The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

I got tagged by the pretty fantabulous E. Kristin Anderson, who runs the Dear Teen Me project (in print through Zest). We’ve collaborated in the past and she’s pretty boss, both in the YA sphere and generally. Goodtimes, go there instead.

of course this gif is relevant. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.

Anyway, questions!

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Changed in Translation – Jay Rubin on the missing chapters in Murakami’s ‘Wind Up Bird Chronicle’

Ctrl + F “This last point may be related to one of the problems I’ve encountered translating modern Japanese literature: a different notion of editing in Japan.

Honestly I didn’t see much point to the Kano sisters myself. They were so transient they didn’t need much development.

But at the same time, doesn’t this compromise Murakami’s original intent?

I read Fight Club, so now I’ll talk about insomnia

Everything I wanted to say was clearer at 4.30 in the morning, so you’ll have to excuse me. Like I said, insomnia.

This isn’t the first book where I’ve seen it come up as a major topic. The other big example I can think of is ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, which I highly highly recommend as long as you have a little bit of patience or happen to read unnaturally fast. I know there’s a Murakami novel where it comes up but I forgot the name. Oh well.

Anyway, the fascination with the way people behave when they’re sleep-deprived is interesting. I wonder if writers suffer from insomnia more than other people; certainly it’s more prevalent in females and seems to have some sort of vague tie to the menses. (More of a tie than conception, even. Anyone else torn between amusement and horror at Arizona?)

Insomnia is perceived as a good thing, a bad thing, something that represents a paradigm shift–at least from the books I’ve read, though, more than anything else, it’s used to create a character who isn’t completely in the game. A bit out of it–altered perceptions, almost to the point of hallucination but without the prerequisite drug use or severe mental illness. I wonder if any authors are chronic insomniacs, seems like if you have it you’re less inclined to use it as a plot device. Though admittedly Philip K. Dick was comfortable with discussing the effects of drug abuse in ‘A Scanner Darkly’ (even though, quite frankly, he has no idea how the brain works)…. In the end I’m back to the starting point. Anyone can do anything. Writers have the total freedom to make shit up, readers can call them on it if they wish. Or we/they can just enjoy the ride.

I really liked ‘Fight Club’. More on that tomorrow.

Commas

Commas break up clauses (whatever those are). Commas separate ideas by introducing a momentary pause, either mental or aloud, but don’t signal the start of a completely new idea the way a period or line break does.

 

In poetry, commas…I don’t know enough about commas in poetry to say anything there. I always thought they were like line breaks for the middle of lines.

 

My writing grows increasingly succinct. I used to be a long-winded person prone to lots of parallel construction, clauses and clauses strung together by commas and hyperbole.

 

I have no idea what happened. Is this the loss of a style because all the writing I had to do most recently required succinctness? Did I just get older and actually develop my own style, instead of cribbing from my favorite authors?

 

And what the hell are commas for, anyway?

When I say I “feel” words…

…I mean it literally.

Bear with me, because this is going to be super-hard to explain. I wouldn’t have even noticed anything unusual if I hadn’t been reading Oliver Sacks between neuroscience classes. However, I’ve come to realize that the way I perceive words–and this has nothing to do with language–has a significant impact on my word choice. (Also, from studying for the GRE, it screws with my ability to memorize meanings when two words sound/feel the same but have nothing otherwise in common. Not that I didn’t do well, but still aaargh.)

Anyway, I ‘feel’ words. A more accurate way of putting it would be that the same sensory neurons which fire when I look at objects in the real world fire when I read text, think about words, or use numbers. So…I see words? Jeez. The point is, they occupy three-dimensional space.

Normally, I wouldn’t bring this up at all. It’s really, really hard to explain clearly, especially since I wasn’t aware of it for a long time, but it does have an impact on my writing style. There are words I gravitate to–given so many options in English, I’ll favor one just because it ‘feels’ better. I think it’s going too far to say I’d avoid writers or words entirely because of this, but I suspect the subconscious impact is stronger than I realize. Only further study will tell.

Also, source-wise…maybe it’s because I learned to read when I was really little? Or some screwup in part due to the fact that females have better developed language areas? I wonder if I can get an fMRI. For science!

So tell me, what’s it like when the words on the page stay on the page?

What are Computers Doing to Language?

–A question I never tire of asking. Between trendsetters like ‘Neuromancer’ (“cyberspace” is from that book! whoa!) and tools of convenience (chatspeak, namely), we should expect language to be undergoing some kind of change.

Of course, there’s the simple addition of terms related to computing–motherboards, hard drive, CPU, Internet, software, etc. And then there’s factors like common misspellings, which led to terms like ‘pwned’ (did you know that’s pronounced like ‘owned’? I did not) and, depending on the site, special intentional misspellings stemming from common misspellings (‘tiem,’ for instance).

Now, a lot of this has got to stem from how used to MS Word’s autocorrect we’ve all gotten. I regularly forget to capitalize ‘I’, now, and I’ve noticed that I am far more neglectful about transposed letters than I used to be. It doesn’t matter, people can read it anyway!

…Overall, I see a certain amount of laziness–but, from a different perspective, what’s really going on is greater casualness. Not only is anyone permitted to be an author, now, as opposed to the dilettantes with too much money and formal education–but anyone can talk to anyone else from around the world.

Yes, those of us who are purists will never get used to the notion of ditching good grammar and real spelling entirely, but don’t knock it. The way of the future is in quantity, not quality–let’s data-mine this business.

(trying not to be whiny about getting published. come on, I can’t wait for replies and acceptance letters at the same time!)

When Hating the Main Character is Okay

I recently read two books: ‘Neuromancer’ by William Gibson (prompted by his recent visit to the Borders…or was it Barnes & Noble…near Water Tower Place in Chicago, at which point I was reminded of how awesome steampunk is), and ‘Half a Life’ by V.S. Naipaul (trying to brush up on my non-Japanese Asian authors:next destination, Africa!).

 

Spoiler Alert: I’ll do my best to avoid them, but if you want to remain in complete ignorance of the plots and characters you shouldn’t read this.

 

In both these books, I found the main character (and, in the case of ‘Half A Life’, both main characters) intolerably stupid. There’s Case with his constant drugseeking and missing the obviousing (as for his mad cowboy skills…savantism, perhaps?); then there’s Willie and his father who plod through life and make decisions they themselves hate but attribute to, well, everything but their own stultatory natures.

Aaargh! I have nothing against asshole main characters, but when they’re oblivious to their own flaws/the flaws of their environments causing them to be unhappy with their lives…stupidity is my least favorite human trait, and I’ll go ahead and reforce my awful elitism by deploring its commonality. (Note: I don’t mind foolish characters when it’s used for humorous effect or it has some kind of driving goal that isn’t self-destruction they then bitch about, cough Case’s withdrawal…okay fine. There are lots of exceptions to every rule.)

 

Cough, cough.

Well, I still liked ‘Neuromancer’. It’s a clever plot in a clever world with all sorts of interesting sideplots. Finding all the supporting characters more interesting than the main one was only a minor drawback, and at some point I do intend to read more of Gibson’s books.

‘Half A Life’, on the other hand–apart from the stupidity, why was Willie so boring? Sexual this, sexual that–and in the meantime everyone else had these awesome adventures I wanted to hear more about! But it just went on and on about how sexually frustrated Indians are, especially the males…oh my god…. (Note: I am Indian. I’m good at not applying things to my parents, but that didn’t make this entire thing any less WTF. What country started Tantric again, seriously?)

 

Anyway. I’m sure it’s sometimes a deliberate move, and as these authors are both quite famous it’s clearly not a problem. I myself don’t want a sweet little main character to pity, or a Mary Sue to envy–someone human, but the kind of person I’d want to have a conversation with, would be ideal.

And when that isn’t available, I’ll settle for a fantastic plot, setting, and sidecast. 😀

 

(Main character issues are going to come up again. Be warned. ;)

And because I never emphasize this enough, and often forget people aren’t as egotistical as to share their own opinions whenever they have them, tell me what you think! I love the random debate across the series of tubes.