Saturday, November 28, 2009

BUSY GIRL

I have been delinquent in my weekly blogging because life is too busy. One of the fruits of my labor has been school, particularly, three short stories (and I don't write anything less than 30 pages per first draft, so there goes the idea of short) and an annotation paper to the tune of 12 pages (which is nothing by now) as well as an annotated bibliography from the first two semesters of school....

Therefore, I am too tired to write something angst ridden about self publishing for the third time...which is what I need to write about...but I am simply zonked. So, I grant you, in this blog, my complete annotated bibliography of semester 1 and 2. Gotta do something else with it besides share it with my favorite and beloved teacher and brilliant author Laura Williams McCaffrey. 

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About.com: Classic Literature website. http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/kchopin/bl-kchop-thestorm.htm. The Storm. Kate Chopin. January, 2009. Delicious but melodramatic language that was of the time period. Lots of tension and a clear plot line. Lots of telling verses showing but the language made it work.

Angus, Douglas. The Best Short Stories of The Modern Age. Fawcett; Revised edition, 1987. This anthology has all classic authors: Sherwood Anderson, Anton Chekov, Joseph Conrad, Shirley Jackson, D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Lionel Trilling, and quite a few more.  My favorite piece is The Rocking Horse Winner because of the use of metaphor and symbol, which I can actually understand easily now, as an adult, instead of not seeing it at all when I read it in high school. This is about a truly dysfunctional family who wants to keep up with the Jones at all costs. The father uses his son to help him select a horse to bet on and over time, the poor boy starts to feel responsible for helping his father increase his luck. I read it this time feeling very sorry for the child who rides his rocking horse into a frenzy, channeling the winning horse. I interpreted this as a metaphor for what children will do to please their parents, sometimes dying over it as the little boy in this story does.

Asher, Jay. 13 Reasons Why. New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007. I liked the suspense in the book and the premise– someone who has committed suicide speaking, on tape, to the collection of people that she holds responsible. Asher pulled off something that if not written well and with authentic dialogue, would not have worked.

Atwood, Margaret. Cat’s Eye. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. Unfortunately, I do not like the author’s writing style very much. It’s a kind of denseness that I find claustrophobic.  The plot was okay, but I couldn’t get through the entire book.

Bagdasarian, Adam. First French Kiss and Other Traumas. Canada: Douglas & McIntyre Publishing, 2002. I enjoyed this and thought the structure was unusual.  It seemed like a fictional memoir and instead of separate stories the pieces were different vignettes all around the trauma of his father’s death.

Barnholdt, Lauren. Two-Way Street. New York: Simon Pulse, 2007. Well, it was a fast read but there was something forced about the plot.  It seemed unlikely that parents would force their daughter to go on a cross country trip with her boyfriend who just dumped her all because that was their plan for her to get to college. Also, the MySpace references were irritating. It made it seem like a commercial for it. Turns out the author has s very active Myspace page. I did like the alternating points of view though, as I’m intrigued with POV choices. It was a good read but a little contrived with the plot.


Bauby, Jean-Dominique. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. New York: Random House, 1997.  Amazing tight language. A story to be read in one setting.  Have a box of Kleenex. In terms of first person point of view–I know it’s a memoir, but memoirs still can have a point of view worth studying–this book presents a unique first person with almost all internal monologue and that highlights the idea that we are all free in mind if not in body. 

Brown, Rebecca. The Gifts of the Body. New York: Harpercollins, 1994.This wasn’t a memoir but based on the author’s work as an AIDS homecare worker. It is truly amazing in terms of the preciseness of writing. I read this thinking, there’s nothing else like this out there.

Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Addison-Wesley. 1999.  Sometimes too technical and not user friendly. But the journaling and point of view sections were really helpful to me. It’s probably the best technical craft book out there. 

Cabot, Meg; Jaffe, Michele; Harrison, Kim; Meyer, Stephanie; and Myracle, Lauren. Prom Nights From Hell. New York: HarperTeen, 2007.  I read a lot of anthologies last semester so I tried to avoid them this semester. But, this had some notable authors, so I had to read it. I enjoyed this anthology even though it’s not my taste–fantasy/fantastical. I was intrigued because several of the authors in the anthology were not known for their fantasy/fantastical work. I selected one of the pieces to annotate and while the story itself bored me, the writing was excellent, particularly the use of a close third person point of view with a dual voice.

Caletti, Deb. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008. This is an award-winning book…but not an award-winning story. The language was a bit melodramatic for me but I appreciate the vivid descriptions and sensory language. It is supposed to be a teen romance story with a not Disney princess ending–which I also appreciated. The title comes from, in my opinion, the best character in the story. A septuagenarian lady who tells the main character that after her husband died, she decided she was no longer going to be someone’s honey, baby, or sweetheart. That is really the award-winning part–message for me as a reader.

Cart, Michael, ed. Rush Hour: Bad Boys. New York: Delacorte Books For Young, 2004. I met Michael Cart years ago and he was so kind and knowledgeable about YA literature. I think he’s the grandfather of the genre.  Maybe the inventor?  I like his willingness to bring forth stories that are risky and different.  This collection was just that, and Jacqueline Woodson’s piece Poe-Raven is the most brilliant short story I read this semester.  Nothing happens yet everything happens–it’s a narrative of internal revelation and understanding.

Cart, Michael, ed. Rush Hour: Sin. New York: Delacorte Books For Young Readers, 2004. I didn’t like this collection as much as the other one.  The stories seemed more about the plot verses the character pushing the plot.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 1999.  Not a good as The Watson’s Go To Birmingham. I had high hopes and was bored.

Davis, Stephanie. Smart Boys & Fast Girls. New York. Smooch, 2005. I connected to this book because the girl opens the story by saying she is every boy’s “buddy” and now, junior year, wants more. I expected to see this struggle played out, and it really wasn’t the main thrust of the plot. However, I did let go of that enough to enjoy it.  But it made me realize that it’s important to go through your story to make sure that things you “say” are things that you “show” and if you don’t, maybe that’s not something you need.

Ellis, Bret Easton. Less Than Zero. New York: Random House, 1985. The voice and story bored me. I know that part of the point is for you feel the numbness of the characters. I thought that could be achieved better if it were condensed down to a short story.

Flake, Sharon. The Skin I’m In. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2007. What I liked about this story was the message and portrayal of mentorship between a teacher and student and that its characters were varied and not slices of a stereotype of inner city African Americans. I also thought the internal struggle of the main character with her looks was relatable and universal–this opens the book to a very wide audience.   

Flake, Sharon. Who Am I Without Him? New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2005 While there were may stereotypes portrayed and that’s not my favorite thing to read, within each stereotype was a uniqueness in character and story.

Gallo, Don, ed. No Easy Answers: Short Stories about Teenagers Making Tough Choices. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1997. Really enjoyed this eclectic collection. Some stories had mainly dialogue and others had a lot of exposition– good for my annotations. The first story had such a great premise but the way too long exposition kind of made it long-winded.

Gallo, Don, ed. Visions: 19 Short Stories. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1987. I’m not a fan of sci-fi or fantasy but there were Richard Peck’s “Shadows” was really lovely and sad.  You think that this girl is haunted by a ghost but it turns out what she sees is a boy hiding in her house is the son of one of the aunts caring for the narrator.  It’s all classic Peck and filled with irony.
Gallo, Don, ed. Sixteen: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1984. . I didn’t like this collection.  I found the stories to not be satisfying.  I often thought, am I just not getting this?

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper (Dover Thrift Editions). New York: Dover, 1997. While it’s hard at times to follow exactly what is happening, that actually doesn’t matter because this is a story about what goes on inside the mind verses events that happen outside the mind.

Gotliebb, Lori.  Stick Figure. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009. One of my students read this for summer reading, and so I joined in–I resisted reading this when it came out years ago, fearing it would be another Hollywood royalty psycho-drama. However, this was a painful but humorously told story of Lori, daughter to a famous producer mother Linda, about a young girl’s journey into and out of anorexia.  One of the better memoirs on the subject!

Greene, Graham. The Shocking Incident. http://www.nbu.bg/webs/amb/british/6/greene/accident.htm. To me, very much the 1960’s, with the kind of quirky bizarre pig-falling and killing the dad.  It was okay but not my thing.  I think was a play on “when pigs fly”.

Green, John. Looking For Alaska. New York: Dutton Books, 2005. A little melodramatic but liked the character development of the narrator and “Alaska”.

Hill, Laban, Carrick. Casa Azul. New York: Watson-Guptill, 2005. An interesting idea and fun way to look at history/biography of Freda Kahlo.

Hills, L. Rust. Writing In General and the Short Story in Particular. New York: First Mariner Books, 2000. Incredibly helpful about the parts of plot. Will use this again and again!

Howe, James, ed. 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture The Agony And Ecstasy of Being Thirteen. New York: Simon Pulse, 2006. I loved every story in this collection and really fell in love with Alex Sanchez.  So much so that I went on and read two more of his books.

Kearny, Meg. Home By Now. New York: Four Way Books, 2009. This lady makes me want to write poetry. The use of metaphor is brilliant and shames my own lame attempts, and, yet, I think careful readings of her work can help me make my own a lot better. 

Kearney, Meg. The Secret of Me. New York:  Persea, 2007. The brevity of words with the hugeness of story.

Levithan, David,. ed. This Is Push: An Anthology of New Writing. New York: Scholastic, 2007. Out fifteen stories I really dug ten.  Liked the idea of each story pushing truth and reality but not sure how they were defining those terms.  Loved the Kristen Kemp piece!

Mandelbaum , Paul, ed. 12 Stories and Their Making. New York:  Persea, 2007. Some of the stories I didn’t care for like The Story of My Life Kim Edwards, who wrote The Memory Keepers Daughter. I felt like it was contrived and after I read it, there was a section about how she wrote it and she said she took it right from a headline. I read this because it was supposed to be a story that had a tight plot.  It totally bored me. I loved the Sandra Cisneros piece, even though it was a little confusing to follow.

McCafferty, Megan, ed. Sixteen. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004. I enjoyed the variety in the anthology–from Ned Vizzini’s story about a boy from the old west coming of age via a brothel visit with dad to Carolyn Mackler’s story about two girls–one who has found religion and one who has just had sex.  Most seemed to be really from the point of view of the modern teen except…I annotated one of the stories called Infinity, which, when I annotated it, I really liked–at least the use of symbols. She uses the metaphor of mastering a rotary as a symbol of mastering decisions about sex. However, when I look at the actual story now, it seems like a rather 1950s view of sex and teenagers. Dessen seemed to portray the men in the story, the boyfriend and father, as strong and capable drivers while her mother was timid and scared. I take that as men are powerful and able to make decisions about sex while sex is bad and dangerous for women and that they couldn’t possible even think about such a terrible thing.

Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight.  Boston: Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005.  The ending of this book made me kind of moan and groan.  The whole other vampire liking her scent thing just seemed contrived.  Otherwise, liked the romance.

Moffet, James and McElheny, Kenneth, R. eds. Points of View An Anthology of Short Stories. New York: Signet, 1995. This was perfect for my semester-long study of point of view. The editor organized the stories into categories based on their point of views. I particularly liked the story Acts of Faith about anti-Semitism in the US military during world war two. The author used anonymous narration with a single point of view, but I saw that there was definitely more than one point of view portrayed. Even though it seemed a little inconsistent with the pov at times, overall, it worked.

Myers, Walter Dean. What they Found Love. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2007. Enjoyed the varied voices of the characters but wished for more of a through-line.

Na, An. Wait For Me. New York: Putnam Juvenile, 2006. Beautiful language, but I did feel some of the characterization in Mina to be too vague.

Oats, Joyce Carol. Faithless. New York: Haper Perennial, 2002.  I didn’t like this book. I read on Amazon that no one gave it less than three stars, so maybe something is wrong with me. Her work doesn’t seem timeless, like I though it would.  The ending of the first story seemed like a scene from melodrama from the 1950s–an inference that the father killed the mother and buried her in the backyard– and was predictable.  I was intrigued by the title, but felt disappointed. Could it just be that I don’t get it?

Potak ,Chaim.  Zebra. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998.  This collection about 6 pre teens and the life changing events they go through has a promising strong start with the first three stories from the male perspective but when Potak tries to write from a girl’s perspective he falls way short.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2004.  I’m not a fan of the Harry books, but Rowling is a master of dialogue.

Ross-Larson, Bruce. Stunning Sentences (The Effective Writing Series). New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1999. After Laura suggested that I work on variying my sentence structure I looked for a quick reference that wouldn’t bore me to death. I found this in the bookstore and read this on the treadmill in two days.  The clear and simple examples and instruction really influenced and encouraged me to play around with sentence variation both critical and creative work. It explained and elaborated on the idea of rhythm in your writing.

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher In The Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1991. I have read and taught this probably twenty times and always discover something new.  This time I realized the power of Holden’s voice, not just that he sounded like a teen from 1950, but that his voice, the sound of it was a universal sound of angst and fatigue. I related.

Salinger, J.D.  Nine short stories. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1991. A classic. Never tired of reading A Perfect Day for Bananafish, which uses a kind of old fashion exposition technique of talking on the phone to reveal background. 

Sanchez, Alex. So Hard to Say. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2006. I am not a fan of his writing style, which, at times seems forced and awkward, but his courage to tell these stories about gay teenage boys wins me over. I liked the premise of a girl falling for a boy as he is discovering he is gay and didn’t find it smarmy in the telling of the tale.

Sanchez, Alex. The God Box. New York: Simon Pulse, 2007. This was a little less interesting to me as the previous book.  The stuff about God, the bible quotes, were way too much, but it proved that Sanchez did his research. Again, boy discovers he is gay but in this one he has had a girlfriend for 4 years and now must come to terms with her and himself.  There is a bashing scene that I really got emotional over.

Scofield, Sandra. The Scene Book. New York: Penguin, 2007. I read Sandra’s out of curiosity but found her ideas helpful. It was more of a workbook, which wasn’t what I was looking for.  I think this is a nice craft book to have on hand when trying to fine tune your stories and make sure you have all the elements of scene. What I really liked was Sandra’s little bits about her own writing life and how she created her own self-study of books.  The other nice part about the book is that it isn’t too technical and very user-friendly for beginner or advanced.

Seton Hill Website. http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative/shortstory/ an article about writing short stories. Basic and helpful reminder of the basics. Used this in the beginning of the semester to remind myself of the elements of plot I wanted to really examine.

Shange, Ntozake. Ellington Was Not a Street.  New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 1983. Unique idea to take a poem and make it into a children’s book, particularly when the poem is not necessarily for children. But to read it this way makes a heavy theme easier to digest and understand.

Shuma, Holly.  Love And Other Natural Disasters. New York: 5 Spot, 2009. This is chick-lit that wasn’t that bad although a little predictable.  I liked the premise of an emotional affair.

Spinelli, Jerry. Stargirl. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf, 2000. Well, I didn’t love, love this book years ago when I read it for teaching purposes.  I was annoyed by my inability to characterize the type of fiction–was it a parable? Was it a fairy tale?  What is this thing?  I loved Jerry Spinelli and was put off by this departure–as I saw it. Reading it now, open to the idea that you cannot always characterize what type of YA fiction you are reading–and that’s good thing–, I started to enjoy it. I annotated this and found that the use of images as symbols was interesting and effective. I still am not in love with the story though. Is the message don’t be different, conform?  That, in the end, being different doesn’t work? I don’t know.  Too confusing.

Summers, Courtney. Cracked Up To Be. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. I liked this until the end.  The missing girl poster thing confused me.

Toole, Kennedy John. Here’s a great POV book– The  Confederacy of the Dunces. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1987.  The single most brilliant use of third person omniscient! It beats out Anna Karenina in the effective third person POV category. Additionally, characters are brilliantly developed through dialogue and interior monologue through third person. The plot is hilarious even if some of the author’s laborious descriptions slows things down.  The last quarter of the book is a page turner. 

Tsetsi, Kristen. Homefront. Nashville: Penxhere Press, 2007. I wrote an annotation on this book, and, yet, it is hard to write a quick blurb about my feelings regarding it. I will say this: clear, beautiful, evocative language and a first person point of view intriguingly reporterish. My hang up was that–and you have to read this in order to get it–I felt like the author/narrator hated children and, therefore, as a mother I found the portrayal of a pregnancy in the book rather upsetting. But my own prejudice was put aside, and I really loved this book.

Tracy, Kristen. Lost It. New York: Simon Pulse, 2007 Well I liked this as it dealt with the decision to have sex and how it can change things but in a unique way although I found the ending kind of disappointing. Plus I felt like it was saying that when you have sex, things always go bad. I’d like to write a story about someone’s first time being great.

Vorwald, John and Wolf, Ethan. Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction. New York: Spark Publishing, 2006. Simple to understand.

Wild, Peter, ed. Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.  Liked a lot of it and hated some of it. I just didn’t get some of the stories. Not sure if I would call this YA.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Puffin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2003. I loved these children and wanted to take them home and care for them but I also marveled at their strength. Woodson writes reality.

Zarr, Sara. Story of a Girl: New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007. I like the minimal pop culture references as well as the minimal technology, which makes it so that you can read it twenty years from now. I felt like it was a timeless piece about the relationship between a girl and her father after she is labeled the town slut.  This was no slick Gossip Girls bs like it could have been.  The writing was lovely and literary.

3 comments:

Joanne Carnevale said...

I now have a ready-made reading list, although my own upcoming educational endeavors will block me from getting into it for awhile. Fortunately, it is here for posterity and I'll have it as a reference.
Years ago, when Bravo was an artsy cable network instead of whatever it has since evolved into, you could watch foreign films and I saw an old - even then - British film called The Rocking Horse Winner. I'm now definitely interested in reading the story on which it was based. Also (pre-cable BTW) saw a PBS showing of The Yellow Wallpaper and have since read that story a couple times. Coincidentally, just bought another anthology that includes it.
I'm an admirer of Margaret Atwood and have read most of her novels and several short stories. Cat's Eye falls on my list of "all time greats" along with A Prayer For Owen Meany (Irving), Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston), and others. As you can see, it's a widely varying list.
Anyway, instead of blah, blah, blah from me, let me just say thanks for this interesting resource, and I'm glad you're back on the blogspot. Keep 'em coming!

Writerwomyn said...

I really wanted to like Cat's Eye just like I wanted to really like Margaret Atwoods' style but I think I might not be in the right place to get into it right now. I am reading toni Morrison right now and I used to "not get it" with her stuff and now I think it's incredible. Sometimes you have to grow in to certain writing.

Joanne Carnevale said...

I can relate to that. A lot of classic lit required reading in high school was lost on me. When I re-read those books as an adult, & w/o all the teen angst, I appreciate them immeasurably. I experienced that more recently with The Bell Jar. Couldn't finish it 3-4 years ago, then read it through and "got it" about 18 months ago. I guess the lesson is never give up on a book or author.