Archive for the ‘Criticism’ Category

A Post Colonial analysis of
Stanley Bloom’s Binny and Belloe

My friends … under the fur we are all the same … I beg you to remember that … – Oggy, the Red Squirrel

Let’s face it. In Western Culture, we have a long history of being rather inconsiderate and sometimes downright condescending or degrading to Others. How this looks in practice depends on the work and the time-period. Consider Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which presents the mysterious Eastern European as a bloodthirsty vampire who tempts women into sin – or better releases from the shackles of societal norms the women who are already giving into their sinful natures so that they can be free to express it. Pick a work by HP Lovecraft. If the villain is not from a non-white ethnic group, he or she was probably heavily influenced and brought into acts of evil by someone who was.

We do our best to improve this, but face it. We even manage to mess that up. Our ethnic characters tend to fall into one of two categories. They are the token character – a female in a mostly male cast, a non-white and/or non-Christian ethnic member in a predominately white and/or Christian cast. The way to tell if your diverse character is token or not is to examine their role. Are they merely the background so that you can show ethnic/religious diversity in your story, or do they take actions that affect the plot? The former is definitely token. The second can be, depending. But that’s a discussion for another time.

The other way we tend, in white Western culture, to present other ethnic groups is as the “noble savage”. These are the ethnically diverse characters in stories dominated by white European and/or American protagonists. The noble savage displays some special skill, insight, or power that aids the white character in some way.

Some beloved examples: Dick Hallorman in The Shining, Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, most movies that Morgan Freeman has been in.

So when a story attempts to tackle our perceptions and attitudes of race, I like to pay attention and see just what the story is doing, and if it is doing it effectively.

Enter Binny and Belloe

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So, at StreetWraith Press, we have been looking at children’s fiction. As I am getting ready the next review – coming soon, no worries – I was browsing through my Google timeline, and someone shared cute pictures of Anna and Elsa from Frozen. They had come to the realization (as did everyone else who saw the movie I hope) that Elsa did want to play with her sister after the accident, but she was afraid to.

So, before I go on, I should share something. If you have seen it, just giggle again. If you haven’t seen it, this may help you get where I’m going with this.

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A Dramatic Construction review of 
The Moon Coin 
by Richard Due

“… as you grow older, you’ll discover a curious thing about the truth – it plays by its own rules. It cares not one whit about your or anyone else’s beliefs. The truth just is. There is no stopping or changing it.” – Ebb Autumn.

When two very young children, Lily and Jasper, doubt that their toy figurines can really fly, they are looking at the items in their hands and basing this knowledge of what their eyes tell them. Their uncle, Ebb Autumn, cautions them to look a little deeper than this, however. What he tells them, warning them that the truth is not a matter of their beliefs, it is simply the truth, is what is at the heart of Plato’s dialogues when he discusses Truth.

The children see figurines, one of a dragon, one of a faerie. What they miss is the Form that each figurine represents. The Form is Dragon or Faerie, and the Form can very much fly. This Form is what makes it possible for the figurines to even exist. They are mere representations of a corresponding Form and if they truly participate in that Form, then like the Dragon and Faerie, when released, they can take flight.

And they can because they are small mechanical, nearly magical, creations of a rather eccentric genius by the name of Ebb.

That I can pull a discussion of Plato’s Theory of Forms from a story for young readers should tell you exactly what I think of this book. If the reader for a moment suspects that middle grade fiction should consist of simple tales with an eye to marketing toys, the first two pages of the prologue will set them straight.

The Moon Coin works on many levels. The diction is smooth and stylized. The mood shifts throughout the narrative, one moment light, then next dramatic – much like the moods of young teenagers. The pace is so quick that you move through these changes with the characters, feeling those changes from mischief, to curiosity, to mortal danger very much the way the characters themselves feel them.

All of this is good and in and of itself a reason to recommend the book. If I did not look at one more thing, however, I would be remiss.

Opsis

Opsis is a fine Greek work for “appearance” or “view”. In Poetics, Aristotle discusses Opsis, but you get the sense he does not really care for it. Opsis is the spectacle – costume, set, and appearance – of a play. For Aristotle, it deserves some consideration, but it is hardly what matters. Spectacle can be great, but if the acting is bad, if the plot is not solid, if the chorus, thought, or diction are off, then it does not matter. The play may be successful, but it is not a good thing.

Aristotle would not be fun to take to modern movies.

He is not wrong. Without the fundamental components of a good fiction – plot, character, conflict – all the spectacle in the world will not make a story good. It is great that you can bring someone into the heart of the Louisiana bayou, but if you cannot create characters that the reader feels or a plot that compels them to turn the page, you might as well write a travel book.

Since I covered before that yes, The Moon Coin has these other elements working for it, I think Aristotle will forgive me the extra moment to highlight the spectacle.

The Moon Coin does not shortchange the reader here. Costuming? Try Ebb’s many-pocketed coat on for size – pockets that seem to hide things of their own accord. Props, perhaps? Might I suggest the tiny mechanical sea horse leading tiny birdfish on a mad chase around the house. Perhaps a gold chain with intricate etchings on its face, each so detailed as to take up the page of a sketch pad.

What truly caught my imagination, however, were the moons. The different celestial bodies of the Moon Realm float around their sun and come so close that the tips of the tallest trees can brush up against each other. And before you can adjust your glasses and say “but the gravity of the moons would cause tidal upheaval” or some such, the quick pace of Due’s storytelling moves you onto the next thing.

Then you remember something.

You remember what it is to just imagine –  to lay on the grass, hold your feet up to the moon, and pretend that you can walk on it. The Moon Coin contains all the wonder of imagination from moons that wander perilously close together to wind-up toys that behave as though alive. Due brings them all together in a well-written fast-paced tale with grand scope and ingratiating characters.

About the Stories

You can find The Moon Coin series on Amazon.

You can also visit the Moon Realms.

Literary Theory

Plato

Poetics

Opsis

Today, I’m going to be talking about Game of Thrones.

The book, not the series. Well, that’s not entirely true. I am going to talk about the first episode a little bit because that’s the only one I have seen so far. And don’t act surprised by that. I’m just now talking about the books.

So, I was not ever going to read the series. At first, it just kind of passed over me. Then multiple books were already out and a whole season of the show was done. But then, well, the memes kept piling up and were amusing. I knew several people who had read and enjoyed the books, and enjoyed the series. So I was finally like “why not pick up the first book and read.”

And read.

And read.

No, that’s not why there has not been as much Self-Published stuff on the site. More Indie Reviews are coming. No worries.

Having finished the first book, I wanted to talk about it a little bit. It’s out there, people enjoy it, and between it and the show, it leaves a lot to discuss. It has become, whether we like it or not, a pop-culture fixture, therefore something we should look at here. It is also something that we may draw comparisons and parallels to at some point. For the few of you like me who have not started or are just starting the series, however …

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When I picked up Women of the Way, Embracing the Camino, I expected a nice little travel log with a couple of descriptions here and there, and maybe a picture or two. That is not to say I expected anything bad of the book (quite opposite, actually). Honestly, I do not usually read travel memoires.

To be honest, reviewing for StreetWraith Press and Bay Side Stories has seen the most memoires that I have ever read. I am even picking up tips for that eventuality when I will write my own.

Writers learn a lot from reading. I highly recommend it.

Still, I expected good things within the pages. In addition to descriptions of the physical journey, I also expected some introspection and sharing of ideas and epiphanies. Jane is a friend of the site (disclosure time – by the way, she is the same Jane Blanchard you will find under The Network links to the left) and I find her blog to be interesting and informative.

What I did not expect was to ask a question.

Good books will often get me dwelling on them, long after I put down the book at the end of a chapter, but few of them prompt me to ask questions. Women of the Way sits among a rare few.

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So Friday the husband (that is the StreetWraith for whom the site is named, in case you didn’t know) and I went to see another movie.

So, Disney is on this new kick of twisting around or, in some cases, breaking the standard fairy tale romance trope. This new form of fairy tale storytelling got its start with Brave, and given the positive reception that Merida received, it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. While it could become its own trope, given time, I like seeing what it is doing until then.

Which brings us to Maleficent and the usual warning. After the cut there be

Oh, and some pretty frank language about some pretty touchy things. Just to warn you.

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“But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.”
― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy from Bothell, by Gene Olson
Available through: Amazon

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I harped on this a bit with the last review, so I’ll just be short here.

So if you read from here, something may get spoiled.

Also, we’ll continue behind the cut.

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We shall start with the trailer.

Oh, you’re still with me. I know. I’m not talking about a book. I’m talking about a movie. Just, bear with me.

So Nick and I went to see the new Godzilla movie. The title of this article was not my assessment. It was the assessment of a young woman who was seated behind us as the movie let out.

Technically, I agree with her. I will never get those two hours back. Of course, sans time travel, we will never get back two hours we have ever spent doing anything. By the laws of physics as we understand them today, it is simply not possible. Now, she meant that to be an exasperated complaint about the movie.

Me? I simply use it as a point of fact. Two hours, once spent, are gone.

But the movie.

Okay, I will be honest with you. I never walk into a Godzilla movie expecting much. I only marginally enjoy watching the old Godzilla movies. Mostly because I have always found the dubbing to be painful. I did find the Matthew Broderick “I’m only a worm doctor” movie to be enjoyable, though. Mostly because I adore Matthew Broderick.

I can’t help it. He’s just so gosh darn cute!

I will occasionally sit through at least part of an old Godzilla movie as well.

At any rate, I really only have one requirement of a Godzilla movie. I have to have fun watching it. I’m not a gung ho action film girl. I know there is an Expendables III coming out. I saw the trailer for it. It was buried among the some ten they showed before the movie today. I won’t see it because I haven’t bothered to see the first two. And don’t tell me about how awesome the first two are.

I don’t care. I’m not a huge action movie girl, remember?

So, if you want me to enjoy a Godzilla movie, give me something that I will grab me. Fortunately, Godzilla did that. I will tell you what it did, but warning. I will be giving some SPOILERS! Got that. SPOILER ALERT!

If you read any more than this, some things in the movie will be SPOILED. I’ll try to save a few surprises but … I am going to be giving some SPOILERS!

Just in case I did not make it clear … because I know someone will be like “I didn’t know you were going to spoil it!”

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