Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Last Evening of My Spring Break

So this past week has mostly been filled with my job. I had two full days off, which I usually get because of my Tuesday and Friday classes--my own fault, I never got around to asking for the time off, but we were losing someone so we'd either be short-handed or training someone new, and I figured I wouldn't get the time off anyway--and opted out of my usual Sunday routine to get a third day free.

Tuesday and half of Friday was spent reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which I loved for so many reasons I can barely verbalize. (Mostly I'm stuck sitting here motioning with my hand, to pantomime the words are spilling out of my mouth as a tumble of letters, incoherent.)

Friday from 4 pm on was spent hanging out and taking to dinner another coworker who was leaving. I did read a few pages walking to work on Wednesday and Thursday and finished the last thirty pages Saturday morning/afternoon (just before and just after a five-hour work shift). Maybe I'm a little too pleased to have read about 300 pages each day for two days.

So I'm a few years late, considering it was published in 2001, but I've had it for a little while and just didn't have the time to read it before. Using it for a presentation for one of my classes is always nice motivation. One of my favorite parts of my workshop course this semester, we chose our own reading lists, and I added to my required 5--I read all three Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson books, a couple of writing books, including Terry Brooks' "Sometimes the Magic Works," and the Dave McKean-illustrated children's books by Gaiman 'Goldfish' and 'Wolves'. Oh, and since I received the soundtrack to "Wicked" for my birthday in February, I read the Gregory Maguire book it was based on, as well as the sequel, "Son of a Witch," and found all 14 L.F. Baum Oz books for $2.00 each at a used bookstore. I'm on book 2 of that last one ("The Land of Oz"). I've also begun "Unshapely Things" by Mark Del Franco and "The Good Fairies of New York" by Martin Miller (which I bought before seeing a mention of it on Gaiman's website, who has an introduction in it, though I'd have picked it up even without the introduction, it's pretty interesting so far).

Needless to say, something about this semester has stimulated me into reading book-books lately (I talked about that strange aversion to it for a while, where all I wanted to read was manga, yeah, I like comics, but I love novels as much, if not more).

So American Gods: I think there's a combination of long story arc, as we follow Shadow following Wednesday, with the almost episodic, now we're traveling, now we're staying with Mr. Jacquel and Mr. Ibis, now we're in Lakeside, etc., that engages all my attention. I finished the last few sentences wishing it wasn't the end, which is a good sign for me, but I had a smile stuck on my face and I was content, even if I didn't know what would happen to these people next.

I was taking extensive notes while I read, which I thought would disrupt the flow of my reading, but which didn't, for the most part. And while not fully versed in mythology, I know a bit of almost everything, so it was fun to see a hint of something and either know what it meant or know it meant something important and excitedly read on to see what the something was. There's a line said to Shadow, page 483--it sums up my feeling about the end in a much more succinct way that I, with my rambly blogging ways, consistently fail to do--"Not only are there no happy endings...there aren't even any endings." The story's over but this isn't the end. That figure walks away, but he's also walking toward something, and just because the reader doesn't know what -that- something is, doesn't mean all the characters stop moving around once the book is closed.

(Think of that childhood wonder/fear some kids have, that when they leave the room their toys move around, have conversations and live, but as soon as someone walks back in, they are perfectly still and in their original positions. This book ends with a sense of the completete opposite.)

And then, to prepare for my presentation, and having recalled a few links in reference to AG on his journal (linked on the sidebar) I searched his archives and read up on the journal from when it was solely an AG blog. (And I noticed he started his blog a little more than a year before I started mine, not this one, though.)

And then my laptop decided it didn't like me or the warm weather and started giving me trouble, so I took a break for dinner, restarted the computer and went to finish up preparation for that presentation. Finalizing my other presentation will have to wait until tomorrow after work. I know what I want to say I just have to organize it.

And all of this to say that reading words by Neil Gaiman, whether it's his books or his journal, or listening to audio clips, really motivates me to write. In this instance, I ended up writing about him and books, but I finally feel like I accomplished something today.

Also, if you haven't read American Gods, find it, buy it and read it. I think it's available for free online (you can find the link on Gaiman's journal) for at least one more day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Lighter Side of Writing

In a class last week, the phrase "purple prose" arose, like a great, winged bird of description, overshadowing the smattering of plot-towns and roads of plot-threads. then someone asked where it came from.

As a person who loves to find new words (I am running into others' use of niggling again, still a great word, regardless of where it originated), I figured I'd look up the origins.


Purple prose is defined as, basically, overly flowerly langauge, description that goes way beyond what's necessary and "draws attention to itself."

It originates from a passage from Horace, the Roman poet in his Ars Poetica (lines 14-21):

Inceptis grauibus plerumque et magna professispurpureus, late qui splendeat, unus et alteradsuitur pannus, cum lucus et ara Dianaeet properantis aquae per amoenos ambitus agrosaut flumen Rhenum aut pluuius describitur arcus;sed nunc non erat his locus. Et fortasse cupressumscis simulare; quid hoc, si fractis enatat exspesnauibus, aere dato qui pingitur?

(Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy purple patches; as when describing a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana, or a stream meandering through fields, or the river Rhine, or a rainbow; but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?)

Purple was a rare dye to find, so it was only used by the wealthy. Apparently, some people in the time of the Roman Republic who wanted to be viewed as wealthier than they actually were, so they put patches of purple cloth on their clothes to play into that purple=rich. (Most people know that connection between purple and royalty.)

Information from

Happy writing.