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Archive for the ‘Major Authors’ Category

Winter dawn is the color of metal,

The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.

 

                        ~ Sylvia Plath

 

"The Frosty Morning" by Nikolay Dubovskoy, 1894

“The Frosty Morning” by Nikolay Dubovskoy, 1894

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There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears the Human Soul –

 

~ Emily Dickinson

 

"Girl Reading" by Franz Eybl, 1850

“Girl Reading” by Franz Eybl, 1850

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Double, double, toil and trouble,

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake.

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 

Double, double, toil and trouble,

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

 

           ~ From William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

 

"The Three Witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth" by Daniel Gardner, 1775

“The Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth” by Daniel Gardner, 1775

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It’s hard for me to believe that four years ago on this day, with a succinct, autogenous “Hello, World!” announcing its quiet arrival on the heavily populated, cyber literary landscape, Archetype was launched.  Conceived originally to chronicle my journey through Chapman University’s dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and provide a forum for peer critique and camaraderie, I promptly posted passages from one of my short stories (“Windmill Ridge”) and my novel-in-progress Time of Death and invited classmates to contribute their work.  I also posted original essay excerpts on Jonathan Franzen and the waning of a literary America (“Antisocial or socially isolated?”), mirrors and reflective imagery in world literature (“Masks, Manipulation, and Madness”), and the notion of the invoked doppelganger in fiction (“The Self We Seek”), all of which I was studying in those first few months of back-to-school bliss.

362px-Th_Richter_Dame_in_der_BibliothekLike any creative endeavor, the site evolved as I did and now reflects my deepening involvement in and abiding commitment to literary and academic pursuits.  In addition to promoting Chapman fiction and poetry readings and publication opportunities, I mine journals and the Internet for interesting and informative local events taking place beyond the university’s borders.  Details regarding local and national writing contests and Calls for Submissions are also posted regularly, which I think my small but dedicated audience appreciates.  Most recently, I’ve added a section for the growing number of my guest blog posts, my interviews, and other places where I’ve stumbled pleasantly upon my own work.

Followers know that I most often post poems and passages that have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia and feelings of isolation to my simple delight in a book or summer peach, each post, like a journal entry, suggests precisely where I am intellectually and emotionally.  Early on I rejoiced to find pictures, particularly eighteenth and nineteenth century oil paintings, that evoked or complemented the literary piece I was posting, and I now spend nearly as much time searching for corresponding artwork as I do on literature.

Thanks to my passionate professors and their fascinating courses on Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement, the life and works of Virginia Woolf, female enchantresses of modern British literature, and Gothic and fantastic fiction, Wilde, Woolf, and the works of A. S. Byatt, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe were frequent early Archetype subjects.  Posts on Wilde culminated in November 2009 with the writing of my course thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray (“The Act of Creation,” “Wilde Irony”), while Woolf reigned in the fall of 2010.  (Click on these links to review excerpts from “The I in the Portrait: A Bakhtinian Analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “On the Wings of Angels and Butterflies: The Chaotic Journey to Woman in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.”)  My penchant for Russian literature and philosophy ENFANT~1was also soon discovered, and I immersed myself and, by extension, Archetype in Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov and began to examine just about everything through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin.  Later courses exposed me to the intriguing life and works of Gertrude Stein (“Back to Bakhtin: The ‘I’ in Ida), Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison, and many others, and every newly encountered author was explored here to some extent.

The craft of writing is another recurrent theme on Archetype; “In Celebration of Technique,” “Last Writes,” “More is More,” “Not Quite Write,” “Drafting Perfection,” and “A Sense of Style” are a few of my personal favorites.  However, it is the angst of writing about which I tend to muse and articulate most freely; “Why Write?,” “One True Sentence,” “Bird by Bird,” “Write About Now,” “Demons and Darlings,” “The Reality of Rejection,” “In conclusion…,” “A New Summer of Writing,” and “The Write Stuff” all convey my own grapples with the creative stall and feelings of inadequacy.

With the MA in English recently attained, a few modest awards under my belt, and conferral of the MFA degree scheduled for next spring, I can’t help but consider what’s next – for me academically and literarily and for this site.  It’s no secret among those who know me best that PhD programs in both English and Comparative Literature are especially enticing next prospects.  However, with applicant Leonid_Pasternak_001admission rates of approximately four to five percent at local universities, I’m keeping the likelihood of acceptance in perspective.  Nonetheless, the pursuit of admittance will be next summer’s undertaking and will, of course, be recounted here.  For now, my focus will remain on completing and defending my MFA thesis, submitting my short fiction and nonfiction work to various conferences and journals, and preparing for the Graduate Record Examination.  Oh, yes…and there is still my novel to finish (“This is the Year”).

During the last 48 months, I have published 487 posts about literature, critical theory and writing technique, literary figures and events, submission opportunities, favorite poems and passages, articles of interest, books I’m reading, papers I’m writing, other literary blogs I’m following, conferences I’m attending, and demons I’m wrestling.  Archetype celebrates holidays, welcomes new seasons, and even gives the occasional nod to lunar activity.  Finally, personal aspects of my affective life and literary journey are memorialized and shared (“Write of Passage,” “Cartwheels Under the Arch,” “Pathetic Fallacy,” “Beyond Words,” “On the Write Track”), even when the discovery and healing are mine alone.  The site maintains a small but seemingly loyal band of subscribers and blogroll partners, to whom I feel completely accountable and utterly grateful.  I hope you will all follow me through this final chapter at Chapman and into the next – wherever the next may lead.

 

757px-Paul_Hoecker-Vally-1888_

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Lately I’ve struggled with the word constraint of a guest column I write.  No matter how concisely I try to present my ideas, I’m routinely asked to cut between twenty and forty words from each submission.  Not long ago, I spent a painful weekend pruning over 4,000 words or roughly fifteen pages from a complex essay that took over a month of previous weekends to write.  All this excising of carefully crafted thought has left me increasingly puzzled by and frustrated with the stringent word count restrictions imposed by editors, literary and academic conferences, and writing competitions, and I’m wondering for the umpteenth time in my literary career…why is brevity so universally celebrated?  And when exactly did less become more?

In a world of tweeting, texting, cinquains, and the widely popular flash fiction and short shorts, the art of epic articulation is no longer appreciated and extolled.  As writers, we are called upon constantly to synopsize, abstract, and shorten our work.  Most literary journals and conference calls for submissions set essay and story limits of 2,000 words, which not only makes comprehensive analysis or lavish storytelling impossible but also, quite frankly, cramps my style.  Heck, my list of works cited typically comprises 1,000 words alone.

The length parameters of most submission opportunities are about a third of the critical essay and creative prose minimum page requirements in graduate English and Creative Writing programs.  Weeks and even months of research and writing are required for a 15- to 25-page paper or narrative of “publishable” quality, which needs to be summarily condensed to a scant seven pages in order to meet the submission guidelines for publication or presentation.  Any writer who has attempted to abridge fiction prose or an essay or a column to meet an editor’s space limitations knows well the instability of what remains once its structure has been so severely compromised.

I’m doing my best to adapt to the attention deficit world in which we now live and must attempt to create.  As I write each blog post, column, essay, and fiction piece, I monitor the number of words at the bottom of my computer screen like a frugal taskmaster, making more efficient choices and trying not to lament all that is left unexpressed too much.  But it hasn’t come easily.

In the end, with just a few hours remaining before my recent target conference submission link was closing, I read the culled fragments of my original 6,000-word Bakhtinian analysis of Oscar Wilde’s only novel and decided against submitting it.  The part was simply inferior to the whole.  Call me verbose; I still believe more is more.

 

The seven volumes of Marcel Proust's "À la recherche du temps perdu" ("In Search of Lost Time") total over 4,200 pages and an estimated 1.2 million words.

The seven volumes of Marcel Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” (“In Search of Lost Time”) total over 4,200 pages and an estimated 1.2 million words.  (Photo by Amakuha.)

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Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow –

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

 

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand –

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep – while I weep!

O God! Can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

 

~ Edgar Allan Poe, born on this day in 1809

 

"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1858

“The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1858

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“Blackberry Girl” by John George Brown, 1875

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,

Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,

A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea

Somewhere at the end of it, heaving.  Blackberries

Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes

Ebon in the hedges, fat

With blue-red juices.  These they squander on my fingers.

I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.

They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.

 

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks –

Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.

Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.

I do not think the sea will appear at all.

The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.

I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,

Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.

The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.

One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

 

The only thing to come now is the sea.

From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,

Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.

These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.

I follow the sheep path between them.  A last hook brings me

To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock

That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space

Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths

Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

 

                 ~ Sylvia Plath, born on this day in 1932

 

Image by Lewis Clarke

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In Memoriam

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful.  I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.  I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans.  I get out of bed to trap them before they escape. 

~ Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) 

 

American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer Raymond Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois.  During his career that spanned over seventy years, Bradbury wrote over 400 novelettes and short stories, twenty-one plays, at least twenty-six screenplays and teleplays, twelve stories for children, and numerous nonfiction essays.  Bradbury was also the author of eleven novels, including The Martian Chronicles (1950); the dystopian Fahrenheit 451 (1953), for which he is perhaps best known; the semi-autobiographical Dandelion Wine (1957); Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962); Death is a Lonely Business (1985) and its two sequels, A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990) and Let’s All Kill Constance (2002); and Farewell Summer (2006), the acclaimed sequel to Dandelion Wine

The continued story of a young boy and his friends trying to hold onto a waning summer and their youth, Farewell Summer represents the inevitable transition of life’s seasons and the process of letting go.  Together with Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes, Farewell Summer completes a trilogy based on Bradbury’s early life in Waukegan and is considered a poignant swan song of the National Medal of Arts recipient and one of the most celebrated writers of our time.

 

Photo of Bradbury in 1975 by Alan Light

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It evaded her now when she thought of her picture.  Phrases came.  Visions came.  Beautiful pictures.  Beautiful phrases.  But what she wished to get hold of was that very jar on the nerves, the thing itself before it has been made anything.  Get that and start afresh; get that and start afresh; she said desperately, pitching herself firmly again before her easel.  It was a miserable machine, an inefficient machine, she thought, the human apparatus for painting or for feeling; it always broke down at the critical moment; heroically, one must force it on. […] For there are moments when one can neither think nor feel.  And if one can neither think nor feel, she thought, where is one?

 

~ To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, born on this day in 1882

 

Georges Seurat, 1886

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With the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth just two days away, fans of the gothic master of macabre plan one final vigil for the mysterious “Poe Toaster” at the writer’s gravesite in Baltimore.  For more than half a century, an unknown guest left roses and a half-bottle of cognac on Poe’s grave to commemorate the author’s 1809 birthday. 

The shadowy Toaster failed to make his pre-dawn appearance the last two years, much to the disappointment of Poe House and Museum Curator Jeff Jerome and the many Poe enthusiasts who gather annually to witness the event.  The second consecutive Poe no-show in 2011 suggested that the ritualistic tribute that began in 1949 is dead and that the unidentified Toaster may remain, like the poet’s lost Lenore, “nameless here for evermore.” 

Nonetheless, hopeful fans will wait with Jerome once again this week for the Toaster’s January 19 appearance before calling an end to the decades long tradition.

 

This 2008 tribute at Poe's memorial was most likely left by an imposter of the Poe Toaster, who leaves his bottle on Poe's actual grave. (Image courtesy of Midnightdreary, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.)

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