Posts Tagged ‘diversions’

As I plow my way through my critical thesis I find my mind drifting.  The problem of having to exert so much brain toward thinking critically only makes the longing for creative writing stronger.  I half wonder if this is the desired effect.

That phrase, the desired effect, sticks.  What is it I want from my writing?  What, exactly, is the desired effect?  Beyond the overall impression from any particular story, what is it I truly desire?

A song.

I don’t mean I want the work to be lyrical, or to imply something that borders on the precious, but that sensation you feel when the overall effect is like a song you want to hear over and over, that you never tire of.  A piece of music that lodges itself into the memory banks at such an angle that it refelcts like a prism the time in which you first heard the song, the feelings of that time, simultaneously with the current moment.

Not art, I’m not talking about anything as rational as art.  There isn’t necessarily anything special about the words, or the construct, but something in the way they all come together — song or story or whatever.

The desired effect is something you cannot shake.  The desired effect is something else, something other.

It is something you find when you aren’t looking for it.  But how do you find something you want without wanting it, how do you achieve without trying?


Back to the thesis.


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The revision work is slow but steady.  But every once in a while I need a break and that means playing around, usually on the computer.  Playing around usually means unfocused wandering, clicking through from one site to another, opening new tabs and travelings down new electronic avenues that lead to new alleys, until thoroughly lost my trail home is all but lost.

Among my recent wanderings comes this, an article on how Japanese manga has become a global cultural phenomenon.  For me, what’s great about this it is from a French perspective, originally published in the magazine Esprit.  There’s a bit of a two-for-one as reporter Jean-Marie Boussou not only examines manga’s cultural rise in Japan, but firmly places it within the context of the post-war French cultural shift that took place in the 60’s and 70s, and why it has grown in popularity among 30-somethings in France.

Absolutely fascinating, and once again the internet lets me know how much we don’t really know in this country about anything non-American.  There are French cartoonists mentioned right and left that I feel I should probably know — that I’m sure every French man and women knows in passing if not from first-hand experience — that leaves me feeling ignorant.

In France, as my generation came of age, we had to make do with comics aimed solely at a particular subculture: elitist, male, at once intellectual, schoolboyish, and more or less rebellious. They were built on the zany absurdity of Concombre masqué, the frenzied wordplay of Achille Talon and the icy eroticism of Jodelle and Pravda – and were far too sophisticated for the mass market. Charlie Mensuel livened up this highbrow cocktail with a dash of Peanuts, Krazy Kat, and Andy Capp, and the work of Italian cartoonists like Buzzelli and Crepax. But if the French censors tolerated Charlie Mensuel with his cerebral, sophisticated eroticism for the offspring of the intellegentsia, they were merciless in their attacks on the popular fumetti of Elvipress, filled as they were with sultry creations that would have set a mass readership dreaming. Jungla, Jacula, Isabella, Jolanda de Almaviva, and their scantily-clad adventurer sisters were barred from display and condemned to under-the-counter obscurity.

Whew!  I’m scrambling for Google to help fill in the gaps in my sorry comic and graphic novel education. Who’s writing like this about American comics and world comic culture these days?  What are all these French comics, and are they available in translation here?

I grant you, I should be doing revisions on my essay — which, compared to all this, feels puny and insignificant and not at all as interesting.  But isn’t that the point of the internet, to have all this diversion at the ready for when you need to get pulled away from things you ought to be doing?

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I’m plowing my way through my final essays for the semester and for that I require music. I’m listening to Juliana Hatfiled’s Made In China and thinking how different it feels from In Exile Deo, which I was listening to last week at this time. And it hits me:

Juliana Hatfield is like femme Neil Young. She can go hard, she can go soft, she can run punk or stream commercial, she does what she wants, she endures out of the limelight. Granted, she hasn’t had the same level of popularity, never was part of an eponymously named supergroup, but maybe if you put her together with Susanna Hoffs, Aimee Mann, and Mary Lou Lord — all people she’s sung back-up for — maybe we’d see something to rival CSNY.

That’s all I’m saying, totally random and nothing to do with writing. Juliana Hatfield is like Neil Young.

And Neil, by the way, is more jazz than he is rock and roll.

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My head is swimming.  All week, I’ve been inundated with ideas and thoughts for books and essays, projects and theories, even a half dozen art pieces.  I planning hand-embossed art cards for the winter solstice, of all things.  I’m never planning that far ahead.

No, actually, I am and do that far ahead, but not like this.  I’m on eBay looking up 1.5 inch Gothic wood type letters.  Never mind that I don’t have a press (or rollers, or any real idea how I’m going to make this idea work) I’m out there.  Bidding even…

Then someone came into the store asking for a middle grade reader on haunted houses, not fiction but non-fiction.  Now, there’s an idea!  Why isn’t there a hip middle grade reader about the Amityville house or Sarah Winchester’s mystery house?  Hmm, something to research…

Ooo, the music I requested on inter-library loan came in.  Time to work up that ska/reggae disc for the girls.  What’s the best order to blend these songs, old and new, fast and slow…

What am I doing for Halloween?  I haven’t dressed up in years, but I really feel like it this year.  Saw a giant plastic pumpkin head at the drug store a couple days ago.  I think I’ll be a pumpkin-headed scarecrow!  Let’s see, I need a raggedy pair of tweed pants (I can sew on some patches of calico), a vets, collarless shirt, a hand-held battery operated fan for keeping my head cool inside that plastic head…

If you detected a commonality throughout all this it might look something like… I haven’t been working on the YA novel.  I’m probably a third done and in the process of merging various loose chapters into the main manuscript to get myself ramped up and back in the flow.  What I’d really like is to have hammered out the first completed draft by the end of the year.  But then…

I’d really like to work up some supplemental material for the novel, newspapers and bits of ephemera that will help me nail the mood and later (gotta plan ahead) be part of the on-line documents…

I wonder if there’s some way I can hand mint my own coins, like pirate doubloons?  There’s gotta be a how-to somewhere out there…

What was the name of that theatre I used to hang out at as a kid?  The Fox Venice?  Right.  I wonder if those calendars are available on eBay…

Movies.  Didn’t I want to incorporate them into my non-linear non-fiction essay?  How would that work…

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