Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was the lifeline DC needed to pull itself out of its overly-grim, emo-dark, humorless mess. DC had a distinct character problem; nobody cared about any of them. DC had a story and plot problem. The list of DC universe “issues” are, frankly, too numerous to name. Wonder Woman is what the DC universe needed. Desperately.

A quote: “To conquer others is to know power. To conquer yourself is to know the way.”

(That’s from a Xena episode, btw, google it.)

DC ham-fistedly tried to conquer its audience by hitting it over the head again and again with special effects, on-cue manipulative (and clumsy) flashback character-building, fight scene piled upon bigger stakes fight scenes. In the end, DC was getting in its own way. Wonder Woman takes one huge, important step toward flying right again.

**Minimal spoilers. If you saw BvS, you will know some small tidbits below**

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine

Gal Gadot is perfectly cast. She is a mixture of tough, vulnerable, passionate, naïve, and determined. Her ability to emote soundlessly made WW extremely accessible, which is strange given that one of the biggest problems with bringing WW to the screen is making a demi-god relatable. Her performance (and the writing) reaches into the parts of us all who want suffering and war to end with a voice that is clear as a bell.

Chris Pine is a perfect counterpart. The story risked the usual male pearl-clutching of, “Now, little lady, let the big man show you how it’s done. OH! My STARS! You just held your own in a fight and whooped ass! Why, heavens! I just don’t know what to do about a wimmins doing such things!”

Instead, it was: “Holy shit. You just deflected some bullets, saved my life, and proceeded to drop a gang of thugs trying to mug us. Hmmm! Well, what else ya got?” He saw her as an asset and he wasn’t the sexist dolt who ignored all she brought to the table.

The Film Itself

As far as the film itself. I felt like the first two acts were as close to perfect as a superhero/action movie could be. (Minus a few nitpicky minor cringey moments about the sword not “going with your outfit” which were completely unnecessary. Again, nitpicky.)

Act 1 with the Amazons set the tone: this is a fantasy. We’re in a world where Zeus and Aries and Amazons exist. You buy in and you do it quickly. See, that’s the key to WW. It’s where WW succeeded and most of the rest of the DC films failed. You bought into it all. You wanted to buy in, and, most importantly, you were rewarded for doing so. In Man of Steel, I went in wide-eyed and innocent. Superman was one of my favorite comic book characters. I grew up with Christopher Reeve. It was magic to me. And Man of Steel took my freely-given “buy in,” hurled it to the ground and stomped on it. That film punished me for wanting to buy in. That film was created from trusted source material—material I had given my whole heart to as a child—and doused in the hellfire of Zach Snyder’s suck-i-tude.

I don’t need to explain my thoughts on Batman versus Superman.

WW gave me hope again. I bought in to the film in small, careful steps:

  • Okay, the story of this island is interesting.
  • Hmmm, young Diana is fun.
  • Amazons training. Yeah, that’s …. Pretty remarkable.
  • First battle scene. Okay, that was… a…m…aaaa….z…ing….
  • Wow. I can do this. I can give my 10-year-old geek over to this film. I feel it. I can do it. Yes, YES!

And that’s how it went through act 2, where I watched what I assume was Somme in WW1 and felt tears on my cheeks. I know. Read into that what you will. I skimmed a few articles this week about why women were crying during these battle scenes and shrugged it off. Until I wasn’t shrugging anymore. Because holy shit. What did I just see her do? And not only that, but her reasons for doing so were there and they were believable and they spoke to the part of any human being who has simply….had…. enough. I bought into that moment too. Some will not buy into it, but I did. And, again, I was rewarded for doing so. Maybe it was that 10-year-old girl inside me who needed to cry. I’m glad she did.

Act three. In any other film, I might have said, “Hmmm, I’m not sure that ending was earned.” On its own, no, I don’t think it was. But, I do think the first two acts did enough stellar work to nudge that final act over the finish line. It’s hard to explain other than to say with the first two battles as outstanding as they were, the third and final battle sequence(s) seemed to suffer from needing to outdo itself. And outdo itself again. And bigger, faster, crazier effects. Add in a Marvel-flaw in that the villains weren’t exactly well-fleshed out or fully-realized, and, the info-dump’esque–“Here is my plan and what I have been doing all along, AND let me pile on some villain motivation for you . . . last minute of course!” deal. And it’s hard to wade through all of that. It was muddled. As I said, on its own? Not earned. 1st and 2nd acts taken into consideration? Yes. It’s like Russell Crowe winning an Oscar for Gladiator when he was overlooked in L.A. Confidential, passed over for The Insider, and the academy was like, “Oh! Gladiator… well, sure. Okay.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: Act 3 had amazing moments. Pay-offs. It had what BvS and Man of Steel did not have: a reason to invest as a viewer and a reason to give a shit.

Final Thoughts.

I’ve seen some mad whining by assholes on the internet that feel the film is only getting positive reviews because, “Affirmative action, YO!” or, that people are focusing hardcore on a female lead and female director and, “Who knows if it’s really good because the SJWs are all GURRRLL POWAHHH!” And to those people: politely go fuck yourselves.

Where this film rises in terms of feminism is in how it addresses a female superhero. Sure, you have the dumb-ass remarks about a sword not “going with that outfit,” because one of the writers probably thought it would make a cute/sassy catch-phrase. What surprised me was the lack of, “Oh my GOD THAT IS A WOMAN DOING STUFF” there was in the film.

The amazons kicked ass. It simply was. These women were everything I thought amazons should be. Robin Wright. Great hells. And women they hired who looked exactly like women who trained their entire lives to battle SHOULD look. And not a single comment about it. As I said: it simply was.

Perhaps it was that Amazon foundation that lent itself to the rest of the film. Gadot portrayed a woman who knew exactly what she was capable of. There was no debate. It made sense to her and, by default, to us. Looking back, I don’t recall thinking, “Wow, this female superhero is so awesome.” I remember thinking, “This is the best superhero ever.” The gender kind of fell off the radar in the best kind of way. I don’t imagine others will have had that same experience, but that’s what happened to me. It was just Diana and Diana will beat you down if you do wrong.

I will end with this: three Marvel films hold a special place in my heart: Guardians of the Galaxy (1 and 2), and the first Ironman. These three have massive re-watchability. Meaning, the moment I finished seeing all of those films the first time, I wanted to buy another ticket and go see them all again. Immediately! They are three films I will see on some crappy cable channel (with commercial interruptions) and stop to watch. Even though I own all three. You crave them. You watch them over and over because you love them. The first two acts in Wonder Woman had this same effect on me. The third act will be the extra layer of frosting on the cake that you don’t need, but you eat anyway.

Can’t wait to see it again. My nine-year-old daughter absolutely loved it.

10

06 2017

Goodbye Little Brother

This is a very long post. I’m a writer. This is how we writers process. I’m putting it on my blog because sometimes you lose things on Facebook. If you are sitting down to read this, thank you.

We are hanging in here. I have amazing support around me. Emma is home for the day. Her heart hurts. Her Uncle Billy was the world to her. She has moments of sadness and moments of seeking distraction. I think this is how adults cope too. Like walking through a fog and bumping into things, but being both numb and grateful for the human contact. An odd feeling.

This is the second time I’ve had to tell her that someone has passed (my mother being the first). I don’t think I’ve ever known such whole and complete helplessness as when you look at your child and know that the next words you say to them will hurt them. But, I held her and we cried together. I told her that it will hurt a lot when she thinks of him at first, then… over time… it will hurt a little less until one day, when she thinks about her Uncle Billy, it will only hurt a little bit. It is okay to hurt. There is no wrong or right way and that we should remember good things too.

I left the hospital close to 5A.M. I needed to see him and tell him goodbye. Goodbye from me and from all the others who were grieving. I’ve never seen a dead body so soon after death before. I chose not to see my mother after she passed. I guess I thought she would look the way they do in a funeral viewing: not quite right after the embalming–waxy and still. Empty. And I didn’t want that memory. But, over the years, I regretted not seeing her directly after. So, I had to see Billy. I just had to. And I am glad that I did. He looked . . . like Billy. It was him with his brown hair and scruffy beard and hairy arms. He was cold but it was his skin. And I touched his face and smoothed his hair back and cried for a little bit. I touched his arms. I even lifted one of his closed eyelids. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I knew that he was a donor and someone might get a part of his eyes and I wanted to see them. And his eye was there, looking into nothing. He was gone. I whispered to him goodbyes from everyone I could think of. I told him how much he meant to me, how much he meant to Emma and to so many countless others.

(By the way, his corneas were donated. I learned that today. Billy would have given every part of himself. That’s why he was a donor.)

When Billy was 18 months, maybe a little older, we were on vacation in Arizona. My folks and the adults were out to dinner and the teens and kids were left behind to watch T.V. and rent some movies. (Ghostbusters if I remember.) At some point, I couldn’t find Billy in the vacation house we were staying in. He did that sometimes, just wandered off. My gut feeling told me to go check the  pool. I did and he had fallen in. I think he had tried to reach a ball that was floating near the edge. I scooped him out and held him to me. He cried and I cried too. All I could think about was, “What if I hadn’t gone out to check the pool?” I told him many years later about that. How that fear followed me, haunted me. “What if I hadn’t been there?”

I never thought, “Wow, I’m amazing, look at me. I saved a life.” It was a genuine fear of “What if?” When you have a moment like that, it’s quiet. It’s intimate. I did not tell anyone about that moment for a very long time. And even then only a handful knew. Most of you won’t know anything about this. I carried it with me. That is the kind of love and fear you just don’t talk about, I guess. Maybe I was afraid if I did talk about it, death would change his mind and come back? You think about weird things like that when faced with the possibility of losing someone. I tell you all this now not to brag. I don’t want to share it. I’m telling you because when it was he and I alone after he died, I told him that I was sorry for not being able to save him from drowning again. That as a big sister, I wanted to be everywhere, to always protect him, and I just couldn’t get there fast enough this time. Nobody could.

I told him Jessie (his dog) would be okay. We would all see to it. I told him I was going to work my ass off to finish school. And to finish my books. And to do something with his writing too. I hope to get it in nice format, find a great cover, and publish those online for him. He was discovering a lot about himself when he started writing. He was onto something.

I told him to say hi to Mom for me in the afterlife. I told him I was going to be happy. I made that promise to him. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders. If anyone can find a way to kick my ass from the afterlife, it’s him.

I kissed his face. I touched his hair again. I left and took his things with me. It was important that I had his tablet. His writing is there. I touched and kissed him for all of his friends and family and told him how much he would be missed. I said goodbye.

Billy battled many demons. He struggled with severe depression and alcoholism. Not a good mix. I know he was in pain at times. Many of you know this too. I don’t want to say, “He’s in a better place,” or some trite garbage like that, but I do know he is not hurting anymore. I know that. He looked so much at peace.

I am soul-sick over this, and sometimes I’m not very strong—but I am strong enough for this. I know how to grieve. Losing my grandmother, mother, and uncle within a 4 month period a few years ago gave me some unpleasant practice. But I learned HOW I grieve and what I need. Trust me when I say that I will take and ask for what I need, when I need it. It might be looking at funny cat memes. It might be asking you how you are or how your day is. It might be asking you what you are watching on Netflix. Those things please me. I like those things. Know that I know what I’m doing.

I want to end this entry with lighter things. I have a memory of Billy that I love to share. When I was 20 or 21, my stepdad and mom took me and Billy to Hawaii. It was amazing, like going to Fantasy Island. Our hotel was on the beach. There were penguins swimming in clear pools in the hotel and birds of paradise quorking in tall trees. The night of the big luau came. Who wouldn’t want to go to that?

Billy didn’t want to go. I guess he must have been 6 or 7, but he threw quite a fit because the luau was taking place at the same time as the David Copperfield special on T.V.. It was the big event where he going to “fly” and Billy really wanted to watch that show. So, I stayed in the hotel room with him and we ordered room service. (What kid doesn’t love ordering room service?) Sure, the luau sounded amazing, but my little brother wanted to see David Copperfield and back then there were no DVRs or streaming services.

We watched the hell of that special. It was as awful and tasteless as you would expect, but we loved it. And I swear, we saw him fly together, little brother. We really really did.

04

02 2017

Safe Spaces

Sharing this post I made from Facebook:

I hear this phrase from some Trump supporters. It usually looks like this: “Awww, this too much for you? Sounds like you need a safe space.”

Let me explain to you what “safe space” means in my professional and academic experience. Then, let me challenge anyone who uses this phrase in a flippant, shitty way to rethink their strategies.

JAIL SPACE: I worked directly with inmates for a couple of years. I co-facilitated creative writing workshops where inmates would meet weekly and write poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Here are some things I’ve learned about that experience. First, that the majority of inmates, both male and female, have been physically abused. Many sexually abused. Around 35% of those males have experienced what they describe as “very severe violence.” Most of my inmates wrote nonfiction. We never asked them questions about abuse specifically, or about their crimes, or about past mistakes and incidents. But these were common themes they chose to bring into the writing workshop. The number of men and women who shared violence in their writing is pretty on point with national statistics.

During my work, one of the biggest challenges that I personally faced was proving to the inmates that they were, in fact, in a safe space. What this meant in my experience was that they were out of the “pod,” and could avoid harassment or unwelcome company. That they could write and share their work without judgment. This meant proving to them that I wasn’t there to mark up their words with my red pen, to tell them they are “stupid,” to tell them they are “awful writers.” (Which is what many experienced in school, having shared those experiences with the group as well.)

In one session, a young woman wrote a poem about her abuse. Her father leaving welts meant she had to wear turtleneck sweaters in 80-degree weather. The belt. Her father’s friends sexually abusing her. The verbal abuse. I remember this woman being afraid to read this poem during the workshop. Her hands were shaking. But she did and by the end of that poem, a heavy quiet fell over the room. I cried. Many cried. Then, one after another, the other woman began to share their stories—all similar, all speaking to the untold violence they’d experienced. It was one of the most remarkable moments I’ve witnessed. Later, that same woman who spoke of her father’s belt would read that poem in front of an audience. As she sat waiting, before the reading, she started to cry, rocking back and forth in her chair. “I can’t believe I really get to read this. That I get to say these things out loud. I can’t believe it….”

That is what “safe space” meant to her and to the hundreds and hundreds of other inmates I was able to work with. Safe space meant they could say what happened. They could talk about the beatings, being burnt with cigarettes, being kicked and punched. And worse. Much worse. Writing is cathartic. I know many writers on my FB feed will understand this. They will understand it deep inside of them. They know. I don’t have to explain this to them.

DOMESTIC ABUSE: This is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of “safe space.” I’ve known women in my life who have had to flee their homes, finally reaching a breaking point where they can’t take it anymore. Sneaking out in the middle of the night, during the day, hell, some have even planned their escape for weeks. Where do they go? Where do you go at 3 a.m. when you are carrying a toddler in your arms (or two), and you grab whatever you can on the way out. The doll. The plushy toy. Something to normalize what’s happening. Where DO you go? You go to a safe space. You go to a shelter, to a friend or family’s house. You go somewhere that you know is safe. And for many, they can’t imagine being in this situation. They can’t imagine what “safe space” means to a mother who wants to protect herself and her kids from violence. To a teen child who fears abuse from parents or family. They cannot imagine. But I’m asking you to try. I’m asking you to imagine. Say it out loud. “Safe Space.”

VETERANS: I don’t need to articulate how many men and women who have served in the military suffer from PTSD. Stop and consider what “safe space” means to them. Beyond a safe place to sleep without fear of gunfire.

I once had a student in my creative writing class who was a Navy Seal. He never outwardly spoke about what he experienced in Iraq, in Afghanistan. He was clean cut, sharp, smartest student I’ve ever had. For an exercise in class, I was teaching my students about writing a “fight scene.” Seems simple, right? It’s actually difficult. It’s one of the most difficult things to do well in fiction.

So, I had them write a “fight scene.” They wrote for 10 minutes. Many struggled, realizing that it wasn’t as easy as they imagined. Some write about verbal arguments. Some about martial arts encounters. My veteran wrote about being pinned down behind a half blown-up vehicle as bullets whizzed past his head.

Part 2 of the exercise went like this: “Write for another 10 minutes. Now, I want you to start with, “What most people don’t know about being in a martial arts/fist/sword/fire fight is _____.” I wanted them to dig deeper, to get to what is often unsaid during these huge, dramatic, physical, overt scenes.

My veteran read his out loud. I wish I still had it. I wish I had asked for a copy. But, in short he described these things that people don’t know about being in a fire fight in Iraq: that when people die, it’s not like in the movies. It’s a POP POP and they’re gone. That he’d wished he “closed his friend’s eyes sooner because later, the eyelids wouldn’t stay shut.” That when he’d taken a bullet in the thigh, he didn’t even know he’d been shot until he felt the blood soaking his fatigues. That during that fire fight, he thought he was going to die. That he shit his pants and pissed himself. That he tried to remember what his wife’s face looked like, or that he wished more than anything that he could remember what fresh cut grass smelled like out in the middle of dust and rock and smoke and sweat. That the driver of the jeep had been cut in two and it took him a few minutes to figure out that the two “leg like” camo-covered lumps on the ground about 10 feet in front of him weren’t leg-like; they were actual legs. One was missing a boot.

The class fell silent. This man was quiet in his reading of it and looked around. He said, “I couldn’t write about this if I hadn’t gotten help when I got home. I had good people who helped me.”

Imagine what “safe space” meant to him. To many veterans who come back in need of help: counseling, group work. To the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country, for MY country. Think about that. Think about “safe space.”

Now that you’ve thought about it, is it really a “cute” way of mocking others? Do you still think it’s “cool” to tag that phrase (safe space) onto what you may perceive as someone being weak? Because they are voicing their worries over the president elect and the questionable decisions he’s already made since being voted in? Is that what you equate with the female inmate who spoke about her abuse? The woman fleeing from violence? Rape victims? Soldiers with PTSD?

Or are you being purposely hyperbolic in hopes of taking a jab at people who give a shit about non-whites, folks from the LGBT community, non-Christians, women, children, and anyone who has been placed on the “hit list” of the president elect and his more radical followers?

Here’s my bottom line; if you use the term, “safe space” as a jab toward people discussing (DISCUSSING) the things that are worrisome to them in an online forum, on social media, in the comment sections of news sites, then consider what you have read above. (If you have actually gotten through it all.) Consider all the damage you can potentially do to those who really do need a safe space.

Reappropriation: the process by which a group reclaims terms or artifacts that were previously used…… in a way disparaging of that group (or used against that group).

The “groups” in which you are disparaging contain people you know and love: veterans, rape survivors, abuse survivors, survivors of hate crimes. You know at least one person from one of these groups. Statistics say you do. You may be one of these people yourself.

My friend, Lahoma (who suggested I turn this into a blog), also posted something that I want to address. She said that as a sociology professor, she makes it known that her classroom is a safe space. She doesn’t do this to shield college students from the “horrors of the world,” but to give them a place to discuss all the terrible things they have been through without fearing judgment, or being called a “pussy,” or being told that they are lesser, weaker, stupid, or unworthy. These college kids have been through more than people realize. Millennials are not the “coddled, entitled” individuals that so many paint them to be. Take time to understand them.

20

11 2016

DeCluttering Finds

27

11 2015

CD List (Take Me Home!)

Soundtracks/Film Scores

Chronicles of Narnia
Lion, Witch & Wardrobe (Harry Gregson-Williams)
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXrI-ridCSg

Ghost in the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith)
*Another great score – love the opening song (multi-layered) – Troy Lee will testify to it’s awesomeness
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTC56wpNwYg

Gladiator (Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard)
*a little beat up, but still good – and hello… Lisa Gerrard!
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsvqd2QkrTA

Glory (James Horner)
*One of my all time favorite scores. <3
Charging Fort Wagner still gives me chills
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-G4xAijMq4

Heat
My all-time favorite soundtrack (with score pieces by various artists). Stunning. Amazing. I remember playing this song (Mystery Man) for my husband because I loved the guitar in it. 2:00 on gets me every time. Amazingly sexy, romantic and beautiful. If I could sum my own feelings of what love sounds like, it’s this.

*Case is VERY beat up. I’ll likely switch it with something else. Disk is good.

Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EILNvJ2y2I

Contributors

Last of the Mohicans (Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman)
*excellent soundtrack. Many an RPG sessions were had with this playing in the background.
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pCv7k_Hzvg

Lord of the Rings
Return of the King and Fellowship of the Ring
(I think most people know this music)

Ned Kelly (Klaus Badelt)
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YIVqbLwzYk
*This is a solid film, btw. One of my favorite Heath Ledger performances

Starship Troopers (Basil Poledouris)
Who doesn’t love this guy? Great D&D RPG music!

Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIGHCoVzqtk


 

Symphonic
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Ricardo Muti conductor (I’m a huge fan of Muti, especially his conducting of the Pines of Rome)


MISC.
Lisa Gerrard
The Silver Tree
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX0SeygboFo

Immortal Memory (with Patrick Cassidy)
Excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-IFpa-PpRI

It’s Lisa Gerrard, yo. I need not say anything more.

 

 

27

11 2015

Brief Update

 

I’m nearing the end of my 2nd year in the Ph.D. program.  This means I’m finishing up what I hope is the last of my course work.  I still need to get my committee sorted out and obtain a reading list for the summer to prepare for comprehensive exams.

I have 6 chapters of THE BOOK to finish on draft 2.  But, I’ll need another big revision on draft 3.  That’s the problem with learning how to write a novel WHILE you are writing the very first one. You screw up a lot.  But, I’m cool with that. I want this sucker to be as close to awesome as I can get it.  In no rush!

I do have my name on an academic journal article that’s making the rounds right now.  Crossing my fingers that it can find a home.  It would be my first break into that arena.

No pics.  Sorry.

Okay, I lied… here’s a gif.

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LOLZ !

06

05 2015

I Suck at Blogging

The internet can always use more cat gifs.

As for an update on me:

 

The Bad

  • I lost my mom. She had Marfan Syndrome which they think led to her sudden death.
  • My daughter and I both tested positive for it as well.
  • I lost my grandma.
  • And my uncle.
  • And my husband lost his cousin and two very close friends.  We were averaging a funeral a month for a while there.

 

The Good

  • 2nd year into my Ph.D. program. Hanging in there. Studying new media performance and social capital.
  • Still working for the video game research project. Our little team did very well during the last phase.
  • My kid is 7. She rocks.
  • My husband has a better job. He’s amazing. He fixes my car, too. I like that.
  • Still going with the novel. It’s just a matter of making it perfect. Making it shine.
  • Love my writing group.

 

The Random

  • I poked my ear too hard and it hurts. Don’t do that.
  • The 100 is an awesome show.
  • I wish we had more snow in Colorado this year.

 

Anyway, that’s it. Just making it through school. Doing a lot of reading and writing. Will begin studying for my comps soon. I’m happy.  Stressed and worried half the time, but happy.  Can’t ask for more.

23

03 2015

Epistolary Goodness in “Dearest Akeem” by Patrick Lawler

Patrick Lawler WRC Head and Teacher

I had the pleasure of hearing Patrick Lawler read this piece at the Copper Nickel post-(Denver) AWP shindig. It was one of the highlights of my trip to the convention. Lawler’s prose poem, “Dearest Akeem,” is written as a first person epistolary. It begins as such:

Dearest Akeem,

Thank you for your email explaining your dire situation:
The death of your father. The 9.5 million dollars.
Your request for my private bank account information
In order to transfer the funds to my account.
And your generous offer of 5% for being the guardian
Of the bank account. Thank you for trusting me (53).

According to Lawler, he had, in fact, received an email from a Nigerian scammer a few years back. Most of us have had the pleasure of reading such emails: My father has passed away, I’m a Christian missionary in Nigeria; I can sell you a car but still need to “mail” it to you. What is the internet good for if not bringing people together? In this case, Lawler exploits the potential exploiter and does so in a way that is as entertaining as it is meaningful.

The narrator responds to Akeem (as seen in the example above). But, instead of falling victim to a scam-artist, he uses Akeem as an virtual/international therapist of sorts. What the narrator reveals to Akeem through the emails helps Lawler develop a fully round character. We know nothing of Akeem, we never will. We read no replies by Akeem. It’s assumed that Akeem stopped responding to our narrator after the third or fourth email, that he possibly asked the narrator to please stop hitting the reply button. It’s clever, certainly, but Lawler never takes that cleverness too far. Instead, he evokes a kind of pathetic sympathy as his emails to Akeem become more and more personal. Below are two passages that show how Lawler utilizes the epistolary format (albeit a modern version of) to reveal character:

I sought the psychotic student out for conversations
He asked me, “Do you ever feel you are turning into a bee?”
Afterwards, a person from Continuing Ed at the college asked me,
“Do you think he is paranoid schizophrenic?” I said, “Well, he didn’t used to be” (53)

Here, we learned that the narrator is a professor and that he has a psychotic student. We also learn that he has a sense of humor (“he didn’t used to be [schizophrenic]). Lawler continues to develop the character:

Now I must solicit your deepest confidence.
This is by virtue of its nature as being utterly confidential.

When I was following the psychotic student home,
I wasn’t sure it was still him.
For all I knew he could have been my father—
And now even yours (56).

Lawler’s narrator is eccentric to be certain (perhaps a bit sinister), but is never too aware of himself as a fictional narrator. I was never distracted by the character’s ability to poke fun at a scam artist and found myself wavering between believing the narrator’s correspondence and going “all in” on the big joke. I wanted to believe the character was fooling around. I wanted to believe he was making dangerous confessions to a man in Africa who was only interested in his bank account. Both were as pleasant a thought as I could muster, especially given the convention of the form itself.

Though this is poetry, I found it extremely helpful in terms of illustrating how a writer can exploit a given form (epistolary letter format pushed into the modern internet era). It puts the “creative” back into “creative writing.” Inspiring and entertaining.

“Dearest Akeem” can be found in The Copper Nickel Vol. 12

15

01 2014

2nd Person POV in Junot Diaz’s “How to Date a Brown Girl”

junot

I’ll admit it now; I have a “thing” for the 2nd person. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m always rooting for the underdog, or (probably closer to the truth) I enjoy reading what most other people avoid. Maybe I really am a contrarian at heart. It wouldn’t be a stretch. Let’s pretend it’s the former. 2nd person is arguably the grotesque sideshow of the POV world. Most craft books spit out a form paragraph that goes something like this: 2nd person. Don’t bother. I’m paraphrasing.

Not only is Junot Diaz’ short story, “How to Date a Brown Girl” written in 2nd person, but it takes the sideshow one step further. Diaz writes his story in the 2nd person directive, a “how-to” manual that should (according to the title) give us some insight on how to date a “brown girl.”

When I began reading this a few things immediately came to mind. First, would I be too “aware” of the point of view throughout the story? Would it distract me from the “heart” of the piece? More often than not, the 2nd person serves as a constant reminder that the author has chosen (for whatever reason) to use the “you” narrator instead of the “I” narrator. Some of my E210 students suggested that they “didn’t like being told what to do.” But, is the 2nd person narrative really so “bossy?” In most cases, no, unless you’re reading a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

As I discussed in my annotation on Dennis LeHane’s “Until Gwen,” the second person narrative seems to be a method of drawing the reader in to the narrator’s mind, closer than the 1st person narrative in that the reader isn’t just reading about someone else’s life, but they (as implied by the “you”) are actually along for the ride. Imagine standing next to Connie in Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Arnold Friend tells YOU not to pick up that phone, tells YOU to come to the screen door and let him inside.

Diaz’ “Brown Girl,” has the potential to draw you in, to allow you more intimacy (and sympathy) for the main character. Even with the directive voice, I didn’t feel “bossed around.”

Wait and after an hour go out to your corner. The neighborhood is full of traffic. Give one of your boys a shout and when he says, Are you still waiting on that bitch? say, Hell yeah (2).

The story (potentially) reads closer to a do-it-yourself book on building birdhouses, only the birdhouse is a small apartment you share with your family and the bird you’re bringing over for dinner is someone you’ll try to “put the moves on.”

But, “How to Date a Brown Girl” is more than a how-to book on dating girls of various races, it’s an in-your-face narrative about a young boy struggling with his social situation (shit-covered toilet paper in a basket in the bathroom and the “government cheese” in the fridge) and what this social situation does to his adolescent masculinity.

In short, it’s brilliant in terms of voice (and craft). We don’t feel sympathy for our young narrator, even when we’re sure he’ll get shot down before he lands that kiss. We see this narrator for what he is—a reluctant streetwise Romeo who has learned at a young age how to protect the fragility he hides within, a fragility that shines through from between the confident 2nd person lines.

15

01 2014

The Cat with No Friends

So, this is apparently one of my first big writing pieces.  I couldn’t have been older than 7 when I wrote this.

catwithnofriends

23

10 2013