24 October 2011

Case in Point

I just received a note from a reader of Angela 1: Starting Over. She said that "Angela is delightful" and that the book is "rich in story." We long for story and the time has come to reclaim plot and story for literature. Angela Fournier is also a life model that many readers can draw from to their benefit. This sort of character has been banned from literature for far too long. We need them now because, if we do not begin to grow and construct, the forces of destruction and entropy will pull us down.

Saturday 29 October is the Dallas Internationl Book Fair at the Dallas Central Library on Young Street in front of City Hall. It's free and there will be a lot going on, including numerous authors. I will be there as well and I would love to see you there. Drop by if you can!

Get Angela 1 as an e-book at your favorite provider or in hard cover from www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

17 October 2011

Joyce's Dubliners

I just finished reading James Joyce's Dubliners, a collection of short stories (of sorts). Here is my provisional evaluation.

With only two exceptions ("A Painful Case" and "The Dead"), the selections in Dubliners are vignettes. They happen almost in real time and cover only a day or less in the life of the characters. There seems to be a (perhaps unconscious) link to Wagner, whose operas drag so much as to be nearly immobile. Theatre in general and especially opera in particular compress time and feelings. An aria lasting 3 to 5 minutes may compress years of longing of a character and do so to great effect. In Wagner, what takes 5 minutes to say or do occupies 20 minutes of music (which is the exact backward of drama). That is why many people just stay away from Wagner's operas, while still enjoying his orchestral works. In Joyce's stories you have the same inaction. The author succeeded in what he set out to do: show the paralysis that characterized the life in Dublin at the time.

As vignettes, the selections simply end with no resolution. Again, the author is taking pains to show that no one ever achieves his or her dreams and longings. But in most of the vignettes, that means that the characters come to no realization of any kind, and therefore to no growth or turning point which has any chance of liberating them.

"A Painful Case" qualifies as a story, as there is the passage of several months. However the main character learns nothing from the death of his lady friend. "The Dead" is very much the best story in the book. It takes place over less than 24 hours, but there is still action and movement lacking in the others. There is a definite resolution in which the main character learns something entirely new about himself and his wife.

In sum, the pieces are highly effective in accomplishing what the author set out to do. However it required all those vignettes in order to produce one bona fida story. This may show that it is extremely difficult to make a real story out of Joyce's procedure of holding up a mirror to people's lives and leaving it at that. The sad thing is that even today, 100 years later, writers are still caught in this trap, thinking that to be a story it has to focus on a single moment of a character's life. By now, the possibilities of this approach have been exhausted. We long for story.

My story-filled novel, Angela 1: Starting Over, is available at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html and of course as an ebook at your provider. Check it out!

12 October 2011

Reading Joyce

Ok, I give in. I am doing my best to read James Joyce's major works. This year I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That is the best book by him I have read, the first I was able to read through. In the novel the modernist technique works well and gets its point across in a solid manner.

Right now I'm about halfway through Dubliners. The stories are written very clearly and are easy to understand. They are purposefully lacking in any sense of plot, because the author wished to show the smallness and emptiness of life after industrialization: individual people count little in the developing mass society and their destinies seem irrelevant.

Much has been written about Joyce, of course, so much, in fact, that there probably is more eisegesis (reading author intentions into) than exegesis (drawing author intentions out of) his works. Borges said that Joyce's novels were illegible. I assume he was referring to Ulysses and the Wake. I would say that the earlier work is very readable, though the latter work was ostensibly intended to be abstruse. Borges also said (in connection with other authors, not Joyce) that what writers intend their work to be and what it becomes are two different things. I will have something to say about that in subsequent posts.

Keep an eye out for them and don't forget that Angela 1: Starting Over is now available as an e-book cheap!

If you prefer the hardback, it's available at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

Thanks for dropping by!