Strange Critiques

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The short story seminars I took in college didn’t unfold with the same series of bitter invectives and simmering resentments as portrayed in Wonder Boys. We, usually 12-15 of us, were almost uniformly polite, wrapping criticisms inside compliments as any traces of venom or hurt revealed themselves in nothing beyond bitten lips and downcast eyes. In the three different seminars in which I studied, only two stories were, in my view and most others’, perfect. One was a humorous story with a Southern Gothic twinge (the young woman who wrote it was a Flannery O’Connor devotee) and the other was a chilling look at warped domestic life in Malibu. All other stories required significant notes that were usually delivered by 20-year-old students in no position to offer sound advice (myself included).

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Boyhood and *Boyhood*

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Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s latest release, deserves the plaudits given in response to its unparalleled narrative ambition. Filmed during 39 days spread across 12 years, Boyhood marks American cinema’s most authentic coming-of-age feature thanks to the natural maturation of its principal actors including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelai Linklater (the director’s daughter) & Ellar Coltrane, the young man whose formation grants Boyhood its name. While Boyhood’s filmmaking structure alone makes it a exciting curiosity among contemporary releases, its contents will justify its status as a major cinematic standout for years to come. Boyhood’s understanding of growing up, such an obviously universal element of life, hasn’t been equaled since The 400 Blows.

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Novel Update: Realism and Post-Modernism

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I’m up to about 58,000 words (200-210 pages) and closing the final gaps in my story before I begin another sizable revision. Below are some barely-coherent, semi-cohesive thoughts on Richard Yates and literary post-modernism.

Richard Yates produced seven novels in his lifetime, none before the age of 36 and none after turning 60. His goal, as expressed multiple times, was fifteen, a mark he couldn’t quite halve. With poor sales and erratic levels of critical praise directed toward him while alive, Yates held little profile outside his novels. He wasn’t a notable journalist. He didn’t post thinkpieces in a variety of publications. He didn’t write criticism like his contemporary John Updike. He wasn’t a late-night favorite like Norman Mailer. Nor was he often interviewed, and Yates views on life and literature were, until Blake Bailey’s comprehensive biography on him was released in 2003, contained almost entirely in a 1972 Q&A with Ploughshares. He died in 1992, from emphysema, alcoholism and god knows what else, at the age of 66. I’m therefore cursed in choosing Richard Yates as my favorite author. Or should I say, I’m cursed to have Richard Yates’ work happen to move me in ways unmatched by other writers.

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Yates as a young man

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Luddite

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Though the book I’m working on takes place in the present (2012 to be exact), the technological advancements of my lifetime play a marginal role in the narrative. No one sends a text message, the Internet is barely referenced, characters don’t use iPhones…all these elements exist; I’m not composing some sort of parallel world untouched by Apple & company. But within the events of the story, they’re either on the periphery or wholly removed.

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Novel Update Part Whatever

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I’m in the process of filling in holes in my novel, which is a critical step but doesn’t provide much in the way of comprehensive passages worth reading out of sequence. I do think this recent piece, a 1000-word bit, should make sense by itself. Hopefully. I’m up to about 190 pages overall (the final product should sit between 210-240). Continue reading

Novel Update

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I’ve posted before about the novel I’m working on and wanted to give a small update. Lately, my work has involved smaller “bridge” passages, connecting major story-lines with brief scenes and interactions. This sort of writing happens more slowly but it’s obviously necessary. I’m about 46,000 words into the re-write with 65,000 being a reasonable goal. More revisions will follow but they’ll mostly be cosmetic. Continue reading

Fire Joe Morgan: Gavin McInnes Is Moronic Or Lazy (Or Both!) Edition

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Vice founder and human cold sore Gavin McInnes pulled some nonsense out of his ass about Donald Sterling and privacy and called it an article. I would argue that it’s better used as future evidence in the “Let’s Deport Gavin McInnes Back to Canada” web petition.

(McInnes’ article, originally posted here, appears broken-up but otherwise unedited in bold below. My commentary is in plain text.) Continue reading

Fire Joe Morgan: Mad Men Edition

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Over at Salon, a pompous clown named Matthew Brandon Wolfson has decided to take the great Mad Men to task for reasons that will never become clear. Along the way, he contradicts himself and fails to offer any kind of substantive evidence. As good writers lose their jobs, he’s somehow getting paid! Whee!

(Wolfson’s piece, broken up but otherwise unedited, is in bold. His piece can also be found here.) Continue reading

Stillness

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I haven’t been working on fiction as much as I’d like (daily would be ideal). My issue isn’t so much writer’s block or procrastination but rather an overwhelming attachment to the story that makes stopping difficult. I start working on a new chapter or section and find it hard to walk away. Working at night’s especially problematic because my mind keys in to the story and falling asleep becomes a chore. It’s less taxing to wander through moments half-engaged whereas the novel requires the total bond between myself and the page. It’s the difference between jacking off and making love.

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