“Hatchet” may have saved a life

Michael Auberry, the 12-year old who was separated from his Boy Scout Troop during a camping trip and was recently found alive and well may have been helped by a book: “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. Lessons in the book, which is about a boy who survives for over 50 days in the wilderness after a plane crash, may have aided Michael, says his father.
If ever there was a good reason to read, it’s this: it might just save your life.

Possible endings

As I’m currently working on what could (in some vague way) be considered a political thriller (maybe…) I found McSweeny’s article on endings I could use to be exceedingly helpful.
I especially like this one:

“By the way,” [PROTAGONIST] said with a knowing smile, “did I happen to mention that I’m black?”
Note: This ending exploits the white bias of the reader’s imagination, and works best if you do not give away the surprise early. Be sure not to give the protagonist any stereotypical “black” characteristics, which you really should be trying to avoid anyway.

Jonathan Lethem is giving it away.

Jonathan Lethem is giving the option on his book “You Don’t Love Me Yet” away to a filmmaker for free. He’ll get a small cut of the total budget of the film, and ancillary rights to his book will be released after five years thereby allowing other artists to tell the story in another way, or use the characters in their own work (a sequel, a retelling, or another medium such as comics).
I think this is a brilliant idea.
Check out his “questions” section of his announcement. He claims to have come to this idea based upon his research into intellectual property and his concerns over the commodification of art. His response to it, giving away the rights and opening the material up for public response, is a wonderful way to straddle a between art and property. Imagine if STAR WARS or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “The X-Files” had done something similar. Imagine if the creators of those properties had been willing to open up their creations for public response. I think that you would end up with a ton of garbage to be sure, but floating to the top would be some wonderful and authentic and exciting projects. There are so many well done “fan-fic” pieces out there, small films of Jedi Knights or Federation starships that might have helped reawaken and stimulate the original property owners in ways that they couldn’t imagine.
The commodification of art has a long history, and it’s resulted in legalese in the entertainment industry referring to artistic endeavors as “properties.” Property is defended. Property is owned. Property is built upon through strictly controlled license. Art is supposed to stimulate, breed and breath. I’m reminded of Cervantes’s writing of Part II of Don Quixote which he wrote in response to a rival sequel:
The spurious Avellaneda Segunda Parte
It is not certain when Cervantes began writing Part Two of Don Quixote, but he had probably not gotten much further than Chapter LIX by late July of 1614. About September, however, a spurious Part Two, entitled “Second Volume of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha: by the Licenciado (doctorate) Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, of Tordesillas”, was published in Tarragona by an unidentified Aragonese who was an admirer of Lope de Vega, rival of Cervantes.[12] Avellaneda’s identity has been the subject of many theories, but there is no consensus on who he was. In its prologue, the author gratuitously insulted Cervantes, who not surprisingly took offense and responded; the last half of Chapter LIX and most of the following chapters of Cervantes’ Segunda Parte lend some insight of the effects upon him. (Quoted from Wikipedia, see link above.)

Cervantes didn’t hire a lawyer to sue the other writer, he responded to him. He outdid him. Art as a dialog.
I’ve actually given a lot of thought to an open project, something where a set of characters could be used as a jumping off point for other writers. I don’t know what it would look like or how it would work, but it’s definitely coming from the same place that Mr. Lethem’s idea is coming from. In the end, plans like this might not amount to anything, but I think it’s worth it to create an artistic dialog rather than simply another property.

Best laid plans, and all that…

TV.bmpTonight begins a brave new adventure. Tonight is the night my television dies. Well, not dies. Gets very sick and weak. But not truly dead. Tonight is the night that I put away the remote and pick up the keyboard and begin typing the new novel I have been working on. I write everything out long-hand first, so I have to type the friggin’ thing, and to do that, I have retired television on weeknights. I’m somewhat of a TV addict, so this is kind of a big deal to me. And by “somewhat” I mean “definitely.” And by “definitely” I mean “definitely a really huge.”
Wish me luck.

The power of the word

The New York Times today has a review of the new book by Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower.” It is an analysis of Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, and how their presidencies faced and shaped global issues. Politics aside (I don’t aim to open a discussion on politics) I think that the review paints an interesting portrait of the power of writing, and the place it can and should hold in our culture. Mr. Brzezinski’s arguments and analysis are best made in writing. Take a look at the review. Could you imagine what this would look like if it were an interview? If FOX NEWS or CNN tried to encapsulate his arguments, turn it into a sound-bite, it would be laughable. Even a longer form television or film version of his book would leave out the hard facts, it would have to, for time’s sake. Some documentaries about Noam Chomsky are either horribly boring or amazingly trite. You simply can’t encapsulate all thought. Sometimes the reality is that you need lots and lots of words slowly following one another, without interruption, without glitzy graphics, without handsome actors.
That we have people like Mr. Brzezinski, knowledgeable, intelligent, thoughtful, and hardworking people, who take the time to make arguments and back them with facts and lay them out in a logical fashion so that others can follow them is really, really remarkable. It’s why the written word is so powerful and so necessary. As I was reading the review I was reminded why I’m so in love with writing, all writing, and why I’m so thrilled when my 19-month-old son happily makes the hand-sign for “book” and marches over to his little bookshelf in the corner of our livingroom and sits to study his boardbooks. He’s even begun to point at the words and “read” them out loud. He knows there is something there, something Mom and Dad are trying to impart him with, and when I see that I think “Thank God. He is interested.”
I guess today’s post was just a love letter to the written word, but I think that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to step back and remember that we have a truly incredible act going on in our brain, when we look at a bunch of squiggles on a page and it makes your mind and imagination fire up and someone you don’t know, somewhere else you’ve never been, alive or dead, makes you follow in their footsteps and think what they thought and invite you into a conversation which is real, meaningful and haunting.

You’d have to be crazy to be published by Bellevue

bellevue.jpgBellevue Hospital has a literary imprint. Yes, that Bellevue Hospital. The one Barney Miller used to send all the mentally ill folks to. According to this NYTimes article, right now they only have a handful of books on their plate. However, it doesn’t surprise me that they ended up with some fiction. That’s because they have a literary journal.
Years ago I was almost published by them in that journal. Since then they’ve had stories which went on to be in “best of” collections. My reason for not getting in: in the time between submitting to them and getting their call, I published the story in a small online journal. That small journal is now gone. Gone gone gone. It disappeared very shortly after my story appeared on it, as a matter of fact. It was the first of several that disappeared after using my work. So, apparently, I’m the typhoid-mary of the literary world. I guess I really do need a hospital after all. To both help me with my infection (or my irrational self-deception) and to publish my work.