We’ve all thought it. Whether it was after groaning your way through a god-awful, $1.99 Kindle bundle or stifling explosive sighs from whatever you grabbed off the “Hottest New Read”-shelf in the airport, we’ve all thought it: “I could write better than this.” It’s a thought we’ve all had before eking out a pathetic 8,000 words during the following NanoWriMo.
There is no definitive how-to book for novel writing. How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide, however, is exactly as advertised. It outlines all the mistakes that make you look like a total rube.
By introducing a previously unmentioned element to resolve a situation, it is as if the author has said, “Oh, I just realized my plot doesn’t work, so I’m going to add something from outside of my plot, okay?” Okay, well that particular blunder is known as the deux ex machina, which is French for, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Each mistake listed is preceded by an example piece of writing that exemplifies the cringe-worthy aspect of that literary pitfall. Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman have seemingly accomplished a Sisyphean task of reading every crappy novel and making a hilarious educational guide from it.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, April 7th, 2015||No Comments »|
If perception is reality, the loss of perception is nothing short of an existential crisis. But it is inevitably more than that, it is an entirely new reality of heightened sense, an uncovering what was so often overlooked or ignored.
So when an entire city in Portugal goes blind – an epidemic of sorts, the country fears – what is uncovered? What new city rests darkened underneath the lights of the old? Enter the world of José Saramago’s Blindness, a neutered apocalypse, a plague without name, as simple in its onset, as it is devastating and meticulous in its effect.
The novel, in which the blindness experienced by many is not the absence of light but an all shrouding whiteness, feels like a sci fi tale reeling from a paucity of fantasy —it is terrifyingly positioned squarely within the bounds of possible, but so far from everyday imagination that it tugs at the foundations of being.
The story starts out with a simple enough car accident and slowly beings to weave together a hodgepodge of characters— the ophthalmologist, the prostitute, the car thief, the dog of tears — around an connected fate.. And soon too, the blindness spreads to the reader.
There are no breaks or syntax unique to each character’s speech in Saramago’s prose. Dialogue flows in and out of the runaway paragraphs with no discerning attributes to identify speakers other than its content—its sound. But reader makes do much easier than characters, for whom each cacophony is an expanding maze, to be painstakingly bartered inch by inch.
The survival tale is raw, it is disturbing, but you do not turn your head and look away, because you already know what comes next. Blindness contains no new insights about human nature, it just more clearly defines the indelible contours of our limits, our strengths, our weaknesses. It works as a reminder that we still too intimately know the depths and heights of our most primordial instincts even if we do our best to mute them, to forget them.
Where Blindness’ allegorical brilliance succeeds, modern humanity and society spectacularly fail. And what is left, what is stripped away, is a sight to see.
|Recommended by Rhys Dipshan||Wednesday, September 7th, 2016||No Comments »|
Fifteen Dogs is a hard book to sell. In words, its premise sounds silly: a bunch of dogs are given human intelligence via a wager between two Greek Gods. The wager? If dogs have the same intellect as humans, would they live happier lives? Typically “what if dogs were as smart as humans” is a hypothetical scenario more fit for Disney than literary adult fiction. But Canadian author André Alexis takes a more philosophical approach, exploring morality, depression, and our perceived “places” in society. Oh yeah, and there’s lots of doggy deaths, too.
|Recommended by Tiffany White||Wednesday, July 27th, 2016||No Comments »|
The blurb for Lara Vapnyar’s upcoming novel Still Here says the book is about an app that will keep digital profiles alive after the owner has died. The app will do this by searching for patterns the original poster used and applying those patterns to the account after death. Actually, that’s about as far as I got in the blurb before I knew I had to read this novel.
And yes, this story is about digital personas, how we craft our online identities, how we make our lives seem happier and fuller online, and how much our technology knows about us. And, yes, it’s about what happens to those personas when we die. But it’s also an unsentimental look at the relationships between exes and romantic near-misses.
|Recommended by Meg Stivison||Friday, July 15th, 2016||1 Comment »|
Anxiety is one of those subjects that innately resonates with creative people. I’m not sure why the two go hand-in-hand, but if Gemma Correll’s The Worrier’s Guide to Life taught me anything, it was that this problem affects a lot more people than anyone realizes. Maybe it’s society’s relentless nature to make us work more and rest less that makes us seek solace inside our minds. Whatever the case, it’s a subject that’s hard to put your finger on in words, which is why Catherine Lepage‘s Thin Slices of Anxiety takes a different approach.
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Friday, June 10th, 2016||No Comments »|
Many historical fiction novels that take place on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic try to re-create James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster hit of the same name. There’s usually a love story between two young adults that often ends in tragedy, and lots of clichéd romance. After a while, these tired old conventions become boring for fans of historical fiction.
However, David Dyer’s novel The Midnight Watch abandons those conventions, and weaves a heartbreaking story about how more of the doomed passengers could have been saved.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Wednesday, June 8th, 2016||1 Comment »|
Of all the demos at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, Scoutible’s mobile game for replacing the job interview grabbed my attention. Some of the surrounding demos seemed like awesome tech solutions in search of a problem to solve, but, come on, what doesn’t suck about job interviews? Who wouldn’t rather play a game?
Job interviews are already a bit of game, but it’s a terrible game where the interviewee pretends like their biggest weakness is that they just work SO HARD, or pretends that they see themselves in five years in a role that shows you’re ambitious but not so ambitious that you’re going to go after the interviewer’s job. Meanwhile, the interviewer is trying to figure out if this person is actually results-driven and detail oriented, or just read that post about including those words on a CV. Also, is this person in interview clothes playing the interview game going to get on well with the team, or will they drive all the current employees crazy?
|Recommended by Meg Stivison||Wednesday, May 25th, 2016||1 Comment »|
The premise of the CW’s Arrow revolves around the former rich playboy Oliver Queen returning home after spending five years on a deserted island and becoming a crime-fighting vigilante known as the Green Arrow.
Over the past three seasons, Oliver assembled a team of friends and fellow vigilantes to help him keep their home Star City safe from nefarious villains.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Wednesday, May 11th, 2016||No Comments »|