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Monday Night Special #8: Delving in with Diagrams (to Frankenstein)

8 Oct

With what great horror I ascertained the earth had again gone ’round its axis seven more times; and with what great consternation my mind concluded it was again time for the processes with which I penetrated the grammatical world to again exert themselves.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Quick Synopsis:

Victor Frankenstein decides to create a man out of spare parts and alchemy, but this blows up in his face as the man he created wants to be recognized as a person.  A lot of drama and chases and philosophy ensue, and the Frankenstein and his creation end up chasing each other around the North Pole for the rest of their (un)natural lives.

Important Quotation:

My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash.

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The Outsider Who Is an Insider

4 Oct

On the flip side of the insider who is an outsider, we have the outsider who is an insider:

A character from outside the constructed world who is thrust into the world, often to effect some change, who has a varying degree of cognizance about his or her setting and role within that setting.

The character who inspired this post is Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time.  She lives in the TV version of real life, but her long-lost-put-up-for-closed-adoption son shows up one day to tell her everyone in his small town is a fairy tale character, they live under a curse enacted by his adopted mother, and Emma’s the only one who can save them.  We learn through her eyes–and apart from her eyes–that all of this is true.  She is an outsider because she does not actually know anything about the citizens of Storybrooke or their plight, but she is an insider by both birth and destiny.

“To my credit, the dude had a Chicago dog for lunch…”

For another example, take Indiana Jones.  While he is an expert in his field, he often finds himself immersed in other cultures, fighting to fix whatever the archaeological problem is.  This is especially the case in Temple of Doom, in which he is an outsider as a westerner but an insider as the one who can figure out the curse and nullify it.  He has special skills needed in the culture he finds himself in.

This character differs from the insider/outsider in both form and function.  The insider/outsider often comes off as rather surly and introspective, whereas the outsider/insider must be, out of narrative necessity, a social butterfly.  How would he or she ever learn about his or her new world without an amount of confidence, charm, and extroversion?

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The Insider Who Is an Outsider

3 Oct

I was thinking the other day about characters in fiction because I was thinking about how when I write fiction I tend to write the same types of characters over and over, and I was thinking about why I might do this–why I’m  not very adventurous and what attracts me to them in the first place.

And I decided that the character who often appears is the insider who is an outsider.

That is to say, a character who knows about the fictional world it inhabits and is privy to vital information in this world but who is emotionally (or physically, sometimes) distanced from it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized this happens all the time in fiction–not just my own.

For example, Nick from The Great Gatsby is a part of East Egg culture by birth and manners and means and education, but he emotionally connects with Gatsby and is physically distanced from the East Eggers, as well.  He is an insider to the culture he’s narrating about, but he is also, because of his sympathy for Gatsby and his current location, an outsider.

“I volunteer to be your narrator!”

For another example, Katniss from The Hunger Games knows about this Hunger Game world and participates in it, but she is an outsider for a couple reasons.  One, she’s from the least glamorous district, which distances her from the dominant culture of The Capitol and the other districts that hold The Capitol as their zenith of class.  And two, she is isolated even from the others in her district because she hunts illegally, she’s reclusive and introverted, and she volunteers for the games–something no one in her district has ever done.

But what makes the insider/outsider so attractive?  This character instantly gains the audience’s trust because we’re taken into his or her confidence.  We, the readers, are outsiders to the constructed world and need a guide.  We want an effective, reliable narrator to show us the ropes.  We get just this from Nick and Katniss–someone who can tell us the ins and outs, whom we can trust because they, too, are disenfranchised in some way.  They know the goods and the bads, and they have their own biases, but we trust them.

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Monday Night Special #3: Delving in with Diagrams (to Pride and Prejudice)

3 Sep

Dearest Reader,

I forthwith submit for your kindly eyes–I hope, at least, they will look kindly upon this most base preoccupation of mine–the following application of certain processes to which I am sure you have become quite accustomed.  Indeed, our standing agreement to meet at this time each seven-day may be satisfied only in such a manner.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen via 1995 BBC miniseries, which I watched with a middle-aged church lady friend from 9am-2pm on a Tuesday because neither of us work.  The perks of having middle-aged lady friends and being unemployed:  As Twitter would say, the limit does not exist.

I must admit this was my first foray into Austen’s cinematic world.  I’ve never read the book, either, and in fact the only Austen I’ve ever read is Emma for a clunkily titled college course called something to the effect of Periods of British Literature:  19th Century Women’s British Literature. In a discussion with the professor before the class had started, I revealed to her that I’d never read any Austen, and this exchange happened:

Professor:  So, you’re a Jane Austen virgin?
Me:  I’ve never even gotten to first base with Jane Austen.  Haven’t seen the movies or anything.

Because I am the kind of prude who chooses to only intermittently trade provocative witticisms with my professors, I will not continue with this metaphor, but I will say that I am still not very experienced with Jane Austen, but I am at least familiar enough with her to be very intrigued by the concepts she brings up in her novels although my proclivities run toward the Bronte end of the spectrum–especially Anne, if we’re talking women’s roles in society.

Quick Synopsis:

Elizabeth Bennett, the second of five daughters born to a middle-class Edwardian British family, snarks her way through life and eventually falls in love with Mr. Darcy, whom she had initially believed to be an insufferable bore/cad.  Various and sundry other things happen, including Mr. Darcy being kind of chased by his BFF’s bitchy sister, his BFF falling in love with Elizabeth’s older sister, Elizabeth’s youngest sister kind of being a slut and Mr. Darcy having to force a dude to marry her to save her reputation, a pretentious clergyman cousin (who will inherit the Bennett estate) trying to get all up in Elizabeth’s grill but then marrying one of her friends who is more business-oriented than romance-oriented.

Amid all this, we have plenty of class conflict and ruminations on love, marriage, companionship, respect, appearances, pride, and prejudice.  Duh.

Important Quotation:

They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation, and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.

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Monday Night Special #1: Delving in with Diagrams (to Poe’s Ligeia)

20 Aug

Because my blog is currently super lame and disjointed, I thought it might be prudent to add a regular feature that might lend an air of organization and credibility to my rather mishmashed efforts at snark and substance.

So, I’ve decided to try something I could potentially knock out at regular intervals that would be fun and not-too-difficultly achieved.  I could’ve done movie reviews, but that’s even lamer than my usual efforts.  I could’ve done more recaps, but Damages season 4 isn’t on Instant Queue yet, and all of my other programs would be too much of a commitment (7 20-episode seasons of Voyager.  Yowza.).

So, I’ve decided on something slightly nerdier, which I came up with because I like to pull out my Tales of Mystery and Imagination and diagram meaty, meandering sentences when I’m bored.

Here’s how this will go down:

I will

  • arbitrarily pick some work of fiction–which could be a story, book, poem, song, TV show, movie, whatevs
  • give a quick synopsis
  • find an important quotation and explain its significance
  • diagram the sentence
  • tell why the structure of the sentence fits with the theme or whatever of the work

Let’s begin.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

“Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe, from which all quotations will come and for which the full text may be accessed here.

Quick Synopsis:

An unnamed, opium-addicted narrator tells us of his lost love Lenore Ligeia, who was a tall, dark, Hebrew-looking, ultra-intelligent lady who believed that death could be conquered through force of will.  She also had been obsessively, idolatrously in love with the narrator, as he was with her.  Well, she dies, and he sinks into opium-addled grief and marries a little blonde girl who wants him for his money.  He buys a lavish abbey, in which her bridal suite is creepily furnished with sarcophagi and The Yellow Wallpaper bizarre curtains  that look different in different lighting.  Second wife falls ill and dies.  He stays by her bedside and thinks he hears her stirring.  Some back and forth happens in which he tries to revive her and fails a million times.  Finally, she gets up, and she’s no longer Blondie but Ligeia!!!

Important Quotation:

With how vast a triumph—with how vivid a delight—with how much of all that is ethereal in hope—did I feel, as she bent over me in studies but little sought—but less known—that delicious vista by slow degrees expanding before me, down whose long, gorgeous, and all untrodden path, I might at length pass onward to the goal of a wisdom too divinely precious not to be forbidden!

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The Lure and Lull of Hella Long TV Plots

14 Aug

Some mild spoilers for Voyager (kind of), SVU (a little), and Damages (a tiny one). 

I’m always looking for something new on Netflix.  And I always want to start a new show that I’ve heard is amazing, but then I don’t.  I end up going back to something formulaic and episodic.

The thing is, sometimes I’m just not ready to commit to something for eternity even though the idea of it consistently makes me put things of this nature in my instant queue–things with rich mythology and evolving characters and moral dilemmas and twisty political plots.

For example, currently I’m stuck mid-season 3 of Battlestar Galactica.  I love the characters, and I’m intrigued by the story, and I want to know everything about the mythology, but I’m finding myself impatient.  Which is totally weird for me.  I love surprises!  I can wait for almost anything.

But I love the ideas in the show so much that I went online to research other people’s analysis, and I ended up half-accidentally uncovering a lot of spoilers.

I know, Cylon Xena.  That’s how I feel about it, too.

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New Lady-Buddy-Cop-Mystery-Comedy Show on Horizon (of My Mind)

10 Dec

I’ve got an idea for a new lady-buddy-cop-mystery-comedy show à la Rizzoli & Isles.  This is already exciting, I know, but here’s the best part:  Delta Burke.

I was more excited about Delta Burke when I was blissfully unaware of how much plastic surgery she's had. Maybe it will have worn off by the time my show's being produced?

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Starting a Novel Proves Boring, Sucky

2 Nov

National Novel Writing Month started yesterday.

So I started my really crappy novel yesterday.

I was so excited about this whole thing six months ago, but excitement has waned.

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