Friday, August 13, 2010

Moore Work (Pardon My Pun)

The work continues. I have had to give up on the whole writing-during-the day thing for a while. I've always worked better at night, but before the baby got here, I could make myself eek out a little work during the day. Now that Lucy Addison is here and demanding more and more of my daylight hours, I find that whatever daytime concentration I'd been able to muster in the past has now completely disappeared. After two weeks of trying to be the disciplined, dedicated writer who gets up and writes before her child is awake, I've had to resort to writing at night while she is asleep. The downside is that evenings are also the time when Steve is home. Oh well, I suppose we're must suffer for our art, right? And besides, it gives Steve a chance to play Red Dead Redemption, and, after all, we must have priorities. Video game banditos need love, too.

In addition to my creative work (I'm still plugging away on the old novella), I am also trying to finish up the books I'm reading for my critical paper this term. I believe I mentioned this before, but in case you're just tuning in, I am [planning on] writing my critical paper on non-linear narratives in twentieth century lit with female authors, and more specifically, Lorrie Moore. So far I have read, Self-Help, Anagrams, Like Life, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital, and I'm about half-way through Birds of America. After I finish it up, I will only have A Gate at the Stairs left to go.

So far, I am loving her work. Like Life was probably my least favorite thus far (and also the least related to my critical project), but I am IN LOVE with Self-Help and Anagrams. It is almost unfortunate that I am not writing my paper on her use of word play because, quite frankly, her word play is AMAZING! Not only does she do really subtle stuff in the narration, but her characters are very intelligent and witty, and they make hilarious puns and turns of phrase that resonate with so many layers of meaning. Wait a minute. Can layers resonate? So maybe the cold medicine is kicking in a bit...never mind me. Lorrie Moore's words, metaphors, connotations, and references are brilliant. I swear that if I went through her stuff with a flourescent highlighter marking every time she blew me away with her mastery of the English language, the books would glow in the dark.

Besides her word play, an aspect most impressive to me is her use of the second person in Self-Help. She manages to write successful second person stories that are also entertaining and moving - not just exercises in edginess. This is a feat I've rarely seen accomplished so elegantly - though Leslie Pietrzyk's "Ten Things" would also fall in that amazing second person story category.

Of course, all of these aspects, though very intriguing, have little to do with my paper, which is about non-linear narratives. She does do some pretty impressive things with her handling of time in her stories, and I look forward to exploring that in more depth. So thanks to Bob Olmstead for nudging me toward such an amazing writer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rambling [Wo]Man

I'm frantically trying to get my writing done for Monday's deadline, so, of course, I'm going to take some time to blog. Actually, I'm a little stuck, and I'm hoping this will shake something loose. Okay, that's kind of a disturbing metaphor, but I digress.

Lately, my days have been one long succession of baby, baby laundry, and feeling guilty/worried about my schoolwork. I can't seem to work for very long periods of times these days (for both practical and unknown reasons), so it's looking like I should have started this one-page-a-day installment plan a little sooner. I just need to get something on the page for this chapter so that I can start editing. The problem is that I keep editing in my head before I put anything down, and then I stall. Plus, I really wasn't planning on writing on one story for the entire semester, but I somehow got convinced that was the thing to do. Apparently, flattery will, in fact, get you everywhere, and telling me that you like my story and want to see more is enough to get me to agree to continue on with little, lost Michelle's adventures. What was I thinking?

So here I sit, knowing that the baby will wake up at any second from her nap and that we both have a cold and I still haven't eaten lunch and the dishes need to be put away and at some point I should probably wash my hair.

Okay, enough with the rant. Every semester I am convinced that this will be the time I don't get everything in by deadline, and every semester it all works out just fine. So I guess that means that this really will be the semester when I'm late and everyone realizes I'm a fraud and the health department really does declare my house unfit and we all run out of clean clothes.....and there she is, awake and ready for a bottle. Break over!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense." - A Review of Alice in Wonderland

Every time I heard Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland described by a friend or acquaintance, I heard the word "weird." Upon its release in theaters, Facebook lit up with comments about the "bizarre" film adaption of Lewis Carroll's classic. Of course, I had seen many of the previews, so I had already accepted the fact that the film would have little or nothing to do with the actual book, but the weirdness intrigued me. After all, even if the filmmaker combined Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There, there probably wouldn't be enough to create a traditional plot/story arc. My hope, then, was that Tim Burton got the mood right - the feel of this truly twisted story, the beautiful "unlogicalness" of it.

This week I finally got to watch Tim Burton's latest...all by myself. I tried to keep my expectations low, since that attitude toward movie watching has paid off recently. Unfortunately, Mr. Burton let me down, and I'm having a difficult time forgiving him this trespass against one of my favorite childhood books.

The first sin was one that has become quite common in Hollywood. Why do filmmakers feel compelled to turn every female literary character into a put upon feminist? We are introduced to Alice as a free-thinking, imaginative child whose one kindred spirit is her father. So you can guess what happens to him. Next we see Alice as a young woman about to be married off to a creepy, young aristocrat who was a blatant rip-off of Spalding from Caddyshack. But Alice won't be tied down, no matter what her mother and sister say or expect. She's going to be a rule-breaker - she's going to change the matchmaking traditions of her generation (cue kicky Joan Jett song.) Seriously? Is Tim Burton jealous of Lewis Carroll's legacy of creepiness that predates his own, and now he's punishing him by completely eviscerating the childlike wonder of his character, Alice? I'm so disappointed.

Then there's the mish-mash of details from the two stories that are shuffled together into a completely new plot that is one part The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, one part Labyrinth, and about twenty parts special effects. What happened to the chess game aspect of Through the Looking Glass? There is only a brief nod to that detail when the final battle scene is set on a checkerboard. Plus, I always thought that Alice's entrance through the mirror was far more intriguing than her initial entry via rabbit hole. Don't misunderstand me. I realized that the story would be new, but surely there was a way to create a story that felt like Carroll. Look to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film adaption. It had very little to do with the books, and yet they managed to maintain the gist of the message and the essence and quirkiness of the characters....which leads me to my next (and biggest) complaint.

Everybody kept saying how weird this film is. I would argue, in fact, that it isn't nearly weird enough. Obviously, those people never actually read the book, which is full of delightful conundrums, tongue-twisting rhymes, and jumps in logic and story that boggle the mind in a way that just feels right...especially to a child. At the age of ten (or whenever I read this book), I so got the writing, the kookiness, the meandering acid trip of it all. And, honestly, this is the area in which I thought Burton would excel. Nobody does creepy and bizarre like him, and yet he appears to have sold out to Disney or whomever suggested that he bastardize such a great book into this extremely accessible movie. Because, let's face it, Alice in Wonderland (the book) is anything but accessible or mainstream.

Lest I sound unfair, I will admit that the film on its own is entertaining. It is well-paced, and the acting is decent. Burton relied on his usual cast, and they didn't let him down (even if Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter did feel a bit like a reheated leftover of his Willy Wonka performance.) I am certain that viewers who never read any Lewis Carroll probably enjoyed it immensely, especially if they are addicted to special effects and elaborate wigs and makeup.

The question I am left with is, Is it enough to be entertaining? Doesn't the filmmaker owe something to the author? Carroll created a masterpiece that used childlike logic to explore very adult injustices and to point out the ridiculous in our world, and yet, the ridiculous is what is missing in the film. There is plenty of silliness and slapstick, but it all appears to be there for no other reason than to solicit a laugh from the audience. About the only thing separating this film from other Disney pap is its lack of a power love ballad. Hey, maybe Burton could give Celine Dion a call, and she could hook him up. Maybe Alice could become the next Disney Princess.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Coming Attractions

Once again I've been slack in the blogging department. I haven't written a new entry in over a month, and I am suitably ashamed. Truth is, I haven't been working on school writing like I should, and I feel guilty if I do "fun" writing for my blog when I should be chipping away at my novella. All kinds of blogging ideas flit through my head and then either wither away or get dismissed as I remind myself of all the schoolwork I should be contemplating instead.

So, I resolve to do better about both. I've been working on my schoolwork fairly faithfully this week, and tomorrow I intend to reward myself with some blogging time. I finally got to watch my most recent Netflix arrival, Alice in Wonderland, and I'm dying to review it. What will I say? Will I give it a thumbs up or say "Off with Tim Burton's head?" I guess you'll have to check back tomorrow to find out!