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Conhecimento Comum




I gave this a three, mainly because there were only a couple of good essays. But the good ones are REALLY good, so do browse this, by all means... For me, the two best pieces were by Johnston and Almond...

Bret Anthony Johnston on having an agenda as a writer:

The writer seems to have chosen an event because it illustrates a point or mounts an argument. When a fiction writer has a message to deliver, a residue of smugness is often in the prose, a distressing sense of the story's being rushed, of the author's going through the motions, hurrying the characters toward whatever wisdom awaits on the last page. As a reader, I feel pandered to and closed out. Maybe even a little bullied. My involvement in the story, like the characters', becomes utterly passive. We are there to follow orders, to admire and applaud the author's supposed insight (27).

Fiction is an act of courage and humility, a protest against our mortality, and we, the authors, don't matter. What matters are our characters, those constructions of imagination that can transcend our biases and agendas, our egos and entitlements and flesh... trust that your craft, when braided with compassion, will produce stories that matter both to you and to readers you've never met (28-29).

Steve Almond on humor (especially good!):

"... sometime atrocity is the midwife of the comic...the comic impulse is what allows us to recognize our sins (personal, cultural, historical) and thereby make moral progress (36).

"The jokes that my characters require, in order to face the truth of themselves and their circumstances, -- those are the ones that stay." (38)

When the stink of gravity grows thick upon your keyboard, let humor be your aromatherapy... (38-39).

Something is funny, most of all, because it's true, and because the velocity of insight into this truth exceeds our normal standards. Something is funny because it's outside our expected boundary of decorum. Something is funny because it defies our expectations. Something is funny because it offers a temporary reprieve from the hardship of seeing the world as it actually is. Something is funny because it is able to suggest gently that even the worst of our circumstances and sins is subject to eventual mercy. There are different sorts of laughter, in other words, and they express varying degrees of joy, affirmation, surprise and relief (39).

Literary artists don't write funny to produce laughter -- though we're certainly thrilled when people laugh -- but to apprehend and endure the astonishing sorrow of the examined life (41).
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MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
There are some very good pieces in this book -- Steve Almond's essay on writing sex scenes is excellent (it's not about the sex, but character, of course). The brief piece on the revisions behind [b:The Great Gatsby|4671|The Great Gatsby|F. Scott Fitzgerald|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361191055s/4671.jpg|245494] was fascinating -- and comforting. Even Fitzgerald didn't get it the first time. He took the editorial comments made by Maxwell Perkins very seriously and generously, looking for the meaning in them rather than resisting them.

Some nuggets:

In "Making a Scene," Anna Keesey quotes Marilyn Robinson saying, "the reader is patient, ... is you're showing something that is of significance and if your prose is good and if there are no missteps or squanderings of the reader's attention, then the reader will follow you anywhere."

Well, that's a lot of IFs! But I get it...

Chris Offutt writes about the difference between "polishing" and revising -- and I am guilty, guilty, guilty of the former and not so hot at the latter... I will hone a sentence until it absolutely gleams, not seeing the weakness all around it. This piece is the best in the book. "Revising requires a cruel and ruthless objectivity with which you essentially perform surgery on yourself without anesthesia" (207).

For Offutt, the first draft is pure vulnerability, which (hopefully) translates into what he calls "reader empathy." And that is not the space to be in to revise. The transition between the two is time -- letting that first draft sit. "Try to see what the story is, rather than what you are trying to force it into. If you've done that first draft successfully, you've tapped into your intuition, your impulses, your unconscious, your problems of the day, whatever emotional state you are in... [for revision] you need to forget what it is you've tried to do, look at the story, see what it has become, and begin to attempt to fix it, to revise it, to improve it" (209).

Offutt always cuts off the opening and closing of the first draft, since the story is usually starting later and ending sooner. He also keeps every draft separate (!) so that he can go back and see what he did (I would find this completely impossible). He is fearless -- switching scenes, combining characters, hatcheting exposition. But the polishing -- repeated words, punctuation etc. -- is the last thing to be done...

Another good quote. "Adverbs are the weakest words; verbs are the strongest. Many, many times I've found that I have the wrong verb so I'm attempting to cheat and modify the wrong verb by using an adverb" (212). Wiush it was shorter so I could put it on a tshirt.

Peter Rock also had a good quote from Julio Cortazar, quoting Hector Quiroga: "Tell the story as if it were only of interest to the small circle of your characters, of which you may be one. There is no other way to put life into the story."

In this exploration of show vs. tell, Rock goes on to say this. "Telling in stories often attempts to simplify, to clarify, but when it's really working, telling complicates and adds dimension to the experience of the story. It interprets situations and characters, and it invites us to do the same. It involves us" (239).
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MaximusStripus | 2 outras críticas | Jul 7, 2020 |
This book is absolutely great and full of a lot of literary advice I will be using nearly all the time. The chapter about sex scenes had me dying, and I love the breakdown on Shakespeare.
RovingRovester | 2 outras críticas | Mar 21, 2020 |
Aside from the cover, this was a lot less steamy than I'd anticipated. All the same, it's a decent collection on a theme--sex as love, as romance, as power, as coping mechanism, as social anthropology.

This is a collection of stories and essays, but no distinction is made for which is which. I suppose it doesn't matter much--good writing is good writing--but fiction and essay are evaluated differently in my mind; distance between reader and author is blurred. The anthology is arranged alphabetically by author, which makes some transitions a little rough but is a pretty standard method of organization, even if it's not my preference. As with any collection, quality varies from author to author; there are some stand-out pieces and some forgettable ones, and plenty that fall somewhere in between. (The essay on the furrie convention was particularly interesting, even if the author did have a definite "aren't these people kind of weird?" vibe coming through her writing.)

I'm waffling between keeping this four stars and acknowledging that it's probably more like 3.5, so I'll call it three-and-three-quarters and be done with it.

One last point: as far as I can tell, Steve Almond is nowhere in this collection, but he's tied to it on Amazon and therefore here on GoodReads.
… (mais)
librarybrandy | Mar 29, 2013 |

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Aimee Bender Contributor
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Michael Lowenthal Contributor
Elissa Schappell Contributor
D.A. Powell Contributor
Tom Grimes Contributor
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