Tag Archives: magic

Yet Another Rant on Genre

I spend a good portion of my days thinking about issues of “genre.” Yes, anyone who reads this blog probably already knows I’m a nerd, so I don’t need to apologize for that statement. By “genre,” I mean issues of genre within literature. It’s something that comes up a lot, more than one would like, in academia. I’m in an MFA program and I know that many creative writing programs discourage “genre-writing” in their workshops. Less focus on plots and more focus on language, on character. I think that’s a fine and good thing. Sure. I mean character and language are as important a thing to bring to writing as plot is. But, importantly, I don’t think they are more important than plot. I wanted to be a writer because I wanted to tell stories. Plain and simple. When I think of the literature that has mattered to me in life, it usually begins with the fairy tales, ghost stories, and folklore of my youth. The telling of tales is something that I consider to be a deep part of me.

This thinking process inevitably leads me to think of people who routinely disparage the prose of JK Rowling. They are, let’s be honest, jerks and wrong jerks at that. But, more importantly, they seem to be missing the point. Harry Potter is a defining piece of literature that enticed countless people—who might not otherwise—to pick up books and read. And to disregard Harry Potter, seems to be advocating for the dismissal then of any work along the same lines. The Oz books would have to be disregarded (despite the rather fascinating look at a Utopia run astray. Flying Monkeys. That’s all I’m saying, people. The Flying Monkeys did not get their due in the movie). Alice in Wonderland? Peter Pan? Do I need to keep naming off works that are considered classics of literature? BECAUSE I CAN. And don’t make me bring Shakespeare into this argument, because I am willing to (King Lear was based off of the premise of a fairy tale, Hamlet had a ghost, The Tempest is dripping with magic).

Plus this attitude of dismissing literature that contains magical or supernatural elements then pushes aside the fact that most of the truly exciting literature happening today is that which explores the world through the lens of what might seem to be fantastical premises. Colson Whitehead’s Zone One has zombies, but it’s also a harrowing exploration of what we do in the face of horror. China Mièville routinely writes brilliant books that explore interesting questions. His book Embassytown explored the dynamics of language and how language can act as an agent of oppression or for revolution. Neil Gaiman writes some of the most thrilling books going. He also writes books that dig deeply. Most recently, Ocean at the End of the Lane explores memory and childhood and trauma in a way that a work of complete “realism” could never have even begun to approach.

Before I end up writing an entire book here, ranting about this topic, I’ll cut off. The New York Times just had a great opinion essay related to this topic, which can be found here. What I can say, finally, is that I have experimented and tried writing without any elements of the supernatural. Mostly to see if I could. And I did manage it, but I felt ultimately unhappy. The fantastic allows me as a writer to have a key into the doorways of the subjects I want to tackle. And it makes me love what I do. I write what I want to read and I think that’s something that is important to remember.

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10 things-October 2013 edition

I haven’t done one of these in a while. But here are 10 things that are currently keeping me sane (which is a heavy task between writing a novel, taking my MFA classes, teaching college composition, and maintaining the high levels of self-AWESOME that everyone is accustomed to from me).

1.)    Donna Tartt has a new novel out (and I’ve ordered it). Ms. Tartt is basically a flat out badass. The Secret History, her first novel, is often cited as being her best. And it is amazingly brilliant. But, her second novel The Little Friend, is one of my favorite novels of all time. In the years since it was first published, I have read it five or six times. It is exquisite and sublime and if her new novel The Goldfinch comes anywhere near to its wonderfulness than I am going to be one happy clam. Here’s a conversation between her and her editor that was up on Slate.

2.)    Daniel Alarcon has a new novel coming out this month, too! Like, what? It is a bountiful month indeed. Alarcon’s first collection, War by Candlelight, was filled with gorgeous stories including one of my top 100 “A Strong Dead Man.” His novel, Lost City Radio, is on my list of best first novels. So basically all I have for this one is ridiculously high expectations. Here’s some more info from Alarcon’s website.

3.)    The Pinocchio lizard, believed extinct, was recently spotted. Gorgeous, no? Here is an article up on National Geographic!

4.)    I have been getting back to baking. I was thrown off by starting school up, but, now I am into pumpkin scones and deliciousness full speed ahead. This weekend will be chocolate-stout cupcakes!

5.)    I am hard at work on the novel. Stage magicians are in this. STAGE MAGICIANS. That should just make everyone happy.

6.)    I have a prose poem coming out soon from Cease, Cows and one of my favorite ghost stories that I’ve written will be in the winter issue of Supernatural Tales. These are both wonderfully fantastic publications. So, I’m doing the happy dance of writerly acceptances.

7.)    I started a new interviewy project of Extremely Brilliant Creative People and so far have had the chance to interview the fabulous Dan Pankratz and the amazing ean weslynn. Next month, there will be a pretty awesome poet being interviewed too, so stay TUNED.

8.)    I have found out that the town I’m now living in not only has a shop with a pretty kickass puppet collection but that there is also a store that carries treacle. Treacle tarts will be made. I have wanted to make them since I first read Harry Potter and I could never find proper treacle. Until now. Sound the freaking trumpets!

9.)    Squashes are out. And squash season means one thing: ravioli. From scratch.

10.) My people continue to be amazing and as always a moment of thanks for having them in my life. Plus, then I have someone to make food for. It is win-win.

So, not all is bad in the world of Pints and Cupcakes. This seems a good time to remind all you, Dear Readers, that if you want more daily updates and rantings than consider following me on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes

 

Happy October!

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