Category Archives: The Storyteller Reports

The Storyteller Reports: Book Trailers Are Doomed

This morning, The Wall Street Journal‘s “MarketWatch” reported that HarperCollins released a trailer for their graphic novel The Art of War. It wasn’t too bad, actually. Watch it if you like. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but I thought it was better done than most trailers I’ve seen.

If you know a book trailer that is exceptionally well-done, please let me know, because I rarely see one. That Art of War trailer is the only one I have ever seen that actually makes me want to read it. I decided not to shoot one for The Quest (Part One of the Kingdom Trilogy) because I didn’t think I would have time to turn out a product worth watching.

Honestly, they aren’t effective. Of all of the other blogs which I read from other indie authors, not one of them mentions book trailers as a contribution to their success.  I don’t think they’re going to last. I might shoot something for The Stand (Part Two of the Kingdom Trilogy), but if I do, I’ll probably be doing it because it is an excuse to make a movie. In 10 years no one will be using book trailers.

The Storyteller Reports: Mein Kampf Republished

Oh, the horror! Did you hear? Germany is republishing Mein Kampf! The Hitler book! The Nazi book! The Devil’s Bible! Who has allowed this? Has the Antichrist come back to earth? Is Satan taking over the world? What are we coming to?

I apologize. I couldn’t resist laying the sarcasm on thick today. The Atlantic  has indeed reported the decision by a German government to re-issue Hitler’s infamous writings. The first issue will be out by around 2015. It will be annotated.

The only thing shocking about it is why it didn’t happen before. Germany has had some rough times since World War Two, but I don’t think banning Mein Kampf would have helped things very much. I like The Atlantic‘s take on the issue; Jacob Heilbrunn comments that “Hitler himself would surely be displeased to know that his book was, in effect, being further defanged by a democratic Germany, which is treating it in a calm and clinical manner.”

Why bother banning Mein Kampf in the first place? I’ve been told it has terrible prose. The ideas are terrible, too, but there’s a difference between saying that and then actually reading the ideas. Banning books makes people suspicious in these times. .

At least they do on my side of the Atlantic. This incident makes me want to understand more about German society in the last couple of decades. Was it indeed wise to have the book banned for a while? I’d be interested to see the answer; I think it might be more complex than I understand right now. Also, to be honest, I do want to read Mein Kampf, if ever I found the time. I want to know my enemy.

The Storyteller Reports: No Pulitzer This Year?

The recent decision of the Pulitzer Prize committee to refuse to pick a winner for Best Fiction strikes me as odd. According to The New York Times, they claim that because they could not select a suitable winner among the finalists, they could not pick a suitable winner. The article further revealed that this has happened several times before in Pulitzer Prize history.

What on earth was stopping them from picking a winner anyway, or picking new finalists? When you are at an ice-cream store, you are not being considerate by refusing to choose; you are being a sissy. Human decision-making is never perfect. Just go with your gut and name a book. There are thousands of great novels floating around up there. Didn’t they deserve a chance?

While you’re chewing on that, I thought I might also mention a delightful opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal about fiction. Cynthia Crossen thinks that all fiction is escapist, and that what is criticized as escapist fiction is “bad escapism—books with cartoonish characters, outlandish coincidences, nonsensical plots, strings of clichés and tidy endings.”

I have little to add, except to tell you to go read it, and to say this: fiction concentrates our imagination and our passion on something other than where we are. What have you done when you have yearned to go somewhere else? You have yearned to escape.

Thoughts?

The Storyteller Reports: Jodi Picoult Speaking Her Mind

I like honesty in people, especially when it comes to matters of life and death. That’s why I was glad to read an interview of bestselling author Jodi Picoult about her new novel that touches on euthanasia. I don’t agree with everything she said, but she said it loud and proud. She didn’t leave any doubt where she stood.

Hurrah, says I. Jodi stands in a long line of writers who have made their politics clear. John Milton, the famous English poet, spoke against Parliament for freedom of speech. Allen Ginsberg, to whom we owe “Howl” and other gripping modern poetry, protested the Vietnam War. We need people like that. Writing literature can make you a little crazy. The world needs crazy people so it will keep asking questions. A bold voice can cure many evils.

With the recent furor over the HHS mandate, and unresolved issues like gay marraige and abortion, we need more bold voices. I applaud any fiction writer who stands up for what he/she believes.

But be careful.

That can be a dangerous move, and it’s not just because it makes enemies. Think about this. How far can you go before you tangle literature too much with politics? You don’t want to come to the point where you write blatant social novels, like Upton Sinclair. I read a Nobel Lecture the other day by a Chinese writer named Gao Xingjian that touched on this issue…

“In order that literature safeguard the reason for its own existence and not become the tool of politics it must return to the voice of the individual, for literature is primarily derived from the feelings of the individual and is the result of feelings. This is not to say that literature must therefore be divorced from politics or that it must necessarily be involved in politics. Controversies about literary trends or a writer’s political inclinations were serious afflictions that tormented literature during the past century.”

I’ll leave you to think about that. Does a writer have the right to speak out about politics? If so, to what extent? If an influential writer, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, gathered a lot of support with political statements, what would that writer do with that support? Power can be deadly. As Marquez himself told The Paris Review

“The more power you have, the harder it is to know who is lying to you and who is not. When you reach absolute power, there is no contact with reality, and that’s the worst kind of solitude there can be.”

What do you think?

The Storyteller Reports: Erotica Isn’t Worth Our Time

Why everybody gets excited about kinky headlines is beyond me. A couple of weeks ago, I saw the first headlines about an erotic Twilight fan-fiction. The headlines kept piling up. America is blushing again. There’s all kinds of hype about studios vying for film rights; the release, if it ever happens, will be sure to induce more blushing.

“So it didn’t take much for an erotic e-book to catch fire,” noted The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley, “A glimpse of stocking can still be shocking when it’s used to bind a lady’s wrists; it’s irresistible when a handsome billionaire is tying the knot.”

My question is simple. Are we that bored in this country that we get worked up about stuff like this?

Is that what excites the nation? Bondage erotica? Is that the best we can do? We are in the throes of The Hunger Games craze; by several accounts, they’re not perfect books, but they do seem to raise some searing questions about the human condition. That is the highest goal of any story. We ennoble ourselves when we read Hamlet, and when we try to write another Hamlet. It allows us to meditate on the world around us, and what is good and what is evil and what is worthwhile within it.

With such questions out there waiting for us, and such good literature waiting to answer it, I see no reason why anyone should waste a second of attention for E.L. James’ work. Instead of being captivated by sexual fantasy, let us contend with Medea and her decisions in Euripides’ famous play. Let us read Waiting for Godot and wonder why Godot never shows up. Let us read Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald and meditate on the Roaring Twenties.

Let us ignore erotica, and let those “Fifty Shades of Grey” be what they truly are: shadows, and shades with no substance. Let that grey and dreary world of sexual fantasy fade away, and yield to true literature.

 

Double-Header: The Meaning of Fantasy/Be Stressed

Do not try to find a connection between these two subjects, because there isn’t one. I’m posting both my Storyteller Reports and Notes of A Storyteller on the same day, because I am the emperor of this blog and my word is law and I didn’t have time to write the Storyteller Reports in time for Wednesday.

THE STORYTELLER REPORTS: THE MEANING OF FANTASY

I notice that whenever I type in “fiction” in Google news, British newspapers tend to have some really cool stuff. A couple of days ago, Damien Walter wrote for the Guardian about the scholarly debate about what exactly fantasy is. To my immense shock, there might be something more to the genre than watching bearded men wave around swords.

My only comment is simple. Why in the heck would you stop with just racism and gender issues? That is about the extent of the possibilities that the article brings up. Don’t mistake me; those would be great themes to explore, so long as the result isn’t preachy. I would be interested to read (or write) someday a novel that answers the question of “how much progress (has) been made in a genre that still routinely casts female characters as helpless princesses, and if highly sexualised “kick-ass” heroines are really a step forward.” In fact, I have a novella or two that touches on that issue.

But there’s so much more! The meaning of love, and moral confusion, and the quest for meaning- all of that good stuff that has haunted literature from the beginning. That’s where the best literature will always be, in fantasy or otherwise.

NOTES OF A STORYTELLER: EMBRACE STRESS!

Everybody tells you that they could do a lot of awesome things if they only had an extra hour in every day. This writer calls foul.

This writer has had several years of trial and error to convince him that the best life is spent frenetically busy. Right now, he is a sophomore in college. He is taking classes, organizing a game show for his residence hall, taking time to relax with his friends, attending meetings with the Film Club and English Club, editing a short story, and writing blog posts like these.

This stuff keeps him on his toes, but he noticed something. Every time he tried to slow down and get some leisure time to work on all of these tasks, he got lazy. Every time he felt like he had room to breathe, he stopped working.

If you’re a writer, pressure yourself. Always have something to be working on. If you let off that pressure, you won’t be pushed into growing. Comfort never inspired any good novels, did it?

Didn’t think so. Go write something that you don’t have time to write. Have a wonderful week; I wish you luck.

The Storyteller Reports: 7 Book Adaptations To Do Instead of “The Hunger Games”

Fanboys and fangirls, prepare your rotten tomatoes. I have not read The Hunger Games trilogy, nor do I mean to do so at any point. In fact, I know a lot of books that I would vastly prefer to see adapted to the screen. I have listed seven of them for brevity.

1. Redwall by Brian Jacques

Yes. It can be done. Talking mice vs. rats with swords- with a code of chivalry to boot! It is ludicrous, rousing and deeply satisfying adventure. Motion-capture technology could get a new challenge with a cast of mice, badgers, moles, shrews, and other woodland creatures. God rest the soul of Brian Jacques, and may he find someone who can bringRedwall to life without the result being cheesy or pretentious.
This novel is practically begging to be put on screen. It would be a pain for whoever had to write the screenplay, but it can happen. Not only is it an enthralling murder mystery, but also it paints some terrifying portraits of humanity. Poor Alyosha meets some very lost human beings. Watching them self-destruct on screen would be a cinematic tour de force. Just saying.
Everyone likes a good adventure (Morte has lots of questing). Everyone likes idealistic heroes (Perceval’s journey to knighthood). Everyone LOVES swordfighting (which there is in abundance). Plus, I’ve been told that this is the first written story about the Holy Grail in human history.
Take some of King Arthur’s knights, put them in “Faerie Londe”, and you’ve only just begun to understand the awesome that is The Faeire Queene. In addition to having six books, each of which will easily take up a full-length book (series alert!), there is a wide cast of memorable knights and villains. Plus, Spenser finds a way to write about virtues without making it sound preachy. If he can do it, so can Hollywood.
Do not speak to me about the 2006 movie. This is another escapist story that could immense fun if done right. Please avoid the “beat-you-over-the-head” moralizing of The Dawn Treader movie.
Flannery O’ Connor’s dialogue is so visceral that you can hear her books speaking into your ear with a Southern drawl. Francis Marion Tarwater is the most disturbing little boy I have ever met in the world of fiction. His story will turn heads. Oh, and his uncle must be played by Jeff Bridges.
The odds are not in your favor that you have ever heard of this book (see what I did there?). I hadn’t heard of it either before I scooped it out of a library shelf my junior year of high school. To make a long story short, it’s about a monk who is searching for the disembodied voice that makes his monastery thrive. His quest takes him to a city called Ararat, a cosmopolitan full of magic, gods… and even wackier stuff. This would take not only brilliant CG effects to pull off, but also a cunning screenwriter. I extend to Tinseltown this challenge.
 Don’t like any of these? Too bad. I really think that any of these would be more interesting than another dystopian story. If I’m wrong, I’d like to hear why.