Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's the NCTE of the World As We Know It

Liz and I leave for NCTE in Philadelphia tomorrow morning! We met last night during her office hours to pore over the program, discuss what to do during downtime [shopping, museums, Liberty Bell, cheesy cuisine], and, of course, chat a little bit about our panel presentation Friday afternoon. But back to the important part: Road Trip!

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - I'm enjoying this but not as quickly as my book club ladies.
Also enjoying The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho. I believe that he should be listened to rather than read, at least for me.

In my last few hours at work for the week, I'm kicking ass and taking names this morning.
• Last Thursday I called the student union to confirm that we'd be using their display space starting Monday at noon. They made it sound like we'd be ready to move in yesterday. When my student showed up at 7pm, the other tenants were still using the space. I got fun calls from students and the boss. This morning I got to call and talk to a student at the union, who said things will be ready to go for us at noon today, and I left a message for the reservations director. She hasn't gotten back to me about reservations for rooms next semester either.
• I've been working with our Printing & Design folk on a brochure of students' microcompany products. I have a happy-looking proof. All I need to do now is confirm with my boss that the pricing is acceptable, decide on a final number to order, and encourage P&D to get it done before Thanksgiving so students can take them home and advertise over the break.
• Pricing confirmed - we'll order 1000 (400 more than we wanted, but we all know how profit margins work). They should be ready Friday!
• I set up my work e-mail's autoresponse message for when I'm gone Wednesday through Sunday.
• Just printed out my handout for NCTE Friday. Many thanks to C & M for your input!
• Boss is having a guest speaker Thursday. I confirmed printing and confirmed that a coworker of mine can greet her and take attendance. Need to call the guest and tell her to meet my friend Stella in her office.
• Done.

Speaking of M, do you love vanilla? And nuts? And sugar and salt? And adorably infectious writing?
Check out this recipe for Sweet and Salty Vanilla Pecans!

More later - presentation to work on, clothes to pack, fun books to read, gchat friends to harass, and husband to hug!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I went to a poetry reading/slam/community on campus last night with a couple of classmates and was so pleased with what I experienced there.  In addition to the two professional guests I mention below, we had some students and local church members get up and spit their rhymes.  Powerful powerful stuff.

John Goode is real and hilarious and I swear he and I must have grown up with the same mother!

Sunni Patterson is a mystic with a sense of lyricism and rhythm that nearly blew me away and made half of the audience secretly tear up.  I am going to (safely and electronically-only) stalk her, I think.

If you're in the Dayton area tonight, I strongly suggest you check them out.  Now it's off to the library and amazon.com to see if I can find their stuff, especially Sunni's.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review of Pygmy

Chuck Palahniuk's Pygmy was dark, disgusting, and absolutely hilarious.  It's the story of a young would-be terrorist from foreign country [redacted]. He narrates the tale of his arrival in a Midwestern U.S. town where he is taken in by a Christian host family with two teenage kids.  Pygmy, as Agent 67 is called by his new community, has a nickname for everyone.  He exposes the hangups of everyone he meets as Palahniuk attacks Christianity, Captialism, Consumerism, and everything else American, in true Chuckie fashion.  Through his eyes, we watch him and his fellow "exchange student" operatives prepare for Operation Havoc.  He goes to school, he gets in fights, he falls in love.  It's a riff on your typical YA high school story, but it's twisted.

The satire is scathing and brilliant.  Chuckie doesn't pull any punches, but he doesn't unilaterally beat up on American culture.  He exposes some of our weaknesses but shows how dictatorial, freedomless fascist training is also flawed and damaging.  I don't know if he goes so far as to promote a happy medium, but he certainly doesn't say that one side or the other is blameless.  The ending surprised me.  It was much more redeeming, I think, than Fight Club or what I would expect from Chuck.  But it was also a little bit "neater" than it needed to be.  The process rather than the product is the fun part of this one.

The writing style is postmodern, and I like it.  I'm lucky that I picked up the audiobook version, because the reader did a wonderful job and I don't think I could sit through reading-by-sight the choppy, jumbled (though hilarious) "sentences" of Chuckie's prose.

I liked this book a lot.  It is NOT for the faint of heart, and if you strongly dislike gratuitous and graphic violence, don't bother.  The social and political commentary are not novel enough to make this required reading for anyone, but it's great escapism if you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Writing

Anyone here like Barbara Kingsolver?  *raises hand*  She did an interview with Goodreads recently, in part to promote her new book, and the interview transcript is fabulous!  She has some great gems and insights about writing and culture, how trends in writing have changed over the past thirty years, and much more.  I quote one nugget as my gchat status message, but it's cumbersome.  A nice nugget for a blog post is the quotation below:

"The essential ingredient of authorship is authority."
It sounds easy, obvious, but it's so true.  In order to write, you  have to own your material and your subject.  That's not to say that if you feel unknowledgeable you shouldn't try to write.  Write.  Always write. But don't be afraid of research.  Don't be afraid of reading everything you can get your hands on.  Read from a diversity of sources.  Learn how to discern which sources are good and which are not.  Weave them into your story.  Be entrenched in your ideas, and you'll find that your words can mystically write themselves.  To push that idea, build a foundation of information ideas and then empty your mind to let the words flow through you and onto the page.

Authorship as authority is true not only of fiction-writing, as I know many people are attempting with National Novel Writing Month.  It is also true of academic writing.  In freshman composition courses, students are learning about discourse communities, which is just a big scary word for specific conversation among people with similar goals.  John Swales can give you more details at the wiki site.  Basically, students need to enter the discourse community by learning about it and then practicing.  Dive in, or at least wade.  That's how children learn language, and that's how most of us learn anything.  It's ad hoc and intensive and beautiful.