Thursday, February 05, 2015

Reviews: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Its always fun to find reviews of your work online. As I browsed the net on this beautiful morning with the Himalayas shining in the sunshine, I came upon these two. And thought I would share it with you.

PageTurners: Wonderfully Short Wednesdays found me "a bit" boring. It was slow. Nothing happened.

He/she also found the illustration of the meditating man to be unrelated to the story. I always wondered why they selected that image to illustrate this story, myself.



The Blockade by Sushma Joshi
I chose this short story this week because I really liked the picture used to advertised it. I can't help but look at that man meditating with a view like that and wish that I was him.
Unfortunately though, the story didn't really do it for me. It based around the blockade of the Nepalese capital by Maoist rebels. Hasta's family and village are starving, so he attempts to find a way of keeping them alive through the blockade. He attempts to find the secret of a man who claims not to have eaten for months, and he also has a request to make of the political leaders. He accomplishes neither of these missions, and returns to his village almost empty handed, to find that his family has passed away and his wife absconded with another man in the hopes of improving her situation.
Ultimately, it's a very depressing story, but to be honest I just found it a bit boring. Not much really seemed to happen. I know objectively that this is probably some of the point - this man was trying to hard to save his family, but there was nothing he could do. Perhaps the story seemed to move slowly because it would have moved slowly for him given the barriers he continued to meet along the way.
In any event, although I accept that this story has a valid political message, I just couldn't enjoy it.

The purpose of Wonderfully Short Wednesdays is to review short stories, it is as simple as that. Short stories are a very special medium of story telling that I feel I don't read enough of and I hope that this encourages me and others to read more of them.
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The Guttery felt like she found a gem in "The End of the World." Here's her thoughts on writing, below: 




I am certain that everyone has stories. I’m equally convinced that everyone is capable of writing these stories up into novels, short stories, articles, letters, notes, emails, blogs, texts, bumper stickers, billboards, songs, or graffiti. Writing is the legacy of our opposable thumbs and our ridiculously labyrinthed brains.
However, just as not all runners are equal, nor all athletes, all writing is certainly not equal. At some point during my college years I promised myself to never, ever waste my precious time reading junk. Never. Unless it’s a magazine. Then it’s all bets off.
For several years I only read the classics. Only the names bound in those Literary Anthologies you read in college: Hardy, Whitman, Woolf, Shakespeare. Under my definition of “classic”, Steinbeck was a bit of an upstart. Then after living in Nepal, I went through a long bout of only reading Indian writers—preferably ones who used magic realism. Do you know how difficult it was to make a steady diet of this writing? Salmon Rushdie hasn’t written that many things, nor has Gita Meeta, nor Tagore. It was like eating a very limited diet of only orange vegetables.  Yummy, but limiting.  My creativity, like a body on such a diet, was grinding to a halt.
Then I befriended someone who existed on a diet of everything, with a generous helping of sweet reading candy. Marianne read several books a week, reading them to sleep and waking to them before work. She read whatever was in front of her, whatever she found, whatever, whatever, and loved it. Marianne was a sweet novel addict and, as such, had the enviable ability to talk books with whomever she met. She called me a book snob and I called her a book whore. We were best friends. We parted—listen up Red and Blue voters—by mutually respecting one another’s views.
After meeting Marianne, I expanded my views. Here’s my adjusted creed: If for entertainment purposes only, and if (this is my caveat) the reader is intelligent enough to know the difference, and game enough to throw in superbly written novels, then the average reader may read crap.  The aspiring writer, though, is an exception.  To become exceptional, a writer must read more like an Olympic athlete in training.  A great writer must, like an Olympic athlete, read a well-balanced, varied diet. I know, I know: it works for Billy Bob Thornton to only eat orange food (okay, to set the record strait, he eats only raw food, not necessarily orange. Big difference), but not for the writer.  Sorry.  Even a straight genre writer should cross train.
With my new creed in mind, I joined a book group. It was kind of like the Nutrisystem for me. A prescribed diet of someone else’s food, just enough to pry me from my old habits, and get me on the road to a healthier diet. I’ll admit that I didn’t like all the books my group chose. I don’t care if he does write a pretty sentence; Jonathan Franzen struck me as a pubescent boy stuck with a nasty god complex. Mostly, though, I read wonderful books I never would have chosen with my own sensitive nose.  I was introduced by Mandy to Iris Murdock’s The Sea, The Sea, by Maureen to Peter Carey’s Parrot and Oliver in America, and by Tracy to Jennifer Vanderbe’s Easter Island.  The camaraderie of a group to gush over or trash a book is added fun I didn’t take into account when I joined.
Like many people who have kicked an eating disorders, I maintain my Nurtisystem support group, but I also go on my own hunts. These days I’m like a reformed meat-eater who now leads groups on urban mushroom foraging. I will spend my late hours on the Internet searching the Independent Publishing sites such as Dranzen Books, Algonquin Books, Other Press. This search has led down some strange paths, such as The Mullet: Hairstyles of the Gods, or Shitting Pretty. It has also put some gems in my hands.  On these excursions, I have found Galore by Michael Crummey and The End of the World by Sushma Joshi.
While most of my college promises to myself (big hair, stonewashed jeans, cheap beer, Nihilism) are better off dead, my promise to stay away from bad writing has solidified like cement beneath the post of my own writing.  I have many coaches.  Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf will always be there, but so, too, will Louise Erdrich, Orhan Pamuk, Gao Xingjian, and Cormac McCarthy.  I may not make great art yet, but with the help of these Olympic coaches, I can strive for more.  Who knows, with time, practice, and lots of good reading, I could break the record–or put a deep scratch down it so it won’t play on the record player any more.
- See more at: http://theguttery.com/?paged=2#sthash.gVwu2wte.dpuf
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