Archive for November, 2011

November 26, 2011

New Works from Kerouac and Woody Allen

Jack Kerouac has a new book out (possibly one he never would have let out of his desk drawer) called “The Sea is My Brother,” which he wrote about his travels in the merchant marine. It’s short, a 158-page work that was unpublished during his life. It was written even before “The Town and The City” (1950) and certainly before his powers as a novelist reached their full fruition. I will probably get time to read that at some point, so I will have a review of it then.

For a better time and a better read, just re-read “Visions of Cody” which is to his own canon, what Finnegan’s Wake is to James Joyce—they are both long novels full of soliloquy from their main characters. For my money, Joyce’s best book is “Dubliners,” while “Cody” is Kerouac’s most sublime long work. In the category of average-length novel, the most over-looked novel of Kerouac’s is “Big Sur.” I believe a movie of Sur is to be filmed in the coming year, but don’t pass up the writing in “Big Sur” to see the movie. The writing you’ll find there is excellent—indeed it’s the best novel ever written about a horrendous drunken week by a horrendous drunk (and there have been a few who wrote well).

Speaking of which, I just read the “Letters of Hemingway, Volume 1” which is a bit of a disappointment compared to the excellent early letters that Kerouac wrote: “Notes from an Underwood,” I believe. I must admit I enjoyed the Hemingway letters to Gertrude Stein—he seemed to pull his best self together for her. She did a lot for his writing. This is quite amusingly dramatized in Woody Allen’s latest film, “Midnight in Paris,” which brings us into the art and literature world of the Parisian 1920s.

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November 17, 2011

How to Write a Mashup Novel

A mashup is, of course, the putting together (or mashing) of separate elements to create a whole unique piece of art. The term is usually used in music and was pioneered by Hip Hop which uses it extensively. Has it ever been done successfully with a novel? Will I try to achieve that?

I’ve got two projects: 1. a once-finished novel that is “trunked” or out of circulation, and 2. An early work-in-progress, WIP, with two new characters but no structure. Novel 1, I’ve found is a mess because when I indulgently tried to insert the character of my Ex into the narrative and when the 3rd person POV of the novel tried to read her mind . . . it failed. The best I could do at the time was take out all that material (12k words), but now I’ve got a story like a 3-legged table. My proposal would be to create a mashup by inserting a new character from the WIP in its place. I’ve never done anything this radical before. I’m not sure how inserting new material into an older narrative would work. It’s not a traditional mashup, if there is such a thing, but it would be a challenge. It’s a method to consider.

November 15, 2011

“Laura Bridgman” Was Helen Keller before Helen Keller

For three minutes of a haunting and brilliant writing listen to Kimberly Elkins’ “Laura Bridgman” on The Drum, an audio literary magazine.

Her flash fiction “Laura Bridgman, the First Famous Blind Deaf-Mute, Aged 59, Upon Meeting Helen Keller, Aged 8” was recorded at The Drum’s Open Mic session at the 2011 Boston Book Festival and appears in the November 2011 issue of The Drum.

Kimberly Elkins’ “Laura Bridgman” offers a fascinating fictionalized account of an actual historical moment. It’s from her newly completed first draft of the novel (Yay, Kim!). As Laura meets the young girl (Keller) who is being groomed to take her place as a celebrity, Bridgman muses on the vagaries of fame and reputation. Elkins’ piece raises interesting questions about the rivalry among the senses (or their loss), and the strange power that can be wielded by disability.

This piece from her novel may either be part of a preface to the novel, part of the last page, or a bit of both. In any case it’s one look at the most significant point of the plot of this historical novel.

Kimberly Elkins’ fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Best New American Voices, The Iowa Review,The Village Voice, Glamour, and Prevention, among others. She was a finalist for the 2004 National Magazine Award and has received fellowships from the Edward Albee and William Randolph Hearst foundations, the SLS fellowship in Nonfiction to St. Petersburg, Russia, the St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award, and a joint research fellowship from the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, and the Massachusetts Historical Society for research on her novel. Residencies include the Millay Colony and Blue Mountain Center, and she was also the 2009 Kerouac Writer in Residence. Kimberly has taught at Florida State University and Boston University, and is currently a Visiting Lecturer and Advisor for the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of Hong Kong.

November 12, 2011

Who Is The Dead String?

I might be a dead string now, but I don’t want to be. I don’t want to die alone. I don’t want to die before I’ve had a chance to live on my own. I want someone, anyone, someone real, to know who I am at last. I want to sing so that someone feels me, hears my voice. I want to sing out like Jimi Hendrix played and play guitar like Janis Joplin sang. I want that someone to listen and then put his head down and cry. Then I will know.

November 11, 2011

Top 25 Retweets of “When the 1% occupy themselves?”

Top 25 RTs of my post: What is it called when the 1% occupy themselves? #occupyharvard

1. it’s called the .99% 🙂
2. #mockupyharvard?
3. Occuception.
4. When the 1% occupy themselves, it’s called preoccupation.” ROFLMAO!
5. Make no mistake, there are a lot of 99%-ers who attend Harvard, some who are accruing major debt$ 2 start their adult lives.
6. maybe when the 1% are paying attn and joining the #Occupy movement we call it victory. We will not win w/divisive attitudes.
7. “We are the 99.9%!”
8. At least Harvard kids will actually have a clue to what they’re occupying.
9. Building support with sympathetic insiders? 🙂
10. When the 1% occupy themselves I think it’s called a guilty plea (or maybe just masturbation).
11. Just because some very wealthy people attend Harvard doesn’t mean that all of the students are even particularly well-off.
12. When the 1% occupy themselves, it’s called preoccupation.
13. They must have found out the shelters for the upcoming depopulation events are a lot more selective than they imagined.
14. happy carefree
15. white guilt
16. Some people do get into Harvard on academic merit but then take tremendous student loans to cover costs.
17. I believe the word is “ironic”
18. privilege?
19. we r the 0,99% we want our credit cards full again 😉
20. raised consciousness?
21. checking your privilege?
22. great slogan anyway “occupy yourself” 🙂
23. There are plenty of Harvard students not in the 1%. Like me!
24. Having a conscience?
25. Actually, Harvard gives more in economic aid than many other top universities. Legacy is on the wane everywhere, it’s merit now.

November 6, 2011

Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma Inspires a Novel

As my upper mind digests my unconscious mind in search of the next right story, my curiosity throws me full-tilt into some music to latch onto. I know my new novel is going to involve music so my guitar has been dusted off and I’m practicing as if I will soon get back on stage to torture the ears of Cambridge. I am also searching for the inspiration in a female character to feature in the plot. I think I’ve found her. She is Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma. Her new album with the band is called “Exits and All the Rest” and is just out. If you hurry over to NPR site here, you’ll get a listen to the whole album. It should still be us for a few days. After that, you could buy it or search on YouTube. I’ve heard it several times now, and am learning to play and sing “Smart,” a cut from the album. She writes: “And do you ever start to wonder / what’s it like to be alone / to sit and stare and ponder / living a life that’s not your own?” That’s a good question to hang a song upon—and perhaps one appropriate for a novel. We shall see. Enjoy—and keep bugging me to start and finish the novel.

November 3, 2011

Swimming to the Cambodia Inside his Readers

In “Swimming to Cambodia,” the monologue theater piece that became a popular movie, Spalding Gray plays Woody Allen’s oft-portrayed, anxiety-stifled character better than Allen ever could. The audience’s fascination may come from the conviction that Spalding Gray is not acting, but telling the truth, and he is. Although the genesis of his story may be seem spontaneous, the monologue is indeed as well-written as it is truthful.

The deeper fascination for the audience is the realization that we see through the character and the actor into the naked mind of the man called Gray with both dread and sympathy. Though we see that a person who is seriously neurotic or depressed is not us, the fascination grows because his character draws a picture so completely. In “Cambodia” Gray’s acting is equal to his writing ability.

Now, in ‘The Journals of Spalding Gray’ a review by Ron Rosenbaum of Gray’s previously unpublished personal story, we find the truth of it. Rosenbaum says: “It’s distressing to read the way happiness generates sadness and terror in Gray’s psyche, because his work could be the source of so much pleasure to his audiences.” Not that Bob Dylan ever accomplished any success as a poet, but he once said “A poet is a naked man.” I think that applies to Spalding Gray in his journals. See for yourself in this excerpt from the book which is now available for us to read: here.

November 3, 2011

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