Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

Ginormous Baby Bump and Other Banned Words

Each year Lake Superior University releases an annual list of words and phrases banished from the Queen’s English for misuse, overuse and general uselessness. This year’s group of unsavory words  contains some very welcome and confusing wipeouts, including:

  • Amazing
  • Baby Bump
  • Shared Sacrifice
  • Occupy
  • Blowback
  • Man Cave
  • The New Normal
  • Pet Parent
  • Win the Future
  • Trickeration
  • Ginormous
  • Thank You In Advance

I agree with most of these, but “amazing”? Really? I know it’s overused, but to ban “amazing” would be like banning “incredible”. If we could just cut back on the “amazing”, maybe the word could go back to being used as a regular adjective to describe something as impressive.

And what the hell is “Win the Future”? Is this a Charlie Sheanism? And “trickeration”? Is this the sensation of being tricked? I’m all for getting rid of “baby bump”. And while we’re at it, let’s stop using “preggers”, too.

What words would you nominate for banishment?

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December 6, 2011

David Guterson Wins Bad Sex Award

Today in London, David Guterson won the award no writer wants to win. That would be The Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Guterson won the prize for his bad sex scene in Ed King which takes place between a mother and son (ick).

The book is meant to be a rewrite of the Oedipus story. “Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I’m not in the least bit surprised,” Guterson wrote good-naturedly about receiving the award.

Other authors who were up for the award were Haruki Murakami, Stephen King, and James Frey. Past winners have included Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer.

December 5, 2011

Vonnegut’s Dark Side and What Lurks Behind a Writer’s Words

A negative tell-all has Kurt Vonnegut fans glowering. And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles Shields depicts the literary giant as a sad, angry, and sometimes cruel man. Shield’s look at Vonnegut delves into his personal woes, which included a failed first marriage, a bad second marriage, and fall-outs with his kids.

This doesn’t sit well with critics. The Guardian calls it “unsparing in its portrayal of Vonnegut’s dark side.”  The New York Times called Shields’s portrayal “sad, often heartbreaking”.  I can understand not wanting to read the harsh realities of  someone’s life, especially someone who wrote funny, witty novels sprinkled with obvious fondness for the written word.

Too bad life doesn’t imitate art.

Honestly, from what I’ve read, I’m surprised Vonnegut wasn’t downright insane.  He wasn’t exactly dealt an easy hand. When Vonnegut was in the Army and home on a pass visiting his parents, his mother committed suicide. This was on Mother’s Day. Later, as a P.O.W. in World War II, he was torchered by a German guard. Following these events, his sister and her husband died within the space of a day and Vonnegut took their kids in with his own, despite not being emotionally or financially up for the job.

On a side note, a professor in graduate school once told me he was at a party at Vonnegut’s  back in the ’70s. Apparently Vonnegut was drunk and yelling about how much he hated poets. He then turned to said-professor and chastised him for being one of those “lousy poets” to which said-professor took a swing at Vonnegut and hit him in the jaw.

Personally, I  don’t want the dirt on those who write my favorite books. When I found out that Ray Bradbury is cantankerous, I was heartbroken.  How could a man who wrote lines like, “There are those days which seem a taking in of breath which, held, suspends the whole earth in its waiting.” be a grouch?  Despite this desire to preserve my smoochy-boochy writer fantasy, there are some writers who make their demons into their career and it’s no big surprise to learn they went batshit crazy in the end. Take Sylvia Plath, for example. Her dark fantasies made incredible poetry and I read nearly every one of her biographies with salacious delight.

In the end, the I-don’t-want-to-meet-my-hero-because-he-might-be-an-asshole choice might be the best one. Or maybe we should just adjust our expectations into not believing that everyone should make lemonade when life hands them lemons. It’s hard not to expect lemonade, however, from a writer who wrote about aliens that look like toilet plungers.

December 4, 2011

Writers + Party + Books = Good Times and New Find

My writing group had a holiday party. No surprise books were involved. Everyone was to bring one wrapped book and put it beneath the Christmas tree. We then started our White elephant book exchange. I picked number 27 out of 36; Not bad. During the book-swiping, I got my hands on The KGB Bar Reader and Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital. These sought-after items were snatched from my hot little hands, and I ended up with a book called The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht.

I had never heard of it or her so I decided to find out more. Turns out Obreht was one of The New Yorker’s Twenty best American fiction writers under forty and also one of the National Book Foundation’s list of 5 Under 35.  Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, and Harper’s. The Tiger’s Wife is her first novel and a National Book Award finalist.

Wow. In order to recover from a sudden wave of inferiority, I thought about  sending my novel out again. My insecurity aside, I look forward to reading Obreht’s debut and will give a review when I finish.

December 1, 2011

Street Sign Haiku

NYC is using poetry by rewriting street signs in the form of haiku to remind pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists to use caution on the city streets. Artist John Morse who created the signs, also made some in Spanish. On Tuesday, City Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan said the project, known as the Curbside Haiku campaign, is using poetry and art “to make New York City’s streets safer.”

“Too averse to risk
To chance the lottery, yet
Steps into traffic.”

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