holding back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about trying to teach some moral lesson by damning characters for their fictional wrongdoings. It’s again about reaching and possibly glimpsing the awesome, the inspiring, the terrifying, the all. Am I reaching too far? Have I gained some deeper understanding here? Or am I stuck in the dirt staring up at the sky waiting for the answers?