You Will Never Learn to Write [May]

26 May 2012

Reading Augusten Burroughs‘ new book reminded me that he was pulled up for fibbing in Running With Scissors by the family his mother ‘gave him to’ at age 13. I think he had to call it a book rather than a memoir but it did not hurt his success. His book, A Wolf at the Table, about his monster of a father was even more horrendous. The part about Ernie the hamster was just ghastly.

His father was not around to contest the content. Recently I tried to read his mother’s autobiography but found it boring despite some awful things. That is very strange, to not care about an individual’s bad experiences because of the way they write about them! Speed-read a book called The Lost Girl by Caroline Roberts, at the library yesterday. She had been abducted twice by Fred and Rosemary West. Twice! And she got away alive but also badly abused. The girl, Caroline, had a horrendous life besides all that but I glossed over that too! Something about the style was annoying. She had a writer to help her too.


25 May 2012

Got Augusten Burroughs latest book from library yesterday. I had requested it but don’t know if they were getting it anyway. His well of life stories seems to have dried up and This is How is about life advice – turning the genre upside down according to Publisher’s Weekly. Burroughs has written six books about his life and one fiction; however, he must have run of horrendous stories as this new book is not quite up the standard of the others. Sort of low-key philosophizing.

Rereading PD James’ Time to be in Earnest; a diary she kept in 1997 but she refers back to her previous life if appropriate. Amazing how she can make the most mundane sound so great – not a redundant phrase to be had. I wish now I had kept a note of all the books I have been reading since 1993 – the time I started reading again after going years not reading. How did that happen. Reading to me is like breathing for other people. I have to read every day. Shame I cannot put that much discipline into my required varsity reading. Got two weeks to do the case study and on Sunday have arranged a study group meeting.

22 May 2012

Tried really hard (honestly) to get through Agorafabulous by Sara Benincasa, a US comedian/social commentator/citizen journalist. I reserved the book as a review said it was absolutely hilarious; I did not get past the first few pages. However, I am only one person but I am also used to reading excellent humour-writing which is why I can see a big difference. Not saying ‘do not read this book’ as that would be improper. I should at least give some examples of parts she meant to be funny but they fell flat. For that I will have to get the book out again. What I can recall is that it was overwritten – if she thought she made a joke, she repeated it.

I am wary these days of such praise, especially from anyone in the US. Let’s face it, they give you a standing O if you can walk and talk – at the same time. Not saying there aren’t great US comedians but in my experience they are usually MEN. There are a few girls – but not nearly so many. This was actually the subject of a research proposal I did early on in my Master’s degree and I may well do the research from this coming July. It is the same in NZ; out of 150 comedians listed officially, a mere handful are girls. And don’t say women are funny, it’s just that they make jokes about different things (!?). It actually said that in some of my research. Let’s just accept it must be a gender thing.

You may well ask, “Well, where is your humorous writing then, smart-arse?” Fair question. I am having a go.

Today I got a new book out called The 50 Funniest American Writers by Andy Borowitz. 11 are female; have yet to come to a verdict.

Am rereading John Mortimer (UK) – another of my humour-writing loves. I find with the really funny guys that I can reread them. Another example is Clive James’ memoirs which I have read three times.

21 May 2012

Currently reading Antonia Fraser’s memoir about her life with Harold Pinter (Must You Go?). She is talking to John Fowles about fanmail. He says if they ask ‘us’ how to be a writer then they should forget about it! Good point. That is like asking Tiger Woods how to be a golfer. In this age of celebrity, it is easy to tell yourself and others that you are a writer. Who can dispute that? I know lots of adjectives and adverbs; I am fluent in my native tongue; ergo: I can be a writer (TiC = tongue in cheek).

The latest issue (May) of Writer’s Digest (US) has a lot of coverage re the e-publishing debate. Seems even if you do that and do well, a print publisher will still take you up. Very tempting to get the book out there. I am telling myself I am a good enough editor but it would be interesting to pay a professional to do the task. I can always print the leftover dross as a separate process!

Authonomy has a couple of memoirs at present that are at the top of the pile. Very interesting to read how others approach their awful lives and does it work; if not, why not? Is it not enough there is a ghoulish tale to tell? Well – NO.

Tried to read the New Yorker last night. Found the font too small (!). Actually that is why I don’t read Private Eye. Plus, PE is somewhat above me intellectually. The Oldie is pretty much my level. However, did enjoy the NY cartoons.

Now reading a book by Dale Archer called Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional. He takes eight top abnormal traits like OCD, Schizophrenia, ADHD, etc, which he says most people have some of. There are eight tests to do. I scored highest in Histrionics followed very closely by Schizophrenia and a tie between Bi-polar and Narcissism. These states sound a bit better when translated by Archer into Dramatic, Magical, High Energy and Self-focussed! Sadly, not high enough in any category to be certifiable, or even medicated. I say sadly, because if I had more robust scores I could write a book about my lifelong struggles with these debilitating, yet potentially financially rewarding, conditions.

All is not lost since there is a lot of mental illness in our family. However, I now realise all the nuts were on my mother’s side. Her mother was bi-polar and spent 20 years in the local looney bin – Sunnyside – now called Hillmorten Hospital. My mother had a cousin who threw her baby into a fire. Her mother had hit her over the head with a shovel. Also, several young men have gone wonky in their late teens: BS, DP, GF and KG. Three of them came right and are now doing great; one is doing extremely well as a therapist. What we do have in common is a tendency to creativity, whether it be music, cooking or other abilities.

17 May 2012

Went to library again and got out a copy of the New Yorker which I have never read but I did used to look at the cartoons. Really upping my leisure reading these days. Just read a book by AJ Jacobs, the guy who read the whole of Encyclopaedia Britannica and lived by the Bible rules for one year. Also just read Daniel Tammet’s Embracing the Wide Sky. I understand his first book, Born on a Blue Day, took about four years before he found a publisher. He is a very bright man (with a form of autism) that has learned to control his symptoms. Also just read PJ O’Rourke’s Holidays in Heck and Holidays in Hell – HE is a funny guy, and clever. I will never know all that political and economic stuff.

Just read a book about phobias which is great fodder for comedy or a play theme.

Also tried to read about my inner chimp and inner genie but they got bored so gave up (or should that be my inner chimp and goblin overpowered me).

13 May 2012

Just finishing assignment 2, then assignment 3 has to be in by 8 June. Then: 6 weeks of editing. As each chapter is ready I will upload it to various sites, eg, You need 10,000 words uploaded before it can be seen by others on the site so that is a good incentive to head towards completion. I will send it to HCI also but they have a very comprehensive application to send in with the initial chapters which is going to take quite a lot of working out on its own.

Looked at a vanity publishing company called D*******. The covers look awful – hard to believe people paid large amounts of money for this product. There seems to be no suggestions on the part of the publishers; one book cover is just the photograph of the author’s face – and he looks like a madman. However, I imagine these people are very proud and happy to have their book printed and for sale on the Internet. If they are happy then that is OK I guess.

6 May 2012

Looked at some more amateur writing. Within the space of two paragraphs the person had written ‘fourth child’ as ‘forth child’ and ‘waved his arms’ as ‘waived his arms’ … if you cannot spell or distinguish words or even check your work by not relying on spellchecker then you are not going to impress anyone with your writing even if it is a good story.

Just looking at People seem to post their books that get read by other members and voted on. Not sure if anything comes of that though. I noticed that one book had apparently over 2 million times and many others were heading for a million reads – that is quite something.

1 May 2012

I have said here somewhere I have entered my personal essay in two contests (one UK and the other USA). Am also working on putting forward a magazine feature (2,000 words) or it could be made into an inspirational essay (2,500 words). Just that I find it hard to concentrate on these endeavours when I have hard Masters assignments to do. Right now am struggling with networks, critical paths, crash times, standard deviations, and god alone knows a lot of stuff I have never heard of. There is some overlap with event management that I did in 2004-5 except on the current course we are not allowed to use Microsoft Project and the like.

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