Author: Ian

In the Woods of Memory, by Shun Medoruma (2009, translated by Takuma Smiley, 2017)

In the Woods of Memory tells of the rape of a teenage girl during the American occupation after the Battle of Okinawa and the subsequent attack on an American soldier by a young Japanese fisherman.  Though the novel begins in 1945, most of it takes place sixty years later as Medoruma places us in the perspectives of nine Japanese and American characters, bridging the events across time.  The novel’s real power unfolds as readers merge its events together on their own, pinnacling in the stream-of-consciousness Seiji chapter (originally written using Okinawan dialect) that evokes the most powerful modernist fiction.

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In the Woods of Memory at Stone Bridge Press

November Novel Progress Update!

Just a quick note this week, since it’s been a busy one.

When I last checked in for my October novel progress I was working on typing up the revisions from the 3rd draft and had gotten through 55 pages, or about 20% of it.  That was pretty good, but not great.

November’s progress was similar: as of today I’ve gotten through 120 pages of revisions, or roughly 40% of the draft.  That’s also good (and slightly better than last month’s progress!), but not even close to where I’d like to be.

I am happy this month that I was able to spend more nights actually working than in previous months.  That’s partly because I developed a rhythm of Continue reading »

In the Cards, by Angela D’Onofrio (2016)

D’Onofrio’s novels take place in fictitious Aviario, Connecticut, a town where the underground lines of magic intersect and supernatural happenings abound. This second book in the series revolves around a string of murders, a demon that haunts one of the town’s oldest families, and a romance that everyone except the main character thinks is a bad idea.  The story’s real energy, however, comes from its twentysomething cast of characters who read tarot cards, run a magic shop, play table-top games, and never fail to talk like real people, making the whole novel feel decidedly current (spirit animals notwithstanding).

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Angela D’Onofrio’s website

Author interview

Run Your Own Art Swap

It’s that time of year again.

For the past five years I’ve done a yearly Art Swap where I round up a group of creative folks (almost all of whom have Day Jobs of their own) and everyone makes a project of some kind, in any medium, big or small.  They make enough for everyone in the swap, mail them to me, and I collect the shipping money and mail the projects out to everyone else.

Organizing the whole thing is surprisingly simple—I keep in touch via plain ol’ email, set some deadlines early on to keep people on track, then send out group reminders as those deadlines get closer.  Most everyone involved finds the deadlines helpful, since as I wrote about a few weeks ago, we tend to take tasks Continue reading »

The Possessed, by Elif Batuman (2010)

Elif Batuman is a grad student in Russian literature, and these essays are about her adventures.  Aside from some dense portions related to the actual Russian literature, this book moves, due in no small part to Batuman’s dry, quick-witted humor that pokes fun at everyone from the Uzbek landlord who feeds her from an ant-covered jam jar to the elderly professor who literally shits his pants.  The real gems, however, are Batuman’s introduction on why she avoided creative writing (reminiscent of her essay “Get a Real Degree”) and her reflections on grad student obsessions—both pointed commentaries on academia.

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You Don’t Pay Me to Care

I used to stress out about work, but then I stopped.

Way, way back before I’d come up with the Day Job Philosophy, at my previous jobs I was always trying to support my employer by doing my best, since that was the way I’d been raised.  I worked hard, tackled all the assignments I was given, tried to impress my superiors, and focused a lot on making other people happy—and it almost destroyed me.

Back then, I believed that if I did a job well I’d naturally be recognized for it, which would then lead me to more success and material rewards Continue reading »

Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis (1951)

While waiting for a train, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sucked back into a much-changed Narnia to help the rightful Prince Caspian regain his throne.  I’ve realized that for me the most lukewarm sections of the Narnia books are the battles, which Lewis relates either through dialogue, summary, or another distancing mechanism.  With World War II a recent memory in 1951, these battles are clearly important to Lewis, but fail to capture the modern imagination.  A shame, since the rest of this is quite immersive, with the Christian symbolism once again revealed in a more controlled manner.

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What I Do When I Don’t Feel Like Working

Some days I just don’t have the energy to sit down and do my creative work.  It happens to all of us, and if you hear someone say that they can work every day despite the circumstances than they’re either lying through their teeth or they’ve somehow found the Holy Grail of Creativity that magically allows them to work at 100% peak performance all the time (which doesn’t seem likely).

Everybody reading this knows that feeling: when you come home tired from a long day at work, when you’re worried about bills, your future, or a breakup, or when you wake up on a Sunday too hungover to do much of anything.  In these shittiest of shitty moments, the last thing you want to do is Continue reading »

The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis (1954)

A boy raised in the Calormen desert south of Narnia meets a talking horse and flees a life of slavery on a journey north.  Lewis’s Christian symbolism grows even more painfully obvious here, espousing an outdated fable of a heathen from the backward Pagan lands (Calormen) embracing Jesus (Aslan) as he works to get to heaven (Narnia).  This feels more egregious when you consider Lewis’s treatment of Calormen with a Middle Eastern theme, though his protagonist’s skin is “fair and white” like the “beautiful barbarians of the north.”  Combine this with an unimaginative plot and the result is….not worthwhile.

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A Short Post (promise!) About Needing More Economic Freedom to Realize Your Potential

“But wait!” some of you naysayers might be shouting after my last entry about creating a world where people don’t have to spend all their time working just to get by, “if people didn’t have to work, then they’d just sit around playing video games until they ran out of money, and then society would fall apart!  The only way to keep people from being lazy is to make sure they’re working hard so they can learn responsibility!”

I hear different versions of this argument a lot, and it always irks me because it assumes that the majority of people are innately Lazy and Useless, so we have to force them to work just to teach them a lesson.

This argument falls apart when you consider that being forced to work uninspiring, mindless jobs makes you see work solely as a chore, like that dishwashing metaphor I always use for unpleasant tasks Continue reading »

The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis (1955)

After finishing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I decided to give the rest of the series a try—plus I found a cheap set of the other Narnia books at Salvation Army.  The Magician’s Nephew is Lewis’s prequel, with a Genesis-type story that tells how Narnia came to be, with more than a few Biblical allusions.  Though the first half is genuinely solid children’s lit (magic rings, a lost world, childhood observations, etc.), the creation scenes go on for far too long.  Still, it’s worth reading for the London sections and the introduction of the White Witch.

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October Novel Progress Update!

It’s been a busy month, but not for novel-writing.

When I last posted about my progress on my new novel I was getting back into the game after a 3 month hiatus brought on mostly by my new job and recent move.  Taking a break from writing helped me get a lot of stuff taken care of, but after so many weeks away I realized I had to get back to the novel or else I risked becoming even more disconnected from it than I already was—and that wasn’t a good thing. Continue reading »