Monday, May 25, 2009

Readin’ & Writin’ Updates

Well not every one of my posts these days will be experimental stuff. Tonight’s is an update on what I’ve been doing in the reading and writing arena.

Writing, I’m pleased to say, has been going well. Since returning from vacation I’ve averaged three pages a day on Razored Land: The Blackest of Hates. I just hit fifty pages tonight.

Reading? I finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was very good, and almost immediately started book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I’m enjoying it, but not liking Harry as much in this one. He seems to have turned into a true teenager. I suppose that’s the point.

I watched two movies this weekend, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Spirit. The Day the Earth Stood Still wasn’t bad. There were some pretty bad plot holes, especially early in the film, and I wanted to personally strangle the kid character, but it generally held my interest and Lana felt much the same way. The Spirit, on the other hand, was just profoundly silly. It’s got to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen in the last 10 years, and that’s saying something. Lana only lasted about 20 minutes but I stuck it out. Lord knows why. Perhaps it’s because I really liked Sin City and expected this to be more of the same. I was wrong.

Finally, let me review Mysteries of Von Domarus, a chapbook of gothic tales by Gary William Crawford, which I also just finished reading. Crawford is well known as both an author and editor in the small press. He’s best known for his poetry, but is also a student of gothic literature and the five short tales in this collection evoke the gothic sensibility to the utmost. The best story is the title piece, “Mysteries of Von Domarus.” There are elements of poetry and even the nonfiction essay woven throughout this “story,” but it works on a gut wrenching level. It has been a long time since I’ve been so emotionally touched by a tale. The second best story is the last one in the collection, “The Change in Him.” A subtle ending, but one that’ll stay with me for a long time.

Throughout the collection one feels the stories working on different levels, and the surface level is the least important. It’s the same kind of feeling that comes through in Crawford’s poetry. Especially with “The Change in Him,” I felt I was being told something profoundly important, but every time I tried to focus on just what that importance was my understanding morphed into something else. I only know I won’t ever look at a stranger quite the same way again.

Crawford’s stories are not in any way graphic horror. You won’t find blood or gore here. You will find a sense of disassociation, a sense of loss, and a sense that there truly are mysteries in the world. It definitely “shook up” my perceptions.


Anonymous said...

I so agree on The Day The Earth Stood Still. The kid, Wil Smith's kid that is, has got to be one of the most annoying characters I've ever seen. Not to mention the fact that he's a terrible actor.


Angie said...

Wait, you went from Prisoner of Azkaban right to Order of the Phoenix? You missed Goblet of Fire, the fourth book. It's an important one in the overalll story arc.

There's an excellent scene in Dumbledore's office at the end, where Snape does something very cool, and very significant plot-wise, and they cut it out of the movie. [headdesk] But anyway, definitely go back to that one.

Angie, still at BayCon but about to go to bed

ivan said...

I never saw the remake of The Day the Earh stood Still, but like some might say about the Bible, one testament is enough.
Klotu Barada Nictou!

You may have noticed that the avatar robot, Gort had no knees...big clumpy boots, though.
Apparently they tried "knight knees" on the set...too much of a mechanical challenge. So they just gave Gort neoprene legs that were painted silver and bent readily at the knees while James Arness,(as Gort), would take steps.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I quite liked the original version of The Day The Earth Stood Still but never saw the remake.

50 pages – terrific! I should start doing like you and having a 3 page-per-day goal.

Gabby said...

Like Angie, I noticed you didn't mention Goblet of Fire. Good stuff in that one. And yes, Harry is VERY teenager-y in #5, but you will understand part of why he's being such a brat toward the end. I think #3 was my favorite (AND many peoples) until #6 came out, as I think #6 is my fave overall. I'll have to re-read the series sometime, since I've actually only read #7 once.

Drizel said...

Crawford sounds amazing.

Ahhh and I wanted to watch Spirit because I loved Sin city too....spared me the dissapointment...thanks:)
YAY for good writing...

Barrie said...

Congratulations on hitting the 50 page mark! That does feel good!

Charles Gramlich said...

Wil, I seriously thought the kid was a good reason for "cleansing" the earth of human beings.

Angie, oh, no I somehow forgot to mention "Goblet of Fire." I did the post very late last night. I did read and enjoy Goblet too. It and Azkaban are pretty much tied for my favorites so far.

Ivan, I've actually never seen the whole thing of the first film. Go figure.

Cullen, as I mentioned to Ivan, I've actually never seen all of the first one, although I should watch it sometime. The three page goal is working for me, although this is the first time I've ever really set such a goal. Normally I write slower than that but I really want to try and finish this this summer.

Gabby, yes, just an oversight not to mention Goblet. I plead posting late at night. I did like it.

Etain, I've enjoyed all of Crawford's work. I nominated one of his poetry collections for a Stoker this year.

Barrie, yes, you feel like you're really into the work at 50 pages. you're not just playing around anymore.

ivan said...


It's generational thing.
In the fifties all the kids were saying,
"Klotu, barrada, nictou.
Shows how popular this film was then and still is.(And all the women continue to say Michael Rennie was a hunk).

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Hey I just saw the Day the Earth Stood Still last night! Yeah, I thought it wasn't bad and I thought the little boy was really annoying! Spirit just doesn't appeal to me at all!

And I agree about the New Order. Harry is an annoying angry teen in that one!

laughingwolf said...

saw the original 'day', eons ago... glad you warned me away from 'spirit'

crawford is one i'll look up, thx :)

and grats on your getting back in the writing groove, charles...

Mimi Lenox said...

I could use a good literary "shake up". Let me check this out....

Travis Erwin said...

I thought Prisoner of Azkhaban was the best of the series.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I'll have to check Crawford out. Thanks for the recommendation. I've been thinking of leaning more Gothic in the next novel.

h said...

Crawford sounds like someone I might like. All Harry Potter books and movies sound like something that would make vomit.

Randy Johnson said...

Glad to hear the writing groove is going well. The new Day leaves me cold(not a big Keanu fan; after the first Bill and Ted, he's been a miss for me).

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

The Spirit - I had so much hope for that one and the original The Day the Earth stood still is better.

Mr. Walker said...

Hi Charles,

'Danny Tagalog' here - who has been too busy for much online activity. However, one of my Japanese students in a Media English class is putting his thoughts onto a blog. He's going to UCLA soon, and might enjoy your blog. Have a look at:

A few words of encouragement will be gratefully received. You'll probably gvet a new follower too.

Hope to be back in touch soon,
DT (RW).

Travis Cody said...

Yes, Harry does show quite a bit of that teenage behavior. I thought Ms Rowling did an excellent job of letting him get his whine on about being left out. I always appreciated that she made him flawed.

Glad to hear of the writing progress.

Angie said...

Travis -- I agree. [nod] Rowling did a great job of making him come across like a real teenager, rather than making him all mature and shiny as a good example for the kids or whatever.


Charles Gramlich said...

ivan, I don't even know who Michael Rennie is, but I do know Klotu.

Ello, I can understand some of his issues but he certainly comes across as an annoying teen. I hope I wasn't that bad. I probably was.

laughingwolf, well as soon as I mention the writing groove I'm struggling today. It's because I haven't done enough thinking ahead yet.

Mimi Lenox, I'm still working on my shaking out.

Travis Erwin, So far I'm torn between Prisoner and Goblet of Fire. both were very good.

L.A. Mitchell, Crawford has also written a fair amount of nonfiction on gothic lit. I think he has a book out on Le Fanu, who did Carmilla.

TROLL Y2K, I haven't paid much attention to the Potter movies, but the books are quite good in my opinion. I think Rowling has quite a lot of talent.

Randy Johnson, Keanu is always Keanu. There were elements of the Matrix in this movie, shades of it. I really didn't care for the excellent adventure, but I did like the matrix.

ARCHAVIST, well, you might like The Spirit better than I did. I thought it was so cliche ridden, though.

Mr. Walker/Danny, good to hear from you and to see you are doing OK. I'll check out the blog.

Travis, yes, I do think she captured it well.

Angie, it's one of the first times he's really been weak.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I like that: "a sense of disassociation" in a story. Not easy to do while holding the reader's interest. As for Harry Potter - I'm so over those books. Personally, I've felt that each book could've been shortened through rewrites. But then again, what do I know - having never written a novel.

Vesper said...

You've certainly made Crawford and the "Mysteries of Von Domarus" very interesting to me. Thank you!

Congratulations on your progress in the writing arena! :-)

writtenwyrdd said...

Glad you're making progress, Charles. That makes one of us!

I thought the remake of Day the Earth Stood Still could have been better, but it was all right--except for that horrible child whom I also wanted to throttle.

Charles Gramlich said...

JR, well I'm catching the Potter books late in the cycle, but I do like how I have all of them ready to go and won't have to wait to finish. I do think they are definitely longer than they need to be.

Vesper, Gary Crawford looks at the world a bit differently.

writtenwyrdd, everyone seems to have disliked that kid.

Steve Malley said...

Way to go on the writing!

And the reading, of course... :-)

Greg said...

sounds like a pretty good chapbook. i've never read anything by Crawford, i'll have to check it out.

Cloudia said...

Gort Klatu Barada Nictu!

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, thanks, although some days it seems like three steps forward and 2 back.

Greg Schwartz, you'd probably like him. He's a good editor and publisher to know as well.

Cloudia, I see you've seen the movie, the orginal at least.

cs harris said...

I'm with Lana on walking away from a lousy movie. I've done that with the last THREE movies we watched. I don't know if movies are getting worse or if I've become more impatient. Or maybe I just feel like my time's so precious these days, why waste it on entertainment that isn't entertaining?

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I supose I always have hope there'll be something cool happen. I was mistaken in this case.

Aine said...

Glad to hear that you didn't skip over Goblet of Fire.

Also glad to hear that you are enjoying them. I can't help myself from pointing out some of the fun elements (please forgive me if I get too indulgent here.) First there's Jo's word play and fun with names (every name was carefully chosen). For example, did you notice Diagon Alley (diagonally) and Knockturn Alley (nocturnally)? And she chose fabulous names-- Dumbledore (an old english term for bumblebees-- Rowling says she always pictured him roaming the halls humming to himself), Hedwig (the patron saint of orphans), and her sly use of two clues to Lupin's identity: Remus and Lupin should have conjured thoughts of wolves (d'oh!). Even the trio weren't casually named. She has made it clear that her favorite animal is the weasel, of the family mustelidae. Two other members are ermines and otters: hence Ron "Weasel-y", Harry P"otter", and H"ermine" Granger. :P

The other (not so) little layer that I love, is how she wove in several types of lore and symbols. Classic mythology, celtic lore, Arthurian legend (Arthur's got his round table: Ron, Percival, Charles, William, Fred, George, and Ginevra--not Virginia, as Americans thought Ginny's full name was), and alchemy (often overlooked, but another d'oh!-- first book is the Philosopher's Stone and Nicolas Flamel is even a character). It's no wonder there are 7 books-- they correspond to the 7 stages of alchemy, transforming our hero from a base metal to gold. Even in book one, Harry wants to buy the gold cauldron in Diagon Alley, and Hagrid says no, he must start with the pewter.

But what I want to bring your attention to, since you mentioned not liking Harry in book 5, is that the 5th book is the culmination of the "nigredo" (or black) stage of alchemy. Notice everything is dark, including Harry's mood. And he's in a grim old (Grimmauld) place. The home of the "Black" family! (Can she fit in any more symbols or clues?)

This is how the adult readers got hooked on the mystery of the series. Next stage is the white stage (albedo), so you can expect things to lighten up! :) And then comes the red stage (rubedo), in which the marriage of opposites (in alchemy it's often said the Red King will marry the White Queen) occurs, and the golden transformation is completed.

Anyway-- sorry to prattle on.... I just can't help myself sometimes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Aine, wow, I got lots of the symbolism or word play in the names, although not Dumbledore, which I don't particlarly like as a name. But I had no idea there was a connection to alchemy and the seven stages. That's really interesting. I had no idea at all. I didn't make the connection with the Round table either.