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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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tentative rec and in which I start talking and do not stop
dangerous sheppard
seperis
Si Muovo by kassrachel and Sihaya Black. I'm doing something I almost never do and reccing despite the fact that a.) I am only halfway done and probably won't finish until tonight and b.) I'm not even sure where this one will end up.

And for this reason:

So I was talking to amireal a few seconds ago about something that hit me while wandering around outside, thinking, God I love this story (will have your babies Kass! Really! Call me!) and then stopped short and considered the set-up and thought, wait. I hate this kind of story.

Very general spoilers somewhere under cut.



In English II, a special dark hell of objective analysis of an emotional medium (parts of a story, are you *kidding me*?), there were the seven points of analysis; setting, characters, language, theme, something here God knows what (structure maybe?), resolution, and tone. We started with theme (man against man, man against nature, man against himself (always wondered about nature against nature, but whatever), went to language, resolution, etc etc etc (I am be massacring baby lit analysis, but seriously, I retained zero from that class in self defense after having to do A Rose for Emily and wanting to kill myself after and changed my major). I hated it all. I hated it. It made no sense in any intuitive way, it asked me to do something that, at the time, seemed senseless, and it also made me read about a freaking crane and a little girl and kind of wishing for some kind of tornado to hit the building.

Suffice to say, I said never again, glanced at political science, noticed it did not ask me to explain the significance of setting and said, yay. (How ironic I'm doing computer science now.)

Didn't hate tone, though. That one I got.

As explained to me by the very nice lecturer, I never got it. Writing the paper, I did. Tone asked a question that, to me, only the reader could fully answer, and I could only answer the question thus: how did this make you feel?

Actually, that's completely wrong, but I got an A anyway because I could defend what I read by a lot of quoting. I'm pretty sure the objective criteria is a lot stricter than that, because a reader, as a rule, can't pick up the psychic vibes of the writer.

You're so sorry you started reading this, aren't you?

I read for five things in a literary sense, and in this order: tone, tone, tone, characterization, tone. The rest I tend to blow off. And characterization is subjective, flexible, and depends on mood to what I like. Tone is kind of strict. I know bleak when I read ten words in and no matter what, no matter how, I know the story will break my heart. Bleak can be mundane, angsty, dramatic, or death. Doesn't matter. You know bleak by the twisted second you stop denying it (for me, ten pages in, staring in horror going, oh my God, why did I keep reading? I KNEW IT THE FIRST SENTENCE).

Tone, bleak, taking anything (mundane, angst, drama) and edging it with pain, hopelessness, fear, a feeling of settling for something far less than desired, and a feeling that it will never get better and no one will ever find peace, much less happiness.

Case in point, Battlestar Galactica, who seriously shock me every time they succeed at anything, because I am totally braced for universe ending even when it's happy. Bleak.

(A weird, sideline curiosity of mine has always been to give five writers of varying skill, tone, and style the same basic story and see what they write. As an exercise in how writers think--for that matter, how readers think--it would be deeply interesting, and eleveninches and I sort of tossed around that idea a bit, just to see how different the same story would be in two different styles.)

So I know bleak when I see it (and deny, but I am like that, all about denial), but I'm always vaguely surprised by the other side, which covers a larger area but I usually clump together with the concept of hope.

Tone, hopeful, taking anything (mundane, angst, drama) and edging it with pain, hopelessness, fear, a feeling of settling for something far less than desired, and a feeling that it will never get--wait. That's where I stop, because that's where they change.

It's a faint ray of something better, maybe not strong at first, but slowly building through, where you're reading faster, looking for the edges of light no matter how many times the Genii have been cutting off body parts, you know they'll get through this dammit, somehow, somehow, come on come on come on, do it.

Case in point: Firefly, which I never believed the end of the day would not be saved, somehow, no matter how many losses or how much sacrifice and death adn shooting bad guys. Just--it would work out. Dammit.

Hopeful. Bad now, will get better later, something goes wrong, they will find a way to fix it. Settling is when they've given up, and you know, know, that somehow, they won't.

The set up of two individuals somewhere they hate not doing what they love and very bitter is somehow completely and utterly the perfect start for that feeling, that edge of but this will change. How we don't know (yet) or why (no clue), but that feeling is there from the first paragraph, the second my brain clicked over and settled in and got very grumpy when lunch ended and I had to go back to work, because--oh. Oh. Not giving up. Something is happening. Change, the kind of change that's sneaking in from underneath, making me read a little faster, a little sharper, get incrementally more excited as I watch the characters start to awaken and think and feel and it's just--something is coming. All through. Wait for it. You'll be surprised. Just keep reading.

I really, really hate work today. I want to finish this.



One day, I am going to make sense when I do this, I swear to God.


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It made no sense in any intuitive way, it asked me to do something that, at the time, seemed senseless, and it also made me read about a freaking crane and a little girl and kind of wishing for some kind of tornado to hit the building.

I find it so fascinating that this is pretty much my reaction as well. I love literature, I love reading, I love stories. I love telling stories, my weird-ass snapshots of them aside. But sit me down in a class full of people who are ready to analyze the heck out of what makes those stories great and I want to bash their heads in because it's stupid and meaningless. It's semantics, useless semantics because at the end of the day, all that analysis isn't going to change your gut reaction of wow, that was a really good story or, of course, the opposite. Which isn't to say that analysis is a bad thing, because it isn't. I love to talk about that. But it's all personal, about the things I found interesting, how I interpreted events and descriptions, and sitting in a class with a bunch of people saying "I" is only fun for the first two or three times. Then it's just hell.

Anyway. You need to keep reading because yes, that story is fabulous :)

sitting in a class with a bunch of people saying "I" is only fun for the first two or three times.

I never even got to that point. I gave up studying English Literature at 16 because the teacher was only interested in their own point of view spouted back at them, and I couldn't deal with being told what to think. That's how I ended up studying systemic functional grammar for three years for my degree, and I still have no idea what it even is!

XD

systemic functional grammar

Comma say what now? *is skeered*

What little grammar I ever learned was through Latin. Which I've pretty much completely forgotten at this point. I r smrt.

It helps that I like (have unholy obsession with) arguing and being right. Especially being right. And I lucked out in that I got a few teachers who encouraged lots of opinions about this, beyond the standard 'this is what we're supposed to be getting across to you' bull.

But man, without that? *shudders* I'd rather study grammar, too!

I managed to get a degree, though! Even with the slacking and the depression and the entirely too much indulgence. And not knowing what the hell I was talking about. :D I win at bullshit.

It's kind of made me really self conscious about my writing, though, since I don't know How A Story Should Go. I'm reading a lot of books about writing now in a bid to catch up on what I missed.

Wish I'd done Latin, also. My school didn't offer it, even though it was a Catholic convent school.

As to the teachers? That's what they should do. I spent so long being told that I should only quote scholars and that my own responses didn't matter that now - I'm training to be an English teacher - I allow myself to get completely sidetracked from my point if it means that I can help the pupils get across what they think. I kinda go down a storm but I have no idea if I'm being a successful teacher or not.

*laughs*

I allow myself to get completely sidetracked from my point if it means that I can help the pupils get across what they think.

I dunno, that seems like a hell of a win there, to me!

\o/

*pwnxorz*

(It's true. Nothing pleases me more than announcing that phonetically)

But sit me down in a class full of people who are ready to analyze the heck out of what makes those stories great and I want to bash their heads in because it's stupid and meaningless.

Yes, yes, a thousand times *yes*.

I think what really drove me up the wall in English class was the idea that one analysis was more valid than any other. And unless you're psychic or the author -- and maybe not even then -- there's no way you can know that.

I love to natter on about "oh, I wonder if it meant this", but the minute somebody says that it "must mean X", I'm out of there.

Edited at 2008-01-25 08:46 pm (UTC)

the minute somebody says that it "must mean X", I'm out of there
Me too.
The people who really get me are the people who then try and argue with the author themself (not me you understand) about what he/she meant!!

I love the way you see things and state things. For the record.

it also made me read about a freaking crane and a little girl and kind of wishing for some kind of tornado to hit the building.

"Scarlet Ibis"?

But yes, I agree with the massive swamping power of that story. (Go away world, this ranks as the most important thing right now!) I read it at work, and I'm lucky that I read fast because otherwise it would have taken me all day instead of a couple of hours, and WOW.

I can't even remember if I left feedback or not, because I was just so blown away by the scope, and setting, and characterization, and Rodney as a Jesuit PRIEST WTF?, and they freaking made it WORK.

I used to feel exactly that way about literary analysis. Attempts to force me to analyze WHY I liked or didn't like a story, or what the author was "trying to say", or why she had made this or that seemingly inconsequential choice, made me hate the work, hate the field, hate everyone everywhere. "This is stupid!" I would cry. "What does it matter? It's a story. You enjoy reading it or you don't."

Somewhere, something changed, and now I'm a total analysis geek. It started with Shakespeare, where I think analyzing things on a superclose line-by-line basis really does enhance the enjoyment (since the lines are beautiful, and the stories kind of suck). Sometimes I still doubt that the author really intentionally put in everything we're trying to take out, but it's still fun. Maybe it wasn't conscious, but it's still there (kind of like slash subtext!) I also feel like it helps me to write, because I don't have an intuitive sense of inspired story construction the way many writers do.

For me, close analysis can very much enhance my enjoyment of a work. But I also understand the other side--how trying to break down a story can feel futile and make you enjoy it less. I think a lot of people (teachers) who are on the hooray-for-textual-deconstruction side don't get that, and they think if only everyone TRIED, they'd LOVE IT. It's not true. So maybe they should, like, ease up on that at school. It's just a geeky hobby. It's not a necessity to enjoying reading.

I always considered any kind of literature analysis to be a Rorshach test, and left it at that. Seriously, when I was younger, I picked up a book that the store clerk said was about a man turning into a bug and his subsequent alienation (Kafka's Metamorphosis. Shut up, I was young and stupid and a science major). I read it, and it was pretty freaky stuff. Then I got to the analysis chapters. I can conclusively state that the psychosexual analysis section SCARRED ME FOR LIFE. But reading the half-dozen different analyses of a fairly short work, all of which placed different emphases on different objects and symbols and actions, just made me think that whenever we analyze something like that, all we do is project our mindset onto the author's work, ala "This is what I would have meant if I said that." The author is the only person who truly understands the work because s/he selected the words, the placement, the symbolism found there. Anything else is from our own minds. Etc. Like I said, science major.

That having been said, I like analyzing things I read. Not in the serious, uncover the author's psyche way, but just looking at what they chose and thinking about why exactly they chose it. The style of their writing, what keeps popping up in different works. I do understand your breakdown of tone. I always thought of it as a fate question; whether or not a character had a chance of changing (events, themselves, something else) or if they were doomed to a particular ending from the start for internal or external reasons. It's also why I don't read a lot of apocafic (and why I hated The Awakening); the leaden sense that nothing anyone does can make a change.

See, I am of a mode of thought that says 'authorial intent is dead, and so is everything else except internal consistency'. IE, no particular interpretation is actually more valid than any other beyond that ones that seems to make the most sense within the confines of the story/universe itself are most valid. And if the story/universe contradicts itself, then the interpretation that synthesizes the most content from the universe in the most logical way is the most valid.

Which, I mean, this is totally a matter of personal viewpoint, so it's not like there even *is* one true valid interpretation by my own standards.

Also, yeah, I totally *totally* ignore the deep, philosophical meanings of what this element or that truly symbolises. It's a valid school of thought, I guess; clearly many people derive meaning and enjoyment from it. It's just one that is alien to me. I only resent being told that it is the only valid school of thought--other than that I just don't *get* it.

I am possibly an odd creature, though, the product of my bedtime stories being Pern and Little Fuzzy when I was young; I live in the world of the story. The outside bits are not so relevant. I can and do find it interesting to talk about what the author intended and what the author might have written in subconsciously and what societal things might have broadly affected the author and found their way into the work but--I don't find that useful in evaluating the work itself.

(As a writer, I try not to drive myself too nuts trying to make sure that what people hear is what I tried to su; everyone walks into a work with their own views and filters and perceptions, everyone walks away. My job is to only try to get as *much* of what I want to say across as clearly and universally as possible--but I have to remember I can't make everyone see my vision in perfect and exact clarity and I shouldn't *try*. So much amazing stuff comes from all the different things people bring and take away from the same work! To lose that would be a shame.)

It's a bit weird. I'm sort of majoring in English lit - well, it's a double-major with film, which is the thing I'm actually taking seriously - and I get the analyses, I do. I can understand various people's points of view, even if I think they're talking shit. But basically, the only way I can really keep sane is by treating it as an exercise in exploring your own attitudes, because all literary analysis is a form of projection. Like, everyone who teaches Fahrenheit 451 babbles on re: how it's all about censorship, but that wasn't the most powerful impression I got from the book, and there was a hilarious thing last year where Ray Bradbury spoke up and said, um, actually, it was supposed to be about how TV is going to turn us into mindless drones who don't pay attention to each other.

Mostly, for me, it's about babbling about books I like (or really hate, in some cases) and getting a BA for it. I just don't think many people are willing to say that literary analysis has got to be one of the most useless skills taught on a tertiary level.

(But the fic is totally worth it! Keep going! It's made of hotness and win!)

A weird, sideline curiosity of mine has always been to give five writers of varying skill, tone, and style the same basic story and see what they write.

This would be very cool. You should do it. I'd even volunteer to be one of the writers, assuming the story was in a fandom I could write (SPN, possibly SGA).

Ghuh. I had the exact same thing happen today. I started Si Muovo this afternoon, made it upto chapter 11 before I had to leave for work. I spent all my boring moments at work thinking about it, thinking where I thought it would go, where I wanted it to go. Now I'm home but it's too late to do reading it any justice, so I'm going to wait until morning.

I started it this morning and I had to put it away until I could give it my undivided attention because...it's possible I have a kink I didn't know about. I kinda got more excited than I thought normal over the mention of the collar :P

heh.

I have, at various times, analysed and deconstructed literature for a living. Mind you, I work in the place where author and reader meet.

I think, for me, I like the levels. Phyllo pastry is the best way I have of explaining it. The pastry doesn't work, doesn't have the texture and lightness and the golden perfection it achieves but for the fact that it's hundreds of very, very thin layers of dough/butter. It's the layering that makes it.

I love picking apart pastry, getting my fingers messy, tasting every bit of it.

I feel the same way about literature, and film.

B



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