Thursday, October 23, 2014


     When my older daughter was about six-years-old, my wife took her to a performance of a Shakespeare's  Much Ado About Nothing.  Concerned that my daughter was "getting it," my wife leaned over and explained certain plot points as they went by (very quietly, of course).  After a few times, my daughter stopped her and said "mom, I don't need to understand it to enjoy it."
     Does understanding become the foundational metric of enjoyment only as we get older? Is there a way a work of art can appeal more directly to our emotions and leave us delighted without us having to process it intellectually?  And, as we grow older, do we fight that phenomenon as we're experiencing it? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


     Working in education, you often hear about how traits like intelligence, good memory and being a good listener are all secondary to success.  The primary quality to achieve what you need to in life?  Perseverance, the ability to work at something and just keep working at it.
     Samuel Johnson, an 18th Century English poet, essayist critic and moralist, said "great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance."
     Newt Gingrich, 2012 candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination among many other things, said "perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did."
     Sometimes you just gotta shut up and work harder.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Good, in Fiction and in Life

     We're used to the good guy or gal's prescribed uses in fiction.  He/she's the one who does the right thing, who helps others, who interferes with nefarious plans.  Less frequent, less obvious, but more important, is Good's power to inspire.  We're always looking for characters to grow over the course of a narrative, to have a meaningful arc.  Good, as it happens, can be very effective in this regard, when it inspires.  That's something I tried to do in What We Become, with the character of Laura.  A more recent and widely consumed example would be the character of Chris Evans's Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  His calm, clear-eyed plea of resistance to a room full of government agents charged with carrying out a plan that could lead to the deaths of millions, is -- perhaps -- his most quietly heroic action in the movie.  His effect on the hard-bitten character of the Black Widow is yet more personal and more emotionally satisfying.
      We want Good to accomplish its mission, of course, to stop evil, to save lives.  But ultimately, we need Good to propagate itself, because that's how it changes lives in the long run and, in the aggregate, actually makes the world better.  You hear a lot about the question of how one person can make a difference.  Maybe this is part of the answer, in fiction and in life. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Authors United

          As most people reading the blog of an author probably know already, the website Amazon and the publisher Hachette are currently in a dispute that on the surface is about e-book pricing, but in fact speaks to the much larger matters of monopolies and censorship.  For a full explanation of this issue, just click the link a few lines above.  To see what a large group of authors have banded together to do, under the name of Authors United, have a look here.