A fiesta that caught me unawares

Oh how I like unusual words!

unawares adv. so as to surprise.

What I like less, is when things catch me unawares. (Please, stay! I promise I have a point with this post!)

You may have noticed how, at the beginning of September, I said that I would do this, that and the other, and then just kind of fell off the radar altogether. There is a reason for that, one that I may well tell you about — no, don’t worry, it won’t be now. Because now I have something more important to say.

While I was off the radar, September went by and Bloggiesta crept up on me and is suddenly here! I didn’t realize it was this late. Ahem. Well. Oh well.
I do have plenty to do, but little time to blog over the weekend… and I’ll have to change my Bloggiesta plans a bit. But I plan to enjoy the sudden fiesta all the same!

Here’s my to-do list:

  1. Finish reading The Rock (I know, I know, it’s not a readathon, but I do want to finish it before the end of the month and it fits the following points too, so I’ll stretch the rules and make it a readathon/bloggathon fiesta — there’s no rule saying I can’t, right?)
  2. Write the stats post for the end of September (see? I need to finish that book!)
  3. Write the October list post
  4. Think about what I want to do with this blog
  5. Reply to that guest post offer (as soon as I decide what to reply, which will only be after I complete #3)
  6. Design the button for a personal project that I am pushing back again and again (no, I won’t tell you what it’s about, not yet. A hint? Are you asking me for a hint? Oh, OK: it’s for the Italian section, and it’s about words)
  7. Write (or at least give myself a clear schedule to do so) some other non-review posts, such as: “T___ with G,R&N”, “S___ under the same ___” and “Book K___” (wondering about all those blanks? Well I couldn’t give away the titles like that, could I?)
  8. Explore blogs and mini-challenges (of course, that’s the whole point)

You may have noticed that there’s no technical side to my list. Well, what can I say: at the moment I am more concerned with the content and where I want to go with that. But if you think there are issues with my container (are those annoying CAPTCHAs still there? Do you find my language setup confusing? Does the theme make your browser crash?) please do let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Happy Bloggiesta, everybody!

Book: Last Night in Twisted River

The book: Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving

The edition: Black Swan paperback, 667 pages, with author’s note

The story: wherein we read about a cook and his son, on the run after the 12-year-old accidentally killed a woman mistaking her for a bear, and we follow their story over five decades and two countries as the boy grows up and becomes a writer.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: in the author’s note, Irving writes of a woman who told him “even your conversation has plot” and he goes on to state that he represents “the long, plotted novel” and adds: “thats what I do.” I mention this because I think it points out exactly why I fell in love with John Irving’s writing when I read The Cider House Rules: good storytelling, taking the form of good plot. But Irving is more than that, his storytelling is good because he creates interesting characters, and even the most irrelevant ones come with a full story.
And this is a good thing. Because here, I found the plot to be weaker, the story going round and round… but still I enjoyed the novel so very much. It’s not only the touches of “you still have something to discover” that kept me reading. It’s the story, or rather, the stories, the details, life jumping out of the page. I think that, by wanting to write about the writer’s experience, Irving shifted the focus away from plot, but the book has plenty of other saving graces.

What I liked: characters with a big heart, especially Ketchum.

What I didn’t like: the way sex is treated. I don’t want to be a prude, but none of the representations of sex here is healthy, and some are positively sick.

In the author’s own words: I love the idea of negative autobiography Irving states in the author’s note:

What I did not give Danny was my life, which has been largely happy and very lucky. I gave Daniel Bagicalupo the unluckiest life I could imagine. I gave Danny the life I am afraid f having — the life I hope I never have. Maybe that’s autobiographical, too — in a deeper, more meaningful, certainly more psychological way. (When you write about what you fear, about what you hope never happens to you or to anyone you love — surely that’s a little autobiographical.)

Read this if: if you liked previous works by Irving, you’ll probably appreciate this one too.

Counts as: What’s in a Name Challenge (Topographical Feature); Antonym Challenge (Last/First); Chunkster Challenge (551-750)

“Fumblerules” for writing in English

I’m sure most of you know this text already, in one of its various forms, but one of the rules came up recently in a conversation and I thought I’d just republish the list here, for future reference and because it’s fun.

ON HOW TO WRITE GOOD

1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They are old hat).
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
8. Be more or less specific.
9. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than unnecessary; it’s highly superfluous.
14. One should never generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don’t use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Profanity is for assholes.
26. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shattering ideas.
27. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
28. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
29. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it effectively.
30. Puns are for children, not for groan readers.
31. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
32. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
33. Who needs rhetorical questions?
34. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
35. Proofread every space and letter carefully to see if you any words out.

I went on to look for the original source, and according to the alt-usage-english.org site one of the first lists was compiled by none less than William Safire. (Later lists are a bit more effective in my view, but still. And he had this genial one: “Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.”)

Book: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

The book: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

The edition: English translation by Philip Gabriel, Vintage Books paperback, 178 pages

About the book: to use the author’s own words, “a kind of memoir centered on the act of running”.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: beware: don’t read this book if you’re not interested in running. It came highly recommended by husband, who is a runner himself, and I can see how a memoir about running&writing would appeal to amateurs runners who struggle to fit their hobby in their too-crammed schedules. To me, the main merit of this book is its straightforward use of language, making it a light and quick read; and it’s always good to hear a novelist talk about his experience as a writer (which is also threaded into the book here, although it’s only a minimal part of it).
For the rest, it felt like Murakami wrote this collection of thoughts on running for himself (he even states so somewhere), and then it was published because, well, Murakami is a successful writer and any book by him would ensure good sales. In other words, it fell a bit flat for me.

In the author’s own words: most of what Murakami writes about writing is self-evident, but it’s still good to read (and applies to translators as well!):

In every interview I’m asked what’s the most important quality a novelist has to have. It’s pretty obvious: talent. No matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. […]
If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist, that’s easy too: focus — the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it. […]
After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you are not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed for a writer of fiction — at least one who hoes to write a novel — is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years.

Read this if: if you are a(n amateur) runner, this is an interesting and easy read.

Counts as: Dewey Decimal challenge #1