Monday, February 28, 2011

In Which I Attempt To Convert The World To Romanticism (and SNOW!)

It snowed outside my house over the weeken. As a Southern Californian this is a big deal. You should have seen us all crowded around the door like characters in a Christmas special, grinning like idiots as the strange white powder landed on our lawn. When it snows up in Julian we sometimes make a day trip to get out and throw snow balls at each other for an hour or so but the last time it snowed right outside my door I couldn't have been more than ten. It was a bit like watching fragments of my childhood drift out of the sky. I feel slightly guilty that the storm that has been wreaking havoc on the rest of the country only gave us light sprinklings of feary dust that melted before noon but mostly I just enjoyed the feary dust.

But on to book related things.

Last week my friend L.T. Host blogged about Post Modernism. Partially inspired by her nod to a literary movement, and partially inspired by the mounds of romantic poetry I've been savoring in British Lit this semester, I would like to say a few words about Romanticism.

No one ever reads the romantics without looking at least a little into the lives of the poets themselves. This is perhaps partially true of all historical literature, especially poets, but even more so of the romantics because their lives were such an exiting and tragic expression of the ideas in their poetry. Incest, opium trips, political movements, free love, exile and, above all, early deaths.

Die young; never die. Its such an awful lot like rock and roll.

The rebellion of the younger generations is a theme that shows up a lot in the books I love most. There is something about the combination of naivety and defiance that fascinates me, the courage or desperation of clinging to an ideal long after it has been tattered to shreds, throwing wisdom to the wind in order to chase after futile sensations. Perhaps that is why I've always been so fascinated by the French Revolution, a time when great ideals and heroic intentions turned into abuse and blood-lust. Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy, a book that seriously altered the way I see the world when I was younger, is, looking back, romanticism incarnate. I think I've always had a hard time believing in Reason. As if that were the only reality that existed. As if a long life were the only testament of a happy one.

I sometimes have to remind myself that I am still young. The voices of experience in my head urge me to make safe, easy choices and I have to remind myself that I have years ahead of me to be wise and predictable. Right now I want to take risks and make ridiculous mistakes. I want to experience the sensations of life, the miserable ones along with the happy ones. Of all the things I fear about mortality I fear loosing the desire to live the most. I fear complacency and routine. I fear security. I fear pain and ecstasy making way for a dull, lifeless middle ground.

My Lit Professor tells the class that he plans to convert back to romanticism after he retires. I suppose he has a point. Taking long nature walks and waxing about the human condition doesn't really get one far in life. There are, after all, practical organic considerations like food and shelter that need taking care of. Still, I think Reason and Logic are overly emphasized by the world in general. They are tools for life not Life itself and I am glad that there were --and still are-- poets like the romantics to throw us off balance and direct our attention away from practicality for a little while.

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Which I Rant About the 2010 Robin Hood Film

Reasons for seeing this film:

1. It has a beautiful soundtrack.

2. I like that it ends with Robin going into the woods instead of coming out of them. The traditional outlaw becoming an Earl is supposed to be a 'Happy ever after' ending but it is much more satisfying to see the legend begin than to see it end.

Reasons for not seeing the film:

1. Robin is too serious. And too old. In all the ballads Robin Hood is young and spritely. An impudent youth who gets the better of “the man”. A poor man's incantation of the Trickster God. Of all the films I've seen this is the one in which his character stays most true to the spirit of the legend:

2.Maid Marian is married. Before she was attached to the Robin Hood legends Maid Marian was the Queen of the May Games. It is odd, I suppose, that fertility was celebrated with the glorification of virginity. That would be an interesting theme to explore in a retelling of Robin Hood but she is meant to be Robin's “virgin bride”, waiting until he is no longer outlawed to be with him. Can that be changed? Of course. Unaddressed? No.

3. King Richard is dead. I understand that this is the “historical version”. I have my theories on that since history can become as much a collaboration of various traditions as legends. Nonetheless it has come to the recent attention of history books that king Richard I wasn't quite so heroic as Sir Walter Scott made him out to be. I'll grant that this is true. I'll also grant that if the film makers were to place the story during the Coer de Lion's absence to the “Holy Wars”, as is tradition, Robin would only have reign of the woods for three or four years, his 'happy ever after' with Richard actually ruling England would last less than one year, and before Robin had a chance to die John would be legally on the thrown where nothing could be done about it. My question then is if the film makers wished to go through so much trouble to break away from tradition and keep things “historical” why set the story in the 1200s at all? Documentation of the Robin Hood legends didn't turn up until the mid 1300s. That was also when the English Long Bow was invented, the term –and really class of –yoeman took form, and the poaching of deer and danger of outlaws became a major issue in Sherwood and Barnesdale. The only mention of a king's name in any of the ballads was a King Edward and Edward IV made a trip to Sherwood and Barnesdale during that time.

4. The plot itself. Awkward is the word I will use here. Or maybe undirected. I never got the sense of a real climax or even much of a journey. Robin begins fighting in France for King Richard in which there is a long battle scene with no particular character development and ends with a long battle against French soldiers in England with no particular character development. The difference, I think, is supposed to be that he believes in this fight because he is protecting his home instead of invading someone else's. I just don't feel like the events in between adequately lead up to that idea. There are a couple scenes involving him realizing that he was born in Barnesdale and remembering some things his father told him about not giving up but its not enough. He hasn't changed enough to have grown into the legend he is about to become.

One day someone will make a really good Robin Hood movie. Until then I will watch DVDs of this entirely unhistorical fiftiesified Richard Greene show

and whistle this tune

Monday, February 14, 2011

13 Reasons Why Writing And I Are Meant To be (and apologies for not having any Literary Idol entries for you this month)

I am terribly sorry. My time has been lapped up by geography and anthropology readings this month and I wasn't able to spread the word of the "Ode" Challenge around as much as I would have liked. There are, alas, no entries for you to vote on today. I will do my best to spread the word of the next challenge with a little more zeal (who wants to pass general ed classes anyway?) and hope to have some fabulous stories for you to choose from in March. Today I will substitute with my own "ode" of sorts to writing.

13 Reasons Why Writing and I Are Meant To Be

13) I'm a project junkie. I love to see my efforts start out as something small and keep growing, slowly until finishing it is all I can think about and it completely absorbs me.

12) I enjoy spending long hours by myself (wait! Come back! Not that long)

11) The calming sensation of pen on paper

10) I garble words when I speak. Writing lets me take the time to choose the right ones

9) The buzz I get when my plot points start clicking into place, all the little pieces coming together in a whole that makes sense. Man o Man, there isn't anything better than that.

8) I daydream too much for any other job

7) I love doing research

6) Pretending to be inside so many different heads helps me to understand people better

5) Pretending to be inside so many heads helps me to understand myself better

4) I must completely absorb every detail of my experiences in case I need to recreate them on the page

3) I must seek out new experiences to absorb

2) All my heroes are writers. They transport me to other worlds, show me things I could never imagine, and teach me things I never thought I would need to know. They comfort me when I am sick and give me strength to face the impossible. They are a friend when I am lonely even though I have never met them. They crowd my mind with ideas and I can not help but want to become one of them.

1) Writing is the closest to making love with a book I can get

Writing and I are made for each other. I don't care how good Accounting looks in a tux or what kind of new haircut Real Estate has. Writing is the only career for me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Daniel Merriam

Last time I was down in Seaport Village I came across work by an artist I've never heard of before hanging in the art gallery.

Delicous. Whimsy. Magical. Wonderlandesque. So of course I had to come home and look up some more of Daniel Merriam's work.

He creates worlds I just want to sink into and his characters are so exotic and adorable.

Or dramatic and a little bit frightening.

I could definately spend a day here. Or a lifetime.

Kinuko Kraft may now be second dream choice for paining my book covers.

Unless I could get them to colaborate.

I guess that's enough eye candy for the day. Happy Writing friends.

(don't forget to send in a story for this month's Literary Idol Challenge: The "Ode" before the fourteenth)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Literary Idol Challenge: The Ode

People like love stories. Happy ones. Sad ones. It doesn't matter. We like the passion that overcomes reason and the feeling of conection between two people (or maybe that's just me). Romeo and Juliet. Tristan and Isolde. Ron and Hermione. Samuel Vimes and Lady Sybil (my personal favorite.) Literature is infested with couples. And here we are, two weeks away from the fated day celebrating that higher level of being called 'Love'. But what other relationships can be charactorized with that kind of passion and dedication? A father for his son? A painter for his art? A farmer for his land?

For this month's challenge I ask you to write a story that focuses on the love and passion for something or someone. An ode.

The word range is 50-1,000 words. (Altered this month because I will allow poetry for this challenge.)

Traditional couple love stories are, of course, just fine, but remember that there are other kinds of love that make people just as crazy. I'd like to see at least one or two of those.

Send your entry to:

and come back February 14th to vote on your favorite entry.

(For complete rules to Literary Idol go HERE)

Happy writing. May your words be laced with love and inspiration.