Which books and authors can we read over and over? Who has influenced us in our own writing? Join us for a freeform discussion of the books, films, shows and comics that have helped us get from there to here.
Surprise! It’s our 100th episode! Yes, we know, it may not look like it due to our confusing numbering scheme, which ends now! Celebrate with us as we discuss relationships in fiction, primarily platonic and unlikely friendships that have inspired us in reading and writing. Champagne in the lobby.
Last year at Convergence, I heard Unreliable Alumni Paul Cornell read from an upcoming novel, Chalk. At the time, Cornell expressed he had been working on the book for a number of years. What Cornell read captivated and terrified me. Chalk more than delivered on the promise of the reading.
Chalk takes place in 1980’s England in Wiltshire. Cornell and I are similar in age. I went to school in Scotland in 1978, the child of a local girl from Dunoon and a Yank sailor. In many ways, it was easy for me to feel the atmosphere Cornell was writing about, being in a similar place at a similar age. And another dimension disturbed me deeply–while my brief time at Dunoon Grammar School was pleasant, most of my school experience in Iowa was harsh and hard. Chalk sounded depths in me as it married and blended so many of my own experiences, not in specifics, but in emotions. I am certain I am not the only reader who has thought so.
The challenge Cornell has taken on is to tell the story with brutal honesty. This isn’t a story about a strange victim concocting revenge, or a heroic boy overcoming the odds of difficulty. This is the story about someone maimed in body and spirit stumbling to find their way through trauma. The boundaries of what is real and what isn’t melt and twist. Even the narrator, especially the narrator of the story, doesn’t know. For such a speculative piece, this grounding in psychological reality makes the work a masterpiece.
Some are saying Chalk is literary more than speculative. It is definitely both, a cross genre work that satisfies this English professor on many levels, and the troubled child I was on many more. The truth of the story, the reflection of the uneasy adolescence, and unflinching portrayal of the past make this book a must read, if a difficult one.
The Narrators might be planning to do a review of Wonder Woman, so I’m not going to do that. This post, instead, is about seeing one of my favorite fictional characters realized on the big screen. I’m going to have to tell you, then, about my 44-year relationship with Diana, princess of the Amazons.
My first Wonder Woman comic was a gift from my parents. It was a giant-sized treasury edition of the early World War 2 comics. I look at those comics with adult eyes, and I cringe at the portrayal of Germans and Japanese. My child eyes focused instead on a woman hero. I had been watching a steady diet of Yvonne Craig being Batgirl on the 1960s Batman, as well as watching Emma Peel in syndication on the British Avengers television show, so I was primed to think of myself as a woman of action in my pretend time. But Princess Diana of the Amazons? Well, she was different. And it wasn’t just that Diana was more brightly colored. Honestly, it was because I had finished reading the Children’s Encyclopedia of Folklore and Mythology and I was hooked on the Greek Gods.
Suddenly in my hands were two of my favorite things: Greek mythology and an action heroine paired together. After that first giant comic, Wonder Woman returned to a monthly comic. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had just shed Emma Peel like martial arts action running a groovy clothing boutique and returned to her comic book persona, rejoining the Justice League through a series of self-imposed labors, like Hercules, while her male colleagues judged the success of her completion of them. Um…missed the problems with that as a kid too. Instead, I loved the way she lassoed her costume on and off, and thought that it would be cool to be both a super hero and an employee at the United Nations…at the same time!
All things Wonder Woman were to come into my hands. Reprints of old stories, the new comics, whatever I could find. Happiness and ecstatic glee were mine when I found out that there would be a pilot for a Wonder Woman series. Unhappiness and frustration replaced my feelings when Wonder Woman was blond and the story wasn’t anything like the comic books. But in a few more years, well, cue Linda Carter.
Chris, Cath and George compete for fabulous prizes, live from our studio in Burbank! Actually we aren’t live, aren’t in Burbank, and there are no prizes other than shared wisdom. But it’s a fun time, honest!
Write what you know, kill your darlings, don’t use adverbs. We’ve all heard the old chestnuts of writing advice that get passed around like second nature. But can these kernels of wisdom survive a round of Writing Advice: Yea or Nay?