Working Writer

October 4, 2007

Susan Orlean, “Lifelike”

Filed under: assignments, craft responses, literary journalism — loganchance @ 4:43 am

A Soft Touch Duck Degreaser? Really?

Orlean has a very dry sense of humor, never quite mocking the taxidermists but always seeming to allow these people to mock themselves (unknowingly). Her listing of animal parts is disturbing at best, and I have to say, Josh, if you wanted to creep me out this week, you succeeded in spades.


Shari Caudron, “Befriending Barbie”

Filed under: assignments, craft responses, literary journalism — loganchance @ 4:28 am

This was an odd one. It may simply be because Barbies – or any sort of dolls with simulation hair – disturb the shit out of me. Caudron’s tone does have that curious amusement to a point, but felt too detached from the piece. Granted, it’s literary journalism, but this quickly becomes a story that is personal to the people she’s writing about, and to not have her apparently vastly different view contrast against it seems off if she’s not writing a straight-up news feature.

I would have liked it to simply be about Judy, with the Barbie story surrounding it. I think there was humanity in it, whereas the rest of the story had an uncomfortable Christopher Guest vibe to it that just didn’t jive with the strongest point of it – that a community’s a community regardless of its reason for existing.

I just felt that Caudron was very, very uneven in her pacing, her tone, and way off in her focus. This looks more like a pre-write than anything, and I would have liked to have seen more of Judy, where the personality and emotion really lay.

September 6, 2007

Craft Response #1

Filed under: craft responses — loganchance @ 11:26 am

In this round of stories, I must admit a disappointment to most of it.

13, 1977, 21

Lenthem’s story was perhaps the one to connect with emotionally. It doesn’t drag and the crux of it is solid, but his ultimate reflection on his use of watching film in theatres as a means to hide from the problems in his life is glossed over. The use of twenty-one paragraph breaks is arbitrary and hinders the story. It’s clear that more wants to be told but in order to maintain the number scheme a lot has to be left out. This one had potential, such that I thought wasted over a formatting gimmick.

The story in and of itself ranges okay on my charts. I would have liked to have known more about his mother, or his grandmother through whom you can infer about his mother. Or even his relationships with people in general. And if not that direction, than in the other – more into the movies themselves to infer his relationships with people. The date(s) with Alissa is an arbitrary anecdote that wastes at least three of the twenty-one breaks. With a point to tell about your life, and forcing yourself into this sort of formatting, wasting those breaks to make an old joke (since it’s written around at least 1999) about male nerds’ relationship with women in general is silly.

He waffles so much between focusing on the concept of hiding and focusing on trying to connect with people that neither is illuminated sufficiently. The two do not compliment one another, and that paradox in and of itself is not even explored as its own entity. It’s just there.

Going to the Movies

Possibly the only real complete story in my mind, Toth’s use of her partners’ viewing habits highlights her failures with various men. It’s straightforward, not particularly deep, but doesn’t meander and gets out before it can drag. I really don’t have much to say. Aaron’s a prick, Bob’s a prude, Sam’s an asshole, and Susan’ll do fine with her cats.

I’m going to go ahead and admit that the next two stories I tried to read, and glossed over about halfway into both.  I really did try, but then I stopped hating myself. (Plus, it might just be the idea of me commenting on these stories at all that I’m resistant to. Commenting on a two females’ stories about their online romances? I just described LiveJournal.)

Virtually Romance

This one bothers me. Rawlings constantly brings up the twenty-year age difference, but it’s always half-hearted.  There’s never any culture shock, or even discussion of how she’s older than she seems. Twenty years is sizable enough to where the generational gap shows. Particularly in an e-mail relationship, this will get highlighted.

Her break with her boyfriend is also weak. Perhaps because that relationship is weak to begin with and so his jealousy over Wendy’s e-mails feels forced. When he’s the ex and taking in younger women, her hypocrisy over it isn’t even strong enough to have the irony she wants in it. It’s almost as though she’s joking over it with her ex and that sense of irony is simply dressed-up sarcasm, but we never know which it’s supposed to be.

On the Fringes of the Physical World

Worst title ever. If she can’t be bothered to add a few paragraphs breaks here and there, then I’m not going to power through the pain. Not to reuse metaphors, but this is the literary equivalent of a LiveJournal blog. She makes the point early – the Internet man is not half as interesting as the real man, and yet she feels so close to the former – and then proceeds to restate her point, one meandering rambling paragraph after another. “The story of PFSlider still makes me sad.” Nevermind that this was written on page 93 and we knew he was a disappointment on 90. Was the one-paragraph, half-page long bit on how her colleagues did similar things online necessary?

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