Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing”

Stephen King 1
A recent picture of Stephen King

I can’t say I read many books about the writing process these days.  To be sure, I have no vendetta against them – especially not when they’re written by accomplished authors.  I remember, years ago, reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, in which she talks about taking life, and taking writing, step by step, the way her brother had to take a science project “bird by bird” when he stayed up to do it at the last minute.  And in my early 20’s, I was obsessed with Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World.  Pipher is the author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, and along with formulating the renowned theory that our society is taking something away from its girls during the transition from childhood to adulthood, she also sought to give people advice on how to write – especially on how to write in a way that would change things, that would make a difference.  That was a fair undertaking, because Reviving Ophelia had made waves, and its theory still has resonance today, years later.  Continue reading “Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing””

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Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing”

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

the shining 4.3In the beginning of Place: An Introduction, Tim Cresswell describes the significance of placing a specific art exhibit, one foregrounding Bollywood movies, in an elite Swedish town where only the 1% tend to visit, in part because it’s difficult to get there.  Cresswell includes the following quote in his introduction: “ ‘It’s difficult to get to,’ Mr. Wakefield added, ‘but because of that, it also demands a different kind of attention.  You discover the art through the place and the place through the art.’  The exhibition at Gstaad reflects a wider interest in how art and place interact on the part of both the artists and art theorists” (2).  This got me thinking that it might be intriguing to examine The Shining not just from a few lenses but – perhaps – from the intersection of a few lenses:  Space or place, as its conveyed in the film, the cultural space in which the film is produced, and the current cultural space in which I, the viewer, am watching the film.  This move, I think, is necessarily spectral, or turns the art under examination into a specter that disrupts linear time, since I become sort of engaged in this spectral moment, where I’m looking at the art forward, backward, etc – and this is especially true of The Shining, which situates its primary space, The Overlook Hotel, as a place that’s both mad and spectral, that consistently – if not constantly – manifests itself as a presence in the spectral moment by embodying both the past and the present – and, to the contemporary viewer, the more recent past (1921, 1980, 2017, but arranged as 2017 encompassing a film that shifts back and forth between 1921 and 1980, that begins by emphasizing 1980 but ends by emphasizing 1921).  As a “cautionary note,” I found, as I was watching, that it was challenging to thread the entirety of this analysis throughout my interpretation of the film, especially for a blog post, but that’s the general angle I’m coming from when I look at the film.  (As a sidenote, I wonder the extent to which we could deduce that all art is “spectral” – or maybe that’s what I’m getting at, but that seems like a sweeping argument for a later time).     Continue reading “The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative”

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

The Blue Man – Or, This is Not a Horror Story

True to the title of my piece, this is not a horror story.  Although, what I see now that I didn’t see when things like this happened was just how much my friend and I wanted it to be a horror story, how much we enacted the things that we read in our Fear Street books and our horror movies, and made the world of horror come alive, if, simultaneously, to our delight and our chagrin.  Again, this is not a horror story.  This is a childhood memory – a childhood memory I share on an overcast day in early November, when my frenetic, two-and-a-half-month mania has dwindled and I’ve suddenly fallen into this shifting state that fluctuates between focused, positive energy and complete depression and self-loathing.  This is not a horror story—at least, I hadn’t intended it to be so.  But, maybe it will turn out that way as I keep writing.  One never can predict the end of the story, after all—or, at least, I can’t—when one’s merely writing the beginning.  Continue reading “The Blue Man – Or, This is Not a Horror Story”

The Blue Man – Or, This is Not a Horror Story

Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing

Thing OneAlmost two years ago on this blog, I watched and wrote about John Carpenter’s widely viewed and broadly acclaimed The Thing.  This year, for Halloween, I decided to re-visit this incredibly disgusting movie, which was, fortuitously, part of my coursework this week.  In my first post, I wrote about the rampant paranoia fostered by knowing there’s a hideous, murderous monster in at least one of the people around you, but not knowing who houses it – whose body hides the formidable “thing.”  I’m not really in the mood to look up my old post, re-read it, and make sure I’m writing something new, especially since it’s one of my least read posts on this blog.  So, we’ll have to trust that, two years and ample coursework later, I’m making some new observations about this sickening, human-beast amalgam as I write this post.  With that in mind, let’s dive into the uncomfortably unappealing (or, perhaps, the uncomfortably appealing – for whether “the thing” is appealing or unappealing is a question that remains to be grappled with, and perhaps will be grappled with in this post!) Continue reading “Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing”

Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing

Seeing Jigsaw in the Fall

JigsawIt is autumn and the leaves are changing. It is autumn and the leaves are changing from green to golds and reds and oranges, and on the movie theater screen sociopathic killers are hacking, sawing limbs and spewing blood and dismembering bodies and organs with reckless, indifferent, gleeful, often retaliatory or vengeful abandon. We buy things pumpkin flavored – like the venerable pumpkin spice coffee options – and sip hot cocoa and caramel apple cider as we smear fake blood on the sides of lips, shove vampire fangs inside our mouths, and delight in the temporary, transitory, audacious and ostentatious embodiment of the so-called monster, that cultural construct who signifies panic, disruption, mayhem. It is autumn, and so – at least, for those of us who like the season – we are not sure if we’re in some transcendental, umbrage-speckled heaven or the depths of a fiendish, delightful, playful sort of hell. It is autumn and, perhaps, we’re not sure how to feel, but in any case we indulge deliciously in the feeling, the feeling of change, the feelings of alleged paradox, the feelings of fall-ness. See, I just created a word: fall-ness. Often times, during autumn, we delight in fall-ness. Continue reading “Seeing Jigsaw in the Fall”

Seeing Jigsaw in the Fall

Confronting the Other: Contemplating District 9

District 9 5Ridley Scott once asserted that if another life form came to visit earth, it’d be best to flee immediately, because the life form’s intentions assuredly wouldn’t be good.  One the one hand, this premise seems contestable, like a sort of specie-ism that naturally pits “all against all” and relies on a narrative of innate hostility, in which the alien “other” is necessarily a dangerous, malicious being.  On the other hand, it would, presumably, be a long journey from the unknown planet to earth, and what might motivations for that journey be?  Far be it for us to assume extra-terrestrial intentions would necessarily be negative, but one can see how Scott’s line of reasoning is defensible.  I watched District 9 last night and, I think, it situates itself with a bit of ambivalence, but mostly on one side of the narrative.  District 9 suggests that an extra-terrestrial “other” who arrives on earth need only be hostile if we make them so, and even then, perhaps the alien-other isn’t as hostile as those skulking around the next corner, waiting to mercilessly obliterate him or her. Continue reading “Confronting the Other: Contemplating District 9”

Confronting the Other: Contemplating District 9

Who Is the Witch (Part Two): I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know

witch poem 4It’s one of those nights where falling asleep to the usual evening playlist and temporarily entering oblivion sounds delightful, but since that particular pleasure does not appear, for me, to be in the cards right now, I thought I’d extend this mini-series on witchiness and continue to ask the question I raised a couple posts ago: What is “The Witch?”  You see, I’ve done some film-watching and some reading lately, and I have an eclectic barrage of notes scribbled on the cardboard backings of notebooks and in the inside covers of novels, and if I really wanted to, I could probably sit here and practice my use of complex theoretical terms to hash out some ideas that might be ridiculous but might also be interesting.  As I was watching Black Sunday after all – which I’ll probably write about at some point – I wrote down a lot of fancy words and ideas that I thought would be fun to share in a blog post.  I like, sometimes, to be unapologetically verbose and excessive when I write, even though, stylistically, doing so defies contemporary conventions.  But I think one always runs the risk of saying much while saying nothing at all – saying nothing really at least – and I wanted to address that possibility tonight.  Because as a woman, as a feminist, I have a special sort of relationship to “the witch,” as she’s been conceived, and made manifest through brutal, torturous punishment, across space and time.  And despite having scribbled a lot of thoughts that felt really insightful to me when I was writing them down, it occurred to me that perhaps, to a considerable degree, in contemplating the witch, I still don’t really understand her.  Why does this figure exist?  How do we reconcile contemporary horror movies with the needless decimation of subversive women and young girls in witch trials hundreds of years ago?  Why am I so drawn to this character?  And, most importantly, regardless of what I think I know, what don’t I know?  These questions are the ones that interest me tonight. Continue reading “Who Is the Witch (Part Two): I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know”

Who Is the Witch (Part Two): I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know