Monday, February 28, 2011

My horse for a Kindle!

First off a huge hello to my new followers and crusaders -- Hello! I've been deader than dead lately on this blog, and I'm sorry - this is what two jobs and maximum credits at a university will do to you.

But look, I has a kindle!

It's the new Kindle, 6" display, with 3G + wireless. Mmm.

I'll admit I was on the fence about this kindle and all - I'm still more of a bibliophile and tend of insist on paper books. Even at this moment I still have books from the library (which I should really get to and finish before returning, actually).

But the Kindle's got its neat little features, and I guess my favourite part would be that I'm allowed to carry more than one book without killing my back.

As for readability, it's not too bad. With text, it's easier to read without the words running off-screan; with pdf, it's easier to read formatted word and without words "breaking" (it happens when you write in a non-Latin alphabet-based language, I suppose, which is what I do).

Doc files are supposedly supported, according to the website, but I haven't been able to get it to work yet. It'd be nice to be able to put my drafts in and read them on the road sometimes.

Being of the Web 2.0 generation, of course, I actually thought their internet browser wasn't half bad.

I was expecting a text-only browser, so when images showed up not half bad - black and white, but pretty good considering how black and white displays from years ago looked! - I was pleasantly surprised. The 3G was definitely worth it in this case, I suppose.

One thing I disliked, however, was being unable to download pdf files from the browser. I don't know if that's Amazon trying to stop me from not buying books through their store or illegally downloading books, but I was trying to get works that are no longer copyrighted (Wordsworth, Pope, y'know, the good stuff) from Google books and failed miserably. I shall have to play around with it a bit more, I suppose, or learn to utilize the usb cable.

Just on a personal side, too, I'd have liked to be able to type in stuff. Wouldn't that be something?? I mean, the key pad on the kindle is far from ideal, but I'm such a sucker for being able to type wherever I want.

That's it for February, everyone. Happy Writings!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exclamation: Pedro Paramo

Pedro Paramo (1955)
Juan Rulfo  

After I finished Pedro Paramo, all I wanted to do was put my head on the desk and cry.

Not because the ending is tragic – the entire story of Pedro Paramo is tragic – but because the writing filled me with the kind of despair that will probably never go away.

In this book, the reader has no clear idea who the protagonist is. Pedro Paramo is far too larger-than-life to be an approachable character. Father Renteria is far too circumventive to be empathized with. Susana, well, no reader or character can understand even half of what she’s thinking. Juan Preciado is the reader’s guide into this hell Rulfo has created, but his story is trivial compared to the suffering that fills this town. The ghosts are thrown at the readers, and we are expected to accept them without blinking an eye.

In fact, the reader has no clear idea of what is even happening in the book. Was that incest? (Probably.) Is he a ghost? (Most likely.) How did Pedro Paramo really die? (I’m with the death shown on the last two pages.)

Yet it works perfectly. It’s true that the reader gains a bigger revelation and thus a bigger catharsis with nonlinear stories, in which missing pieces come together slowly until the full picture is finally presented. The effort it takes to piece them together, perhaps, or the suspense of wondering about the missing pieces makes the ending all that much sweeter.

Yet such an effect is extremely hard to achieve, and nonlinear stories are always at the risk of being merely confusing, especially in such a murky setting with mixed characters as in Pedro Paramo. This book manages it, however, and it manages it brilliantly. The intrusions of Pedro Paramo’s story are smoothly delivered between Preciado’s stories, until the book becomes a true omnibus and the reader does not even feel the transition until it’s too late.

The book manages to deliver even incest smoothly, less as disgusting and more as darkly disturbing in its mix of the innocence and sin, as in the case of the couple-siblings Preciado encounters.

In short, perhaps, I loved Rulfo; and I hated him for writing what I want to write, long before I even realized that it was what I wanted to write, and for writing it far better than I could have written.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The CRUSADE badge: How to

I've seen a few comments here and there about how to put the badge up, etc., so I decided to put a How-to together. Just a warning upfront, I'm going to assume the reader doesn't know really much of anything about blogs, so some of you more tech-savvy people may find it slow-paced.

(But first a huge thanks to Rachel for promoting the badge on her post, and for organizing the CRUSADE in the first place!! It's brilliance itself, I tell you - and you all are equally crazy people for joining it and showing up in my blog for it!! I knew there was a reason I signed up! *grins*)

So the badges in question are these:

The trick is knowing which one to use. They look about the same, but one of them is actually a .png file with a transparent background. Keep in mind, also, that Internet Explorer has started supporting these transparent png files not that long ago; it might not work for older versions.

Now, if you have a white background for your blog - not the entire background, but the area where your texts show up and where you want the badge to show - you must use the RIGHT one.

If you have a color background, then you must use the LEFT one. It's the one with the transparent background, so that your background will show up around the badge and not in a square. It'll look pretty.

OR, if this all confuses and you don't mind having a white box around the badge, you can use the RIGHT one.

Once you've made your choice, here is how you put it up:

1. Click the badge you want to use above.

2.Right-click on the image, and choose Save Image As. Save it anywhere - desktop is usually a good choice. Click "Save".

3. Open your own blog. You will see "design" on the top left corner; click it, and you should be brought to a page that looks like the above. Your page may look different, depending on the layout you have chosen.

4. Decide where you will put your badge; most commonly, it'll be the sidebar. Click "Add a Gadget".

5. Find the "Picture" gadget, which looks like the above pic. Click it.

6. Fill out the information. You can put whatever you want; it would make sense to link to Rachel's post about the crusade. For the picture, choose "From your computer", click browse, find the badge picture you saved earlier, and click open. The badge pic should show up like above.

7. Click save.

8. It should show up in the list of gadgets as above.

That's all, folks! I have a cold right now and I wrote this in a rush because I have to go work out with my roommie soon, so if there are grave (or even little) things wrong with it, please tell me!! But hope this helped!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writerly Seclusion #2

Writerly Seclusion: the best places to write in.

Out of the spotlight.

The writer is both everywhere and nowhere in the story. That is, the story is undeniably all-writer, but the writer herself will not be in the story. The best stories are those where you listen to the story, not to the writer.

So, I say, on top of a street light is perfect place to write in. I can see the world below - and it's a beautiful world, a colorful world, lit by the lights that are actually right with me - but me myself isn't visible. As I shouldn't be.

(My first one is here: Under the bed)

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Crusade

First saw in Deborah Walker's blog post, and followed to Rach Writes' brilliant project. And of course, decided to jump in - because it does get lonely here, it does.

Here we go!

[Edit: A new shield, because Rach wanted a purple one =) ]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exclamation: Death Is Not An Option

death is not an option
Suzanne Rivecca

Rivecca is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University. She thanks Tobias Wolff in her acknowledgements. Now you know, like I did before starting to read her anthology of short stories.

Not that it matters. It's just a purely personal thing for me to fixate on that because I've been looking up MFA programs, and since the first story in the anthology features a smart-ass senior clearly geared towards English, the fact that she's a Stegner fellow just wouldn't get out my head throughout the entire anthology. But I digress.

(Also, for extra fun, look up Tablo.)

The other one thing I fixated on: Narration.

This anthology taught me that short stories rely so much on narration. Not that there aren't action-heavy, dialogue-heavy short stories that blow our minds. Not that narration-heavy short stories never go wrong. In writing there's never a way to it, no way of the world to follow. 

But the power of her stories comes from the narration, or at least so I felt. She showed me that worrying about the silliness of plot is silly. What's the one-sentence summary of the first story of the anthology, "Death Is Not An Option"? "A cynical girl from a devout Catholic school finally breaks down at farewell senior camp."

Oh, how quaint, you say. Oh, how plain. Then you read the story. And you're blushing scarlet, you're scratching furiously at that itch inside your temples because she has started it somewhere deep in your marrows, and you're shouting oh, how - how did she - oh, my god.

And it's all in the power of the narration.

Some gritty dialogues and characters with disturbing past and present also abound, but it's in that tautness of the narrator's voice, that internal monologue and revelation that actually interests the reader more than the action, that really shines in her stories.

Note:  I'm not really meaning to "review" these books, or to critique or even analyse them. My real purpose, actually, is to learn from these books. So I will be commenting more on the books' use of language and the characterization, etc., instead of from a literary point of view, and as something that I felt when I was reading. This is all personal stuff.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Exclamation: wait, why do I bother?

Shirley Jackson.

It's just like Shirley Jackson to knock me out with a two-page short story.

I have no words to add. Except that I threw my head back and barked mad the moment I finished its last sentence. Oh, and resolved to read this story every time before I edit an essay, to remind me of - what the story takes two pages to say.

Just read it.

Funnily enough, I read this just before a class started, in which we're reading Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. And Pedro Paramo....well, let's just say when I finished it, I felt a shiver in my blood vessels, the same kind I felt when I finished As I Lay Dying by Faulkner.

Rulfo. Faulkner, Hamsun, Chin.....

I love you brilliant writers, and I hate you for writing what I wanted to write, long before I even realized that it's what I wanted to write.

Exclamation: Rock, Paper, Tiger

Rock, Paper, Tiger
Lisa Brackmann

One word: "Well-executed."

The writing is tight, the plot is tight. Its uniqueness derives from the strange setting: an Iraq War female veteran in an artistic community in China that may or may not get raided by the government any time, along with gaming and digital conspiracy thrown in.

(The story itself doesn't show this immediately. One of the wonderful things about this book is how it slowly unwraps and unwraps the whole picture. This, of course, is ruined by the book jacket that outright states the protagonist is an veteran. Good thing I have a habit of forgetting the synopsis as I go deeper into the book.)

I found the characters coming across very vibrant - despite some of the gritty themes, no character is wallowing or wailing - and none of them are stereotypical. Each has a distinct characteristic, that is both quirky and believable. Perhaps because of this, however, I also felt some of them might come across a bit flat, not being developed beyond the initial quirk that they show. Others, on the other hand, still leave you with a feeling you haven't met all their complicated sides only hinted at.

Most of all: the pace. Pacing is what I learned from this book. Nothing is explained, and until the "parlour scene" at the end of the book, the readers know very little about the background forces. But the action continues despite the lack of revelation and without losing the grip on its audience, and I find myself willing to go along without stopping and screeching "wait but who did this and why did they come and who are they, anyways??" because I can't wait to find out what the hell's going to happen next.

That's how action should be, how pacing should be.

Note:  I'm not really meaning to "review" these books, or to critique or even analyse them. My real purpose, actually, is to learn from these books. So I will be commenting more on the books' use of language and the characterization, etc., instead of from a literary point of view, and as something that I felt when I was reading. This is all personal stuff. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Writerly Seclusion

Writerly Seclusion: The Best Places to Write In.

Me, I have a special affinity for monsters under the bed. The closet kind never really affected me, but those out-of-this-world, mischievous, and tad bit evil creatures that grabbed at my ankles before I could jump into bed quickly? Well, they're the ones that got me writing, y'see - so it's only appropriate for me to intrude on them now, bringing all my writerly gears into their land and demanding inspiration from them. 

Where do your monsters live?