May 122013
 
I sketched these two fellas using Paper by FiftyThree

I sketched these two fellas using Paper by FiftyThree

When I found out Roger Ebert passed away, I felt hollow and sad. Much like the way I felt when I found out that Ray Bradbury had died. He was my favorite short story writer. Most of that sadness has passed and I now feel inspired by the work they’ve both left behind.

Ray Bradbury was a brilliant writer. Most people would probably know him by his novel Fahrenheit 451, but I know him by his short story, “All Summer in a Day.” It’s the story of a girl named Margot who lives on Venus where it always rains and where the sun only comes out once every seven years. It is a wonderful short story I recommend checking out if you haven’t already read it. I read it for the first time when I was eight. It was one of the stories in the Great Books series given to me by my teacher. I read it over the summer and fell in love. I was most drawn to the human aspects and emotions of the story. “All Summer in a Day” changed the way I viewed story telling and writing by opening my mind to the possibility of constructing unhappy endings.

In the same respect, I found Roger Ebert to be a ridiculously talented writer and reviewer. I looked up to him in more ways than one. He went to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, was in an interracial marriage, and loved the city of Chicago. I can relate to all of these things. I went to U of I, am in an interracial marriage, and love the city of Chicago.

Ebert wrote a great piece about his love for his wife. Check it out here: Roger Loves Chaz. It’s a good read. I have yet to write such a beautiful piece about my husband, but that’s another post for another day.

I attended the Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign, Illinois with my husband one year. Roger Ebert showcased a brilliant documentary about amateur boxers. Afterwards there was a Q & A session with the director, which I found fascinating. My husband and I were talking about the movie while exiting the theater when I looked over and saw him walking with two gentlemen. To be honest, it caught me off guard. He was so close. I’d seen him on television so many times, so to see him in person was surreal. I wanted to talk to him, but I didn’t know what to say and by the time I did, he was gone.

My husband and I finally made our way outside and started to walk towards our car when I looked back and saw Ebert. He turned his head and looked directly at me like I was the only person on the street. I said to him, “That was awesome!” His reply? “It was, wasn’t it?” And I shook my head yes. He could’ve very well left me hanging and not answered at all, but he didn’t. It was like he actually cared. I will forever cherish that memory.

I actually thought I’d have the opportunity to discuss his take on writing one day (it’s good to hope), but nope. Now, his books will have to do.

What an amazing legacy Ray Bradbury and Roger Ebert left behind.

I wonder if anybody else will ever come close to their genius.

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Feb 062013
 

This past weekend I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild. It didn’t hit me until a day later, but the storyline reminded me an awful lot of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is about a father and daughter struggling to survive before and after a devastating hurricane in Louisiana. The Road is a story about a father and son traveling in a post-apocalyptic world looking for food and shelter and just plain trying to survive.

In Beasts, the story is about a father and his child, a daughter. In The Road, the story is about a father and his child, but in this case, it’s his son. In Beasts, the hurricane signifies the end of the world. In The Road, the father and son are living in a post-apocalyptic world. In Beasts, food is scarce. In The Road, food is also scarce and it is very much feast or famine. In Beasts, the father is a hard son-of-a-gun. In The Road, the father is a hard son-of-a-gun. In Beasts, the mother leaves her family. In The Road, the mother also leaves her family, but in a much different way. In Beasts, it’s important to the father that his daughter be as tough as nails and independent. In The Road, it is essential that the father teach his son how to survive and how to be independent. In Beasts, when the daughter gets emotional, the father gets angry. In The Road, when the son is sympathetic to a starving old man and takes action, the father gets angry. In Beasts, the father is sick and deteriorating. In The Road, the father is sick and deteriorating. The endings are virtually the same.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is based off of a one-act play called Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar. In it, the protagonist is a boy, which makes it even more like The Road. Check out this interview with Lucy Alibar: Interview. Juicy and Delicious was published in 2012.

There are two main differences between Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Road. One is the setting although a good argument can be made that both are apocalyptic. The other is why the authors came to write what they did. Cormac McCarthy said The Road was inspired by and written for his son. Lucy Alibar said that Juicy and delicious, the one-act play in which Beasts of the Southern Wild was based off of, was written because she was trying to deal with and process her father’s sickness. Although both writers were inspired by two vastly different relationships, the plotlines are similar.

The Road was published in 2006 and won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. To read more about it, please visit: http://www.pulitzer.org/works/2007-Fiction. Here is an interview that Oprah Winfrey did with McCarthy back in 2008 about his work as a writer and his book, The RoadInterview.

I would recommend seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild because it is wildly engaging and well done. That said, I would also recommend reading and watching The Road for the same reasons.

What are your thoughts?

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Aug 092012
 

Confession: I cried at the end of Sounder and Bridge to Terabithia. I also cried at the end of Steven King’s short story, “The Body,” in which the movie Stand by Me was based on. And the reason I cried at the end of that story was because Gordie’s character felt he had to mourn the death of his friend Chris in his car by himself because he didn’t think anybody would quite understand. And that kind of loneliness gets to me. And this is also the reason why I cried when I read George Orwell’s, Down and Out in Paris and London. When Orwell touched on the shame of being poor and the way he hid his poorness from others, it struck me hard. Most recently, I cried when I read a beautiful passage within Jamaica Kincaid’s book, Annie John.

Annie John was speaking about her father and how he was given to his grandmother when he was a child. He was so close to her that they slept in the same bed until adulthood. He woke up one morning to find that she had passed away. He was eighteen and alone. Even though he ended up with his own family, no amount of love they gave him would ever suffice for the loss of his grandmother’s love. Annie John never thought of how sad her father was until that moment and that sentiment made me cry like a baby. And you would have to understand a small part of my family’s past in order to get that.

My father’s mother died when he was seventeen. His father passed away when he was twenty-four. He was parentless by the time he was twenty-five. I never thought about what that could do to a person, let alone my dad until my late twenties. To this day, I can’t imagine that it wasn’t completely devastating for him. I know that’s how it would be for me. Even when I brought it up a few years ago, he quickly changed the subject. Could he still be mourning their deaths some thirty years later? I think so. As we all know, there is no time limit on pain. This is why I could empathize with the passage in Annie John.

The pain exhibited in all of the above mentioned works is so strong and relatable that it shook me to the core. Now that’s good writing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to read about a characters struggle or pain without feeling some sort of emotional connection to the writer. What do you all think? Which books do you feel an emotional connection to?

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Oct 112011
 

We’re having unseasonably warm weather in Chicago right now, which makes me think of this past summer and my time in Boston.

While in Boston my family and I took a day trip to Salem. Why Salem? Well, because of Nathaniel Hawthorne of course. It’s where The House of the Seven Gables is located and I just had to go. Turns out, it was pretty amazing!

Here’s what I remember from the tour:

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father died when he was just five years old. After his death, Hawthorne’s mother struggled to make ends meet and turned to her family for help.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a shy child often keeping to himself, and as he grew, so did his desire for writing. He always had a writer’s spirit.

He stayed holed-up in his room in this house and wrote. His mother and two sisters kept his writing secret as they knew how important it was to him. His mother believed in him so much that she would bring dinner up to his room so that he could continue to write without interruption. Even though he had some support around him, he never thought any of the work he produced was any good. Sound familiar?

Hawthorne’s uncle pressured him to go to college and he did go, but he hid his desire to be a writer. Choosing to be a writer wasn’t necessarily received with open arms back then either.

But he continued on and wrote two very famous books in classic American literature – The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables among other things.

And that’s what I think it means to have a writer’s spirit. He always had the desire to write despite the odds against him. He could’ve quit at any time. Many people probably would’ve, but for whatever reason, he didn’t and I think that’s kind of remarkable. To me, he is a true writer’s writer.

If you’re ever in Salem and you’re interested in Hawthorne, I say visit The House of the Seven Gables and Hawthorne’s childhood home. You will not be disappointed.

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