Sometimes it seems everywhere you turn, the entertainment and book industry throws mentally disturbed characters at us. Dennis Lahane’s “Shutter Islan...moreSometimes it seems everywhere you turn, the entertainment and book industry throws mentally disturbed characters at us. Dennis Lahane’s “Shutter Island,” both the book and the movie, are good examples of this: the federal agent visits a mental institution in the 1950’s to assist in the search for an escaped patient. Great story–the book AND the movie were definitely done right, entertainment-wise.
But what about factually? As a writer, I want to ensure that my works are as accurate as possible. Accuracy lends itself to realism which lends itself to a reader’s suspension of disbelief which lends itself to the beginnings of a great novel.
Written by a practicing psychotherapist and writer, Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D, “The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately about Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior” is a gift to writers everywhere who need a jumping off point to ensure they are on the right path when it comes to accuracy in the area of psychology.
In the first chapter, Dr. Kaufman points out the need for consistency in research by fiction writers by talking about various public perceptions regarding psychological disorders as well as the psychology profession itself. In each chapter, she takes topical examples from popular TV shows, movies and books, showing us the inaccuracies with the characters and how they are portrayed, showing us where the writers went wrong and how that information has been disseminated into popular culture.
With chapters on fictional representations of psychological issues, how to think like a shrink, the ethics of a therapy and how therapy actually works, this book gives you a strong working background to incorporate into your story. The latter half of the book lists most of the well-known disorders, a chapter focusing on psychopathic behaviors in villains, a chapter on well-known interventions ranging from medication to electroconvulsive therapy to lobotomies as well as how to handle suicidal behavior and psychiatric hospitalizations.
“The Writer’s Guide to Psychology” is a great roadmap for writers, authors and anyone who wants to start factually based research in the field of psychology.(less)
In “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, the author describes what happens when an entire city’s populace inexplicably goes blind. It is a “white blindness,”...moreIn “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, the author describes what happens when an entire city’s populace inexplicably goes blind. It is a “white blindness,” meaning that the people only see a “milky” mist of white around them.
Only one woman, only known as the doctor’s wife, can still see and is witness to this event.
She, her husband, the first blind man and later his wife, the girl with the dark glasses, the boy with the quint, the man with the eyepatch are all placed in a ward in an asylum by the government as are the rest of the suddenly blind at the beginning of the novel. The groups are separated into different wards: the people who have been exposed to the blindness and the actual blind, separated by a foyer and the gates to reenter the city are guarded by soliders who have orders to shoot anyone trying to escape at their discretion.
Within the gates of the asylum, it is a whole other world. I think one of the turning points in this first half is the shooting of a number of the blind as they are waiting for their food to be delivered by the soliders. One of the soldiers panics, thinking they are trying to escape, and shoots. Then all the soldiers shoot.
A number of the inmates (the leader with a gun) from another ward begin to terrorize the main characters by holding back food and making them “pay” for their food with any valuables they had with them (all their belongings) and then by raping the women.
I think the realization the government was not going to interfere with anything that happened in the asylum was the line drawn in the sand. With no repercussions, the criminal element was alble to gain control over the society in the asylum by fear.
For the first half of the novel, I was riveted to the text. Sure, people have debated Saramago’s style of writing back and forth–his giant run-on sentences with no tagged dialogues definitively marked and paragraphs encompassing pages and pages. It took a bit of adjustment–but, once I did, the writing added another dimension to the story. It added confusion, disorientation, and a need to pay closer attention to detail for the reader. And, in these three areas alone, the writing itself was magnificient.
I read fast. Well, I read popular fiction fast anyway. By the way this book was written, I had to slow down and pay attention to every word, who was speaking, who was acting. And I honestly liked the effect Saramago’s style had on the book.
For the first half of it, as I said.
Then the “inmates leave the asylum.” Outside the gates, the city has fallen to pieces–the blind are wandering about, identity-less as well as homeless. They have all decided, because they are blind, names are of no consequence. With their eyesight left their individual identities.
It seems as though everyone has panicked and society breaks down. Property rights have disappeared–the blind move in wherever they can as they can’t find their ways home.
We stop by the old flats where our characters lived before the blindness to discover the places are either occupied by others or in complete disarray. The world is dirty, filthy–the blind “do their business” in the streets without a care as to cleanliness.
I do not think people would give up their self-identity because they are blind. And while Saramago says that there is a piece within us that has no-name, I think the larger piece of us keeps us as separate identities. I AM Kari Wolfe. And while I am a part of the world, I still retain my own identity. My name is what identifies ME to others and, while it could be any name, this is the name I was given by my parents, the ones who created me.
While there are some beautifully written scenes within this half, I am pulled out of the fictional world because it’s not realistic. If everyone within a city was to suddenly be struck blind, would society totally collapse in on itself? Honestly, I doubt it.
Saramago’s lack of belief in human beings is disheartening.
Jose Saramago received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.
A recent novel adds appreciably to Saramago’s literary stature. It was published in 1995 and has the title “Blindness: a novel”. Its omniscient narrator takes us on a horrific journey through the interface created by individual human perceptions and the spiritual accretions of civilisation. Saramago’s exuberant imagination, capriciousness and clear-sightedness find full expression in this irrationally engaging work. “Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”
I have to admit–I really wasn’t that impressed.
2 stars out of 5. The story had possibility then descended into a chaotic mess, a story with no boundaries to hold it in.(less)
“An old Ukrainian proverb warns, ‘A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.’ That is a risk we will have to take.” -- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
The back of the book states:
“Jitterbug Perfume is an epic.
Which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn’t conclude until nine o’clock tonight (Paris time).
It is a saga as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle.
The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god.
If the liquid in the bottle actually is the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon because it is leaking and there is only a drop or two left.”
The back of the book doesn’t know anything about the book’s contents.
Sure, you’ll find perfume in here. You’ll also find immortality, love, sex, ancient religion, beets, wisdom, revenge, double agents, lust, humor, thoughtfulness, philosophy...
And wonderfully phrased statements that will make you read them twice.
Jitterbug Perfume is probably one of the only books that I can honestly say that the journey really is the destination. I’ve never quite read anything like this before. And it’s really not so much the plot of the story that keeps you going as the fully-developed characters, the ideas, and simply to see what Robbins is going to say next.
In a way, it’s like a train wreck: you HAVE to watch because you're overly curious, but this train wreck is more for your reading palate.
But I have to admit, Tom Robbins will wear you out. There were occasions while reading this book, I put it down for something easier to read. Something that didn’t make me think as much. Something that I felt I could skim and still get the author’s full effect rather than a book I wanted to read every single word because of how the words were put together and written on the page.
However, I will probably read this book again. I’m sure there are lots of things I missed--and if I “get” them on only a second reading, I’ll be surprised.
This is one of those books that will intimidate you if you are a writer. I looked up Robbins’ writing style and read that he writes one sentence at a time--making sure it is the PERFECT sentence before going on to the next. His books are published as the publisher receives them and not edited. When you’re reading Robbins’s work, you’re reading his thoughts, in the exact order he thought them in.
Yes, intimidating. I couldn’t do that--I’d never have anything written, period, much less have other work. But the man is a genius. And as a friend of mine stated, “Robbins is never inside the box.”
Review: 5 out of 5 stars.
* A friend of mine suggested I read this book then I happened to find it in my next-door neighbors' stack of books they hadn't been able to sell in their garage sale a couple of months earlier. This note is to comply with FCC Regulations and to let you, the reader, know I have reviewed the work in good faith.(less)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is one of the better books I have read. The entire story is told from the point of vi...moreThe Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is one of the better books I have read. The entire story is told from the point of view of Sophie Salmon (like the fish), a young girl who is horribly murdered, and is focused on her observations from heaven of her friends and family as they strive to make sense of this tragedy and to simply live their lives.
The uniqueness of the narrator makes for an interesting read. But this is not a crime story as I was expecting. I have read more books in which the murderer is caught and, well, either killed or punished in some way and while this story did deal with the murderer himself, his capture wasn’t the focus of the novel. To me, in some ways, this was extremely refreshing, yet I am glad that it is addressed in the novel at some point.
As I have a child of my own, my dear Natasha Bear, I can’t imagine what ANY parent must feel upon the realization that someone has taken their child away from them. The only thing I can do is to wrap my daughter up in my arms and, as she squirms to get away from me, to simply be grateful for the time we have together and to pray that nothing like this ever happens to her.
I was enthralled by the book, but it didn’t keep me up all night or invade my thoughts as to what was going to happen next. I am yet unsure as to whether to go to the movie (or to watch it when it comes out on DVD) because I am sure that Hollywood will mangle it.
This was an extremely nice distraction from all the thought-provoking literature I’ve been reading nowaday...moreBook Review: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
This was an extremely nice distraction from all the thought-provoking literature I’ve been reading nowadays.
I think one of the HUGE differences between “literature” and “popular fiction” is the reading level the book is written on. No, I don’t think one is better than the other--they both have their place in life. Honestly, popular fiction is usually a much quicker read for me and I’m riveted to my seat to discover what happens next.
But that’s the subject of a different post :)
Set in the 1950’s, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane is about a U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, who is called to a criminal psychiatric hospital to search for an escaped patient, a woman who murdered her children.
This is my first introduction to Lehane’s work--I’ve not read or seen his best known work, Mystic River--and I enjoyed it.
In Shutter Island, the point of view placed you over Teddy’s shoulder. This is probably my favorite point-of-view for a story--it’s also one of the most used for the advantages it gives. For this novel, it was key--you see the story’s reality through the eyes of the character. Any other character’s point of view would have given you a completely different story and not had the effect that Lehane was looking for.
If I was going to suggest a few of the best examples of the use of this particular point-of-view, this novel would definitely be on the list.
The story works and works well, however I will admit that the ending wasn’t a huge surprise. No, I didn’t see it coming, but I also didn’t try to figure out (most of) the clues when they were given.
That's fine with me--when the ending was finally revealed, I was definitely engaged with the characters and, by that time, surprise wasn’t an issue. I could swear that I’ve seen this entire story done before in a different way--ending and all--so, for me, it doesn’t have that comepletely “unique” feel to it. And that's ok too.
Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and just be led down the story by the author rather than to try to figure out what the author was doing. Suspense is nice--the reader should always WANT to know what’s going on. Adding clues the reader can figure out is fun as well, but you want to be careful about revealing too much through those clues. I’ve read a few reviews of this novel that say the ending was obvious--I think those readers figured out the clues before the author actually wanted them to.
So, for a quick and fun read, this was a really good book. I’ve heard there’s a movie out based on the book with Leonardo DiCaprio and a few other stars directed by Martin Scoresce. I think I’ll pass on the movie. While yeah, it might be entertaining, I don’t feel the need to see it performed on the screen.
I’m still a few pages from being done with Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and WOW.
For YEARS, I have been looking for what I consider the “perfect” writing book. And every time I go to a bookstore, I find yet another book on writing (or some aspect) I find to be utterly indispensible. I must have them.
I’m not going to talk about how many writing books I have. Let’s just say… A few.
However, there are only a few books I would recommend to people. A lot of the books I’ve purchased are… Well, they tend to repeat the same things over and over again. Just in different ways.
This one does not. In fact, Writing the Breakout Novel has a TON of information you don’t see in other writing books. Why? I have no idea–but this information feels more like the information I have tried to find.
This is a MUST READ for any writer–fiction or nonfiction.
Donald Maass is a literary agent–yes, one of those people we all would love to have represent us. In fact, he represents some of the big names in the industry: Robert McCammon, Anne Perry, Elizabeth Bear… You can find a list of his clients on his webpage.
And this book is a book EVERY writer needs to have on his/her shelf.
Maass takes a look at “breakout novels”–the novels that get their author’s names about–and dissects them for their unique attributes. What makes a novel great? This book tells you what this agent thinks using examples from contemporary works as well as his own years of experience reading submission after submission.
He tells us what ideas that beginning novelists like to use and then proceeds to tell us why it usually doesn’t work. He gives us alternatives to these ideas as well as showing when they actually MIGHT work and how successful authors used them.
The examples Maass uses are from many different types of novels including both genre and literary fiction. Yep, there are spoilers for the books–but we’re not really reading for pleasure, are we? I’m making a list of the books and categorizing them into books I want to read in order to study what the author has done. I probably won’t read them all, but the ones that stand out for me, I’ll be all over.
Maass has also published a workbook to compliment this book. It includes examples as well as exercises to incorporate Maass’s ideas and thoughts into your novel. I’ll be using this and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great to work on making my current WIP better than ever. I’ll probably use it also to go back and help flesh out my NaNoWriMo novel from 2008 as well.
I’m also a graduate of Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class as well as her How to Revise Your Novel class. I think Maass’s work will be a substantial source of information to help me along my journey.
I’m glad I bought this book–and I’ll be using it MUCH more than most of my others.(less)