Archive for the ‘Fiction’ 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

(more…)

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 …

(more…)

Local Color

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Fiction, Literary Criticism, Reviews

A New Historicism Look at
Gloria Taylor Weinberg’s A homicide in Hooker’s Point 
by Lynn Perretta

Who does not love just the feel of those two words? When you read them, you are likely to envision the sights and sensations that come from where you grew up and/or spent a great deal of your life – i.e. where you call home. Magazines love these types of stories, especially regional ones, because they bring the reader close to home. A good local color story will wrap you up in a warm blanket and feed you homemade mac & cheese casserole right from the oven.

If you love stories that feature local color, you can thank the post-Civil War era for them. They flourished in American literature as readers wanted stories that presented dialect, manners, and folklore. They wanted to construct places they would likely never get to visit, for example the American frontier, and feel the nostalgia of times passed. (1)

(more…)

A Cultural Studies Review of Toi Thomas’ Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel by Lynn Perretta

What is Cultural Studies?
Cultural studies is a branch of literary criticism that branches from New Historicism and is influenced by structuralism and post-structuralism. (Purdue) Cultural Studies combines multiple disciplines: feminism, history, philosophy, media theory, among others. The subjects of the work determine just what discipline Cultural Studies is focused through. Cultural Studies is like New Historicism in that it seeks to understand how culture influences literature. It is not, however, as concerned with historical context of that influence. It does look at the effects of Cultural Hegemony (how minority cultures are subjugated into the dominant culture), Agency (the ability of members of a culture to act for themselves and in their own best interest), and the effects of Globalization on cultures. (Wikipedia)

What is Cultural About Paranormal Fantasy?

(more…)

Deconstruction and Richard Marsh’s The Key Bearer Saga: Earn Fire
by Lynn Perretta

I will not even use pretense. I love Deconstructionism. There is something about it that is fun. It is like being given a block house, taking it apart piece by piece, and then figuring out how to put it together again to make the same shape. I imagine my brother felt the same way every time he took apart something electronic and tried to put it together again. He did not always succeed with his task, but he always learned something from the exercise.

With Deconstruction, you are not supposed to put the words back together the same way. You should always get something a little different. The shape will be roughly the same, however, and what you get from the exercise will be uncovering meaning.

(more…)

A Reader-Response Analysis of Janet Hudgins’ Treason: The Violation of Trust
by Lynn Perretta

This week, I am reviewing a work of Historical Fiction, okay, it is really a dramatic novelization of an individual from history, but we are not going to split hairs. I know that such a work screams for a New Historian analysis, but I already had one of those when I reviewed Marcia Gates. I am sure that I’ll revisit schools of criticism, but I want don’t want to do so until I’ve gotten to explore as many of them as I can.

Besides, I do not want to give Treason a New Historian treatment. It is deserving of one. I know that when I set out on this project, I said that I was not going to talk about my opinion, that I was going to keep it strictly on the academic analysis. I have to break that rule a little bit here. This book surprised me, and that, for me, lends this book to another school of criticism: reader-response.

Now, Reader-Response criticism is not about opinion. This school of criticism, you will recall, is about the interaction of the text and the reader. In that regard, the intention of the author matters not at all. In fact, we want to pretend, in this school of criticism, that the writer does not even exist. This work just spontaneously appeared one day out of the blue, showing up on Smashwords, Amazon, and other book-selling sites. So, as you continue on with me, do not ask yourself “What did Janet intend?” or “What was Ms. Hudgins thinking about when she wrote this scene?” or “This is very detailed, how long did Ms. Hudgins have to research this?” (The answer is 8 years, by the way.) Instead consider purchasing the book for yourself, and see if you have the same thoughts that I do in reading it.

(more…)

A Genre Studies Examination of Jan Jacob Mekes’
Chief Inspector Jewel Friedman
by Lynn Perretta

On Bay Side Stories we are discussing genre. It’s fitting, then, to examine a work in light of its genre. How does it fit into the genre? What characteristics does it fulfill? Is it truly accurate to say that the work belongs to the genre which it is advertised to belong to?

I’m going to examine those questions by looking at Chief Inspector Jewel Friedman by Jan Jacob Mekes. This work is a collection of short stories about a police detective named Jewel Friedman. Mekes describes these stories in his introduction as “light-hearted detective stories”. I’m going to consider the expectations of the Detective Story Genre and how Mekes’ work meets those expectations.

(more…)

by: Lynn Perretta

This week on Streetwraith DotNet, we are taking on dystopian fiction. While most dystopias focus on the future or other worlds, I wanted to highlight a work that explores some of the ideas of the dystopia in the present or more to the point the very recent past. Dystopias are, at their heart, psychological experiments that highlight our fears and, when they dream of their utopian counterparts, our hopes as well. Panos Nomikos’ Fateful Eyes Volume 1: the Puzzle and the Journey highlights this tendency of the dystopia to dream. For a little while, we are going to explore this present exploration of the dystopian themes of terrorism and upheaval, looking at Nomikos’ form for his novel, the dynamics between characters, and the use of some archetypes in characterization.

(more…)