December 31, 2009

Benjamin Franklink: The autobiography and other writings **

** Benjamin Franklink: The autobiography and other writings, Benjamin Franklin, 1961

I finally got through one of the four large books I'm reading before the end of the year. Like Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence this is another volume from my dad's bookshelf. Interesting, but slow going. I'll have to dig out some of the tidbits for a quotes party.

December 24, 2009

While You Were Sleeping **

** While You Were Sleeping, Dan Sullivan and Fred Lebow, 1995

In the 90s, this became the official Wunderfool family movie. We've seen it dozens of times. It's nicely constructed with some great lines and some groaners. When The Woman pulled it out for Christmas viewing, I tracked down a copy of the script to read along. It's an earlier draft and it's amazing how drastically improved the final script is. I'm assuming Sullivan and Lebow did the rewrites, since imdb.com lists them as the writers. However, this as the only writing credit for them. Oh well.

December 17, 2009

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) ***

*** Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), Jerome K. Jerome, 1889

This book may be 120 years old, but it's still funny as dammit. I learned of the existence of this book from To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, also worth reading. JKJ was an influence on Wodehouse, as I learned from the bio I'm currently reading and from the style of this book.

I never got around to finding a copy in a bookstore. Instead, I grabbed text copy from Gutenberg.org, and snagged a Librivox.org audio book while I was at it. I listened to about half of the book and read the other half.

A note on Librivox. Free is a good price for an audio book, but the old thing of "you get what you pay for" still applies. In this case, the 19 chapters were narrated by almost as many different people from different countries and widely varied accents, not all of whom knew how to pronounce "Thames" or "row" as in, "Harris and I had a bit of a row over it" in which case it rhymes with "cow" not "tow." On the upside, I listened to half the book while taking care of two projects (hanging a towel rack and fixing burnt-out Xmas tree lights), both of which presented highly frustrating complications which bothered me a lot less since I had a hilarious audio book keeping me company.

Back to TMiaB (TSNotD), for the most part it was very satisfyingly funny in an understated 19th-century British kind of way, much more so that I was expecting. There were a few places where JKJ went off on a lyrical or historical tangent and required some skimming. But aside from those 3 or 4 spots, it was excellent.

I also NetFlixed a movie adaptation from 1956. It was mind-numbingly horrid. Be advised.

December 14, 2009

Chekhov on Marriage

Here's an incisive quote from Anton Chekhov as related in Alphabet Juice by Roy Blount, Jr.

Very well, then, I shall marry . . . But under the following conditions: everything must continue as it was before, in other words, she must live in Moscow and I in the country, and I'll go visit her. I will never be able to stand the sort of happiness that lasts from one day to the next, from one morning to the next. Whenever someone talks to me day after day about the same thing in the same tone of voice, it brings out the ferocity in me . . . I promise to be a splendid husband, but give me a wife who, like the moon, does not appear in my sky every day. I won't write any better for having gotten married.
Don't show this to The Woman!

Quotes From Stuff I Like - Greene

Monsignor Quixote, Graham Greene

Another book I read (or in this case, re-read) while writing Escape From Fred. Once you've read it, you can see how this book might have informed it. Greene was my favorite author until I discovered Robertson Davies.

p. 55. It’s odd how sharing a sense of doubt can bring two men together perhaps even more that sharing a faith. The believer will fight another believer over a shade of difference; the doubter fights only with himself.

December 12, 2009

Carlos Santana on influences

If you drink orange juice, once you sweat it it's yours. Oranges really don't belong to anybody. -Carlos Santana

December 10, 2009

The Day Job

This Dilbert cartoon illustrates the value of my services in the day job.

Weekend at Bernies **

** Weekend at Bernies, Robert Klane, 1988

On a recommendation from Reneau to watch this in connection with my latest project, I watched this. I found the script online and read it as I was watching. I found it amusing, but not as hilarious as everyone else seems to find it. Oh well.

December 7, 2009

Mark Heard

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

Mark Heard died in 1992 at age 40. He had a minor heart attack on stage at a festival, but finished his set before going to the hospital. A week later he had another heart attack and went into a coma from which he never recovered. He left behind a collection of songs that are startling and heartbreaking in their clarity and insight.

Gvien the fact that he died before the internet became commercial, much less before the YouTube age, there's not a lot of good video of him online. Here's one of the few somewhat decent (almost) samples: Treasure of the Broken Land

A less-than-great, dubbed-from-cassette upload of Look Over Your Shoulder:

A 17-song tribute album (Strong Hand of Love) was released in 1994, and another, with those same songs and 17 more (Orphans of God) was release in 1996. It's a must have. Seriously.

December 5, 2009

Buddy ***

*** Buddy, 2003

Not sure what led me to this movie. I watched on Netflix instant play. Some really good writing. They never lost an opportunity to increase the tension. Worth watching. [Norwegian, with subtitles.]

December 3, 2009

The Art of War for Writers ****

**** The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell, 2009

Hmm. The only other 4-star books I read this year were Story and Edgar Sawtelle. And now this one, making two writing books in the list. Interesting.

I'm a small-time conniseur of books on writing. I have two dozen on my shelf right now, not to mention the ones I gave away or otherwise discarded through the years.

The advantage that The Art of War for Writers has over Story is that it is much smaller. [23 cubic inches vs 93 cubic inches. Not that I rate books by their volume. I rate them by how large an insect or animal I can kill with them. So this is really a roach-killing book vs a mouse-killing book.] Why is that an advantage, you ask?

Story sat on my shelf for two years untouched because it was daunting to even think about having to wade through it. The Art of War for Writers, on the other hand, is small and inviting. And, even better, it's divided into 77 little topics of 2 to 4 pages of advice. I started reading it almost before I got it all the way out of the bag.

But there is one thing they have in common: Both are great books on writing. And another thing: Both are keepers - books you'll want to refer to in the future.

The book is divided into three sections:

  • Reconnaisance: advice on getting mentally, physicall, emotionally, practically ready for the life of writing and for sitting down to write
  • Tactics: advice on how to write well
  • Strategy: advice on how to sell your work and thrive in the post-publication world

There's not a false note anywhere in the book. The only fault I could find was the omission of my excellent advice for aspiring writers: Quit now and avoid the rush.

SPOILER ALERT! Instead, he ends the book with Onward. Keep fighting. Keep writing. Much more encouraging. Which is one reason why he's creating books on writing and I'm not.

Bell also writes best-selling novels (so he knows whereof which he speaks) and is an erstwhile fiction columnist for Writer's Digest. He's also a lawyer. And a ukulele player. [Or should that be an ukulele player? These things are so tricky.]

Note: Pursuant to full disclosure under FTC 16 CFR Part 255, I actually got a review copy of this book, which is my sole compensation for writing this review. However, if the book had sucked giant ostrich eggs, I would say so because that's the kind of frank, honest, forthright jerk that I am. So, don't send me anything to review. If I don't like it, I'll say so, politely and devastatingly. Your ego has been warned!