C. A. Casey

Another worthless writers blog

Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Good Way to Start the New Year

Posted by Casey on January 1, 2008

I got a pleasant email this morning. My story “The Last Hero of Wodling” has been accepted by Sorcerous Signals. It’s a new market that’s good fit for my little story about a woman warrior who tries to lift a centuries old spell from her village.

Posted in Literature | 4 Comments »

Harry Potter and the End of His Saga

Posted by Casey on November 6, 2007

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With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows we come to the end of the story of “the Boy Who Lived.”

Rowling has said that her favorite books to write were 3, 6, and 7. Her least favorite is 5. As I’ve noted, 3 and 6 are the best written and 5 is the worse, so she has a good feel for her creative process. I think she liked 7 because it was the end of a long, exhausting creative journey. Readers have no idea how difficult a feat it is to write a series like this, much less write most of it with her publishers, a film company, merchandisers, and millions of readers breathing down her neck.

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I didn’t like Book 7. It had the same floundering without going anywhere quality as Book 5. When I was on page 551, I said out loud that I could stop reading and not care how the whole series came out. After six-and-a-half books, I still hadn’t mustered enough empathy with the characters to care.

The biggest question was whether Harry Potter was going to live or not. From a literary point of view his fate could have gone either way. Rowling makes an interesting compromise in answer to this question. In a sense, Potter does die (or gets as close to death as one can get and still be alive) and makes the decision to live because he hasn’t finished what he’s fated to do or die trying. As long as there’s life in him, he’ll battle Voldemort.

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Something wonderful was revealed in this book and it made the whole series worthwhile for me. It made me giddy with excitement. We discover that these books aren’t really about Harry Potter at all. He is not the hero of these books. He’s a victim of circumstance and not the only one. These books could have just as easily been Neville Longbottom and the Whatever but Harry got the unlucky spin of the wheel. I’m pleased that Neville follows Harry’s final instructions to him and is the one who performs the final act that gives Harry the only chance he has to defeat Voldemort.

The true hero of this series is Severus Snape. The whole story hinges on Snape doing his job. He doesn’t have to like Potter to play his part. In fact, he hates Potter, which makes his role in this series all the more fascinating. In the end, Potter considers Snape the bravest man he has ever met.

By the way, the whole Draco/Elder’s wand thing . . . For me, it’s a little too coincidental that Harry Potter ends up with Draco’s wand. It would have been a little more believable if someone (like Snape) who knew the significance of the wand had a hand in Potter gaining possession of it.

So that’s it. I can see how dissertations and endless papers will be devoted to this series, both for its rise as a popular culture phenomenon and as a deeply flawed literary work.

I like to think that Rowling will revisit this series in a decade or so and decide to take the time to work out the flaws and do a proper job of telling the story without the whole world nipping at her heels. Rowling’s favorite author is Jane Austen. Well, even Jane Austen wasn’t satisfied with her first version of Pride and Prejudice (called First Impressions) and rewrote it. The result was one of the greatest books ever written.

I’m rather glad I read this series, if for no other reason than to know what it’s about. But it also helped get my stalled creative juices going again. Watch out world.

Posted in Literature | 2 Comments »

Personal Heroes

Posted by Casey on November 6, 2007

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Thomas Paine has been a personal hero of mind ever since I learned about him in American history class and read his amazing pamphlet, Common Sense. His global thinking makes him both ahead of his time and timeless.

Much of what he says about the world and about governments in Common Sense and his other works is still true. If he lived today, I can’t help but think he would have the same impassioned reaction to the environmental ruin of our planet that he had for life, liberty, and the pursuit of freedom, and would be one of the most persuasive voices to finally get the right people (locally and globally) to open their eyes and implement the changes in how we humans inhabit this planet that need to be implemented now.

In other words, I’d like to think he would have produced works (in the most appropriate medium) that would have the same impact on the world as Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Age of Reason. His written work influenced the ideas and wording of the Declaration of Independence. He spent four months in France helping Lafayette draw up The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen — one of the primary documents of freedom during the French Revolution. He even suggested the new American country be called the “United States of America.”

He was a revolutionary, radical, liberal intellectual. For some, all or several of those four words may have a negative connotation and may perhaps even be a little frightening. For me, those four words sum up all the positive aspects of the world and age I grew up in. Thomas Paine fit right in with my life and everything surrounding my life in the late 1960s, early 1970s, when I first learned about him.

He lived an interesting life where his ideas and writings made him famous and infamous, embraced by nations and influential people, and scorned by nations and influential people. In the case of France, he got a taste of all worlds, including just missing the guillotine because of a happy circumstance that probably wouldn’t have been believed if written in a work of fiction. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

I just want to note a couple of passages from Common Sense. Paine could be sitting in a Starbucks expressing these opinions (in slightly more modern speech pattern and terminology) and be commentating on what he had just read in the newspaper. Not much has really changed in the world between 1776 and 2007.

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From the INTRODUCTION:

Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

From the section OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL:

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

Thank you Mr. Paine for continuing to be the voice of reason.

Posted in Literature | 4 Comments »

Harry Potter and Halfway Decent Book

Posted by Casey on October 31, 2007

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is 657 pages. That alone makes it better than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I don’t agree with this visual review of the Half-Blood Prince:

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Harry Potter regains his pre-Book 5 personality, which is a good thing. Ron and Hermione are the ones going through growing pains in this one, but that’s okay because the reader knows where all that’s leading to.

Half-Blood Prince is the beginning of the long, sometimes tedious denouement for the series. Dumbledore prepares Harry in a rather haphazard and inadequate way for his ultimate confrontation with Voldemort. The interesting thing about this book is Rowling’s about face attitude toward adults as helpers for Harry. Dumbledore suddenly is not the wizard who can get everyone out of impossible fixes and concoct cover-ups better than major government officials.

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Dumbledore’s mentoring causes more confusion than clarity, leaving Harry woefully unprepared to deal with pretty much everything that happens in Book 7. Snape is the one who steps in and takes matters into his own hands, but on the surface, his actions appear to be the opposite of saving the day. I’m not going to give away key events, in case others want to read these books. I’ll just say, Snape continues to be the most interesting character in these books.

This is a better paced book than Books 4 or 5, which means it doesn’t drag all the way through. Rowling still hasn’t learned the useful fiction device–narrative summary–to reduce the number of redundant scenes that don’t contribute to the story but denotes the passage of time. At least the redundancy doesn’t get as out of hand as it does in Book 7.

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This book ends with Harry ready to do what he can to save the wizarding world by destroying Voldemort once and for all. So on to the seventh and last book in the Harry Potter saga.

Posted in Literature | 2 Comments »

Harry Potter and the Train Wreck in Slow Motion

Posted by Casey on October 30, 2007

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With great relief, I finished Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. I like thick fantasy epics as much as the next person but content must be up to the task of filling, say 870 pages. Unfortunately, the 870 pages that contain the Order of Phoenix only provides more space for the already pedantic pace set in the previous Potter books to ooze into something slow enough to imitate a Stupefy spell.

Reading this book is like listening to a Presto by Haydn played at a Largo tempo. It plods on and on and on with only brief spurts of get up and go.

Having said that, Phoenix has some of the most entertaining plot and character elements of the series so far. The adaptation to film focused on these elements, making the film much better than the book. In all honestly, 350 to 400 pages could be trimmed away and not only help the pace, but turn it into a pretty good book–except for a minor point that I’ll discuss a little later. Even Rowling said, “There are minor plot things that I– I would change going back. I’d certainly– edit Phoenix a bit better because it’s– I think it’s too long.”

But you know what? There’s a section where the pace actually works, really works for the first time in the first five books. For the first time, Rowling seems to be enjoying what she’s writing. For the first time the story leaps off the page.

It’s odd to say, but her writing has a remote feel, which is interesting because the story (except for introductory scenes at the beginning of most of the volumes and a few minor POV slips) is from Harry’s POV. Perhaps that’s the reason I haven’t been able to muster enough empathy with Harry to really care. And, as I’ve been known to say, novels are about characters, not setting or story. After five books, I haven’t become a Harry Potter convert because I haven’t found a reason to like Harry Potter beyond him being a boy with an interesting problem to overcome.

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The section where I feel Rowling demonstrates she can indeed write in an entertaining, engaging way is when the Weasley twins begin their campaign to get expelled from Hogwarts. Suddenly, we have action and pace in glorious harmony. The section where they set off the fireworks was good writing–all the way through to when all the fireworks burn themselves out.

Unfortunately, Harry does not endear himself to the reader or to anyone who comes within shouting distance of him for that matter. He spends the entire 870 pages pissed off at everyone. A fifteen-year-old yelling and pouting and storming about and fuming in anger does not make for fun reading.

The worse thing a writer can do is change a character’s personality so much that it’s not the same character. In this case, Harry Potter has been replaced by a bad actor, who makes up for lack of skill with over-the-top dramatics. I just wanted to fling a stupefy spell at him and tell him to get over himself and grow up. A more experienced writer would have been able to maintain the personality of the Harry in the first four books as he deals with the extremes of going through too many major physical, emotional, and mental changes in this book.

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This is another example of Rowling not having a complete understanding of how to maintain a compelling fictional dream. She often plays fast and loose with what should be the constants in her world (such as the magic and, in this case, characterization) so certain plot points will happen.

Which brings us to the two major problems with this book . . .

The first is where the main characters suddenly turn stupid so certain events can unfold.

Page 745:

Snape gave her an ironic bow and turned to leave. Harry knew his last chance of letting the Order know what was going on was walking out the door.

 

“He’s got Padfoot!” he shouted. “He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden!”

 

Snape had stopped with his hand on Umbridge’s door handle.

 

“Padfoot?” cried Professor Umbridge, looking eagerly from Harry to Snape. “What is Padfoot? Where what is hidden? What does he mean, Snape?”

 

Snape looked around at Harry. His face was inscrutable. Harry could not tell whether he had understood or not, but he did not dare speak more plainly in front of Umbridge.

 

“I have no idea, ” said Snape coldly. “Potter, when I want nonsense shouted at me I shall give you a Babbling Beverage . . .”

At this point, as a reader, I said, “Bravo.” Snape’s a good wild card to pull at this point in the unfolding drama. But, just as Harry and Hermione are suddenly too stupid to figure out the contradiction of the rules related to the Time-Turner, they don’t seem to remember Harry gave Snape the above information so Snape can find out what’s going on with Sirius. They seem to have forgotten about Snape completely after they leave the centaurs to deal with Umbridge.

The whole scene of Harry and his posse going to the Ministry of Magic and getting caught up in endless pointless actions that go on and on, only to be saved, again, by grownups is just a mess. It reads like an action movie that tries to overwhelm the audience with too many special effects to take its mind off the fact that nothing is happening plot-wise.

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This mess is a good indication the story strayed away from the logical narrative line, especially when too many things have to be explained at the end, like on page 830:

“Kreacher told me last night,” said Dumbledore. “You see, when you gave Professor Snape that cryptic warning, he realized that you had had a vision of Sirius trapped in the bowels of the Department of Mysteries. He, like you, attempted to contact Sirius at once. I should explain that members of the Order of Phoenix have more reliable methods of communicating than the fire in Dolores Umbridge’s office. Professor Snape found that Sirius was alive and safe at Grimmauld Place.

 

“When, however, you did not return from your trip into the forest with Dolores Umbridge, Professor Snape grew worried that you still believed Sirius to be captive of Lord Voldemort’s. He alerted the Order members at once.”

The grownups–the Order members–come and save the day because Potter and his friends have been all but defeated by the Death Eaters at that point.

The question is, why didn’t Hermione, who’s always on top of things, ask, when they’re mounting broomsticks and thestrals for London, “Shouldn’t we see if Snape’s found out anything?” The fact that she nor Harry nor Ron even ask the question is out of character for all of them. Another example of where Rowling sacrifices one of the most important constants in fiction–characterization–for plot points. Even if they still go to London after debating whether they should check with Snape would, at least, restore some credibility to the direction the story takes.

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The second problem is the grownups come in to save the day. It’s almost as if Rowling couldn’t figure out how to get the kids out of the Department of Mysteries after being chased around far too long by the Death Eaters without two of the major plot points not happening yet. It reads exactly like what it is. A plot cop-out. At this point in the series, it’s almost irresponsible because Harry has more than demonstrated that he can handle the bad guys–all it takes is a little more imagination from Harry’s creator, who opted, once again, to take the easy way out.

Bellatrix raised her wand. “Crucio!

 

Neville screamed, his legs drawn up to his chest so that the Death Eater holding him was momentarily holding him off the ground. The Death Eater dropped him and he fell to the floor, twitching and screaming in agony.

 

“That was just a taster!” said Bellatrix, raising her wand so that Neville’s screams stopped and he lay sobbing at her feet. She turned and gazed up at Harry. “Now, Potter, either give us the prophecy, or watch you little friend die the hard way!”

 

Harry did not have to think; there was no choice. The prophecy was hot with the heat from his clutching hand as he held it out. Malfoy jumped forward to take it.

 

Then, high above them, two more doors burst open and five more people sprinted into the room: Sirius, Lupin, Moody, Tonks, and Kingley.

I don’t doubt Rowling would like to take another stab at getting this book right, especially from page 745 on. All the elements for the dramatic climax are there, they just need to be pulled into focused and arranged in a logical credible sequence and have Harry more in control of the situation when the grownups arrive as re-enforcements, not saviors.

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This could have been the best book so far. It has a lot of good things in it. The formation of Dumbledore’s Army, the Weasley twins’ anarchic rampage, and the concept for the Department of Magic makes the book fun. But, unfortunately, it’s the worse book of the first five.

I confess I’ve read Book 6 and 7. I decided not to stop after 5 and plowed through to the end, just finishing 7 today. So I’ll be blogging about the last two books this week, and then I can put this exercise in reluctant reading far behind me.

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Posted in Literature | 1 Comment »

Scammers, Plagiarism and Witchcraft, Oh My

Posted by Casey on October 17, 2007

What happens when a blogger exposes a really stupid case of plagiarism? Well, a major drama filled with ever changing excuses, threats of lawsuits, and witchy curses. Not to mention a lot of entertaining comments from the literary peanut gallery.

My favorite part of this whole thing is when the scamming agent wants to sue the blogger, Jane (a lawyer), for exposing the plagiarism.

Jane emailed the agent with: “I don’t understand why you are emailing me. If you have a lawsuit, have your attorney contact me.”

To which the agent replied: “Don’t worry, when the papers are ready, you will hear from him, trust me. We had no clue this person [the author of the work that was ripped off] or his books existed until last week when YOU posted it. I asked you not to and YOU did, now we have this huge explosion going on and it started with YOU.”

In other words, she wants to sue Jane for publicly spilling the beans that the Prologue of the book Of Atlantis is actually the opening pages of Dark Prince by David Gemmell.

Her myopic stupidity leaves me speechless.

It all starts here . . .

Top 10 Tips for Plagiarists

continues to here . . .

Victoria Strauss — Christopher Hill Redux

and is discussed in greater detail here . . .

Weirdly Similar…

and more as the comments spill into October 17th . . .

How to Fling About Legal Insults Like a Lawyer, Part 1 of Many Parts

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Posted in Literature | 3 Comments »

Harry Potter and the Hugo Award

Posted by Casey on October 13, 2007

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Okay. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I began my previous blogs about the Harry Potter books with every intention to be civil and positive and ended up trashing the books anyway. Well, I’ll just start with the trashing, because I can’t think of many positive things to say about this book.

First off, I just want to say, I’m glad I finally read the Harry Potter book that won a Hugo Award. I couldn’t believe a Harry Potter book was good enough to be nominated, much less win the major award in science fiction and fantasy, bestowed by the World Science Fiction Society. All I can say, if I had a book nominated that year, I would not have been happy losing to a rather mediocre fantasy for children that had no business vying for a Hugo in the first place.

I hated the film version of this book. The book was a little better than the film–I wasn’t compelled to throw it against the wall. I was compelled to put it down about halfway through when the story came to a grinding halt and lumbered much too long through a series of boring pointless scenes. I kept going but the pace never really picked up to the end of the book.

The pacing problem is only partly Rowling’s fault, I think. Consumer and corporate pressure on both Rowling and her editors to finish these books resulted in poorly paced, bloated novels.

The final confrontations of Harry against evil remain the weakest parts of these books. They’re too leisurely paced and there’s only so much one can do while waving a wand and shouting weird Latin phrases. The ending of this book is unfocused and lazy in execution. But those are ever present traits of Rowling’s writing style. The lack of focus and laziness is just more apparent in the dramatic climaxes because these are the sections where the writing has to be sharp and to the point and . . . logical.

Okay, the readers of the first edition caught the little problem of the ghosts coming from Voldemort’s wand in the wrong order and it’s been corrected in later editions. I read the first edition and was pulled out the story to re-read the section and wonder why Rowling messed up the logic of a simple spell just so Potter’s mother could be the last to emerge from the wand. That was the only reason I could think of to put the ghosts out of order.

Then later in the book, we learn that the ghosts were to appear in the reverse order they died, which means Rowling didn’t consciously mess up the order, it means the copy editor fell down on the job. Just as the copy editor didn’t catch all the times H, H, & R didn’t use Snuffles instead of Sirius. Why even have Sirius make the request for them to use Snuffles when talking about him, when they do it once at the beginning of the conversation and then use Sirius after that? Again, I blame a lot of this on the pressure to get the book out to impatient readers.

One piece of information came from this book that I thought should have been, at least, hinted at in the Chamber of Secrets. The feathers in both Harry Potter’s and Voldemort’s wands are from Dumbledore’s phoenix.

Next, Book 5. All 870 pages of it.

Posted in Literature | 2 Comments »

I Love It

Posted by Casey on October 13, 2007

87-year-old Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature. So what kind of reaction would we expect from a woman who turned down a damehood? Whose work encompasses communist, psychological, and feminist themes? And short stories about cats.

She does not disappoint . . .

Posted in Literature | 1 Comment »

More Clever Book Marketing

Posted by Casey on October 13, 2007

I still am not interested in glancing through, much less buying this book, but I give props for clever marketing:

Save Oprah’s Book Club

Oh, and I saw this book in Target today in an end of an aisle display next to . . . the latest Harry Potter book. I think that’s all that needs to be said about this book.

Posted in Literature | 1 Comment »

Robert Jordan — Addendum

Posted by Casey on September 17, 2007

I just want to add that, in spite of or maybe because Jordan’s writing has as many critics as admirers, he was a genius. His influence on a generation of fantasy writers cannot be denied. This post by fantasy writer J.M. McDermott to Making Light’s entry for Jordan sums it up nicely.

I think it is a testament to his greatness as a story-teller that many young writers felt the urge to criticize his writing. Give us a couple months or a couple years after that criticism, and we all felt like boobs for it, because the man could actually write extremely well, and he did actually earn every single one of his millions of fans.

 

We, younglings, all had to deal with him, though. Part of how we created an identity as fantasy writers was choosing to accept or reject the Wheel of Time in our own visions. This urge, I think, led to more criticism than was actually deserved.

 

The greatest tribute to the man, I think, is how every person in the fantasy genre had to respond to his books, his stories, his world — more so than any other author since Tolkien. No one could have no opinion.

It’s a sad day in the world of speculative fiction. Jordan was only 58, leaving this world and the Wheel of Time world much too soon.

Posted in Literature | Leave a Comment »

Robert Jordan

Posted by Casey on September 17, 2007

James Oliver Rigney, Jr. aka Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series died over the weekend.

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I’d probably have more to say about it if I hadn’t given up on the series eight or nine years ago.

Back then, I’d eagerly await the publication of each volume and devour it over a weekend. Then one day, I bought the next eagerly awaited volume, opened it up and didn’t recognize any of the people or the setting. It was at that point I realized Jordan had finally crossed the line that he had flirted with crossing in the previous volumes. He had gotten so deep into world-building and history-building he forgot the most important reason why we were obsessively following the series.

We wanted to read about the main characters–all three hundred of them–we didn’t want to open up a new volume and have to figure out when these minor characters appeared in the previous half-million pages and why he was writing about them at the particular time when we were anxious to read about Mat’s or Perrin’s or Egwene’s fate.

Having said that, there are moments of great brilliance in these books I still think about today. I love the warrior women of the Aiel and the Aes Sedai. The reader can’t help but get deeply immersed in the world and in the lives of the characters. But there are so many characters vying for attention and too many story threads and too much irrelevant detail that important things like direction of story tend to drag, stall, or completely disappear.

Maybe when the series is completed, I’ll revisit it. Despite its flaws, there is much to love about the characters and the world Jordan lovingly crafted. Many of the characters are like old friends. My memory of them has a curling up with a good book on a rainy day kind of comfort for me.

“When the series is completed?” you ask.

Jordan wrote the ending before he started the first book. He also spent the time after learning he had a rare blood disease to work on the final volume and to outline and make notes of what’s left to be done. His wife is an editor and a writer, so the work has been left in more than capable hands.

Here’s a link for the uninitiated into the Wheel of Time work . . .

The White Tower

Other Wheel of Time sites . . .

Encyclopedia WOT

wotmania

Theoryland of the Wheel of Time

Here’s a link to the official Robert Jordan site, but it crashed shortly after the reports of his death. Hopefully, it’ll be back up soon.

Dragonmount

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Posted in Literature | 1 Comment »

Harry Potter and the Vague, Unexciting Book

Posted by Casey on September 12, 2007

I just finished the second Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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I think the subject line of this post sums up my thoughts on it.

I’m still baffled about how a middle-of-the-road fantasy work became such a great phenomenon. This book plods along. Plot development seems to be an afterthought, bogged down in pages of pedantic, aimless prose. The fantasy elements are mundane, with the exception of the phoenix and the Mandrakes. The Mandrakes are a great bit of fantasy creation. If only all the fantasy elements were up to that level.

As I was reading the book, I kept reminding myself that I should know how it ends because I saw the movie. But only a few elements rang a bell and I remembered nothing of the plot. I couldn’t remember the ending of the movie even after I read the end of the book. All I remember was the phoenix had been somehow involved.

In the first two books, Rowling seems to have a problem building the stories to a satisfying conclusion. The endings are weak and feel contrived. In stronger hands, the elements of Harry’s latest confrontation with Voldemort could sing with suspense and terror, but Rowling’s writing style is just too weak and it reads more like a slightly adventurous walk in the park.

What would have been kind of cool would be the idea that the feathers in Voldemort and Potter’s wands came from this particular phoenix, making a more believable and imaginative reason why the phoenix came to Potter’s rescue. Potter standing up for Dumbledore just seems too easy a solution to the problem of getting the phoenix to show up and save the day. Rowling could have taken the opportunity to use something like the phoenix feathers to create another layer of wonder and intrigue to the final confrontation. Maybe it would have been more memorable because there would have been something interesting, something magical, something beyond everyday motivations.

So why did Harry Potter become a phenomenon when some really great fantasy for kids are lumped together as “other fantasy books for fans of Harry Potter”? That’s an easy one. The Harry Potter books are easier to read and understand than most fantasy books. They’re watered down fantasy. At least so far in the first two books.

On to Book 3 . . . may it be better than the first two.

 

Posted in Literature | 2 Comments »

One Down

Posted by Casey on August 19, 2007

I finished the first Harry Potter book.

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In all honesty, if I had picked up this book without any knowledge of the hype around it, I probably wouldn’t have read much beyond the first chapter or two. Even if I had finished it, I wouldn’t have had enough interest in the characters or the storyline to read any more books in the series.

I hear the series gets better and more interesting. I think Rowling got lucky that there was something about this first book that caught the attention of kid readers for them to pass the word about it until it became popular in England. In the meantime the second book came out and it was good enough to really get the readers hooked. I wish I knew what captured the kids’ attention in the first book because otherwise it’s weak as a work of fantasy and very weak in the writing department.

Rowling does a lot of telling instead of showing and her descriptions and imagery aren’t very vibrant. She tends to use weak sentence structures. There’s a part in the middle that contains several grammatical problems that seemed to have been overlooked by the editor and are a symptom of the weak sentence structure habit. The plot meanders and threatens to die in a couple of spots.

But the thing that really irritates me about this book is that an adult steps in and saves the day. I was appalled when I saw it happen in the movie and I’m still appalled after reading the ending of the book. Not only does an adult step in, but Harry Potter isn’t even conscious when the climatic event of the book happens and has to be told after the fact how the bad guy was dealt with. My first reaction: what a cop out. My second reaction: what kind of message does this send to the young reader?

Having an adult step in and save the day is pretty much considered a no-no in children’s literature. What’s the point of setting up everything for a confrontation between the young protagonist and the antagonist and then have the protagonist not only shoved aside, but rendered unconscious at the height of that confrontation? It’s a cop out plot-wise and not fair to the young reader to not have the satisfaction of witnessing the climatic events of the book in real-time with the protagonist participating.

Also, the young reader not only wants the protagonist to do something beyond what kids can normally do and be the hero, the young reader needs to see the young protagonist do this. The cop out is that Rowling with all her imagination couldn’t figure out a way of having Potter remain conscious and a part of the final dramatic confrontation to the bitter end, even if an adult has to step in and lend a hand.

These young readers raised on Harry Potter are a part of the same generation that have parents involved in their job interviews.

On the other hand, maybe I’m beginning to understand why the parents love these books as much as their kids. The books re-enforce the parents’ own over-meddlesome behavior in their kids’ development into healthy, independent adults.

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The Weasleys own a flying car . . . coincidence?

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Posted in Literature | 3 Comments »

On the Other Hand

Posted by Casey on July 23, 2007

Some people were doing other things besides watching two very exciting WNBA basketball games yesterday (Go, Storm. Go, Sky)

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A friend Pottering in So Cal.

Now that the series is finished, I guess I should make the important decision whether to spend the better part of a month reading it, just so I can understand all the discussion about it.

Should I read it or shouldn’t I?

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Posted in Literature | 5 Comments »

That Potter Kid

Posted by Casey on July 22, 2007

I guess the next Harry Potter movie is playing on half the screens of the multi-plex near you and all the bookstores had to re-enforce their floors for the hundreds of copies of the two pound last book in the series.

I guess you can tell from my tone that I’m not one of the excited followers of Harry Potter. Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, but a certain type of fantasy–swords, warriors, grit, realism. Harry Potter is not my cup of tea. I can take highly exaggerated British whimsy and eccentricity only so far. I tried to read the first book but got bored three-quarters of the way through and really had problems with the writing.

I’ve seen all the movies, except the most recent one. I’ll most likely see it some time. I absolutely hated the last movie–sorry, I don’t know enough about the series to remember its name. In fact, I can’t even remember anything about it, except it was excruciating to watch and I couldn’t wait to get out of the theater.

Now, on the other hand, I enjoyed the movie with the map–mostly set in winter. I loved the look of it and the distinctive European feel that came from the director.

So I hope the series ends in a satisfactory manner for all you fans. I’m sure Rowling is relieved that she never has to write another word about Mr. Potter and his world. And she never has to write another word or do anything else that resembles work ever again. It must be nice to be the first person to become a billionaire from writing books.

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Too Funny

Posted by Casey on June 15, 2007

This is perfect and funny:

International Slushpile Bonfire Day a ‘Blazing’ Success

Side note: References to Miss Snark (even disguised as Samantha Nark) have been showing up in a lot of blogs I’ve been reading lately. She’s become this legendary creature that will live on beyond her two years worth of priceless blogs.

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Doing the Author Thing

Posted by Casey on June 13, 2007

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Sometimes authors have to go face-to-face with potential book buyers. Even at Author’s Night at a local elementary school, like last night. For me, whose contact with kids is very limited (is that something a writer for children should confess?) it’s one of those “so that’s what my audience looks like” kind of thing.

Blurry photographic evidence of me interacting with a munchkin. It’s like spotting Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster. There will be dissertations written on whether this photograph is a fake or not.

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The kids were more interested in the feathers than the books. I had several convinced that they were actual dragon feathers.

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For clarification, I don’t write for children, as in consciously saying “this is for kids, so I have to write it in a kid style.” I don’t change my writing style between something like “Lighthouse at the Edge of the Universe” and “The Dragon With One Nostril.” The difference is the age of the POV character. If my POV character is twelve, the writing will reflect the sensibilities and world of that particular twelve-year-old. Kids can always tell when you write down to them.

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And we have an acceptance

Posted by Casey on June 6, 2007

Celebration time. The story that made it to the next round of reading has been accepted.

My story “Lighthouse at the Edge of the Universe” will be published in the Fall 2007 issue of Coyote Wild. I’m pleased that I could get a story in this fairly new publication. I like the premise:

In Native American folklore, Coyote is a wise trickster. He does the unexpected while imparting new wisdom and insight to those with whom he comes in contact. In nature, coyotes are solitary predators and scavengers. Their nighttime calls speak to the soul. They are adaptable and thrive in nearly every environment. They are not shy about exploiting the occasional lucky break, either.

At Coyote Wild we strive to embody all of these traits through the writing we publish.

I tend to be a bit of a trickster in my stories and like to put in a twist and then an extra twist at the end, so I hoped that I had something that fit their criteria.

Now I have to finish my latest and get it into circulation . . . After I finish the article for the game tonight. The Sacramento Monarchs have won their first two home games and are at the top of the Western Conference–something I would have never predicted just a week ago. Such is the ever changing landscape of the WNBA.

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Waiting

Posted by Casey on May 31, 2007

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Writers spend a lot of time waiting. They wait for verdicts on stories from magazines, agents, and publishers. They wait for their work to be published. Ideally, they spend this time writing more stuff, but the mind is a funny thing. Writers need re-enforcement sometimes.

An acceptance is an affirmation that “yes, maybe I can really do this writing thing” and you want to finish one of those half-written bits of prose gathering cyber dust on the harddrive. Even a non-acceptance with a positive personal note can stimulate the creative juices. A rejection is equal to a challenge, so that gets me going too.

But waiting . . . well, waiting just gets tiresome.

I have four stories out right now. One has gone to the next round of reading, the other three, who knows. One is at a new market that pays well, so it’s the most iffy for acceptance. Another is at a literary magazine. I’ve never tried literary before, so I don’t know what to expect. One is being held to see if it fits a future issue. This one I can sub to another market according to the publication holding it. Frankly, it’s my favorite story but it’s way too weird for most markets and it’s been in the slush of four magazines already, so I’ll take my chance on this magazine.

Number of days I’ve been waiting for a verdict?

The story in the next round – 80 days
The one to the better paying market – 50 days
The one to the literary market – 124 days
The one that’s being held – 212 days

Non-writers out there are probably thinking that’s way too long to wait, but actually these numbers are the norm.

Why does it take so long? It depends on how many submissions a publication receives, how many spots they have to fill in an issue and how many issues they’re filling at a time, how much time they have to look at submissions. Some have reading periods, some have reading parties.

So I wait . . . maybe I’ll work on one of those half-finished stories.

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Fact is Stranger Than Fiction

Posted by Casey on May 21, 2007

If you’re ever stuck for writing ideas, just look at the news, look around you, read historical accounts.

I like to poke around Project Gutenberg and pick out a book and just start reading. It’s like browsing around a library, except bare-foot and with a kitty in your lap. Anyway, I found a book published in 1916 called With the Turks in Palestine by Alexander Aaronsohn. It’s a memoir about the Jewish settlers in Palestine during World War II.

So I’m reading this very fascinating book and come across this paragraph and think, if someone included such notions in a historical novel, it would blow historical credibility.

The Turks were less far-sighted. They believed firmly that they were
going to sweep the English off the face of the earth and enter Cairo in
triumph, and preparations for the march on Suez went on with feverish
enthusiasm. The ideas of the common soldiers on this subject were
amusing. Some of them declared that the Canal was to be filled up by the
sandbags which had been prepared in great quantities. Others held that
thousands of camels would be kept without water for many days preceding
the attack; then the thirsty animals, when released, would rush into the
Canal in such numbers that the troops could march to victory over the
packed masses of drowned bodies.

Camels of the world unite!

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Career ending novel . . .

Posted by Casey on May 11, 2007

Some bloggers do cute little things like indicate their mood, what’s on their iPod at the moment, and what books they’re reading, etc.

Well let’s see . . .

Mood? All over the place, like always. I try to keep my moodiness within as thin of a bandwidth as possible to give the impression that I’m in no mood at all.

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iPod — is on because every time HP wants to update my computer software it conflicts with the sound card and I have to put in a fix to fix the update. So I can’t listen to my collection on my computer. So what’s on my iPod at this very moment? “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)” by Pink (see Mood)

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What am I reading? The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

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I wanted to see what the 1899 version of a career ending novel looked like, because this elegant piece of prose caused such a controversy that it ended Chopin’s career as a writer.

As I read it, I can picture a 21st century critique group suggesting that the author show more and tell less–replace summary paragraphs with entertaining dialogue to help develop the characters. And I can hear the endless discussions on how no editor would look at it because it’s written in third person omniscient.

But the impartial reporting of the main character’s “awakening” from an arms-length narrative distance is what caused the uproar of controversy. Storytelling without the overlay of social censorship.

The Awakening is a beautiful lyrical work that’s just a joy to read. Here’s the first of Edna Pontellier’s several awakenings:

She entered the hall with him during a lull in the dance. She made an awkward, imperious little bow as she went in. She was a homely woman, with a small weazened face and body and eyes that glowed. She had absolutely no taste in dress, and wore a batch of rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to the side of her hair.

 

“Ask Mrs. Pontellier what she would like to hear me play,” she requested of Robert. She sat perfectly still before the piano, not touching the keys, while Robert carried her message to Edna at the window. A general air of surprise and genuine satisfaction fell upon every one as they saw the pianist enter. There was a settling down, and a prevailing air of expectancy everywhere. Edna was a trifle embarrassed at being thus signaled out for the imperious little woman’s favor. She would not dare to choose, and begged that Mademoiselle Reisz would please herself in her selections.

 

Edna was what she herself called very fond of music. Musical strains, well rendered, had a way of evoking pictures in her mind. She sometimes liked to sit in the room of mornings when Madame Ratignolle played or practiced. One piece which that lady played Edna had entitled “Solitude.” It was a short, plaintive, minor strain. The name of the piece was something else, but she called it “Solitude.” When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him.

 

Another piece called to her mind a dainty young woman clad in an Empire gown, taking mincing dancing steps as she came down a long avenue between tall hedges. Again, another reminded her of children at play, and still another of nothing on earth but a demure lady stroking a cat.

 

The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs. Pontellier’s spinal column. It was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano. Perhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth.

 

She waited for the material pictures which she thought would gather and blaze before her imagination. She waited in vain. She saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her.

 

Mademoiselle had finished. She arose, and bowing her stiff, lofty bow, she went away, stopping for neither, thanks nor applause. As she passed along the gallery she patted Edna upon the shoulder.

 

“Well, how did you like my music?” she asked. The young woman was unable to answer; she pressed the hand of the pianist convulsively. Mademoiselle Reisz perceived her agitation and even her tears. She patted her again upon the shoulder as she said:

 

“You are the only one worth playing for. Those others? Bah!” and she went shuffling and sidling on down the gallery toward her room.

Good stuff. Now go away, I have to work . . .

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