I enjoyed The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald spins the language with a touch of elegance not seen in the pulp fiction stories today. Our reading mimics our life style. It has become short sound bites filled with action. People don’t want the story gummed up with text. We want a story in 120 characters.
If Fitzgerald wrote this today more than likely he would need to self-publish. The big publishing houses wouldn’t touch it. They want a fast pace and lots of action. It’s an unfortunate loss for the reader.
Fitzgerald uses the language to its full extent. He takes advantage of beautiful poetic prose and metaphors. Unfortunately, I felt most readers wouldn't get it.
At least that is what I thought as I read the book, but I checked Amazon’s sales list. The Great Gatsby is ranked 106 on the bestseller list, and number 6 on the classics list. Wow!
Then I thought, maybe it is because of the movie. Maybe DiCaprio’s role in the movie is selling books. Again I turned to Amazon. It has been reviewed over 5,000 times, and only 5% of those gave it one star while approximately 60% gave it five stars. Most of the bad reviews were because of formatting quality rather than the content.
Readers get the story. Readers enjoyed the poetic language. They didn’t mind the slow story with very little action. They like Fitzgerald’s use of metaphors. Or maybe they like a story about the filthy rich living a life of drunken debauchery. Either way the book has been around for over 90 years, and it still sells. Who wouldn’t want to write a book with that kind of track record.
Tips for Aspiring Authors
In Carolyn See’s book, ‘Making a Literary Life’, she recommends these two activities for becoming a successful writer that have helped her career. She writes a thousand words a day, five days a week. She also recommends living the literary life.
Write A Thousand Words A Day, Five Days A Week
One question always posed by audiences at author talks, “How many words do you write a day?” For some reason aspiring authors always focus on word count. On Facebook and Twitter authors post their daily word count like a badge of honor.
People will post, “I wrote 10,000 words today,” but they never list how long it required. My thought is, if you wrote 10,000 words today, I don’t want to read them. A lot of those words probably will end up on the cutting room floor.
Carolyn See strives to write a thousand words a day, five days a week. Depending on where she is at in the writing process, she may opt to spend three to four hours a day doing research and editing. However, she always does five days a week.
At an American Library Association Conference, Dean Koontz stated he doesn’t count words. Instead, he stresses quality. He finishes a page before moving on to the next one. Once he completes a page, he never goes back to rework it.
Live a Literary Life
Secondly, Carolynn leads the literary life. While she was learning the trade, she hung out with literary types. She wanted to understand the writing world, and how authors become successful. She communicated with successful authors, and hung out with other writers.
Aspiring authors should also do this. Join a writing group. Take advantage of a critique group. It’s better to join one in the brick and mortar world, but if one is not available join one in the cyber world. Go to writing conferences. Attend author talks and lectures.
Critique groups will help your writing career. Friends and family have a tendency to sugar coat their comments. They don’t want to hurt your feelings. Critique groups can be brutally honest, but that’s good. Have no doubt; agents and publishers can also be brutal.
Speaking of honest agents and publishers, writing groups help you find them. Talk to other members before paying an editor or publisher. Find one they’ve used. Learn from their publishing nightmares so you don’t have to learn the same lessons.
Part of living a literary life, at first, is taking creative writing classes. Later, it may include teaching classes. A number of opportunities exist for taking classes. Local colleges and universities offer learning opportunities. Writer’s Digest and Gotham offer online writing courses.
To become a good writer, you must write. Strive for a thousand words a day, five days a week. Join a writers’ group or a critique group, and take creative writing courses. Your writing will not improve without corrective feedback, and you don’t always get that from family and friends.
Book Review: Big Man Real Life & Tall Lies, Clarence Clemon's memoir
As Bruce Springsteen begins the Wreckin Ball tour, the 6’4” and 250-pound Big Man will be missed. Fans and band members a like will remember Clarence Clemons playing the tenor sax, and if you look close enough you just may see the a shadow in the background because he can’t be far away from the venue he loved. He died last year, June 18th, 2011 from stroke complications.
In 2009, Clemons with the help of his good friend Don Reo published a memoir, Big Man: Real Life and Tall Lies. It will make you cry a little at his passing, but it will also make you laugh. You will also realize that he was more than just a big man in stature. He walked a broad path that touched many people.
Several incidents lead to the meeting of Springsteen and Clemons in New Jersey giving music fans a sweet blend of two wonderful personalities and musicians resulting in decades of great music. Two of the more important ones include his father’s decision to buy him an alto sax for Clemons’ ninth Christmas instead of a train. The other one occurred in Jamesburg, New Jersey, 1969.
Most people would have quit, and accepted failure but not Clemmons. He was scheduled to try out for the Cleveland Browns football team. He played semipro ball, coached at a reform school. Clemmons calls the incident a “mystical, deeply profound experience.” The motor mount broke on the dark blue Buick Regal he was driving. The car shot up to a 100 miles-per-hour, and slammed into a tree. It nearly killed him, and wrecked his body. He would never play football again, but the world got a fabulous saxophone player.
Throughout the book, Clemmons remarks on the number of opportunities that came his way. As he puts it, “One amazing opportunity after another kept occurring. Sometimes I felt I was living a life in a book that had already been written.” To his credit, when an opportunity occurred, he grabbed it.
From the write up so far, one would think the book reads like an autobiography, but not so. It is an accumulation of short stories. Many of which tell a who’s who of the entertainment industry. It includes stories about his encounters with Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet, Don Reo and of course Bruce Springsteen. The readers learn about life on the road, concerts, and being a celebrity.
Their wild capers may stretch the truth a little bit. Especially the gray sections of the book, Clemons and Reo admit in the preface these sections may not be exactly accurate, but they swear the rest of the book is factual. In the forward, Bruce Springsteen claims the stories come close to the truth, and he only knows of two stories that are not true. Read the book with a wink and a nod, but enjoy the story, and appreciate the “Big Man.”
Springsteen tour update: On the current tour Clemmons’ nephew, Jake Clemmons, will be playing the sax along with Ed Manion, an original member of the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
Jay McInerney wrote Bright
Lights, Big City a quarter of a century ago. He spins the tale of a twenty something male growing upin Manhattan during the mid-eighties. It offers misguided love and eighties style club scenes. It reads fast,
keeps you interested, and you’ll want to read it cover to cover.
The reader never learns the name of the protagonist.
Instead, McInerney tells the story in the second person, you. It is an interesting approach that forces the reader to identify with the main character. For instance, "this isn't the type of bar you would find yourself in at this time of the morning, but yet, here you are."
character’s favorite party companion, Tad Allagash, works in the advertising field, but his primary occupation is partying. He keeps the protagonist well stocked in cocaine, and a constant supply of female friendlies. Tad knows
everyone. He gets drugs easily, the best-looking girls dangle from his arm, and
he knows where to find a party.
The protagonist in Bright
Lights, Big City parties all night with Tad and attempts to work all day. He works as a fact finder for a major magazine. This story takes place before the Internet. The job entailed thumbing through reference guides, and calling people to make sure information is accurate. His headlong plunge into
self-destruction comes about because of tragedies in his life, and he is not
mature enough to handle the difficulties.
McInerney's style makes this book a good read. He uses only active voice and dialogue. The lack
of passive voice keeps the story moving quickly. McInerney uses dialogue to tell the story. He doesn't do data dumps. New writers should study his style.
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