Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Brevity’s 59th Issue Predicts the Best Days for Breeding

Yep, not just blog posts—full Issues :-)

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

mybodhisattvaBrevity’s September 2018 issue contains crisp flash essays exploring blood on the pool deck, aces of spades, cremation, crow murder, diner Bodhisattvas, and the best days for breeding, from these amazing writers: Steven Schwartz, Peggy Duffy, Rachael Peckham, Alysia Sawchyn, Xujun Eberlein, Julie Marie Wade, Shuly Xóchitl Cawood, John A. McDermott, Austyn Gaffney, Jan Priddy, Suzanne Farrell Smith, Gabe Montesanti, Renée Branum, Sondra Kline, and Fleming Meeks.

In our Craft Section, Elizabeth Robinson offers a pattern sampler, because non-linear essays “realign our attentions … (and) drench us in unknowing,” while Beth Kephart explores the interplay of language and visual arts (and marriage), and Rebecca Fish Ewan offers an illustrated crash course on graphic memoir.

With haunting photos from Therese Brown.

All right here, ready and waiting.

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Even More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . .

Challenging Books This conversation began on September 12th and continued on September 14th & 17th

We’ve had a total of 8 reader comments that have moved the discussion along; and, here’s the one that let us continue from the 17th:

“Re: challenges we used to have—as a teenager, I wouldn’t have been able to work through a romance novel if you paid me—they just didn’t interest me. I found them implausible and dull. Now, I see them as light and frothy; but, fun like a movie romcom.

“I’m not sure what changed. Maybe I matured a little and began to take the world less seriously? At least, that’s what I want to think ;-) “

Very interesting, how we all can differ in what challenges us… I used to like certain “romance” writing; but, wouldn’t now touch it…

And, as far as maturity—I’m going on 73 and it’s looking like I’m as ripe as I’ll ever get; but, still, there’s other reading that’s “light and frothy” for me, like many of the articles in the new journalism periodical, Popula, which also has some definitely challenging essays…

Though, if a work is “romantic” like this definition from my Oxford dictionary, I could definitely give it a try:

“A medieval vernacular verse, or later prose, narrative relating the legendary or extraordinary adventures of some hero of chivalry.”

But, I have to qualify that with this definition of the word that gave birth to chivalry—chevalier:

“A horseman, esp. a mounted knight.”

Though, to be yet more specific, the job of “knight” must also include women; and, that consideration brings me to a four-book-adventure woven around an amazing female “knight”, written by the most Challenging fiction writer I know—The Morgaine Cycle

So, yeah, challenges in reading can be good for the soul…

I just went travelling with my uncle Google and found an article entitled, Top 10 Difficult Literary Works; and, I’m hoping we all realize that any Internet article’s title with “Top” at the beginning is, at best, some concerned person’s opinion; still, with part of my job here being to encourage these conversations to continue, I’ll make a list of those “Difficult” Literary Works, which must, by definition, be Challenging and ask you to, perhaps, comment on any of them you’ve read ( I’ve read three of them; and, I just wrote a very long sentence :-)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce


Two suggestions

Share a comment on any of those listed “Challenging” books (perhaps some weren’t all that challenging for you…)…

Or, share whatever you’d like about Reading Challenging Books

It only takes one comment for the discussion to continue… :-)
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

A Book’s Job by Barb Rosenstock

The author of today’s re-blog says this, “I watched kids in one suburban school, from all over the world, engage with my words in a deep way. Most importantly, I watched them relate to a boy from India born over 100 years ago—a boy who was forced to go, but who found home again through his art.”, as she explores the job of a book…

Nerdy Book Club

Your job is a teacher, mine is a writer. Or you’re a librarian and someone else is an illustrator. But what is a book’s job?

When you’ve been working with children’s books for a while you can lose track. You start to believe that a book’s job is to sell a lot of copies or get made into a movie or always be missing from the shelves or have its title tweeted every ten minutes.

After more than ten years of writing for kids, I’ve just learned a lesson about a book’s job that I’ll never forget…

A group of master’s level student teachers from the Maine College of Art in Portland asked to use my upcoming picture book, The Secret Kingdom, for a series of lessons. The Secret Kingdom (illustrated by Claire Nivola) is the story of Nek Chand, a refugee, forced to leave his home village during…

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Still More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . .

Challenging Books This conversation began on September 12th and continued on September 14th

The last post had 3 comments; so, we move the conversation forward…

First was Catherine:

“For me, bad storytelling is always a challenge. Clichés have been mentioned before. In certain genres different stories are written with the same words… It makes every story the same.

“As for a book that was emotionally, really challenging for me to read was ‘A Little Life‘ by Hanya Yanagihara. The most challenging thing about this book was the fact that it was about issues I struggled with myself.

“Poetry is challenging, too—the one that is written too laboriously—I can’t relate if I have to look up the words in a dictionary. (Keep in mind that my first language is Luxembourgish).

“But I also think that books I may find challenging could be favourites for others.”

I can certainly relate to bad storytelling and I spent my early reading years with plenty of repetitive genre tropes

And, reading about issues I’ve faced in my life has been very rough with certain books and therapeutic with others…

As far as poetry is concerned, my absolute favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, can be a very worthwhile challenge…

Then, a comment from Ali:

“Reading ‘The Canterbury Tales‘ in Middle English was challenging—as was all the American and British Victorian literature I’ve read over the years. Even though my first language is English, those books were challenging because they were written in older forms of English.

Philip K. Dick’s works are challenging because he shortens and combines words and, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss what he meant. I’ve read ‘Paradise Lost‘ and ‘Paradise Regained‘ by John Milton and was able to follow both long poems. But when I had to read his non-fiction, I couldn’t understand it. I find it interesting that I could follow the fiction, but non-fiction written in a similar style threw me off so much.

“In case you’re wondering, I did enjoy much of the harder stuff I’ve read. I didn’t care for Milton’s non-fiction…but his poetry was full of imagery.

“I haven’t tried to read much in other languages, but if I were to try, I’d start with some books which were originally written in French. Perhaps Jules Verne, George Sand, the Marquis de Sade, etc…”

I’ve never read Canterbury Tales, or Milton, or Sand, or the Marquis…

But, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Philip K. Dick…

And, to introduce our final comment is my statement from the last post, “I’ve read and re-read a few books by Dostoevsky—he was a bit of a challenge though it may have been the particular translations…”

And, CarolinaC’s comment:

“Regarding the Dostoevsky translations, when we read ‘Crime and Punishment‘ in high school we read a ’90s translation – I am not sure which one, but knowing my teacher at the time it was very likely the much-lauded Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. I found it painfully unreadable.

“About six months later, the bookstore where I worked part time got in some copies of the Constance Garnett translation, and I decided to try the book again, as I had basically enjoyed the story even though I’d found the prose extremely difficult. This time, the reading experience was completely different. This translation read rather ‘Victorian’; but, that was more natural, at least for me, than the other translation had been; and, I found it an easy, engrossing, thought-provoking read. I bought a copy and reread it regularly. I now consider it one of my favourite books, which I never would have using that other translation.

“And I’m always surprised, when I see these Dostoevsky translation threads, that everybody lauds the translations I found unreadable and knocks the one I found extremely enjoyable. I very much agree with the comment that ‘it comes down to what you subjectively prefer as a clear, enjoyable reading experience, with no seriously objective “best” among the major translations.’”

I read Crime and Punishment many years ago for the first time—no idea which translation…

I just checked my E-reader for the translation of the copy I read as my second journey through the world of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov; and, it was the Constance Garnett translation :-)


What are some of Your reading challenges…?

What are some challenges you enjoy dealing with…?

What are some challenges that drive you crazy…?

How about reading challenges your friends or acquaintances reveal…?

Perhaps you’ll share challenges you used to have but have overcome…?

Reminderit only takes one comment to keep this discussion going………
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

Ready, Set, Residency

Valuable re-blog today…

Don’t miss the links in the last four paragraphs—they’re the Bold Text

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

How can I say “my children are driving me nuts,” but artistically?

Maybe you’ve got a dream residency. Or you’ve never been to an artist retreat, but it sounds like a great idea. There are residencies around the world at all prices, lengths, and amounts of coddling. Some feel like a new family, eating communal meals and hanging out at the swimming hole. Others are truly retreats, one writer in their own space with no-one to talk to (bliss!). I–and plenty of other writers–have self-made residencies, shacking up in hotels, religious centers, or remote cabins. One of my most productive “residencies” was four days in a small-town AirBnB after attending a writing workshop. Rather than rush back into my day-to-day, I could apply the revisions my teacher suggested, and write from ideas generated in class.

Even if you don’t have a place in mind, prepping for an imagined future residency…

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