Friday, July 29, 2011

Should I Start a Second Blog? (A Dog of an Idea?)

First came the blog mascot. Then came my summer project.

Dogs seem to poke their noses into a fair number of my posts... so it's got me thinking of starting a spin-off blog focused on dogs. (I've never been accused of having a laser-like focus. I often find myself in the tangles of dark woods.)

Is this a good idea? Am I walking the plank? (I promise not to write first person from the dog's perspective... so you can exhale a bit.)

He awaits your answer. Or perhaps a treat.

I'll probably make this more of a collaborative effort than After Troy (so if anyone would be interested in guest posting, etc, feel free to drop me a note or a comment -- I know there are many dog lovers among us... and many, many prolific writers among us. The only rule so far is no writing first person from the dog's perspective.).

What's your vote? Warnings about multiple blogs? You can also email me at hektorkarl at gmail dot com. I'm eager for your expertise. I'll settle for your opinion. Thank you kindly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Broken Twigs, Creaky Bridges and Creative Breakthroughs (Our Dark Woods and Dante)

Lullwater Park Suspension Bridge, Atlanta, Georgia

Midway through his life's journey, Dante found himself in a dark woods. In creative projects, these dark woods come far more often than just the midway point. I speak often of motivational dips, but sometimes we get lost in more complex ways, through no fault of effort. From Dante's opening section:
how hard it is to tell the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh
Dante responded by descending through multiple circles of hell. The metaphor risks becoming almost literal when astray in a creative project. Some days nothing works. Fair enough. But some days are worse than nothing. A creator's biggest fear. A reason writer's block can be soothing. We're all afraid we might stumble into the realization that we're getting worse.

We can bear the hells, if we know they lead to paradise. The soul loves work. But the soul is crushed by futile work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing People and Killing Darlings (Or: Faulkner Lecture Archive Now Available Online)

The University of Virginia has set up a fascinating site chronicling Faulkner's time there. The archive is credited to Stephen Railton, a UVA Professor of American Literature.

It includes both literature classes and public lectures. Audio and transcript versions are provided. Faulkner's interviews tend to be much more accessible than his fiction, so it's worth checking out even for those who haven't read him closely. He did also write for Hollywood and give us the much-loved mantra "Kill your darlings."

One quote, selected almost at random, to give you a taste:
I think the writer is concerned first in telling about people, people in conflict with themselves and with others, with their environment, and he uses whatever method seems to him the best to tell what he is trying to tell in the most dramatic and passionate way, that he is not trying to use a lyrical method deliberately. It may seem to him best to use a lyrical method or maybe the result of—of his own agony and anguish to say what he wants to say becomes lyrical.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Apps: Savior or Trojan Horse?

With its dancing graphics, sumptuous photographs and embedded videos, Gore’s latest attempt to save the planet is dazzling critics both with its polish and the bright promise it holds for the future of book publishing.
An article in The Globe and Mail discusses a new e-book app company that has enlisted the help of Al Gore. The article notes that bestselling apps include classic texts like On the Road and The Waste Land. The latter is particularly impressive since it is available online for free, in interesting hyperlink editions.

Speaking of On the Road,
“The app itself has all the text of the book and then it’s got five times more material,” Morrison notes. [Steven Morrison is the editor-in-chief of Penguin Books]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Now What Will I Blame if I Can't Read Kafka?

"Learn a new language and get a new soul." -- Czech Proverb

Americans have always seemed attached to the idea that foreign languages can only be learned well in childhood. It allows us to shrug away our monolingualism and keep to the assumption that everything interesting trickles into English eventually (if only...).

I've always suspected the idea that kids can just pick up languages to be overstated. If anything, I propose it's a combination of curiosity and necessity that drives them to learn. We overreach with biological explanations because they are easier to accept than psychological or behavioral ones. (It's much more fun to blame my brain or disposition than my effort, even if all share the guilt.)

A new study out of Israel provides some support for the notion that adults are just as capable of learning languages. Study co-designer Sara Ferman concludes:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

As I Wait for Lightning (Or: Stuff I've Been Reading)

I hear of heat waves everywhere, but it's actually been a bit cooler here in Georgia. I've also seen a few signs that we might be rising out of the summer dip: Sommer Leigh, Margo Lerwill and Claudie Arseneault have returned from blog vacations, for example. The NFL appears near to an agreement to end the lockout. Two old friends just moved to Georgia, making the state that much cooler. My new summer projects are progressing well enough. Even the mosquitoes are under control (though it's a fragile peace).

Light ahead, I project boldly.

The List:

1. Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld. I've only just started this, so I can't say too much about it, except that I always want to spell the author's name "Westerfield" and not "Westerfeld." It's YA Steampunk set at the outset of WWI.

2. Sabbath's Theater - Philip Roth. This is a slower read for me than most of his novels from the 90s, but Roth remains a favorite (as reflected in the blog archives).

3. Dogs: A Natural History - Jake Page. One of my projects for the summer is to learn more about dogs. Unfortunately, dog lovers do not tend to be great writers (or even good writers). Focusing on the positive, I've enjoyed this book's discussions of the evolution/domestication of various dog breeds.

4. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood - James Gleick. I started reading this book a few months ago and then returned following a mention of it on The Girl Wizard. It was also discussed in the comments for this post on lightning storms.
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