Saturday, July 18, 2015

What's More Important? Style or a Good Idea

It appears that content or a good idea can be more important than style. For example, would Lolita, despite it being extremely well written, be as well known if it weren't about the sexual seduction of a 12-year-old nubile nymphet? A number of critics and writers believe that Lolita would be on the level of The Enchanter or Laughter in the Dark but not the novel that made Nabokov rich and (in)famous.

The Blare Witch Project (1999) began with a budget of $600,000 and a 35 page outline for a script that was sans dialogue since the dialogue was improvised. The filming lasted only eight days and was done by a "cinematographer" with only two days of training. However, the innovative independent film's content trumped it's amateur techniques and feel and made a whopping $248.6 million at the Box office. 

Then you have examples like San Andreas (2015). The film received a mediocre 3 out of 5 stars from IMDb, 2.5 out of 5 stars from Rotten Tomatoes and 2 out of 5 stars from Metacritic, but the 3D disaster film made $459.8 at the Box office after being filmed on a budget of $110 million.

And I'm not the only writer who can't fully understand why Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is a cult classic. But it may have something to do with the level of emotion that Salinger put into the book while writing it in the trenches during World War II.

Thus it appears that a good idea, which is of course subjective, can be more important than style. 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Write for the Glory of the Art, Not "The Bread"?




As a writer you may stress over whether your writing will sell but it's completely out of your control. That is one of the reasons why it's vital to write about topics and themes that interest you as a person\writer and that you want to share for altruistic reasons.

A lot of people may agree that Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris deservedly won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but a lot of people may not be able to fathom how the script for Pixels (2015) was sold. 

Jon Elster shared in Explaining Social Behavior "that in some cases I can get X by doing A, but only if I do A in order to get Y. [e.g.,] If I work hard to explain the neurophysiological basis of emotion and succeed, I may earn a high reputation. If I throw my into work for a political cause, I may discover at the end of the process that I have also acquired a "character."" However, it's important to understand that a "high reputation" and "character" are "states that are essentially by-products". 

Thus, you may want to be more like Lester in The Tenants than Willie. Lester was a published novelist who wrote for the glory of the art and immortality while Willie was an unpublished writer who wrote for "The Bread". 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Be Careful About What You Snack on While Writing!

Brian Boyd wrote in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years that Nabokov compulsively smoked Gauloises while writing but after visiting a physician due to heart palpitations Nabokov was advised to give up smoking. To ward off the nicotine cravings he started "...compulsively devouring molasses candy..." and subsequently gained sixty pounds. 

Nabokov shared in a Playboy interview, "I became as stout as Cortez-- mainly because I quit smoking [while writing] and started to munch molasses candy instead, with the result that my weight went up from my usual 140 to a monumental and cheerful 200." 

According to Secret Lives of GREAT AUTHORS Balzac often wrote for fifteen hours per day while drinking fifty cups of Turkish coffee. Unsurprisingly. it's suspected that the copious amounts of coffee contributed to his early death.

Compared to Balzac, I drink a meager five to seven half cups of coffee per day, often while writing, with one teaspoon of organic cane sugar; however, when I decided a month ago to forgo the sugar I subsequently lost a considerable amount of weight. I went down a shirt size and two belt loops!

Thus, be careful about what you snack on while writing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

What is Appropriate for Young Adult (YA) Literature?




Emily Witt related in a New York magazine “Intelligencer” article that publishers have started referring to Young Adult (YA) literature as New Adult (NA) literature. Per the American Library Association (ALA), a young adult is someone between the ages of 12 and 18-years-old. But is content that is “appropriate” for 18-year-olds “appropriate” for 12-year-olds?

Let’s look at Lauren Myracle’s ttyl. Here’s Amazon’s plot summary of the YA\NA book:

This funny, smart novel follows the friendship of three 16 year old girls [Angela Silver Madigan, "Maddie" Kinnick , and Zoe Barrettas] they experience some of the typical pitfalls of adolescence: boys, queen-bee types, a flirty teacher, beer, crazy parents, and more. Lauren Myracle has a gift for dialogue and characterization, and the girls emerge as three distinctive and likable personalities through their Internet correspondence. This light, fast-paced read is told Entirely in instant message format, the first book ever for young adults to be written so.

Here are some content that I found surprising and wrote about in this “runaway” best-selling book written for teens:

Margaret, Angela’s high school friend, knows how to squirt. 

Margaret desperately wants to have a relationship with a bohemian Georgia State University (GSU) student, but she didn’t realize that 15-year-old Angela had a crush on the collegian as well.

It excited Angela to fantasize about her classmate's "summer sausage" while she did her homework.

15-year-old Maddie danced topless on a table at a GSU frat party as camera phones snapped away.

And in terms of the teacher/student relationship, Zoe was initially attracted to Mr. H, her English teacher, because, "... he's NICE. cuz he treated me like i was a person instead of a kid. that what was so great - we were just ppl having a discussion." Zoe and her teacher went out several times, but when Mr. H invited Zoe to join him in the hot tube wearing a pair of Speedos, he "paralyzed" her and she ended the relationship.

Apparently, some parents didn’t think that ttyl was “appropriate” for 12-year-olds, because the book is on the American Library Association's list of books parents want banned.

But what is appropriate for YA\NA “literature”?


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Are You Pregnant [with Books]?



I'm currently working on a number of writing projects:

  1. The 2nd edition of The Allure of Nymphets which has almost doubled in size 
  2. A short story based on a harrowing month long event that I recently experienced  
  3. small non-fiction volume about an aspect of New York City
  4. An essay on the striking similarities between monks and pimps
  5. And a volume of verse

Thus, like the protagonist in Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, I feel pregnant with books. 

As I say, the day began gloriously. It was only this morning that I became conscious again of this physical Paris of which I have been unaware for weeks. Perhaps it is because the book has begun to grow inside me. I am carrying it around with me everywhere. I walk through the streets big with child and the cops escort me across the street. Women get up to offer me their seats. Nobody pushes me rudely anymore. I am pregnant. I waddle awkwardly, my big stomach pressed against the weight of the world.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Very Inspirational Vine for Writers




Brian William Koppelman,  the co-writer of Ocean's Thirteen and director of Solitary Man, has a very inspirational, set in Manhattan, Vine that he films for (screen) writers. 

In his latest Vine he gives his followers the "secret sauce" to success in Hollywood, "Hey, is there a magic for success in Hollywood? Do want the secret sauce? Unwavering belief. Total commitment. Rigorous work."

If you don't have a Vine account, you may want to get one just to follow Koppelman. (Disclosure: I'm not affiliated with Vine or Koppelman.)



Friday, June 5, 2015

THE TENANTS: An Extremely Good Novel and Film for Writers




If you're a writer and you're having trouble staying motivated, focused and you're being constantly interrupted by selfish people who don't take your writing seriously, then The Tenants is the novel (1971) and film (2005) for you.

If you want examples of two writers who take their writing extremely seriously, then read this book and watch the film. The novel is a page turner and the film, which is a great adaption of the novel, should be a cult classic for writers.


Here's the plot summary from IMDB, trailer and covers: 

In an abandoned tenement, an African-American militant writer and a Jewish novelist develop a friendship while struggling to complete their novels, but inner tension rises between the two.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Balzac: Prolific Writing, Turkish Coffee and Non-Ejaculatory Orgasms...



After I recently read in Secret Lives of GREAT AUTHORS that Balzac often wrote for fifteen hours per day, drank fifty cups of Turkish coffee per day, and practiced, as Deida recommends in The Way of the Superior Man, non-ejaculatory orgasms (It works!), I found my copy of Lost Illusions and re-read my dog-eared pages. I re-discovered some very interesting things. For example:

Print is to manuscripts what the stage is to an actress - it brings to light both beauties and defects; it may kill, or it may bring it to life; a flaw leaps to the eye, and so does a finely expressed idea. p. 376

And if you think that's interesting, check this out. I ordered my used copy of Lost Illusions from Amazon, and coincidentally, the copy I received from Amazon, was the very same copy that I borrowed from the New York public library - with my dog-ears intact.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Self-Published Greatest Masterpieces of the 20th Century




In a 1966 National Educational Television network interview, Nabokov opined that the "greatest masterpieces of twentieth-century prose are, in this order: Joyce's Ulysses; Kafka's Transformation; Bely's St. Petersburg; and the first half of Proust's fairy tale, In Search of Lost Time." 

Coincidentally, Ulysses and In Search of Lost Time were self-published. Joyce and Proust weren't the only famous novelists to self-publish. For example, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound and Mark Twain, to name a very few, were self-published as well. 

In some cases you could have a publisher/distributor but no money for printing like in the case of Henry Miller who needed Ana├»s Nin to finance the printing of Tropic of Cancer.

Therefore, if you're having a hard time finding an agent and/or publisher you may consider joining the ranks of some very well-known self-published novelists and poets


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Proust Recommends The Charming Bounce Back Technique




To be a charismatic conversationalist Cabane recommends in The Charisma Myth that one use the Bounce Back Technique. The idea of the technique is to keep the conversation on the other person because people will find you charismatic if you allow them to talk about themselves. Many people make the mistake of hijacking conversations. 

For example, if someone volunteers, "I went to L.A. for the weekend." 

Don't respond, "I went to L.A. about two weeks ago too. I went to visit my sister. There was so much smog there. And so much traffic. But we went to a really nice..."

It's better to respond with questions like, "Oh, how was it?" "Why did you go there?" "How 
long were you there?"

Here's The Bounce Back Technique:


  1. Answer a query with a fact
  2. Add a personal note
  3. Redirect the query back to the questioner
e.g.,:

Question: "So, where are you moving to?"
Response: "To the East Village.[Fact] I need a lot of noise outside of my window to concentrate. [Personal note] Do you need silence to write? [Redirect]

And Botton relates in How Proust Can Change Your Life that Proust suggests that to be a good friend, one must keep the conversation on the other person.



Proust was of the understanding that one shouldn't assume that others are interested in his interests but that one should ask questions to avoid boring the listener. 


To be tactful, Proust recommends that one look to please others in his conversations by having them elaborate on their interests. And that one should abdicate his interests. 


Proust even opined that, ironically, the best friends are those that scorn friendships. Botton interprets Proust's position by writing that people who scorn friendships:

  • have more realistic expectations of "friendships"
  • avoid talking at length about themselves because they would rather avoid placing their life's in the fleeting and superficial medium of conversations
  • feel that "friendships" are a means to learn about others - not lecture
  • appreciate other's susceptibilities; thus, they feel that there is a need to show false amiability


Therefore, to be charming, tactful and a good "friend", one should use the Bound Back Technique in conversations.