Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I found out about this animal recently. Upon discovering a couple friends hadn't heard of it, I figured I'd post about it here. It's essentially a deer the size of a cat.

(image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Isn't that cute? Now go learn about this sprightly little guy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My NaNoWriMo Entry, Plus Some Enlightening Old Thoughts from Max Barry

Every year, someone of some description who knows I'm an author asks, "are you doing NaNoWriMo?" Every year, my answer is simple: well, no. The next question is, inevitably, "why not?" I've made up a number of answers to this one, all of which are true. I'm busy with school, I have another novel I'm writing, and so on.

Back in 2010, no doubt under identical questioning, Max Barry gave the best answer of all: "I think it makes you write a bad novel." He said he doesn't like saying that but he's absolutely right. Admittedly, using his 2,000 word per day target outlined in that article results in writing more than 50,000 words per month. It's also done when one actually has a month available, not forced into November. I've used word targets extensively, just always over the course of a few months. Besides, if I have an idea in October that's so great, why would I wait until November 1 to kick it off?

Regarding the 15 writing techniques, End-to-End (#12) was used for Inside the Rift (2009) and Void (2011), whereas Jigsaw (#11) is being used for State of Sin (2014). I'm a night person, not a morning person, and I generally need to work at home. I used to listen to music years ago but no longer, and perhaps the occasional coffee or whisky splashes down my throat as I write.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November's Book: I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Horror (1954 - 96 pp.)

I Am Legend occupies a weird space in literary history. It's too late to be Dracula yet too early to be about zombies. It's far past the Victorian era of Gothic revival yet predates the slasher movie by a solid 24 years. (For anyone wondering why I'm being so exact, it's a reference to the release date of the original Halloween, which I consider to be among the greatest horror movies ever created.) Yet here it is, vaguely in the same era as a book like Brave New World or 1984. Perhaps that's the kind of book that makes the most sense as a comparison for it.

The dominant theme in the book is that of the self and the other, at least from what I can tell. Who is the in-group? Who is the out-group? Why do they differ? Consideration of why we maintain our selves and others is important to consider when reading I Am Legend, especially in light of the racial issues present in America at the time of its writing. Much of the rest of the book deals with the difficulty of dealing with one's own mind: "He turned away from the bar as if he could leave the question there. But questions had no location; they could follow him around." (44) Such a thought is chilling, as it makes the reader consider his or her own unanswered questions. Being left alone with them is almost as scary as the vampires besieging our protagonist, Robert Neville.

The question I am certain every scholar has asked bears repeating here: what if instead of Neville being a human and all the other characters being vampires, the situation had been reversed? What if Neville was the only vampire and everyone else was human? The reader's perception of Neville would likely be very different.

This is a very easy read. A few hours should be enough for anyone, even when re-reading some of the key passages like I did. It teaches the reader plenty about the human condition but not much else - but then again, I'm sure that's just an issue of the book focusing where Richard Matheson wants it to focus. As an aside, the Peggy Lee lyrics from her classic 1948 single "Love, Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere" humanize Neville in a way almost anything never could.

Ease of Reading: 8
Educational Value: 5

Friday, November 8, 2013

October's Book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Astonishingly, I hadn't read this one yet. A little less astonishingly, events prevented me from writing this entry until now despite having actually finished reading the book on Halloween. To the benefit of all my American friends' consciences for now knowing I've read To Kill a Mockingbird, here it is:


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Literature (1960 - 257 pp.)

More than enough has been said about To Kill a Mockingbird, and I have read almost none of the many binders full of essays and book reports filed on it. Therefore, I will be brief. The storyline is easy to follow and well-told, with the plot acting as the defining feature of the book. The setting is convincing, the characters less so. Atticus Finch is the most essential Mary Sue I have ever read, and the antagonists - however defined, but the Ewells will suffice - have so few redeeming qualities they are barely human. The blatantly clear good versus evil dynamic in such a socially complex setting dampens the conflict, as none of the characters ever seem to be torn up about anything. Mrs. Dubose is possibly the most human character in the whole book, mainly because Atticus explains why she is to Jem and Scout partway through. If there is one thing I can possibly add, and I presume someone has thought of this well before I have, it is the observation that Atticus is basically Eddard Stark. Doing right and accepting blame to a fault crosses over multiple genres and time periods, it appears.

The quotation from the book that resonates most with me is one from Atticus a short time before the famed trial: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do." (103) It's something I have found true in my life and I am sure many others who have read the book in its 53 years of existence have as well.

This is an easy read, with a couple points taken off for the occasional Southernisms that make us Northerners pull up a dictionary. The book, while educational in the sense of providing a telling picture of interwar Alabama, is not a traditionally educational book in the way some of the others I have read for this blog are. As a side note, the anti-Hitler comments on page 223 seem more like they are from 1960 than 1935. In 1935, Adolf Hitler's various actions were either not nearly as publicized or simply not done yet. That a family in small-town Alabama would even know who the leader of Germany was at the time seems surprising, let alone that it would take that particular view toward the particular issue mentioned (i.e. reasoned opposition to his persecution of the Jews).

Ease of Reading: 8
Educational Content: 5