bookmark_borderWriting class

First assignment from a beginners class for creative writing; describe a place using the 5 senses.

Sigh. I knew it was going to be a basics class, but I wanted review of some basics. “Write about a place that you love. Describe it using the 5 senses, or as many as possible.” Then it’ll be read, and critiqued in class next week. This falls under the topic of “settings”.

Even with my current limited background I admitted to more writing than almost all of the rest of the class would admit to. Most popular answer to writing experience was “haven’t done any since high school”. Ah well, they all claim to read a lot and so the critiques will be useful.

A place that I love. Hmm. I’m not one to love places, and my inclination to be obtuse or to be cute leads me to want to pick something like, maybe a place in my own mind or something else that I can come up with that might be as unexpected. On the other hand I have to remember that the exercise is a descriptive one and the objective is to have an existing reality, even if it is only in memory, and reproduce it in the imagination using words. By that measure a fluid imaginary spot goes outside the intended parameters.

Maybe I’ll just have to settle for ordinary, and pick someplace that I at least “like”.

bookmark_borderReview and thoughts; Memoirs of a Geisha

I don’t read a lot of books when they first come out, I don’t see a lot of movies in theaters or even when they first arrive in DVD format. It could be that I don’t like being part of a crowd, or that I like things to stand a little test of time before I spend the money and time required, but more likely it’s just that I’m lazy and slow.


So finally I’ve watched “Memoirs of a Geisha”. The movie is fine, the story okay, but what I really liked was 1) the moves of Mameha, top geisha from a rival house, to support the principle character’s rise partly for the good of the industry as a whole, and even more, 2) the character of the villain, Hatsumomo, and her portrayal by Gong Li.

Hatsumomo is so unhappy. She is one of the top geisha in the city but she is in love and is not allowed to be, and she knows that she will never be successor to the house that she works for and for whom is earning money for. In other words, she has only half a present, and no future. Who wouldn’t be unhappy in this situation?

In addition to being unhappy she is also arrogant, impudent,  as well as very beautiful and talented in a field where adoration and power are keys. It’s no wonder given her circumstances and personality that she is also very bitter. That bitterness and conflict gives her a fragility and I’m somewhat surprised that she only breaks down to be mean to the principle character, and then only when her hopes and expectations of placing her little sister as a puppet successor to the house are destroyed does she fall apart.

As a character she makes me think of Blanche Dubois, from “A Streetcar Named Desire”. The fragile-ness, the importance of attention from men, the scheming for the future that she shares with Blanche make her story and her character much more interesting and attractive to me than the principle character.

bookmark_borderReview/reaction: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Haven’t seen the movie version yet, but I read a reference to the book in an issue of the New Yorker a few months ago and realized that I should read the book. I requested a copy from the library but it took so long to arrive that I forgot my request until the book arrived last week.

For me it’s an odd little book, very well written, with characters that are all a little lost and confused (as are we all). Jean Brodie is an eccentric character, fully aware that she is out of place but believing that she needs to remain there for the good of her girls. She has a persecution attitude, she feels she needs to be constantly vigilant against threats because she know that the headmistress would like to find a way to force her to leave. At the same time she is also fully unaware of her own faults, the threats she poses to her students, her own immorality (convincing a student to fight for Franco, manipulating a selected student to sleep with a married teacher in her place), her own shortcomings.

But I know little about Catholicism or Calvinism so the author’s comparisons and metaphors (pointed out to me after doing some internet searches) went over my head.

The use of time perspectives, flashing forward and back, is excellent. It serves a purpose, it’s never unclear, it doesn’t detract from the flow of the story, and it allows us to see the circumstances of the principle time frame from a multitude of time perspectives. Normally we can see the story from the perspective of different characters within the story but here we get to see the story from the perspective of those characters and from different time frames which magnifies the depth to which we can view the situations. For me this is one of the most excellent aspects of the book; I can’t think of an example where differing time perspectives are used so well and add so much value to the story.

bookmark_borderReactions to watching “Brokeback Mountain”

Recently we bought a new DVD player and with it came a month of free DVD rentals. The first movie that we chose is “Brokeback Mountain”. I’m sure that everyone knows what separates this movie from all other mainstream successful movies; gay cowboys.

I don’t think that I’m a prude, for the most part at least. I have gay and lesbian and bisexual friends, co-workers, associates, though no family members that I know of. I also don’t have much of an issue watching gay/lesbian/bi porn, so I was surprised at the degree to which the intimate scenes in “Brokeback” were difficult for me to watch. The first difficult scene was when they touch each others faces with the backs of their fingers. They weren’t even kissing or touching each others genitals or anything but it was so obviously intimate and sexual that I was pretty uncomfortable.

I’m still reflecting on this days later and what I’m realizing is that it’s not the sex or implied sex or intimacy that bothers me, rather, it’s the assumption on my part that neither actor is gay or bisexual and that these scenes are entirely acting. For some reason I automatically and immediately put myself in the actor’s shoes and thought, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. (By contrast it’s possible that I assume that porn actors are actually gay/lesbian/bi or even hetro as depicted in their sex scenes, even though the likelihood of them not being so inclined and that they are doing so only for the money is probably a lot higher than is the case for mainstream actors.)

Why is this? I’ve done a little acting in the past but very little. Is it some subconscious identification that goes on constantly whenever I watch a movie, and it’s only because of the intensity of my reaction that I become aware of it in this case?  I think this is a possibility. I also have a decent fear of heights and if I think that a person on the screen, in this case more likely a documentary person or a clip on the news, is actually dangling from a building or the side of a mountain and the camera gives a good shot of it, that’ll get a reaction out of me as well.

So this identification with the presumed reality of dangling off a building, being trapped underwater, or the “reality” behind the actor’s words and actions seems to be quite a bit deeper and stronger than the presented “reality” of the movie. What does this mean for me as a writer of fiction? Most good fiction has at least some basis in reality. It’s probably an indicator that I need to maintain some connection with reality in order to generate a story that moves me.