Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Writing: On the Bench or in the Game?

Preface

I've sat on both sides of the literary desk, reading and selecting as well as writing and submitting manuscripts. Both chairs offer excitement and joy as well as "compromise" at every angle. Artists as well as producers/publishers must constantly decide when to stand firm and when to bend; when to walk away and when to play. Sometimes, I see myself as a champion. Other times, I'm merely Don Quixote.

Writing for the Teen or the Team?

When I was younger, an editor from a major publishing house invited me to her office to discuss my unwieldy first draft of a young adult novel. Regrettably, what I remember most about our two hour meeting was how unbearably parched my mouth was and how absurdly tiny the pointy-bottomed, water-cooler cups were.

Where does one set down such a cup, anyway? And surely, such a renown publisher can afford to offer anxious writers a tad more refreshment so that our lips do not stick together as we face the authoritative opinions of a strong-minded editor.

After she analyzed my draft in crushing detail (I think she may have felt obliged to offer at least one criticism per page), she sat back comfortably, smiled at me broadly, and gave me an unexpected compliment: "You take criticism so well! That's unusual in a young writer."

If I could have spoken, I might have told her that my seemingly compliant nature was due to dire thirst. I suspect I nodded frequently during our "discussion" because words necessitated moisture.

Since I had essentially forgone speech, I made an effort to listen attentively, but listening can be a challenge in this sort of a situation. It's tempting to survey new surroundings, and consider the Editor herself and her life and how she got there and what she went home to, or just let your mind float back again to water.

My uneven and unpolished novel was about a teen girl who drifts from person to person in an outwardly aimless fashion until she finds a moment of meaning and connection. At one point, this Editor leaned forward, whispering with a wink of confidentially, "Sports is all the rave now. She ought to play a sport." And the Editor went on to name an author who was very successful at writing sporty teens.

Had I been lucky (or unlucky) enough to be drinking water at this moment, I might have choked or spit. She liked my prose well-enough, but she wanted action - well, sports - not a wayward teen lost in thought and the world; not my novel. She told me to cut my manuscript in half and call her when I finished the next draft.

I soon left the large building behind me, stepping along the streets of NYC, and walked all way uptown to the apartment of my boyfriend. Naturally, he inquired about the meeting, but between gulps of water and spurts of tears, all I could utter was: "Sports, Sports!"

I was youthful; defiant. I didn't call her back.

Later, I would wonder - If I had played sports as a girl, would I have been more of a team player?

37 repartee:

Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

Well done to you FG!

God, what is it with sports nuts, always want everyone else to be just as into it as they are. I mean I love horror films but I don't run around going "you don't like horror because you aren't trying!" or "How can you possible say you don't like horror, I don't believe it, you are lying to yourself"

Gah, I mean I was a mean hockey player in my day and I still go to dance classes and stuff but some people truly need to cut down on the endorphins!

3/22/2006 7:25 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Aw, Golgotha, thank you for cheers! :) I don’t believe the scene could have played out any differently, because of who I was/am. I certainly wasn’t ready and/or capable of negotiating such a compromise.

And yes! What is it with sports these days - particularly parents pushing kids to such extremes.

Ooh, I bet you were one fierce hockey player!!! Being a petite person myself, I naturally used my floor hockey stick as a protective sword toward any oncoming players.

3/22/2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger Panacea wrote...

Hello, I'm back after a long period of hibernation.

Its hard to force something that is supposed to be conventional in teenagers on a character's life when sport does not really fit into it. I'm glad you didn't force yourself to insert it in your book.

I personally dislike competitive sports. I'm not extraordinarily bad in sports but comperitive sports like football or basketball just make me feel pressured. I can never be at ease in the game and the 'supposed' fun of the game is just lost. Also, I happen to be particularly lazy... give me a book to any form of physical exercise any day :D

By the way, I read an interesting article that this writer wrote for an Indian newspaper and also put it up on his blog. Its about publishers and editors. http://samitbasu.blogspot.com/2006/01/fishwrap-ht.html
Maybe you might find it interesting.

3/22/2006 11:19 AM  
Blogger Cristina wrote...

I don't think sports fit novels well. And if a young adult is reading a novel anyway that means they're not *all* about sports.

I'm not a huge fan of sports myself, but a couple of "obscure" ones (ie. not your typical football, soccer, basketball, hockey).

3/22/2006 11:31 AM  
Blogger Sophia wrote...

I was one of those kids who wore glasses and got hit in the face with the ball more than once. I hated physical education! I would have been much happier doing my homework in the corner.

So I probably would have done the same as you, Frankengirl. And I agree with Cristina. Sports and novels, just like jocks and bookworms, don't really go together.

3/22/2006 11:58 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, guys! Just for the record, I’d like to state that I support sports for girls, and I do believe many girls miss out on “sportswomanship” (okay, that looks really weird - like a ship of woman or worshipping women?).

Employers often want to hear that a candidate is a “team player” and where is the best place to experience and learn this? Boys, more often than girls, have actually played on a sports team.

However, I am certainly poking fun of trend-of-the-day in genres!

Panacea – Welcome back!

“I'm glad you didn't force yourself to insert it in your book.”

Force is a really good word here. Yes, that’s exactly how it would have felt. Just as you say it wouldn’t have fit; it would have seemed tacked-on.

Thanks for the link – that post looks really interesting!

P.S. I’m so glad you’ve come of hibernation, though I do realize you’ve had some secret ops to pioneer - :P

Cristina – Hi!

“And if a young adult is reading a novel anyway that means they're not *all* about sports.”

Ha! Yes, one might assume so? Hmm, maybe publishers are hoping to entice the hard-to-get sporty audience away the court for a quick read? “Very quick” apparently - as she did request I cut the manuscript in half, due to the shorting attention spans of youth, oh my! - ;)

Sophia - Hehe, you remind me of myself! :)

In Junior High, I truly loved playing Soccer. But, later, in High School, I started running away from the ball, instead of toward it. We had coed physical ed (a small school) so once the boys were more fully developed, some of us girls started to fear for our safety.

3/22/2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger Janet wrote...

This is another post that's a great metaphor for life. Don't hate the playa, hate the game.:)

3/22/2006 5:06 PM  
Blogger Charlie wrote...

FG: I keep "bumping" into you on other blogs I read, so I decided to drop in and say how-do.

I think your experience is the problem with publishing as a whole today. No matter how good the story or the writing, it has to include the "in" theme. If it isn't "in" then it isn't "saleable".

The owner of The Poisoned Pen, a remarkable bookstore in Scottsdale AZ, said she wished publishers would get over the "Dan Brown thing" and get back to publishing good mysteries.

I'm glad that you resisted the urge to compromise your work.

P.S. I'm not as stupid as my screen name and photo imply.

3/22/2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger actonbell wrote...

You described this episode so well, my mouth is dry...it's not right for editors to expect someone to change her novel because a certain thing is "all the rage!" That's not art. And I certainly don't think one has to have played sports to be a team player. I never played a team sport, either, so I don't understand how a team effort in a sporting event could possibly prepare one for a career, where efforts are more likely to be individually competitive, let's face it!

It's really neat that you had the experience of talking to an editor at sucha young age, though!

3/22/2006 7:14 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Janet – Excellent Counsel: “Don't hate the playa, hate the game.”

I particularly like this advice since we often play on more sides than we expect, and we really don’t want to hate ourselves, do we? No! This blog definitely does not advise this!

Admiral Pooper Scooper -

I’m so glad you dropped by! I do recall seeing you quite a bit lately. And you do have a very memorable “screen name,” hehe! I rather like it myself. We cannot all be Admirals of Ships, can we? It takes a brave man to navigate kitty litter - ;)

“No matter how good the story or the writing, it has to include the "in" theme. If it isn't "in" then it isn't "saleable".”

Yes, I think you’ve “hit the nail on the head” here! Genre fiction is particularly obsessed with what’s in/out. A tricky aspect of Young Adult (YA) is that most Teens don’t read it! Pre-teens read YA. So parents often buy the books. Then you’re writing for both parent and child. And thus, if you’re a bit off-the-beaten-path, well, you’re banned like J.D. Salinger (Ah, but it would be rather lovely to be banned, wouldn’t it?).

I’ve found Genre publishing fascinating in structure/formula expectations – i.e. Romance Editors will say that the authors must write in sex by page 28 (or something equally and absurdly specific!). Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and once an author has built a reputation (readership), she/he has more freedom (or else, the editor gets a lazy eye).

ActonBell – It’s always a pleasure - :) Sorry for the dry mouth, hehe!

“It's really neat that you had the experience of talking to an editor at such a young age, though!”

Yes, despite my one-sided post, I do have fond memories of this editor!

“I don't understand how a team effort in a sporting event could possibly prepare one for a career, where efforts are more likely to be individually competitive, let's face it!”

Yes! And “team player” has become such a cliché that it’s utterly meaningless. Seriously, who is going to come out and tell the world that they are not a team player – except, of course, G.W.B. (oh, I couldn’t resist!)

3/22/2006 8:17 PM  
Blogger Charlie wrote...

This is the Admiral again, or just plain "Poop" for short. I have noticed that your blogs become comment forums, so I have a burning desire to forum.

You inadvertently hit one of my nasty nerves, FG, when you mentioned the "Romance" genre. I am not a literature snob except when it comes to so-called "Romance".

Yes, it has silly rules: A major character cannot die and it must have a happy ending. But that isn't what bothers me; it is the fact that women are nothing more than vacuous sex-starved sex objects. I realize that not all romance readers are litterati, but can't they SEE it?

The vapidity of Nora Roberts' characters is like a slap in the face to the real females of literature, like my favorite, Emma Bovary. She haunts me.

I wrote a "review" of a Roberts' trasher, Roll Me Over . . ., but please bypass it if you are offended by frank language.

3/22/2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger Panacea wrote...

I am terribly sorry its me again and I am spamming your comments board but I couldn't resist.

Mr Poop said I realize that not all romance readers are litterati, but can't they SEE it? and I would have to agree with him on this point

I read my first and last Harlequin Romance in 8th grade and left it at that. Everyone in my school loved the stereotypical Romance genre. I never understood why girls or women like it so much because all the books talk about submissive women who are timid and shy and too afraid to take hold of their own lives.

A tricky aspect of Young Adult (YA) is that most Teens don’t read it! Pre-teens read YA

Now that I think about it, I never read the YA genre much when I was a teenager. I was heavy into it when I was about 10-12 years old and was convinced that all American High Schools were like Sweet Valley High.

3/23/2006 6:24 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Dear Admiral & Panacea:

Yes, I absolutely encourage discussion here (or as Panacea prefers to call it: spamming, hehe) So please forum away!

Admiral wrote: “I am not a literature snob except when it comes to so-called "Romance"… women are nothing more than vacuous sex-starved sex objects. I realize that not all romance readers are literati, but can't they SEE it?”

Pan wrote: “I never understood why girls or women like it so much because all the books talk about submissive women who are timid and shy and too afraid to take hold of their own lives.”

Yes!!! You would think women wouldn’t want to see themselves this way, wouldn’t you?

Romance is truly a tragic-comic genre for me. I love that you’re both particularly bothered by the depiction of women. As you both say, the genre definitely feeds into extreme stereotypes of both sexes, and yes, amazingly, women devour this genre in vast quantities!

Since the genre is read mostly by women, my objection also tends to be with the depiction of men. So often the hero is the machismo male (with an ever-ready erection – apologies, dear readers!) who has a secretly sensitive side which only our sweet/sexy heroine uncovers.

One of my favorite novels is Clarissa by Samuel Richardson who firmly believed that a Cad is a Cad who cannot be redeemed (unless he truly wants to). I believe the same, and I think romance novels mislead women into thinking they can transform a cad (rather than a cad transforming himself).

Still, I know a lot of women enjoy the escapist fantasy of romance, just like men enjoy the escapist fantasy of action novels with sexy blonds in all the right places. As long as readers know it’s fluff and nonsense, how much should I worry? And I know "intellectuals" who read this stuff for fun and can laugh at it, but I sincerely hope the genre does not create false expectations in “real” relationships.

* long side-note warning *
There is a new genre in the making by Tor books – it’s supposed to be a cross between romance and science fiction/fantasy. Well, as a feminist science fiction fan, I find it utterly laughable and appalling. They are trying to attract fantasy readers into the romance section. And their Big Dream is to strike a deal with Walmart so that women can buy these books at the check-out counter. I think this says a lot – it’s like picking up junk food on your way out of the grocery store.

Admiral - P.S. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments! I look forward to reading your review! - :)

Panacea - P.S. Thanks for spamming me! Actually, spam implies unwanted comments. So your comments are definitely not spam! - :D

3/23/2006 9:51 AM  
Blogger UltimateWriter wrote...

I hate it when they ask you to drastically change your plot around. But if you want their marketing dollars to work for you instead of trying to self-publish, sometimes you're left with no choice. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. I suppose as you move further into your career you can start pushing back and not compromising.

3/23/2006 10:07 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Panacea – Hi, again! I just want to respond to your Y/A comment.

“Now that I think about it, I never read the YA genre much when I was a teenager. I was heavy into it when I was about 10-12 years old and was convinced that all American High Schools were like Sweet Valley High.”

Just think about all the novels and poetry you and TPF are reading! I swear the two of you are far better-read that I am!

Oddly enough, I believe the more realistic and gritty teen novel is read more often by adults than by teens themselves (who have long school reading lists at this point).

Some teen novels disprove my generalization, of course. And there’s at least one children’s series that has broken all age boundaries. One of your favorites, I think? HP - ;)

3/23/2006 10:10 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

UV – Hi! Yes, marketing dollars are very powerful and determine which books get displayed at B&N. I do believe tenacity is essential here. A writer must continue to seek out a likeminded editor who will not alter the spirit of their story. One editor is only that: one. And so the novelist must carry the novel onward to the next and the next… until she/he finds the right match and right audience (and sometimes, it's just the "right timing" that's needed).

3/23/2006 10:24 AM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

See, I can honestly hang my head and say that I do like a good romance. Not any of this 'Chick-lit' crap but I do now and again like to go back to heaving bosoms and chance meetings.

I suppose, if you think about it in the world today where women are told they can be what they want, be strong, live without men and do not need to depend on men there is maybe an inward desire to go back to how things were? I do enjoy "Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body " there's a fantastic part where he's talking of his longing for the woman as she's innocently eating soup, I again haven't got it with me to quote but the line goes along "Oh how I would trade half my blood for stock for her to take me to her lips" the passion is outstanding! the feeling of the simplest things being orgasmic when performed by someone you desire. I can honestly say it gets me every time!

No doubt my Feminist Club card will be revoked for this statement, but I quite relish the idea of a Darcy-esque declaration of love (maybe not the being decidedly lower in status bit though!)

Still waiting.... ho hum!

3/23/2006 11:00 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Golgotha - “Feminist Club card” Hehe! Hey, at least you’ve got one - I’m still waiting for mine to come in the mail!

No head-hanging necessary! You're one of those "intellectuals" I mentioned - ;) And once you’ve finished Jane Austen and the Brontes, where does a woman go for a good romance?

And epic passion can have quite an allure: a friend and I read and reread The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye when we were young. And I used to read a lot of so-called Gothics, too, which were basically Jane-Eyre rip-offs with sex, which essentially misses the entire point of Jane Eyre!!! :P

Well-written romances can be hard to find. I’m sure some are superior to others. If you get a chance, though, read the Admiral’s review! It’s hilarious!

3/23/2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger Panacea wrote...

often the hero is the machismo male who has a secretly sensitive side which only our sweet/sexy heroine uncovers

Talking about male stereotypes in romance novels I have to mention Heathcliff somewhere in this comment. He seems like the ideal romance novel Byronic hero, that you expect to be redeemed. But suddenly, something happens and Heathcliff instead of becoming the stereotypical hero becomes the anti-hero and almost the villan. You end up waiting for his sweetness and sensitivity to come till the end of the book and it never does. I love it how Bronte changes the male stereotype.

Although, I may have to agree with Golgotha here, I love the whole Darcy-esque declaration of love myself but its nice the first time you read it, when female 'chick-lit' writers use the same Darcy-esque character for every book they write, it starts getting a bit clichéd and monotonous.

3/23/2006 12:00 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Panacea – Yes! It seems to me that Heathcliff is a wonderful example of a more realistic macho hero – though I confess it’s been a while since I read Wuthering Heights and I expect our Bronte-expert, MysticGyspy, could say much more here.

"I love it how Bronte changes the male stereotype."

How true! Just consider if Heathcliff were written today! No doubt on Valentines’ Day or New Year’s Eve, Healthcliff would suddenly regret his Heathcliffian manners and transform into a suave seducer or a truly sensitive guy and bring Cathy flowers or a box of chocolates and then, without any remorse, they would run off adulterously together, because true love (or lust) must not be denied a Happy Ending!

Yikes!

3/23/2006 12:48 PM  
Blogger The Poodle's Friend wrote...

I completely agree with Golgotha's there is maybe an inward desire to go back to how things were? observation. But the good thing is that the popularity of chick lit is due to those very same escapist fantasies of a time when the woman was weak and needed to be protected by the virile seed-bearer, which implies that the reality of the present day is rather different. Women are independent and are expected to be independent. This might explain the occasional desire of a three hundred page pile-o-crap escape.
However, couldn't this lead to severe psychological trauma for the obsessive chick lit fan? It must be terrible to wake up one day and realize that the abusive boyfriend Heathcliff du jour will never be redeemed but remain an abusive jerk. What a horrifying wake up call that must be.
And I agree wholeheartedly with Poop. When there are such creations around as Emma Bovary, why read this modern trash? My aversion to bestsellers aside, I think with all the good books there are to read in the world, it's a crime to even publish half of the stuff they publish today. I won't even get started on the Da Vinci Code and various spinoffs.

3/23/2006 5:36 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix wrote...

Hi FG--

Re: your question ever so long ago about whether or not you'd be more of a team player if you'd played sports....

my mother was a PE coach by training, and she ended up coaching church sports from time to time and I would have to play because she insisted. I had absolutely NO coordination when it came to things like throwing or catching a ball, so having to participate in a team sport when I didn't want to there just made me more misanthropic and solitary.

I like to think that if I hadn't been forced to do something so heinously against my nature, I would have had a sunnier disposition as a teenager. I also like to think that the fact that I can play a game and enjoy it for itself regardless of whether or not I win is a result of never investing too much in team sports.

And you were right never to call that stinky editor back.

3/23/2006 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

Oop--sorry, meant to post that last comment as Holly, not as my strange blogger alter-ego, who's not really as into latex as her name implies.

3/23/2006 5:45 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

TPF (& Golgotha):

”I completely agree with Golgotha's ‘there is maybe an inward desire to go back to how things were?’ observation.”

I think this is such a fascinating observation! Because you guys will definitely have to tell me when things were ever *really* like a Paperback Romance! Hehe! I think so many of us (including me!) sometimes get this mysterious nostalgia for something that never was - as if we’re overcome with the notion that there was a simple time between men/women. But did such a time exist? Or did people just put-up and suffer silently because there were less options? Does that kind of resignation result in less suffering and more simplicity? See… this raises a lot of questions for me!

Or do you mean going all the way back to cave-people again? A more primal time? The concept that men/women are all impulse with not much thought or brain-development yet? Barbaric men and women who basically grunt at each other between eating, sleeping and sex. (Okay, yes, I guess that does define a few romance novels, hehe!)

“It must be terrible to wake up one day and realize that the abusive boyfriend Heathcliff du jour will never be redeemed but remain an abusive jerk. What a horrifying wake up call that must be.

Oh, I just love “Heathcliff du jour” - ;) And yes, my thoughts run in a similar vein. I wonder if women clasp onto the “bad boyfriend” a bit too long because some of these popular novels show rather brutish men who are redeemable? We shall have to do a documentary! Oh, well, actually, there is one coming!!! Holly has written a post about a BBC production which is seeking men/women whose love-lives have been influenced by romantic novels:
Holly's Post

Thanks for your comments, TPF (and yes, some publishing choices do seem downright criminal!)

3/23/2006 6:44 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Wow, Bored Dominatrix has paid us a visit!

Hi, Holly -

"And you were right never to call that stinky editor back."

Yes, Bad, Bad, Bad Editor! (But I had suspected you might say shame on me for not trying to convince her that my novel was the next best thing! Of course, speechless as I was, that would have been hard.)

"I like to think that if I hadn't been forced to do something so heinously against my nature, I would have had a sunnier disposition as a teenager."

Yes, when parents force us, it just sucks the fun right out of it, doesn’t it? (I do think your teen years would make a great novel for adults, btw.)

Thanks to both of your personalities.

3/23/2006 6:46 PM  
Blogger niTin wrote...

There you've quashed all my nascent yearnings of ever becoming a published writer.
Really amazing post, though - vivid.
Another question is whether writing is an art, to be followed just for the sake of it.
The literati aver that the Muse should not be even aware of something called money. There was this writer who was told about rampant piracy of his novels and he responded by saying that he didn't give a hoot as long as those who are buying are reading his books(he was an Indian writer(English), as far as I remember, and piracy is a problem there). Some other writer has said that writing only for the sake of money is like eating only for the sake of filling your stomach.
On the other hand we have Trollope who in his autobiography mentioned that he wrote basically for the money. Which brought him under severe criticism.
(The rigors of having to follow the MLA format in assignments is constantly itching me. I almost feel guilty for not providing valid sources of the quotes)

3/23/2006 7:46 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hello, niTin!!!

“There you've quashed all my nascent yearnings of ever becoming a published writer.”

Yes, why else am I here but to destroy all “nascent yearnings.” Nooo! Good writers do get published!

Tenacity is essential and (unfortunately) networking. So much of it is who you know/meet. How do you suppose I got that meeting in the first place? My manuscript wasn’t a shining light pouring out of a slush pile. No, the editor and I had met in a class (in which she had said: “You will be published.” She just forgot to add: “Not by me.” Hehe!)

Also, at the time, I didn’t fight for (or even finish) my novel partly because I’m really a playwright at heart and I had been asked to write a children’s play for a commercial theatre (by a yet another person I’d met before). So I had to make a choice.

Another question is whether writing is an art, to be followed just for the sake of it.

This is such a good question! So many of us struggle with it. Today, I give a resounding “yes!” Tomorrow...? - ;) I do believe we must write for our soul first, and if it so happens (by chance) to feed our body as well, excellent! But this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to feed both simultaneously. Since starving either body or soul is highly undesirable! :P

Then again, why shouldn’t someone (Trollope, as you say) declare she/he writes solely for money? Writing can be a business (as we know) and not an art. Do artists have special rights over writing? And what starts for the sake of money may reap art, and what starts for the sake of art, may reap money. So… ???

But you won’t find an answer here. You’ll find yours inside you - :)

It’s always good to “hear” your voice here, niTin!

3/23/2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

Hi Frankengirl :)
I was away for a few days and am delighted to see yet another wonderful post of yours.

"If I had played sports as a girl, would I have been more of a team player?"

Well said! (or asked rather).
I wonder if sports would really have been the solution(?!) to contemplation (often perceived as despondency). I agree that taking on a sport definitly improves blood circulation and perhaps motor skills, but what if one simply cannot put up with the monotony of running for an hour on the treadmill every single day?

Also, I do think that playing a sport can be a poor excuse for boosting self esteem. An aquaintace drove herself almost sick trying to excercise because she wanted to "feel stronger".

And what about way back (as in Jane Eyre) when women could not play sports at all and yet they managed to write stories that have endured the test of time? Jane definitly did not need to go croqueting for Rochester to fall in love with her. Though Lizzy Bennet was "sporty", this wasn't the cheif reason Darcy fell in love with her. The intellect of a woman mattered most to men like Darcy and Rochester.

3/23/2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, MysticGypsy!

"Also, I do think that playing a sport can be a poor excuse for boosting self esteem. An aquaintace drove herself almost sick trying to excercise because she wanted to 'feel stronger'."

Yes, it seems some take sports to such extremes these days, and it's sad when something “healthy” becomes so “unhealthy.”

“Jane definitely did not need to go croqueting for Rochester to fall in love with her.”

Oh, this image is rather delightful, though - :) Yes, Jane wasn’t very sporty, was she? No horseback riding. She did take long walks (but then, she had no other way to get around!).

“The intellect of a woman mattered most to men like Darcy and Rochester.”

Ah, such a pity this editor didn’t emulate them more! And prefer intellect over sports! - ;)

Glad to see you back!

3/23/2006 10:30 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

An ardent Emily Bronte fan, I love Wuthering Heights. I am also very fond of Heathcliff. He even trancends eliciting the wrath of readers (who may or may not be his supporters) by being ambigous and inviting sympathy.

Panacea wrote "Heathcliff..seems like the ideal romance novel Byronic hero, that you expect to be redeemed. But suddenly, something happens and Heathcliff instead of becoming the stereotypical hero becomes the anti-hero and almost the villan. You end up waiting for his sweetness and sensitivity to come till the end of the book and it never does. I love it how Bronte changes the male stereotype."

I actually thought that Bronte did indeed almost-redeem him at the end of the novel. He starves physically and suffers emotionally. He also becomes more listless. As much we revolt at his treatment of Isabella and Linton, we also know how capable he is of intense love. Bronte says that "It was hardness, not genteleness, that made him give little trouble". Though his troubles are immense indeed, Emily clearly states that hardness drove him to commit such acts. Heathcliff is a victim of society.
His actions are not by any means in the sense of being "lovey-dovey", but Bronte creates a whole new view on romance: the romance of Heathlciff and Catherine is metaphysical. It may (or may not) exist in the conventional sense. Hence his exhibition of love or hate also deserve to be seen under the lense of this metaphysical realm.

Frankengirl wrote: "Heathcliff is a wonderful example of a more realistic macho hero..... Just consider if Heathcliff were written today! No doubt on Valentines’ Day or New Year’s Eve, Healthcliff would suddenly regret his Heathcliffian manners and transform into a suave seducer or a truly sensitive guy and bring Cathy flowers or a box of chocolates and then, without any remorse, they would run off adulterously together, because true love (or lust) must not be denied a Happy Ending!"

hmm..
I am of the opinion that "happiness" can have many defintions. It depends on how one defines existence. Merely living in a chaotic world does not consitute happiness. One just has to believe. Heathcliff and Catherine believed in a world beyond death. A world beyond conventional life. Their happy ending resulted from the conventional "death" of both of them. I think that modern readers might tend to dismiss this as childish fantasy or utter nonsense. Heathcliff will never be a man who brings chocolates on Valentine's day. His goodness is a result of vice. Without the vice, Heathcliff will not exist.


The Poodle's Friend wrote: "It must be terrible to wake up one day and realize that the abusive boyfriend Heathcliff du jour will never be redeemed but remain an abusive jerk. What a horrifying wake up call that must be."

I think it depends on what one means by the term "jerk" (refer Frankengirl's post on the meaning of words). And the same for redemption.
Like Hamlet says in his famous soliloquy, sometimes the world one inhabits is too chaotic and disheartning in order to justify existance. In response, Emily Bronte offers a possiblity of coping with such a cruel world. Her theory is lies in total submission to Imagination and the Unconventional. She forces us to question the meaning of happiness, the meaning of spiritual union, the meaning of virtue, and the truth in religion.

Hamlet says (Act I, Scene II):
"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
"

Just as he questions the meaning of existance, Bronte goes one step further in trying to answer his question. Heathcliff, as Charlotte said in the Preface to Wuthering Heights, is a fortress of testimony to our inner struggles, including the struggle to define life, and as a result, the meanings of good and evil.

3/24/2006 12:47 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

MysticGypsy – Thanks for your insightful commentary!

Please correct me if I’m wrong (and while I’m gone, if you wish!), but after a very quick read, I would argue that your wonderful analysis of Heathcliff and his romance with Cathy ultimately supports the overall deliberation here that “Paperback Romance” doesn’t offer us any serious ambiguity or complexity of character the way Emily Bronte has done in Wuthering Heights.

As you present to us, what constitutes “Redemption” and a “Happy Ending” in WU is very complex and unconventional, and as Panacea, TPF & the Admiral have noted Heathcliff and such classics as WH have such layers and depth to them that we can all read the heroes/heroines in various shades and lights and come to differing “conclusions.” In comparison, a contemporary Romance Genre novel will often dictate how we are “supposed” to feel on every page. They usually do not lend themselves to extensive discussion! - ;)

Okay, got to go - sorry I can’t respond to your comment more meaningfully!

Please feel free to continue to debate sweetly without me! I should be back by Tuesday (but Wolfboy will check in occasionally to scare off any spammers, hehe!)

Have a great weekend everyone! - :)

3/24/2006 7:51 AM  
Blogger JLB wrote...

Well, I hope I don't totally throw the conversation coming in so late, but your post really hit home for me just now and I thought I’d toss in my two cents.

First off: I have so totally been in your shoes with the parched-mouth-can’t-think-of-anything-else situation! (Actually, to give you a little too much information, it’s usually that I need to pee and I’m trying desperately to make it through a meeting and still hear what’s being said).

Anyways, on the subject of writing, your post was particularly pertinent to a recent experience of mine. I’m a young, as-yet-unpublished writer. I only just began submitting my material to various journals a little over year ago. Thus far all I’ve really garnered is a healthy stack of rejection letters, but that’s ok!

I haven’t been discouraged or disheartened by a single note of “sorry, not what we’re looking for,” ...until last week. I recently resubmitted a short story to a literary journal incorporating the editor’s suggestions for revisions, only to be sent a new set of revision suggestions (some of which almost seem to contradict the original recommendations). Now I want to be willing to compromise, and I try to stay open-minded... but somehow I'm having a hard time stomaching the editor’s disagreements with the substance and logic of my story. (Hey, if it didn't mean something important to me, I wouldn't have written it that way, right?)

It’s a good experience for me, because this is just one, little, short story… and I hope that in my career, I will have many more opportunities to try and strike the right balance between my ideas, and those of my editors. Still, at times I wonder if I won’t find myself simply sticking with youthful and defiant, and settling for, “Well, if you don’t like, you don’t have the publish it! Humph!” :)

3/25/2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger Mercy wrote...

awwwwwwesome post FG!!!! *

*(In moments of laziness, multiple wwwws and exclamation points must suffice to get the sentiment across, and are pound for pound equal in meaning and intent to phrases such as "profoundly eloquent and current" or "supremely satirical and diverting".)

3/26/2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger Sara wrote...

Guess it would depend on the sport. Such as, I played tennis and mostly singles so I wasn't that much of a team player.

3/27/2006 1:51 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hey, JLB! – Thanks for sharing your story.

“I'm having a hard time stomaching the editor’s disagreements with the substance and logic of my story.”

I know your pain - ;) We would like to believe editors desire above all to help us prepare our writing for the world, and while there are many generous and supportive editors out there, we cannot forget that they are ultimately representing an org. with a particular agenda and audience.

The tricky part—as you’re experiencing—is determining whether an editor is editing “your story” or revising it into “their story.” You want to garner publishing credits, but at the same time, you want to be able to recognize your own work and be proud of it. So, really, you say it perfectly when you write about striking “the right balance” between your ideas and those of the editors.

“Well, if you don’t like, you don’t have the publish it! Humph!” :)

Ha! It would be lovely to say this all the time! But I do think a few belly-aches are inevitable. Sorry! You may find yourself giving in “over here,” so you may triumph “over there.” You want to get past the doorway so you can start climbing the stairs!

btw, you have a really healthy attitude toward rejection letters. They shouldn’t be taken too seriously or personally.

3/28/2006 6:46 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Mercy! Thanks for the wwwws and the !!! I love your translation of their meaning. Very eloquent - :D

Welcome, Sara! – Yes, good point! Not all sports are team sports. (I really should have been creative. If only I had given my heroine a Frisbee to toss along her journey - or maybe a boomerang would have been fun, hehe!)

3/28/2006 6:48 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Dear Heathcliff Supporters & Detractors:

Since I’ve teased about Heathcliff being the “bad boyfriend” who cannot be redeemed, I want to link to MysticGypsy’s defense of him and my own response:

Defense of Heathcliff

MysticGypsy makes a compelling case for Heathcliff, but I'm still in doubt that I would want such obsessive devotion from a boyfriend, hehe - ;) Hey, leave my grave alone!

3/28/2006 10:35 AM  

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