It’s Shakespeare’s birthday, so let’s randomly replace words with “duck”

Put aside your well-thumbed copy of Timon of Athens and go to this site, obviously created by folks with too much time on their hands.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your duck.

Note that you can choose the replacement word.

Slurpy, slurpy!  Parting is such sorrow
That I shall say slurpy till it be morrow.

Out, out brief slurpy!

OK, time to go back to Timon of Athens.

Hardly a man is now alive…

This is the 240th anniversary of Paul Revere’s Ride.  Longfellow’s poem starts like this:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

It was written in 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, so personal memory of the Revolution had just about died out.  The poem itself is pretty bad, but Longfellow did succeed in his aim of creating a national myth.  No one was building statues of Revere before Longfellow’s poem.

(“2010 NorthEnd Boston 4621037522″ by Richard Wood from Tacoma, Washington, USA – Boston 2010-05-02-15. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

While I have your attention, let me recommend David Hackett Fisher’s book Paul Revere’s Ridewhich is just fabulous.

Percy Sledge may be dead, but his song will never die

Here is “When a Man Loves a Woman” sung (pretty well) by someone in the Chinese version of “The Voice”:

OK, fine, but there will never be anything like the original:

Hearkening back to our discussions of first person vs. third person: notice how the song starts out in the third person, and then abruptly changes into the first person, and suddenly becomes infinitely more powerful.  Percy isn’t talking in generalities now; he is talking about himself.  And therefore he’s talking about each of us.


No! Not an unreliable narrator!

In my post about first person narrative, I forgot to mention the sub-genre of unreliable first-person narrators.  In my misspent book-reading youth I was quite enamored of such contrivances, even though I’ve never bothered with them in my own writing.  An obvious example of an unreliable narrator is Huckleberry Finn, who often doesn’t quite understand the events or people he’s describing, so readers have to intuit what’s really happening.

But that’s pretty straightforward.  More interesting, to me at any rate, are narrators who at first seem to be reliable, but whom we gradually realize aren’t, thereby requiring us to reassess the entire story.  Just typing that sentence makes me want to re-read Nabokov’s Pnin and Pale Fire, which blew me away when I first read them decades ago.

I watch movies more than I read books nowadays (they’re shorter!), and unreliable narration seems to show up constantly in films and even in TV shows.  Mad Men does it all the time.  In last week’s episode (the first episode of the last half-season), we suddenly see one of Don’s old flames modeling a chinchilla coat for him.  We are never told that this didn’t actually happen–we just have to figure out what’s going on in reality and what’s going on in Don’s somewhat enigmatic imagination.

The one time I really didn’t expect unreliable narration was in Hitchcock’s movie Stage Fright.  This is a straightforward Hitchcock thriller, except for an early flashback that (spoiler alert) turns out to be a false version of a murder.

No! Not an unreliable narrator!

IMDB tells us that audiences were baffled and then enraged by this device, and I think I read somewhere that Hitchcock later called it the worst directorial decision he made in his career.  It certainly gives you a jolt.

As I said, I don’t do this sort of thing in my writing, but I find myself close to the Huckleberry Finn style of unreliable narration sometimes in The Portal and its sequel, both of which are narrated by a young teenager.  Sometimes, to be true to his character, he can’t be allowed to quite understand what’s going on.

I hope this doesn’t enrage my readers.

So that’s what my novel is all about!

When I’m writing a novel, there usually comes a point when I realize what it’s all about.  Not the details of the plot–working them out is a constant process–but the reason I’m bothering to write it.  It’s a bit odd that I never seem to figure this out before I starting in on the thing, but there you have it.

Anyway, I’m deeply into the first draft of the sequel to my novel The Portaland I find that I have suddenly reached this point.  Which is a considerable relief, actually.  Now I’m not just telling a story; I’m telling a story that matters to me.

The fluffy bunnies are here to get their revenge

My friend Craig Shaw Gardner has ever-so-slowly been releasing his funny fantasy novels as ebooks.  His Cineverse Cycle has finally arrived, and that’s a good thing for humanity.  Here’s the overall plot summary, such as it is:

Roger Gordon’s life was dull until a Captain Crusader Decoder Ring unlocked a door to the world of B-movies. Now his life is filled with adventure as he frolics through the silver screen’s weirdest westerns, thrillers, and romances.

The three books are Slaves of the Volcano God, Bride of the Slime Monsterand Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies.  I have previously expressed my opinion that Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies is the best book title in the history of Western Civilization.  I stand by this opinion. Here’s its cover:

So why are you just sitting there like a doofus reading my stupid blog?  Go enter the Cineverse!