caitri: (charles write)
Okay, so the other night I got into a spat on FB about "taking genre writing seriously." Because, you know, lolz, and whatever, amirite? *snort* But it got me thinking on the topic of writing and reading (shocking, I know), and what they mean in the everyday sense.

The Value of Literature

So lo many moons ago I remember my Mom asking me in college, "Are you sure you want to be an English major? You're never going to get a job!" Which is a not unusual statement from many parents. Which is untrue because 1) strangely enough the ability to write in a concise and comprehensible way is actually NOT easy, so people actually do want these skills in a variety of jobs, and 2) the ability to write when balanced with an ability to think critically and under time constraints is also fucking useful. And these are the things that most often come up when people want to defend the humanities, but this overlooks the specific value of literature. Literature is valuable in that it is kind of the doctor of our culture, taking our pulse and telling us what's going on. The recurrent trends in publishing are more than what's popular, it's what we are thinking about, anxious about, preoccupied with.

Plus, my more cynical response: We can't all be fucking neuroscientists. There are a thousand and one ways to contribute to society, and literature is one. I think it's really telling that we tend to value only the really high-end jobs: actors, sports players, government officials, etc. But you know who is invisible and who, once they are gone, you really miss? The janitors. And a lot of writers are kind of like janitors, there's tons of "invisible writing" out there that we don't think about but we need in our lives.

The Value of Popular Literature

Popular literature is like Culture Concentrate: everything that worries us in big neon letters. The common wisdom used to be that popular literature and genre writing were the distillation of the status quo, but a century of literary criticism has proven that's not always true, and often, far from it. Whatever you might think about the Twilight books, they opened up a metric fuckton of conversations about young women in our culture--and a lot of these were conversations we REALLY needed to have!

The other thing about genre writing that I liked to point out when I taught was--literature that is not highly regarded thus has a LOT of wiggle room to do interesting things. For instance, comic books: as painfully bad as a lot of writing is especially in older books, they got away with a LOT. I remember being really struck by a Captain America comic ca. 1964 where Cap declares that the greatest thinkers of the new generation were Martin Luther King Jr., Marshall McLuhan, and JRR Tolkien: a civil rights leader, a media theorist, and a fantasy author. And holy fuck is that one trifecta to hold up as intellectual standard--and to a bunch of kids no less!! The entire genre of science fiction has always been the playing ground for a variety of exploratory political ideas, back to the 16th c. with Thomas More's Utopia.

Art is always political.

Whether it's high or low art, it's still true. Nothing is created in a vacuum, and everything is a product of its own time: it's an action, a reaction, and a lot of works are famous for starting chain reactions right back: Whether it's Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, or apparently right now, The Hunger Games (check out what's going on in Thailand if you don't believe me).

Why I take genre writing seriously.

You know, a theme of the 16th and 17th centuries was the ability to read correctly--it was part of that whole Reformation thing that then seeped into everyday life. I've been reading Thomas Hobbes and William Tyndale back to back, and man, the preoccupation with reading--specifically the Bible, but everything to a lesser extent--is just so acute. Which, of course, it would be, back when reading the wrong thing could get you hanged for treason or excommunicated or worse. But this determination to read everything as meaningful--the events of our lives as well as the words on (any kind of) page--is still something we see in our society, and hell, it's probably hard-wired into us now if it wasn't five hundred years ago. I think the ability to read seriously is what gives insight not only into specific works but also into our culture. I feel that's important for me to do not only as an individual but as a citizen of the world. If by reading certain things I see that some are oppressed, then I want to do that which will free them; if by reading I see something that hurts, then I want to find the thing to contribute that heals--etc. ad nauseam. And we all do this too, whether it's by choosing to--or not--shop at certain stores or using certain products or companies or (strangely enough), books.
caitri: (Cait pony)
Just got back so here are my first thoughts:

*This one had lots of visual and aural callbacks to the first film, in particular a great sequence of Edward's flashback to his bad ol' days, in a movie theater and the collection of graduation caps.

*The toasts. The deleted scenes/outtakes for the DVD will be hysterical.

*Edward and Bella playing chess. My response: You kids just do not bring the intellectual heft or the sexiness like Charles and Erik. Candy's response: "I kept thinking of that conversation from Blazing Saddles: 'What do you like to do?' 'Well...play chess...screw...' '...Let's play chess!'" We laughed hysterically for like ten minutes, I swear.

*The Alpha-off was precious.

It was magnificent, magnificent crack. STAY FOR THE STUFF AFTER THE FIRST HUNK OF CREDITS. They have more crack. *G*
caitri: (archer)
So I've got a chapter in a book that came out just this week, and the editor wrote to all the contributors to let us know that the B&N chain would have copies on display in their stories. So I went this after to see if this would be true of the local store. And it was. But it was just amusing to me.



What you can't see, sadly, is that the table has copies of things like the "Mr T. vs. Chuck Norris" graphic novel and books with titles like The Snark Handbook and The Asshole's Guide to Email. YES THESE ARE REAL BOOKS. I SHIT YOU NOT.

Anyhow:



So there's the book. It is nonetheless cool that I am in a book in a Barnes&Nobles. That geeks me out.

~

I've been reading a friend's poetry. I'm going to post thoughts about writing and poetry sometime. But let me just say? Dude.
caitri: (Default)
Cos it's Saturday. :D

Eclipse trailer:



I really love the operatic DRAMAAAAAA music. Cos it's so at odds with the cheeseballness.


The truly hilarious commentary at Jezebel includes this priceless not-lolcat:



And...now I should go do any of the tons of things I need to do/want to do, including: finishing that paper, reading that book on papermaking, reading my friend's book, and writing something of my own.

... Can I have some clones now?
caitri: (Default)
Although if you attend a Twilight talk where the following words are used in any combination, you will not win my lovely sushi dinner pictured below!

*White privilege
*Mormonism
*Agency
*Colonization
*Patriarchy

Seriously, people, it's like you're all giving the same talk. If this were a drinking game, I'd have been under the table by 9am.

Anyhow. Sushi dinner picspam now.










There, wasn't that better?

Anyhow, so my talk went seriously great. One panelist dropped out so it was me and another presenter and we had like a solid hour of Q&A, and it was all solid questions that were great.

Speaking of questions, and back to Twilight, it is occuring to me that there's all this discussion of presenting the books to young girls so very carefully because their poor delicate little brains could be spoiled by the naughty parochialism/mormonism/anti-feminism/what the fuck ever. Okay. Um. So why doesn't this happen with boys? Cos I highly doubt anyone is EVER gonna sit down with an eleven year old boy and be all, "Now here's this copy of Harry Potter, but we should have a talk first. You should know that magic isn't real, and you're not ever going to be asked to save the world, and the principal of your school is never going to invite you into his office for candy and to see his exotic pets. Just sayin.'" Seriously, wtf people?

Okay, I'm so fried now. Off to my bunk!
caitri: (Default)
*No librarians are either.**

**I forget the context of these remarks. But they were really funny when said earlier.

Yeah, so PCA?

Um. This is your brain:




This is your brain on PCA:





Well if you're me, anyhow. No, seriously, I spent like six consecutive hours listening to talks on Twilight. A lot of them were about Mormonism in the books, and stuff. Also, race issues. Also, um, other things. It's all kinda blurry right now really. And yeah, several more days of this.

Also, my talk will be tomorrow. Not on Twilight. Wish me luck!

Anyhow, I adopted a couple of poor Australians.




This is James and Shalameeka. They are very nice and cool. We went exploring the city this morning. It has an arch. Betcha didn't know that, did ya. Right, so St. Louis is an odd city. Most places have a clearly distinct business section and then a watering hole area, and then a cool hipsterey area. Here? It's all mushed up. It's kinda hilarious, you walk past the hotel and there's a couple upscale restaurants, then like six bars in a row, then you have a corner where you can choose between gelato or piercings and tattoos. One can only imagine the accidents when too much drinkies are had and you walk into one of these establishments by accident. "Yes, I want the mint ice cream cone!" "Sure, where?" ... Yeah.

We also hit an excellent chocolate cafe (Yes. A chocolate cafe) earlier. I got dark hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow:




YUM. And then we each got a truffle:




I got the mushroom-looking one. It had a piece of caramel inside chocolate, with some kind of crunchy nougatey stuff in the mushroom "cap." It was pretty awesome. But the place had stuff like violet truffles and earl grey truffles and it's like Willy Wonka for grown-ups basically.

Anyhow. I'm about to go practice my talk a few more times. (Note to self: If you wear a "Talk Nerdy To Me" tshirt at a nerd conference and hang in the hotel lobby posting on lj, people are gonna start asking you how to connect to wifi. Must be the tshirt. Second note to self: Wear different tshirt tomorrow.) More later!
caitri: (Default)
It looks utterly cheeseball!



Excellent.
caitri: (Default)
Builds very much on Twilight, True Blood, and Buffy. Also, Stefan appears to have stolen Mick St. John's ring (although I did not know it had sunlight protection powers)

Buffy:

-High School is so HARD
-highschoolers have ISSUES
-supernatural shenanigans as metaphors

Twilight:

-disaffected teenage protagonist (hereafter DTP) with issues
-stolid jock would-be love interest who is so totally not even in the running
-vampires can hang out during the day (or at least they can with a ring--which was also a brief plot point for Spike on Buffy and Angel)
-an unintentionally laughable "OMG WTF?!" reaction scene from the high schoolers of the DTP with the vampire hottie

True Blood:

-Southern goth excessiveness
-alcoholism/drug abuse for humans as relates to blood for vamps
-African-American girlfriend BFF
-Civil War obsession


Twilight and True Blood and Buffy:

-two hot supernatural love interests
-vamps need invites to come inside a human's house (I particularly alike that it's clear this is what's going on but they don't discuss it in the pilot, because at this point all of us have seen either Buffy, Twilight, or True Blood)
-lots of nature scenes (vampires are....organic???)


Anyhow, color this mediocre so far. It tries, it really does, but it's not smart like Buffy or Trueblood, or earnestly earnest (yup, that's what I meant to writer, earnestly earnest) like Twilight. Will stay tuned with all my snark factor.
caitri: (Default)
Recommended by 100wordspermin :



So...does this count as a resistant reading of the text? *G*
caitri: (Default)
Also, I LOVE the shapeshifting effect.

caitri: (Default)
Jacqueline Carey has some interesting input on the writer/reader relationship, particularly with regards to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books and their fallout:

So I've been thinking lately about indulgence. From a writer's standpoint, it's been interesting to read about the fan backlash against Breaking Dawn, the latest book in the megaselling Twilight series. Disclaimer: I haven't read any of them, and have no personal opinion. But I read an interview with Stephenie Meyer in which she discussed poring over discussion boards, etc, in a desire to be sure she gave her readers exactly what they wanted. When most writers' work goes off the tracks, it's due to self-indulgence. In this case, it's the opposite.

Of course, the book sold a bazillion copies anyway, so what do I know? But I feel bad for Stephenie Meyer, because I'm guessing that doesn't entirely assauge the pain of having half her loyal fanbase savage her work for giving them everything she thought they wanted. The thing is, what you think you want and what you really want may not be the same. For example, no one ever says, "I wish you'd kill off a couple of characters that I really like." But sometimes (I'm thinking of the death of Anafiel Delaunay and Alcuin in Kushiel's Dart) an element of tragedy is what's needed to give the plot impetus and the story a deeper emotional resonance.

I do listen to my readers; but ultimately, I try to write in the service of the story. When readers tell me they want more of Phèdre and Joscelin, I think, "No, you don't." Because I can't possibly take the arc of their storyline to greater heights than it's gone, and while I might be able to write something that would scratch that familiar itch, in the end, it would be disappointing. When readers tell me they'd love to see Alais' story told, and find out whether or not Imriel and Sidonie ever had that horde of children, I think, "No, you don't." Because it would strain the limits of credibility to give Alais her own epic arc on the heels of so many others, and push Phèdre and Joscelin into the roles of doting grandparents. You don't want that, you really don't.


I've heard a number of complaints about Breaking Dawn. Personally, I think the book's conclusion made sense on the emotional level if not on the biological level. (With the caveat that, really, none of the "biology" of the characters made sense in the other books, so why should it in this one?) It's basically the "ever after" volume. Although actually I wouldn't mind it if there was an "ever after after" volume in which the romantic leads went to college, ended up maturing, and so forth. Cos, really, who imagines marrying their love interest from when they were sixteen...and having it actually work out completely? But I guess I'm just cynical.

At any rate, I enjoyed Carey's points. I'm one of those who would *love* to hear more about Phedre and Josceline. In fact, I've often wanted to write fanfic about them, but haven't dared to because 1) it would suck so horribly in comparison to Carey's writing, and 2) what could I possibly say?

But fanfic is another discussion for another day...
caitri: (Default)
The Post has published one of its perennial articles in a series I have titled "How to Drive Caitri Insane." The latest piece, by Leonard Sax, explains why feminism is dead because of the Twilight series. Because, as we all know, romance novels are the *pulse* of what is going on in popular culture:

Despite all the modern accouterments in the "Twilight" saga, the girls are still girls, and the boys are traditional men. More specifically: The lead male characters, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, are muscular and unwaveringly brave, while Bella and the other girls bake cookies, make supper for the men and hold all-female slumber parties. It gets worse for feminists: Bella is regularly threatened with violence in the first three books, and in every instance she is rescued by Edward or Jacob. In the third book she describes herself as "helpless and delicious." [...]

Three decades of adults pretending that gender doesn't matter haven't created a generation of feminists who don't need men; they have instead created a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the "Twilight" saga. Likewise, ignoring gender differences hasn't created a generation of boys who muse about their feelings while they work on their scrapbooks. Instead, a growing number of boys in this country spend much of their free time absorbed in the masculine mayhem of video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Halo or surfing the Internet for pornography.


Got it? Feminism makes men want porn!! *headdesk*

Look, the books are written by a fucking Mormon housewife, okay? So they are automatically skewed to the right. And the popularity is a combination of healthy marketing, the gaping hole that is the lack of a Harry Potter installment to look forward to, and a readership consisting of adolescent females who having nothing but WB/CW castoffs thrust upon 'em.

Wild and crazy idea? Let's have some kick-ass female characters in literature! (Meg Cabot, I *know* you are reading this!)

(This may be wishful thinking on my part.)

Anyhow. This article has inspired me to find a session to discuss this with my Buffy class.

Peace out.
caitri: (Default)
Yeah, I went and bought it. I did not go to the midnight party last night like a couple people I know did--I'm way too behind on my sleep for that. But I did go around noon and there were like four copies left, and I got one (and stickers and a button, which I will probably add to our SF miscellany collection at work).

Major motivator: local chain store price was $14.99 for a $23 hardcover.

Read a few chapters and napped. Huzzah for Saturdays.

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