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Echoes and Mirrors » 2013 » December

Archive for December, 2013

Rewriting

Friday, December 20th, 2013

It’s a real pain in the ass.

I’m looking over this rushed but finished novel I wrote over the summer and I’m simultaneously glad I wrote it and unspeakably disappointed with it.

It’s like reading a poorly novelized film. The plot and the movement aren’t unbelievable, but the prose is underwhelming. It lacks voice. It meanders.

But the story, for me, more or less works.

I’m really just looking through it to see what I can salvage. There’s a good deal of description and dialogue that I like, which is surprising. The meditations and half-baked philosophizing isn’t, which isn’t much of a surprise. I dislike that stuff anyway; I probably just wrote it to get it out of the way at the time.

But it feels like it should maybe be a screenplay. It would be neat, but I have no idea what to do with one of those. They’re even harder to sell than a novel.

So, what I’m thinking is that I really was working on two different stories and sort of trying to see if they could coexist. They can’t. One is incredibly pretentious, the other really fun.

Maybe I’ll work both out one day.

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In Which I Feel Guilty for Reading a Memoir

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

I read a memoir. It doesn’t matter which one it was; I’m still convinced they’re all more or less the same.

It was everything I’ve ever wanted in a memoir, including the self-aggrandizing, unapologetic reflections, and the use of humor to deflect the pain. And I really sort of loved how it stayed on point, never deviating to what might be really interesting and complicated in favor of what was easy and fun. It provided exactly what it promised up-front. There were no surprises (and when there were, they were quickly skipped over and forgotten or ignored). Expectations were fulfilled without fail.

The writing varied from reminding me of something my students might turn in (often banal and sentimental) to brutal and beautiful.

It was candy, in other words. Which was exactly what I wanted, I suppose.

Would I read another? Not soon, and certainly not a celebrity one. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (literally or figuratively).

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Really slick stuff

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

I only got around to reading Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero back in August. I didn’t find it nearly as engaging as either American Psycho or Rules of Attraction. It was interesting enough that I finished it in two sittings, though. Certain aspects just seemed unnecessary and in the way, and the unrelenting dickishness was just a little depressing; the end seemed a little more tender and humanizing than I expected and enjoyed.

I watched the movie and was, to say the least, disappointed.

But yesterday I read Imperial Bedrooms, and I am forcing myself to reexamine every terrible comment I’ve ever made about Ellis (likely: more than a few will be upheld). The opening salvo of this novel was brilliant, and with the previous novel and its movie adaptation fairly fresh in my mind, it was almost too damn clever. What is pretty great about the story is how the narrator situates himself to not only tell it, but to critique the author. This meta/self critique went a long way to making me trust the narrator despite what happens inthe next 160 or so pages, especially the last dozen or so.

It also tells you how you misread (and how everyone) Less Than Zero. Imperial Bedrooms complements it extremely well, but I have the suspicion that anyone who reads them out of order will be entirely disappointed. Because it’s not a misreading on the part of the reader; it’s that the sequel is correcting it, an act that requires the reader to initially be sympathetic to the narrator. You have to first feel a little bad for Clay even if he’s a bit of an ass (ok, more than a little) in order for Imperial Bedrooms to have any weight (actually, this applies to all of the characters). But you also need to have seen, and been upset by, the wildly inaccurate portrayal of all the characters in the movie.

I would not hesitate to use these books and the movie, in sequence in a writing course. It’s clever and smart without being inaccessible.

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