August 21, 2007

It's cool to be old

I recently read Nora Ephron's book, I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, and kept thinking how cool she is.

The reader's knowledge of Ephron's age is built quietly. She seems to talk about her neck in the first story as if she is not one of the minions of old women that get turkey necks. She acts as if she's just writing about them, thus drawing in a younger crowd who doesn't want to hear the ramblings of an older woman. I am not one of those readers, by the way. In fact, when I did learn her age--from her first-hand accounts of years of hair removal--I began to admire her and even envy her years of experience she draws upon. Topics, from the shift in parenting techniques to purses and apartment ownership, take years to cultivate, and she recounts them with a confidence that only a woman with experience can muster.

Ephron says she's "sage and mellow," but I would definitely add "cool cat" to that mix. Her voice is developed and consistently rich. She's a great read. I wish I would have paced myself a little more, though. However, I've found that gorging on literary genius is the best of sins. But wishing you're old must be one of the worst. I wonder what Ephron would say.

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April 14, 2007

An Interjection, Sweet

There's a sugary line
Across your forehead
But I won't tell you about it
Until you're through.

I'd like to interrupt,
As I always do,
But I won't
Because you said I was inconsiderate
When I did.

You'd know something about that,
I guess.
These opinions,
Burst,
And then I have nothing left to say.

So you fill the space between.
Until I interrupt.
And you start,
All over again.

So that line of bagel jam
Will line your forehead crease.
And I will interrupt again--
To your distaste--
With another laugh
At you.

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December 2, 2006

A Soldier's Memory

There's a shadow on the dock and I think it's yours.
There's a whistle in the kitchen and I think it's yours.
There's a laugh at a party and I think it's mine,
Laughing at yours.

There's a cry down the hallway and I think it's your child's.
There's a ring from the phone and I think it's your mother's.
There's a torn letter in the mailbox and I think it's mine
Telling me about you.

There's a pillow with salty linens and I think it's mine.
There's a whisper in the dark and I think it's mine--
Missing yours.

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June 29, 2006

On waking

Real is lumpy, under feathers.
It awakens with a twist,
And wraps its victim in a hollow embrace,
Stabbing and striking without a sound.

Its partner is already at work.
The blanks Night sought to clear with a smooth palm,
Light refills with bright and wary answers.
The passion's gone, caged.

Possibility contracts when bedclothes turn.
When feet hit the floor--
Without wings as an option--
There's nothing to believe
Except in one dreaming,
On the other side.

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May 9, 2006

On Writing by the Baby Flytrap Killer

One moment the words on the page are alive and breathing. The moment I walk away from the computer screen, it seems as if my baby venus flytrap of a passage has died without consuming its first reader. Too early to consume solids and I abandoned it. My Person from Porlock isn't even tapping on my study door--he is laundry, sleep, books or some other such nonsense.

I've been writing, and it seems like each snippet I put down on paper seems to diminish after that first blush of inspiration. I think I'm going to set down goals for myself, like in classes. By Friday a short-short. By Tuesday a poem. I think I chose journalism so I could have those nasty little scratchings on my calendar. Deadline-oriented. And I fool myself into putting it off. Am I that entrenched in educational A-mongering culture?

I've also been thinking on--not writing-- a book. The final paper for Publications Workshop was a book proposal. I liked mine so much that I wanted to start my first chapter, but I walked away from it and haven't returned. Finals have gotten in the way, but it is something else, too. I hate to go crazy with the comparisons, but writing is like waking from a fantastic dream, walking around with it, and suddenly realizing that it was all in your head and you move on in your day, chastising yourself for your silly imaginings. However, five, ten, thirty years down the line, you remember what that dream was and hit yourself for not writing it down, living it out. I don't want to do that. My subconscious is speaking and I'm finally listening. But the voice screaming, "PAGES! PAGES!" has to be denied for the moment with a century of British authors consuming me with their aged, yet thriving flytraps of work.

How wonderful it must be to be in the Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume II!

Oh, to believe in the perpetuity of pages! To believe in assaulting readers to the point that your work is bound into a volume as heavy as a small child and distributed to college students for consumption, internalization and inevitably imitation in one form or another. How frivolous, how beauteous, how irritating and remarkable, this struggle.

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April 28, 2006

Humor. Funny. Ha. Ha.

My mom said she wanted to read something funny on my blog. I'm indulging her. She wants me to be the next David Sedaris. I'm just a poseur, but I sure have the family to do it...

He was lost, but the pick-ups were out. Up and down the crumbling roadway, the Good-years' and balding year-rounds flew. Wet children with mud up to their knees, and maybe even one still suckling, screamed: “Shawn!” from the unlined truck beds. The suckling child would have screamed something like "DAWWWWN" from the side of his mouth, of course... It was a group effort, after all.

In between screams, their mothers would tell the kids to hang on and sit still. We wouldn’t want another child’s brains possibly spewed in this godforsaken forest.

He was gone, that was for certain.

Drifter, quiet. Shawn was gone. It was almost a rhyme. Everyone said it in singsong unison, and it evolved into a round up and down the hills. "Shawn is gone! Shawn! Shawn is gone! Shawn! Shawn! Shawn is gone! Shawn! Shawn! Shawn is gone! Gone! Is Gone! Shawn! Shawn! Is Gone! Gone!"

On an almost 500 feet hillside, this is no easy feat. And with the rhyme echoing through laughing trees and rocks older than even my great grandpappy, something is bound to be lost.

“Shawn is dawn!” was even heard. To the ignorant passersby, it seemed as if some bizarre extended family pagan worship was taking place on the hillside. The Sermon on the Rampside. Today's message: "Shawn is Gone! We have to find him! Gone!"

That's right, Ranger Bob, we are a cult of cousin worshipers illegally collecting wild onions for eating and subsequent heinous breath.

And still the miscommunication waged on.

“We didn’t find him yet!” sounded like “We found him!” so everyone came down the hill and discovered he wasn’t found, and trudged back up for more searching, hating the boy because the annual hotdog fest was belated because he wanted to go exploring just a wee bit, a tad, a smidgen, too fu--in' far from the rest of us.

His mother was on the verge of hyperventilating. The tear well went dry two minutes ago and only red faces and matted eyelashes indicated her sincere agony as she paced behind a truck bed and supplied photos and information to the park ranger who looked like he imbibed too freely on the endangered mushrooms he grew behind the park office.

Both parents passed the “I can’t wait til I can get my hands on that kid” stage; the father a bit sooner than the mother. If they did find him, not in some ravine somewhere, his spleen splattered across last year’s leaves and his back broken from some fall from rock jumping, he will not be beaten after he exits the hospital. A minute sooner, though, and no matter a broken disk, the debonair eyepatch or a gimpy toe for the rest of his life, that boy’s backside would burn. Sixteen and disabled really didn't matter until everyone saw the hotdog ice was melting. Unlike the rubbery dogs, the search was growing cold.

"We downed him!" echoed down the hill. Dukes of Hazzard horns blasted from the pick-ups. ( No--no one in my family really has one of those, but wouldn't it be cool and effectual if we did at this moment?)

Not a scratch. Although some of us still wanted to get a whack at him, his parents covered him in a protective layer of uncondemned flesh. No, only the processed pig would be sacrificed in our rite.

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April 22, 2006

Goddess in the dust

Written after a weekend studying Women and Religion:

Goddess in the dust
I can’t feel you these days inside.
Only in the apples to come and the peach blossoms
The wet, dewy blossoms.

Sweet pinks.
Deep passions, kept secret in the cold--
Rainbow bubbles forced from the jar--
Take me to a place where men will take me.
Or will I take them?
Sway my hips and captivate him?
Lift my brow to his children,
As he moves me?

He will not do it openly, of course.
“You can do what you want.”
But you will take leave
No matter the dripping phrases to appease.

Leave the watercooler and pens
Smell the peach blossoms instead
On another spring day.
See the petals fall and tangle, wet,
In the little stranger’s feathery strands.

“Living this life is not so bad.
It’s almost perfect, except no one sees you Goddess,
There in the dust.”

We feel you everywhere when we listen.
Just listen, close our eyes
A whisper and a tingle,
See your pinks and yellows through the shade.
Smiles inch across our faces
Tilted toward the sky.

Snap open our eyes
You must!
And do not let him see us smile.

We’ve forgotten the stranger for a moment.
That darling creature in the blossoms.
We’ve forgotten everything except Her within.
There are names for that kind of thing.

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April 5, 2006

Funny, edgy read: "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot"

Every day I find myself laughing out loud at least once; on some days, however, that number can jump into the fifties.

Today, that laugh-out-loud moment was when I read a short story called "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" by Robert Olen Butler in my Writing Fiction book by Janet Burroway. So what is this excerpt that made the people in the lounge wonder if I'd lost my mind?

"That dangling thing over there with knots and strips of rawhide and a bell at the bottom needs a good thrashing a couple of times a day and I'm the bird to do it."

While the narrator is lighter than Kafka's Gregor Samsa, the premise of this story's protagonist is reminiscent of "The Metamorphosis." Don't be fooled, though. The story is not focused on the change into the creature, but rather the effects of the world around him because of his change and his powerlessness within it.

The narrator seems just as unreliable as the man-turned-bug. When the narrator describes his supposed "wife's" nose, for example, he says he doesn't quite remember it that way, so throughout the story the reader is really wondering if this is really his wife...if he is really a parrot...if he is a stalker of some kind...

The flying images and the conflict of freedom that birds always imply are one element that seem cliched. I like the ruffling of the feathers images that Butler offers because it implies the pain and pleasure of this "husband" who is seeing his wife again, but going through man after man, and cannot express what is on his heart. Instead, in his current state of parrotness, he mimicks the simple words of others. Compelling stuff.

I caught myself wondering, How many times have I also felt things that could not be expressed, things that I know I should have said and didn't? Instead, I usually fill the quiet space with parrot chatter and peeps that don't really add to the communication at all, but inhibit it by not facing the issues that really lie at the root. Don't we all do this?

The jealousy in this narrator is not toward humanity, but in the side of him that says "no" because of extreme jealousy, hatred, fear and loneliness. And I don't think this is the avian element speaking.

A great read.

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March 26, 2006

Lacking toil

In short, I am too easy on my characters. I want them to succeed. I want them to live happily ever after. I begin to love the characters I create and do not want to heap incredible odds against them. Writing short stories seems to turn me into a devil of sorts, always plotting against my own creations. It's an indirect sort of masochism, I'm finding.

I'm not surprised when I receive critiques of my work. "Too few bad things." "Pump up the conflict." "Kill someone." These are all common feedback phrases I've received this semester on my fiction.

I guess reaching into that twisted part of me has been kind of scary. I've never contemplated so much death, destruction and twisted circumstances of fate/luck/evil than I have this semester. Sometimes, when I discover something truly sinister that I could perhaps write, I push it aside. I think this is mostly because I'm still not that comfortable with my persona as a fiction writer. I'm afraid that if I describe a murder it would end up sounding like a Tiny Toons episode or if someone would read this, I think to myself, could I be construed as a suspect to a murder like on CSI? Both disconcerting possibilities.

However, that's really limiting my twistedness. I don't think just about murder; I think about mistaken identities, torture, foiled love affairs and even an occasional animal cruelty situation. I think the conflict is in my head and I'm still too nervous to put it to paper. It's like something gets caught.

But maybe this is kind of a good thing. A simple conflict can be beefed up with more twists, but a melodrama is harder to tone down because the set of events is already in place and pretty tangled.

Something to ponder as I face this week of critiques...

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 6:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 6, 2006

Between winter and hope

The Pentacostal people sing like bees these days. They don't turn their heads to spy their neighbor in the next pew. The lawn is a carpeted calico of last summer's baking scars. The conversation, now trapped to indoor activity, wanes, but still flows, unwillingly, from subject to subject, because old gray doilies still decorate the cold window panes. The glider in the back yard swings from time to time, like a grandmother rocking serenely, thinking of the glory days of light and green. She doesn't notice in her creaking reverie, that her jet dress is gray now, and the white stripes of her seat are soiled with sappy remains.

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January 9, 2006

On the pants journey

Young Adult Reading. What do those three words spark in my mind? I envision crusty paperbacks of some superficial series, which involve some kind of mystery that Encyclopedia Brown would sneer at and a drawn-out sisterly relationship that is not even realistic for the age group.

So what am I currently reading? The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Sounds hypocritical, eh? Not so much, as I was fortunate to find. I picked up the books after a stellar review by a library patron. What did I have to lose--ten minutes? I could take the risk.

I guess you could call me literary prejudiced. I read lots of children's literature. Sometimes I help with Story Hour at the library. I am an avid Avi, Porter fan, wild Maurice Sendak and profound Chris Van Allsburg fan, but the Young Adult Reading section I subconsciously shut off from my reading selections.

When literature hit the teens and I did as well, I tended to shy away from it. I guess I've been too conditioned by the girls in cropped tops returning Babysitters' Club books and the angst that immediately hits the reader on the first page. I give a book ten pages; if it doesn't deliver some kind of hook, it hits the shelf again. There are too many good books out there for me to waste my time on confusing flashbacks, overzealous attempts to be trendy and point-of-view that doesn't have character--just narration.

The Pants books by Ann Brashares, however, is the antithesis of all things bad in teen lit. I hit the first ten pages...then fifty in a flash. It has wit and querkiness and distinct characters that Brashares effortlessly jumps into and out of throughout the books.

Though the initial series explanation of the pants origins is a bit Babysitters' Club-esque, the hook is there in the rules of the traveling pants. I especially enjoy Rule #5. ;-)

The pants also have a claim to magic, but the magic, as the reader learns, is in the interpretations of the girls--not in actual floating hairbrushes or anything.

It is "chicklit" to be sure, but there is an edge to it. From young love and lust to parents remarrying and the experience of travel and heartache and sadness, there is a resilience in these young women that I like to think is in me. I guess that is why I feel so connected.

Everything goes wrong, as it should, but it all comes together again--not without some scars--just like life. Though some of the resolutions are predictable, the characters and their reactions to trials are what keep me going, pressing on through the huge typeface pages. (I swear, publishers must think teens need big print for the feeling that they accomplished something.) Tibby, Bridget, Carmen, Lena and their families react realistically--not ideally, but that's life, right? Even if they don't react in the best ways, the reader garners a message from the experience, and particularly if the character "screws up".

Another great aspect of the Pants books, is the quotes prior to the chapter. They sometimes focus the chapter, and others, seem to just offer wisdom from multiple sources like Walt Whitman, Jack Handey, Groucho Marx, and the novels' characters, to further the story's action.

One of my favorites is by Michael Pritchard: "Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed."

I feel reminiscent, but still connected to the teen experience. So much growth and perspective to amass in such a short time. But, as I've learned, and as I sometimes want to say to the book, it doesn't end. The lessons get more difficult, but the rewards are just as sweet.

Brashares intimately illustrates, without flounces, growing up female (I daresay in an exclusively American? backdrop).

Bridget Vreeland, for example, a girl that lost her mother and since, lives a bit on the edge, retreats in the second novel by altering her appearance:

"But as she looked longer in this mirror, Bridget saw something different. She saw protection. she had a blanket of fat on her body. She had a coat of pigment on her hair. She had the cover of a lie if she wanted it. She didn't look like Bee Vreeland. Who said she had to be her?"

I'm mid-second book: The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, and I'm still loving it. I am hesitating about the recent movie, but I'm afraid my lovely book images will be dashed by cinema ineptitude. Maybe I'll just wait.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 6:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 2, 2006

Keeping Kipling

While perusing a new favorite poetry site, Wordpress Poetry, I stumbled upon "If" by Rudyard Kipling. Inspiring.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

Best night on the Hill...I'll have another!

Christmas on the Hill was great (I would say more but I've finals to prepare for).

I'd like to thank Karissa for the batteries so I could take these. :-) I am going to give you new ones FYI.

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Evan and I all glamorous.

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So pretty...Lori wanted to show us all her beautiful eye shadow!

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Timeless...Karissa and I were both wearing era-inspired gowns.

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Close-up!

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Val is all smiles, and so am I. Yay for the parlors.

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What a lovely staff the Setonian has!

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September 30, 2005

Satire Friday

"A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of popish infants is at least three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us."--Jonathan Swift, 1729, from "A Modest Proposal"

When I read this the first time I approached this proposal as a serious thing (look at the serious format, for goodness sake), and wanted to smack Swift over the head, but upon reconsideration, I got the joke.

Can brunettes have blond moments, too? I know I do.

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August 23, 2005

Absent-minded

The window's open again.
I promised I wouldn't open it
Again, but I did.
And there's rain
On the floor
Soaking the carpet.

It's so easy to let the window open.
To forget it's open--
And let it
Ruin your expensive sound equipment,
And corrode your wooden sill.

Soon, it'll be cold again
And I won't forget it's open.
The window will be locked.
The window won't open for months.
So I'll pretend to enjoy it now, while it's open.
Corroding my sill and ruining my stereo.

I'll leave it open for now--and then it'll close
With a slam of final frustration.
No more rain!
But it'll open up again and maybe sunshine will come.
Not the rain that's taken out the pretty picture I thought
Was there.

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May 15, 2005

Exiting

I felt compelled to write some poetry.

Never knowing you, except for that blue bundle
You carried--pressed--not to fumble.
Blind from another pack,
On a bending back,
We watched--
Tirelessly, debauched.

"Just another young one
with a young son."
A snarled path that dandies prayed not tread
That the vacant old had already lead.

A laden tread you walk no longer.
Deciding no more, just not stronger.
We see--
But can't agree.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 1, 2005

Turning test

A premature heat
Runs through my limbs,
Urging me to bend.

The tickling of your
Green fingers
Inches over my hardened skin--
Through the layers.

We're turning,
together.
Cold and heated.
Independent and inseparable
Parts.

I wear you like a scarf on this last frosty evening.
Never fear the season;
I'll wear you still--
Through spring.

*Ivy hugs a tree.

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March 28, 2005

A student's muse sings

What you think is yours--
Is mine.
What distress?
It's not your own--
All mine.
Don't take credit for my disdain.
I should be on your works cited page.

I don't take vacations.
I listen to your rantings daily.
Of how You feel. How You endure.

The headaches, eye twitches
Are from my intermittent screams
In your head.
You're twisting a sonnet screw in my thumb.

Can you face--alone--the sting of syllabi,
The timed transactions of thought?
Never without me.

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February 25, 2005

Insert Rave Review Here

I am currently reading for my Islam couse, Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. I recommend it for anyone who has questions concerning Muslims, their culture (which is our own), and biases and their origins in current society toward Islam.

It is written from a non-Muslim perspective, so I was spared the inherent biases of one who prescribes to the Muslim life. Though it does slant a bit toward the Muslim side (the book is written by a religious studies professor, Carl W. Ernst, who specializes in Islam), but overall it is a great resource on the non-Muslim perspective.

I had to laugh, though. I thought I was reading Dr. Jerz when I read this section:

"In the culture of the Internet, religious advocacy websites, as a category, are closer to advertising websites than any other kind. One needs to ask questions about the purposes of such websites and about the identities of their authors in order to distinguish missionaries and partisans from neutral sources of information."

I continue to think critically about my sources. I try to remember that every source has its slant--it's inescapable--but it is my job to see how far that slant has skewed the image.

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December 29, 2004

With books: Lovely Bones

A little girl is raped and cut apart by her neighbor, then thrown into a sinkhole right outside of town. End of story, right? No. The story is told from her point of view in heaven, and that is just when the story begins.

To begin my book fest over break, I picked up the turquoise book that I have looked at longingly for the past few months, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It was promptly joined by a stack I now have waiting on my nightstand.

I was not disappointed in the least. Despite the many references to her death throughout the novel, which did get tiresome, I kept reading without care at the clock. The happenings of the murdered girl's family keep you reading, and it is not all sadness, but rather a depiction of the progression of mourning and the tale of their return to normalcy.

I don't really know how to categorize this novel. It is an odd assortment of fantasy and horror. I DO NOT read horror, and I could take this, probably because the assertion that she is in heaven kept me from falling into despair, and that the family kept seeing her.

The story could have ended several times (reminding me of LOTR: Return of the King), but all the ends that needed tying up were in due time.

Recommendations all around.

*****

And thus begins my season of reading and the illusive relaxation, tainted by school loans and overdue eye doctor appointments.

It's wonderful how friends you haven't seen since the (warm blessed) days of summer start leaving messages on the machine, and you actually have time to answer them, and even meet with them.

This year, though, I am learning that you really can't make promises to call or to dedicate a day a week to that friend because your life will go directly back to the way it was, the way you chose it to be, and they theirs. So, to cap off that depressing realization, I make an Epicurean note to enjoy my time with them to the fullest.

And also, not to let my mind fall into the decay of gluttonous rest. :-) My friends would tell me that this is probably the best thing for me, and I, even in my goal-setting, am starting to agree with them.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:59 PM | Comments (4)

November 21, 2004

Stifle a cheat: 50+ Word Fic

With her breast plastered against the steering wheel, her ears unfazed by the horn blaring behind her, she saw him in their new car with his new blond, smiling at her going the opposite direction. Her light was green. Yeah, she knew it, but nothing at that moment, not even the shame of the horn-happy yuppie, could make her foot move to the gas pedal. She closed her eyes, felt his hand linger on her shoulder, then gassed her car into his.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:22 AM | Comments (2)

November 19, 2004

Presenting the pages

Have you ever seen a painting that shows every facet of a scene--the detail meticulous in the presentation of every object in the setting? How about one that accentuates one area of the canvas, and not the rest, heightening that part of the painting?

Now try that concept to a piece of literature: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--the one with the meticulous documentation, in this case of issues such as slavery and morality, and "The Yellow Wallpaper" abstract in other areas--except one--feminism.

So that is the basic premise of my research paper for American Literature. The issues that I discuss are not the important part; it is that I want to restrict each work to that standard.

**Beyond this point, I may use language which may be deemed offensive. This language is not a reflection of my own beliefs, but rather a reflection of the works I discuss.**

The topics I discuss are: description, point-of-view, and dialogue of each work.

Description
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Slavery: Description of Jim: "Miss Watson would sell him south, sure. Well, he was right; he was most always right; he had an uncommon level head, for a nigger." --Typical of the era --Condescending--thinking the whites superior
  • Morality: Huck's Struggle: "People would call me a low down Abilitionist and despise me for keeping mum--but that don't make no difference." --Typical of the era --Huck's internal struggle: "not on principle or the wrongness of slavery in general, but...Jim's friendship" (Bollinger)

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Description of the room: "big, airy...the windows are barred"
  • Description of the wallpaper:
    At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be. I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.

    --Imprisoned woman of the era, encased behind the bars of marriage. (Davidson)
    --Traditionally and appropriately read in a social, particularly feminist, context (Suess).

Point-of-View
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and "The Yellow Wallpaper"--both written in first-person

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • Slavery: "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger--but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither."
    --Condescension in association with Jim. White superiority displayed in the viewpoint expressed.
    --American view at the time
  • Morality: Would have been "moral," according to society's standards for Huck to turn in Jim, but instead he decides that the real moral thing to do is to be Jim's friend--demonstrated after he is captured:
    "Then they come out and locked him up. I hoped they was going to say he could have one or two of the chains too off...I reckoned it war't best for me to mix in."

    --Jim is a "friend, protector, and surrogate parent" (Jackson).
    --Huck still keeps silent, even when the doctor refreshes the slavery morality: "I judged he must be a runaway nigger...the nigger might get away, and then I'd be to blame."

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Juxtaposition of her thoughts after her husband and brother's concerning her condition.
  • Stating opinion on "dead" paper, the helplessness "What is one to do?"
    --position of women--"the terror [they] continue to associate with their vulnerability in love and marriage" (Day quoted in Davidson).

Dialogue
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Slavery and Morality: Huck tricking Jim in fog:
    When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up en fine you back agin', all safe en soun', de tears come en I soun', de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss' yo' foot I's so thankful...En all you wuz thinking 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie."
    --Jim understands mentality of white southerners --Jim explaining the "real" morality is that this is wrong to do

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Dialogue between husband and wife: John says: "'You know the place is doing you good...and really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for a three months' rental.'" Then the narrator responds with: "'Then do let us go downstairs.'" Then he just takes her in his arms and calls her a little goose. UGH!
  • John is "[acting] as a policeman for, the constraining ideology of feminity" (Davidson).

Opposing Views
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Slavery most prevalent issue discussed, but not the only one:
    “If it were simply an anti-slavery novel, in the vein of many produced before the Civil War primarily by northeastern abolitionists, Huck and Jim could have just crossed the Mississippi, fled into the interior of Illinois, and gone directly to Canada (Jackson).
"The Yellow Wallpaper"
  • Feminism addressed primarily, however minute reference to class of the time: "It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer,” but the issue of feminism overshadows it, making it look as if this is the "normal life" of the bourgeois.
Conclusion
My conclusion, as usual, kind of stinks. I am prone to "mechanical wrap-up," and I don't really introduce an enlightening, last thought. Suggestions would be much appreciated.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 5:07 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004

Overview:
Girl Meets World Fall 2004

Though this semester has been a little sparse on the What's-going-on-in-Amanda's-life category, my academic blogs have been flourishing.

Maybe I can give a little insight on what I was doing in each of the entries. I know not everyone has read the works I write about, but I was working with my blogging style a lot this time, attempting to make things my readers probably have not read, a little clearer. My target audience is not just English majors at Seton Hill University. While some of my entries haven't been commented upon, I assume because people are either busy or intimidated by the texts discussed to leave a comment, I am happy to see that my readers are trying to understand.

And now for the wrap-up:

Highlights of the best academic reads on
Girl Meets World:
  • Robinson's obsession with alcohol was the inspiration for this blog. Focused around the one element of alcohol, this blog is a great example of how I start a research project. I begin with one element and draw as much as I can from it. If nothing is there, I don't start from zero, but rather, have a better idea of what the author is trying to convey. This entry, despite the limited topic, does have the potential to be much more; perhaps one day when I am slamming my head into a desk with writer's block, I will return to this entry and be inspired.
  • In this entry about The Girl of the Golden West, I discuss Belasco's parallel to Mercutio's death in Romeo and Juliet. Though I still think that I demean Shakespeare in making this comparison, I also think it is at least reasearchable that both are plays. Is this a method that many dramatists use? What are the origins of this method in drama? This blog, though a bit late for writing my research paper, does pose some decent questions that could be researched in the future.
  • I think I am most proud of this blog. While I had already read Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," I extrapolated on more than just the plot of the story like last time, and really analyzed a classmate's claims. Thanks to Puff for the compliment.
  • Drawing from my experiences with WCT, I tried to speculate about the absence of literary devices in Native American oral literature. This blog like many others this semester, has brought together histories of various groups, and was surprisingly applicable to these works.
  • In my entry about John Henry, I attempted to challenge Linda's claims. My comment on her blog got so long that I thought I really had something, making it into a blog of its own. With links to sources concerning this topic, I battled with technology versus humanity in American culture.
  • Isn't it funny? The two blogs that I work the hardest on: "The Yellow Wallpaper" and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn turn into my research paper. This blog I am sure, helped me in my search for a research topic. In this entry, I cited many incidents in the story, sort of asserting myself that I knew what the novel is all about, and that I could apply what I have learned. I also gathered opinions from my classmates and also highlighted some research, going into some depth about the novel's message. By the way...my research topic is on the how Gilman and Clemens portray their era of American society. More on that for Monday, November 22, 2004 when I present from my blog.


Highlights of the best Fall 2004 discussions on
Girl Meets World:

  • The John Henry blog continued the conversation between Linda and I about technology. Nabila also brought up some great questions about the meaning of the text.
  • Having read "The Yellow Wallpaper" twice I was ready for some discussion. Nabila, Karissa, Stephan and I all discussed together. I still don't know why Stephan doesn't like to be labeled a new critic, though. I think he has a problem with established literary authority. :-D
  • When discussing Native-American oral literature, Neha offered some suggested reading, and Stephan and I talked about the dialects of certain areas that we had talked about in class at that time.

Shall we move beyond my blog?
These are some of the best comments I have made on other blogs, mostly about literary works that I have been studying in American Literature 1800-1915.
  • On Linda's blog, I stirred up a bit o' trouble, opposing her views on the technological advancements of our age, as depicted in John Henry. The interaction eventually spilled over onto my entry on John Henry. In the absence of Crossman on the blogs, I am always looking for a combatant. Sadly, Linda didn't take the bait. :-)
  • On Fortune Cookie, I questioned a view in the entry, and was challenged to a researching duel by blogger, Puff. I think I taught him something about making uninformed assertions, though. :-) The best part about this discussion was that I was pushing another student to write something more than "this is what I think."
  • On Nabila's blog, I took up another viewpoint concerning "The Yellow Wallpaper": John's. Instead of taking the traditional view of the text, Nabila and I pursued John as a character, rather than just an entity of anti-feminism.
Out of the Blue
    Voting was a new experience for me. This was my way, as a blogger and journalist, to at least get some of my feelings out there for the online community to read. I think I sidestepped a lot of political phrasing in this blog, especially in the comments section where I gave reasons for my political silence. Thanks Curious, whoever you are, for giving me that platform!

So that's that. Hope you all enjoyed another scrapbooking session. Please come back soon, and blog safely. ;-)

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:49 PM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2004

Let's Get Mello--Go West

EL266.jpg
EL 266 designing the set for The Girl of the Golden West

Ah melodrama! The genre of too many exclamation points and excessive fainting fits.

I haven't read melodrama before. I have watched old movies, based on melodramatic principles before; you know, the ones with the guy with the black mustache tying a damsel to a railway line? Oh yeah, and the Whose Line? spoofs of melodrama. So really, the only impression I had of melodrama was interpretations by others.

How different things are when you experience them!! Sorry for the overuse of exclamations; they tend to be habit-forming.

In my critical reading of a work, I tend to write in the margins, usually connecting writers to one another. In one section, for example, I likened the story to Romeo and Juliet. This comparison is a little demeaning to Shakespeare's work (artistic and crowd-pleasing), but nevertheless applicable. Bear with me here, I tend to get a little connection-happy.

When Johnson is saying goodbye to The Girl in the final scene continually makes references to Johnson's death. "There's only one way out of Cloudy--and I'm going to take it," he says, and later, "In a few minutes, I shall be quite free." Finally he almost blurts it out: "You've brought me nearer Heaven." The undertones are unmistakable.

And now for the comparison. When Mercutio is dying, he downplays his wound as a scratch, denying the sword's effect with humor to spare Romeo for the moment, but still stating the facts through that humor. "No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door/ but 'tis enough, 'twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man."

I am not quite sure if the audience knows that Mercution is really dying, but I think they have the inclination that something is wrong. Just as in the The Girl of the Golden West, the audience knows more than the characters, at least for the moment. It just makes me want to scream on stage, in either play: "He's going to die!" Now that would be melodramatic. :-)

So now that I have Shakespeare rolling around in his Stratford grave, I think I will cease my prattling, and move on to other pursuits...

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:20 PM | Comments (2)

November 10, 2004

Robinson and the bottle

Robinson. Hmm. Haven't heard of him before.

I am so happy to be working with a new author that I haven't been exposed to in AP English from high school. In the past few weeks, I kept wishing that Seton Hill would take those credits to fulfill the requirement of this course. However, being exposed to new writers, such as Robinson and Belasco, I am starting to realize how imperative it is to take this course, and apply a higher level of research to them, which is not covered in an AP course.

Anyway, about Robinson. He has something going on with drinking. I wonder if he was an alcoholic. Hmm. Let's see. Well, I don't see any historical connection there to alcohol in his personal experience, but the article does not go into any detail about his life or the people in it, besides their names. His supposedly suicidal brother may have been an alcoholic, and the habit may have found its way into poetry, such as in Miniver Cheevy and Mr. Flood's Party.

The manner in which alcohol is portrayed in each of these poems, however, is striking. In Miniver Cheevy, for example, the title character is soothing his pain away from his realization that his life does not have the romance of knights or the "golden era" of chivalry. So what? you ask, Lots of people drown their sorrows with the bottle. The alcohol, however is mentioned on the very last line of the poem: "Miniver coughed, and called it fate,/And kept on drinking," indicating that his entire reverie may have been the product of his drunken stupor, rather than his real thoughts about life.

Isn't it true that sometimes people say and do things while they are intoxicated that they would not usually think or do? This last revelation sort of invalidates everything that the narrator had previously said.

But this is common in Robinson. Look at "The Mill." The only thing that reader concretely knows is that the miller said, "There are no millers any more.” The entire story could be made up in the miller's wife's head, as evidenced in Glorianna Locklear's research. (I will post a quote here, soon).

Also in Mr. Flood's Party, the issue of alcohol comes up again. Instead of the distant, almost afterthought of "Miniver Cheevy," this poem brings the fact to life--almost in a literal manner--as a child.

Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child
Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
He set the jug down slowly at his feet
With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
And only when assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, he paced away,
And with his hand extended paused again:

When considering the life of Robinson, I would not think it too farfetched, in my minimal knowledge of his life, that he could become an alcoholic, or through his works, perhaps live vicariously as an alcoholic.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:27 PM | Comments (1)

November 5, 2004

Watching the paper

Because I have read "The Yellow Wallpaper" once before, I wasn't that excited this time through. I mean papers, speeches, tests...blah, blah, blah.

This time, I listened to the soundtrack for perhaps a different interpretation. Though I usually hate various media interpretations on a work, I liked this one. The female narrator in the story played the part in a literal manner: a sufferer of something like Linda's understanding of post-partum depression. However, as Lori mentions the narrator could be trying to convince everyone that she is sick--a hypochrondriac view.

And that is what I must remind myself--this is an interpretation. The sparse details of actual fact in "The Yellow Wallpaper" give the work an air of ambiguity. I question if the room is even in an "ancestral hall," but rather a mental ward. As John S. Bak, quoted here, "explains that the mansion incorporates 'external instruments of restraint suggestive of a prison or a mental ward' (41)". With the narrator's baby, for example, the reader does not even have an indiction if he is real; instead, only passing comments, such as It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!
And yet I CANNOT be with him, it makes me so nervous" (3), of which the reader should not rely upon (the narrator's possible mental illness) for concrete facts are given.

In this, I must disagree with Michael's assertion that "[John is] undeserving of marriage, much less any relationship with women." John is, as Sichok states earlier in his blog, "we are presented with a male status norm, concurrent with the era." Yes, John is being a jerk in this story--from the interpretation of the narrator, a perhaps unreliable narrator, heightening everything to make her point. Was this Gilman's statement? Absolutely. Her life story depicts a direct association with the narrator.

Kudos to Mike for picking up the feminist view of "The Yellow Wallpaper." I would just take the narrator's statements about her surroundings with a grain of salt.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:40 PM | Comments (12)

October 31, 2004

What they lack in literary style...

In the wake of reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and philosophers, such as Aristotle and William James, who I find are rather verbose and figurative, the Native American writings of my American literature class are rather uninspiring in style. The plots of creation and how the whites impugned upon them--well everything, is great, but the style is simplistic, lacking the posh oratorical techniques of Socrates, of which I have become accustomed.

I will attribute these shortcomings to the fact that Native Americans were nomads, rather than safe thinkers walled up in Athens; the Native Americans were more concerned with finding the next herd than the best phrase. And understandably so.

In inundating students with texts with difficult diction and metaphorical passages, instructors think they are challenging the class. And in most cases they are, but I have read difficult texts and I can read them (with dictionary firmly in hand); what takes me off guard is a simplistically written text.

I read too much into it, attempting to grasp something that may not even be there; for example this description struck me: "that the old man rode a white-faced bay with white hind legs and the old woman rode a brown mare with a bay colt," making me think that the colors of the animals have some sort of importance, when the author probably just meant to stress that horses are an important part of Native American culture--so much so, that when one is approaching, one not only notices the man or woman, but also their steed.

Sorry, I just had an image of Shrek. "Did you hear that? She called me a noble steed."--Donkey cracks me up.

Now that I think about it though, Native Americans were most concerned with the stories--not the style. In oral literature, the style comes from the individual, rather than the work. Telling the stories, keeping all of them for future generations reminds me of the Hebrew writers in the Bible.

Just as the Hebrews entered Babylonian captivity, the Native Americans entered the captivity of the Europeans, and later American cultures. In keeping this oral tradition alive, the Native Americans kept their culture alive. However, the Native Americans made a mistake, that the Hebrews did not. The Hebrews wrote down everything, in addition to oral history. Now, as witnessed in some of these writings, such as "How the White Race Came to America and Why the Gaiwiio Became a Necessity," question marks accent the transcript of the oral history. Though in biblical texts some words are, to use a movie title, lost in translation, however, several languages, such as Greek, Latin, and English, have been applied to the texts for a better understanding of terms ambiguous when translated.

I am all about mixing and matching classes this semester. Hebrew Scriptures, Western Cultures and Traditions, Philosophy, and American Literature all rolled into one blog. Sheesh.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:25 AM | Comments (5)

October 30, 2004

Response to John Henry: Tech vs. Humanity

I just posted this comment concerning John Henry: Steel Driving Man on Linda's blog:

I think that the "necessary evils" you mention are not evil at all and that humanity is reaching a potential, through technology, far greater than our physical capabilities.

Can you compute calculus equations in seconds? Can you lift a building and transport it to someplace else? No--at least I can't.

While people are still trying to find a place amid all of the technology that is reigning in our time and society is changing because of these advancements, people are the same, just expressing themselves in a different way.

While we do have the things that maybe shouldn't be computerized (i.e. your checkout and gas up experiences) human physical capabilities are sometimes just not enough--that is why our reason--our minds are equipped with ideas that provide these advancements, which in most cases, do improve our standards of living. I mean, who really wants an outdoor toilet, or only communicate with friends once a month as the letter crosses the mountains? Not me. If those are my choices, give me the impersonal checkout any day.

The last little note about checkouts was from past experience. No one should have to be a cashier.

Anyway, about John Henry. While Henry does have the whole wonderful human spirit thing going on, I think he is missing the entire point. Technology is a gift of our minds. Reason is our defense mechanism in the absence of claws, fangs, or poisonous darts (idea from Aristotle). As he goes driving away with his hammer, he is looking stupider with each stroke. I am probably going to offend some with that statement, the whole union mentality, but we should seize technology and remember that something has to make it work--humans.

Something missing in humanity? I don't think so. As for all the hoopla about people not communicating in-person as much anymore, I say I would rather communicate less in person to a smaller group, than not communicate at all with friends and family far, far away.

That was for you, Grandma. :-D


Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:40 AM | Comments (8)

Feminism questioned: "The Devil's Dictionary"

In this EBSCO article, I finally found researched evidence of my belief that Mr. Bierce may have had some pent-up frustrations about women, spilling into his "Devil's Dictionary":

In "The Haunted Valley" a love relationship ends in death because of a woman's infidelity, a theme Bierce comes back to again and again. In his Devil's Dictionary, Bierce defines female as "one of the opposing, or unfair, sex" (Writings 238); he defines fidelity as "a virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed" (240). Infidelity seems to have touched Bierce's own life at several points. His wartime love affair with Bernie (Fatima) Wright appears to have ended with her turning her attentions to other men. For Bierce, even the "faintest suggestion of disloyalty from someone he loved was unbearable" (O'Connor 42). Wright made an impression on Bierce's life that seems to be beyond her importance as an individual. According to Richard O'Connor, she unknowingly "contributed . . . to some of the bitterest anti-feminist phrases ever written" (42). When Bierce was writing "The Haunted Valley," he was courting Mollie Day, his future wife. Was Bierce entertaining suspicions that Mollie would eventually turn her attention elsewhere as Wright had? We will probably never know, but it remains a fact that infidelity figures prominently in his first published piece of fiction written at the time of their courtship. In 1888, Bierce and Mollie separated; the next year Bierce published many of his Civil War stories that use the ravine symbol coupled with the infidelity theme. The most striking instance of this juxtaposition provides the basis for "The Affair at Coulter's Notch," published in October 1889. During the previous summer, Bierce's son, Day, was killed in a duel over his unfaithful fiancee (McWilliams 76-77). (from A HAUNTING MEMORY: AMBROSE BIERCE AND THE RAVINE OF THE DEAD , By: Conlogue, William, Studies in Short Fiction, 00393789, Winter91, Vol. 28, Issue 1)

Sorry I can't provide a link. EBSCO Host is the devil.

While the Conlogue's article does have some issues of doubt, the parallels in this paragraph alone are staggering.

During my presentation a while ago, the controversy was sparked that Bierce was trying to be an early feminist; however, as this demonstrates, he may just be poking fun at women in general for his enjoyment, rather than impelling a change in society.

I came to Bierce's writings literally, as McNab does, rather than the figurative manner that some in the class seemed to do. While I wasn't as extreme as she is: "I can't read much of Bierce's work: the book grows dusty on the shelf because it makes me depressed, and are there quite enough things in life to get a trans woman down without subjecting myself to pages of printed gloom," I did get angry with him for making women look so incredibly wenchy.

I mean, really, how can you spin some definitions, such as FEMALE, n.
One of the opposing, or unfair, sex, into a positive light, supposedly impelling change? However, I can see where one may be mislead in this assertion. In the woman definition, for example, "the woman is lithe and graceful in its movement, especially the American variety (felis pugnans), is omnivorous and can be taught not to talk,"
Bierce in a literal sense, bashes women, but if turned around, one can see that Bierce may be making a statement that women are being subjected by masters. By the number of the literal definitions, there are definitely more entries with hits on women, such as queen, and earlier in woman and maiden, that one may note the vision of feminity is not conveyed in the most shimmering form.



Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

Twain's Finn, and the adventures therein

Who names their kid Huckleberry? I really don't know. That, and a whole lot of racial views crossed my mind while cruising through the surprisingly, fast read of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, or should I say, the illusive, rather odd character, Samuel Clemens?

The one element of the story that did slow me down was the issue of Jim's "dialect." When I read the disclaimers on the first few pages, I couldn't help laughing:

In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit:...the shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guess-work; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.

Anyway, as Diana and Stephan said today, going back to figure out what Jim was saying was commonplace. I had a similar experience. Maybe I could get some kind of translation like I had for Shakespeare in high school. No, too boring, and constrained, and structured--don't get me started on English classes in high schools.

In Lit class today, we talked about the character of Jim and his "act" of playing the fool to keep on good terms with Huck. Through that companionship, Jim reaps many benefits: safety through travelling with a white boy, a sympathy vote in a 'chile', I mean child, and someone to keep him company. As for reading the dialect of Jim, I think Jim was putting some of it on to keep Tom believing that he actually was a "hick," that he really talked that way. Or maybe he really did speak that way--he was pretty consistent.

In this article a mention of Fishkin is made. Fishkin teaches Huck Finn and American Culture at Stanford (isn't that cool? :-D), asks "Was Huck black?" While the author of the article does offer some great points about the Fishkin argument:

In any case, for Fishkin to persuade us that Jimmy's talk in particular and BE in general is the main source of these features, she would need to compare Huck's talk not just with Jimmy's but with other oral storytellers speaking other dialects transcribed by other writers. Without such a comparison, we cannot judge how distinctively these features define a speaker as definitely African-American.

I cannot make up my mind because I have not read the original source, and Fishkin's books are a little out of my price-range right now. Besides, I console myself, I don't feel like filling out a form for Inter-Library loan. Maybe I will when I get into this more on my big-ol'-research extravaganza later this month.

In class we had this huge discussion about Huck and why he kept Jim around. We basically hit an impasse and said that Huck was either being nice for the sake of being nice, or he was completely selfish and wanted Jim around to play tricks, such as making Jim think the fog adventure, was a dream. I think that Huck does have a soul; unlike what some of the people said in class, I think Huck, knowing what it feels like to be constrained or hurt from the abuse of his father, does not tie up Jim.

Though the transition of Huck's character has not reached completion, the signs Huck shows: his remorse for leaving the robbers on the boat and his apology to Jim, are not of an unfeeling character, rather a naive, somewhat selfish young man trying to figure out his life, with all the angst that teenagers face today. Huck Finn has transcendent themes, that contrary to today's discussion in class, may be discerned without a history book.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:01 PM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2004

Devilish Definitions

I recall thinking last year while writing a research paper (I am not as naive now) that nothing could be as unbiased as a dictionary. According to my logic then, a definition is a definition and how you define that object is relatively the same from person to person. However, after lots of researching and hitting rather biased sites with definitions favoring their supported view, I quickly amended that conclusion. "The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce reminded me of the biases that can influence anything, even those works as supposedly unbiased as a dictionary.

What is this dictionary of the devil?
Background Information on "The Devil's Dictionary"
  • Began as a half-page column in the San Franciscio Wasp in 1881, weekly installments
  • Published the dictionary as The Cynic's Word Book in 1906, although the definitions only ran through half the alphabet, A-L.
  • In 1911 Bierce added the second half, M-Z, in Volume 7 of his Collected Works, this time completing the alphabet.

When I read "The Devil's Dictionary," I didn't read any background, going against my usual habit. Instead, I just read and derived my impressions from the text alone.

Impressions of the text
  • Satirical: The entire text is like something out of Family Guy, pointing out the shortcomings of society. Because I did not do research beforehand, I read over some entries two or three times, finally realizing that this is satire. The text slows one down, suprising the reader with bald statements, rather than euphemisms that dictionaries usually employ. (example: DD: "BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen." WordNet via dictionary.com: bore, n 1: a person who evokes boredom [syn: dullard])
  • Formal style: Throughout the text, a constant formal style is maintained to look dictionary-like. Lexicographer language is being mimicked.
  • Insertions of other writers to enhance the "credibility": While I did not know all of the quoted sources, the Cromwell quote struck me as odd. Cromwell was born before the American Revolution, so I thought, how could he have used the exact same phrasing as Jefferson? Or did Jefferson take from Cromwell? When I did a Google search for this quote, only Bierce came up, and, I concluded that, in his same satirical manner, he was using bogus quotes to lend credibility to his work. All in good fun, of course. However, I am not quite sure...what is your take on the cited quotations of Bierce?

As I read, I scribbled in the margins. In the process, I began grouping the definitions into

Categories

  • Politics: Bierce pokes fun at the politicians and government. Example: AGITATOR, n. A statesman who shakes the fruit trees of his neighbors--to dislodge the worms
  • Opposite sex relationships (usually in the "blissful" state of marriage): While I did notice Bierce criticizing men, I got the impression that women faced the majority of his abuse. Example: FEMALE, n. One of the opposing, or unfair, sex To most likely conteract this type of assumption, Bierce places two "opposite sex" definitions together in favor of women: BRIDE, n. a woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her. BRUTE, n. See HUSBAND.
  • Self: Bierce repeatedly notes the selfishness of human beings. Example:
    I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. in grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be WE, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary.
Proposed Purposes of the Dictionary (So What?):
  • To outrage his contemporaries, receiving the name "Fierce Bierce"
  • To inspire societal change. I found definite similarities between "The Devil's Dictionary," and Jonathan Swift's Irish cannibalistic classic, "A Modest Proposal". Both works, through extremist language and the satirical technique of hyperbole, influence the reader's perception of the subject and the narrator's perspective toward that subject; for example, when Bierce defines a Pigmy, he also describes a Caucasian with is a "Hogmie." Though this description the reader understands that Bierce thinks that Caucasians are piggish, and that one should also think this way because it is in such an "authoritative document," flagrantly described as a "useful work" against the "malevolent literary device[s]" of other dictionaries.

That is my take on Bierce's "The Devil's Dictionary." Feel free to add your responses to this blog; if you do blog on this subject, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a link here for all to read. Thanks :-D

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:48 PM | Comments (4)

October 10, 2004

Scrapbooking the blog: Girl Meets World Fall 2004

I blog...yeah, it's something I do. For a year now, I have been writing on this blog, carving out of Moveable Type bandwidth, an entity that is all mine (a bit melodramatic, but it does the trick). And now, my archives are getting pretty stacked; I can't find my best entries amid my ramblings about squirrels, my latest Gabes purchase, and/or event that has marked that day rather odd.

Don't misunderstand me, I love all of those things; they give my blog variety and homeyness that is Girl Meets World, but I am missing the element that is professional A. Cochran. I have added the "filed under" category on my blog recently, which has helped me accomplish some organization, but I thought, periodically, I would compile my blogs to show off my best work, perhaps I can even come back to this entry when I get my graduation portfolio together.

Check them out:

Covering the Classics
  • The Scarlet Letter entry is my example of New Criticism; though I did not use outside resources, I quoted several times from various passages and made conclusions based upon those details. In the comments field, Evan brought up the religious backgrounds of the period; what great insights for such a comment monger. :-)
  • In my entry about "Bartelby the Scrivener," I tried to make a classic work, which is usually a turn-off to my readers, interesting (believe me, my comment counts are almost non-existent on entries about literature). While all of my comments were from people that have some English background, I still got -something- which is more than I can say about last year's crop. Renee and I also discussed Moby Dick versus Bartelby in this entry, whereby Dr. Jerz quoted Parker.
  • One of my favorite entries is "The Bell Recitation" on the poetry slam. Not only documenting a memory, this entry also refers to our methods in conveying the work. This blog combines the elements of personal reflection: my reading experiences, and an analytical Poe interpretation.
  • As I have discovered from my entry on Poe's "The Raven," sometimes the best course is to make it known that you do not know. In this entry, I gave several views, going deeper than a I-feel-this-way style, and allowed my comments field do the talking. Trisha Wehrle and I interacted, as well as Sarah Elwood (in another entry) about this poem. Trisha and I discussed my thought on the narrator's sex, while Sarah and I discussed Poe's symbolism in relation to light and dark descriptions.
  • While my entry on "The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" does not have completely researched ideas, I took some time to find many perspectives and discover a little more about Bierce through several biographies. In writing this blog, I found an idea for my research paper, connecting "Owl Creek" with his life, and also got research help from my classmate, Linda.
  • Perhaps my favorite entry of this fall is on Emerson. Connecting knowledge from course to course is a valuable part of the liberal arts college experience; and in this entry, I brought together four of my classes in philosophical dialogue. Not only does this entry demonstrate that I can remember facts and people, but it also illustrates my capability in applying those principles to each other. In addition, a new word, "philosophomore" was coined. :-D
  • WOW! As I look at this list, it seems as if all of them are pertaining to what I have written for my literature class. So now you ask, "What about all the others, what is the best of the non-literary blogs?" I would have to respond: Bush Latrobe. Go ahead, type it into Google. This will be the first article to come up, and this is my reflection of the experience. Why include this blog? Well, I reflected on writing for an online news source, I used the online site of the Setonian for my credentials, and I demonstrate through my reflection, the many purposes of a blog: a scrapbook, a resume, and an informational resource.

While my blog will always be home, I have gone out--into the unknown--making friends and enemies.

Comments of Note

  • This comment on the sex of the narrator, previously mentioned in my other entries, sparked conversation on my blog between Trisha and I. We also talked about this subject in class. What a ruckus! Amanda mentions homosexuality, and the entire world falls to pieces. :0
  • While Sarah did not comment directly to mine on her blog about her artistic application of Poe in photography, she came to my blog to answer. What a great way to gain a reader base!
  • In response to Stephan Puff's presentation on Emerson and Thoreau, I commented a bit on each writer's style. Though I did not get any response (as of 10/10/04 @ 5:00), this comment demonstrates an attempt to draw others into discussion. In a similar manner, this one on Erin Manko's blog, her first comment on Emily Dickinson. I guess you can't get feedback all the time. :-(

So there they are--my best blogs and comments of the first half of the Fall 2004 semester. Maybe next time I will get pretty pictures and post them sporadically through the entries. A scrapbook is supposed to be a combination of both, right? Here's a prediction pic of me at the end of this week:

squidward.jpg
Happy Carpenter


Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:51 PM | Comments (7)

October 9, 2004

Please describe: "Occurrence"

In my experience, reading a biographies about writers are either boring or wonderfully colorful. I am swept away by the life that is Ambrose Bierce. My romanticism of him may conflict with my readers', but certain elements of his life are astounding. As a Civil War veteran, Bierce worked for a William Randolph Hearst muckraking newspaper: The Examiner, and was considered "America's first true cynic"--and the best part of his story--is that he just disappeared into Mexico, making the man into literary myth.

In the same way that his life has a mystical quality to it, so does his short story, "The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Description is my favorite thing to analyze in literary works. The first thing I ask is, "Too much, too little [description]?" Throughout this semester, I seem to have been eating Father Bear's porridge and sitting in Mama Bear's chair. With Bierce, however, this Goldilocks found Baby Bear's bed.

The descriptions Sarah calls "fishy" in her pursuit to pinpoint the imaginery shift in tone, I believe make the piece rich; the descriptions drive the entire story. In the descriptive switch, for example, between a dreamy, beautiful homecoming, "his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet" to the fatal, business proceeding of a hanging, "Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge," the story's climax and surprise ending hit the reader with a force that would not have been as forceful with one, singular descriptive tone. That dichotomy is what makes the surprise ending (that, for me, was ruined by this bio).

While looking through some book reviews, I stumbled upon this one about Maupassant and the American Short Story, suprisingly there was something about "Occurrence". According to the article:

"In 'Owl Creek,'...one need only read closely in the section in which Peyton first fans from the bridge (and, in reality, dies) to obtain all the information necessary to interpret the rest of the story correctly as an hallucination.

Allen is making that conclusion based on his knowledge of the ending. Kind of like a person watching The Village and saying that they knew all along what was going to happen. Arrogant Allen, saying "I read closely. I got the joke. Why didn't you?" Just for my credibility, I would not use this source AT ALL for a research paper. PDF files are just too annoying to link to on a blog.

Kudos to Linda on her five stages of death theory. I agree that Farquhar was probably experiencing each of these stages during the story. While the story is in third person perspective, the narration is limited to Farquhar's thoughts, thereby stringing the readers along for the ride through each stage. Expressed most explicitly in what Linda calls the Acceptance segment, the readers are pulled in: "'…recovered from a delirium…' and he sees his home,'…all bright and beautiful' His wife is standing to greet him and he thinks:' Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms.' Then, the reader must also accept, rather quickly, the ending.

...ending...

More Bierce to come. Speech on Monday!

If you have read this far, thanks, a lovely parting gift will be waiting backstage. :-D

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 7:16 PM | Comments (3)

October 6, 2004

Raven-ous

I used to watch Animaniacs. You know what I am talking about. The two brothers: Yakko and Wakko and their sister, Dot. "Helllllooo Nurse" and "ZORT!" If you don't know what I am talking about--read up.

Anyway, when I found out we were reading Poe's "The Raven", the immediate thing that popped into my mind was the Animaniac version and how ANNOYING Poe can become, especially in cartoon form.

Beyond the repetition of "nevermore" in "The Raven", I agree with Renee, I just don't get the symbolism of the poem. The raven--bird or statue above the chamber door? Not quite sure.

Then I ask, was that the intent of Poe, to keep his readers in the dark? Pun intended. :-) Probably. The reader gets just as lost as the narrator, strung along in the dark soliloquy.

Such sparse detail in what is actually going on between all the "nevermores" is offered. I wanted to bang my head up against something by the end of the poem. I like Ambrose Bierce better. While Bierce does not give everything, he does not leave the reader hanging either. What is it with me and puns this week? When the narrator mentions that the soldier was a "federal scout," for example, the reader knows something is up, and that Peyton is in trouble. Thanks Bierce for spelling it all out for me. Definite smileys for him. :-D :-) >;-)

While the ambiguous technique Poe employs here does create an overall dark and edgy mood; I despise things like this when quizzes come round, and I don't have a definite answer to refer back to. I know this is a terrible thing to say, but looking for objective answers while reading is a good critical thinking method.

While reading Poe, however, I kept asking myself, "WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?" This poem could be taken in many ways: the bird is not real, the man/woman narrating (you never do discover the gender--wouldn't that be something to study?!) is in a mental institution, the narrator is in the living room of their stately manse (as Zach believes), reflecting upon Lost Lenore. The possibilities are endless. One interpretation by Wikipedia, is that the bird is a figment of the narrator's imagination, "an uncomely real [hallucination], with real black feathers and a real croaking of the single word, 'Nevermore.'" While Wikipedia maintains a certain skepticism about the hallucination theory, the Online Companion to the Norton Anthology accepts the symbolism more readily:

"Poets frequently turn to birds as poetic voices of nature and symbols in their poems...Compare Poe's symbolic use of the raven with that in one of these poems, and think about why Romantic poets in particular are attracted to birds as symbols."

As for the style of the poem, Poe goes crazy over repetition once more--NEVERMORE! However, I must concede that the final lines of each stanza are constructed pretty well, especially at the beginning of the poem; later, though, it seems like Poe got tired of thinking up tricky lines and just started writing, "Quoth the Raven Nevermore". He was probably too busy writing "The Bells" and the "Tell Tale Heart" to notice his little lapse in style diversity.

I welcome comments. Poe eludes me; if someone thinks they have a better grasp than I--please educate me. I need your assistance. :-)

Update: 10/9/04 I haven't made up my mind yet about Poe, even with more research. His style, I have concluded with additional research, is meant to be discordant with reality and sanity. That, in essence, is the appeal of Poe.


Posted by Amanda Cochran at 7:15 PM | Comments (7)

October 5, 2004

She philosophs: Connexions and Emerson

Bombarded by ideas. Yes, that is how I would classify my scholastic experience this year. I am taking Hebrew Scriptures, Philosophy (the biggie), and Western Cultures and Traditions. In the midst of all these classes, I am attempting to differentiate who goes with what era and what they believe. Can someone say "stressful"?

"American Literature," I thought, "now that's a class I can get away from all that..." Foolish Amanda.

Bombarded by ideas. Yes, that is how I would classify my scholastic experience this year. I am taking Hebrew Scriptures, Philosophy (the biggie), and Western Cultures and Traditions. In the midst of all these classes, I am attempting to differentiate who goes with what era and what they believe. Can someone say "stressful"?

"American Literature," I thought, "now that's a class I can get away from all that..." Foolish Amanda.

Emerson. After looking at the sixteen pages and feeling like I just killed three rainforests, I set to work grudgingly. Why? I read Emerson a bit in AP History--that dark era of my high school experience marked by profuse paper cuts and bulging eyes from reading with toothpicks propping up lids.

In other words, I was not looking forward to another reading of Emerson. Sixteen pages! I don't have time for that :-D or so I thought.

So I dove right in, thinking that I should get through the pain quickly. Instead, I was proved wrong once again. I don't say that with distaste. I love being proved wrong, especially by myself.

Emerson is set apart from some of the philosophers I have read so far: Richard Rorty, William James, and John Hick, but strangely similar to Socrates and Marcus Aurelius. I apologize for crossing subjects and eras. I do it all the time in my head; it really works when you are studying to associate one philosopher to another.

Emerson in "Self Reliance", like Socrates in "The Apology", speaks about the supremacy of the self. Both Emerson and Socrates believe in a divine being, however; Emerson repeatedly alluding to biblical principles of "the Last Judgment" and the Almighty, while Socrates relates to the gods.

Ludicrous! I thought upon first glance. How can one put so much stock in themselves and still believe in something greater than that Self? Then I realized that that was what they are trying to express; the divine cannot be reached through a dogma or societal influence, but through internal reflection. Emerson, for example, explains,

I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. ON my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, --"But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the devil's child, I will live then from the devil."

Socrates has a similar experience in addressing the Greek assembly. "For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul."

Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor, also carried these values. "Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul;" he wrote in Meditations, "above all he who possesses resources in himself, which he need only contemplate to secure immediate ease of mind--the ease that is but another word for a well-ordered spirit."

So what? Here I sit with my three texts open on my desk and wonder...so what...

Emerson brings a vitality to these old ideas, bringing them to a modern culture. When he relates that "libraries overload the wit", for example, I can relate to that. When Socrates says that he goes about the forum all day long looking for young men to persuade, I am a bit distanced by the reference.

Emerson makes it close, keeping you reading. I can say that I read every page of that selection, and I enjoyed it too. In the future, when things calm down and I can sort through the philosophers that make sense to me, I know I will return to Emerson and find a depth there that I had not previously noticed.

The great works, I am learning, such as the Bible, you may return to again and again, picking up fragments and placing them in the puzzle of your mind, coming closer and closer with each reading to a better, fuller understanding of the writer.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 7:17 PM | Comments (6)

September 27, 2004

A Bell Recitation

Yes, I was a bell today. I was the low, "iron" bell in The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe. Diana was the alarum bell and Tiffany was the wedding bell.

To sum up our performance:
--I was loud.
--Tiffany was fast
--Diana was alarum.
--None of us moved. The "action-ventriloquist bells"

After we gave the presentation, I kept thinking that we should have swayed our hips (to look like bells, alluring possibly, but definitely bell-esque) when it was our turn to recite. Each of us read a part of the poem, and at the "bells, bells, bells" part, the current reader would finish together with the next reader on the last "bells" of the line. In other words, we overlapped by reading the same word together--a great transition. However, reading the poem is a feat in its self. The reason I couldn't get "into" the poem with hands and pendulous motions because I was holding tightly to the paper, assuring that I got every word right.

What many people do not know about me (and they now will) is that I had extreme difficulty in learning to read. I was in special reading groups and such when I was in grade school. Although it is a distant memory, I still fear reading in front of people. I can act, I can speak, but reciting things remains a trouble area for me. However, with "The Dickinson and Poe Retro Lit Cover Slam" (a bit wordy, don't you think? :-D), I challenged myself, especially reading with my other very English major pals.

I was a bit nervous when Dr. Jerz asked me what tintinnabulation meant, and I did a context search, and surprisingly, I wasn't too far off.

All in all, I think the "Feminist Collective" (as one such reviewee called us--you probably know who--I do), did a great job on "The Bells".

Congratulations to all the other people that read today. I thought for sure someone was going to break out in a Dickinson inspired "Yellow Rose of Texas", though.


Posted by Amanda Cochran at 7:45 PM | Comments (2)

September 14, 2004

Scarlet Fever

Having read The Scarlet Letter once in high school, I despised the idea of a rereading. However, with a kick in the pants I got reading and surprisingly, realized that I can read Hawthorne without pain.

I don't know if it has something to do with the concept of critical thinking while reading or that I have just matured, but it isn't a jab-yourself-in-the-eye-with-a-pen experience anymore.

To assuage the concept of rereading, I likened the style to that of Melville, which I had previously mentioned better than AP high school reading, as well. They each write with a flowery concept that belies the simple plot. The intracacies of their style may take from the reader's interpretation of the story, but that does not mean that the story's happenings are the end-all-be-all of the work.

In response to Sara, I disagree; there is much enthusiasm in the writing. When Chillingworth, the old man--Hester's disguised husband, moves in with her minister lover: Dimmesdale, he picks his heart for clues to his indiscretion. Hawthorne's narrator, in response to this sorry scene, says, "Alas, to judge from the gloom and terror in the depths of the poor minister's eyes, the battle was a sore one, and the victory any thing but secure!"

The exclamation point alone is enough to show enthusiasm, but even more the fervor behind the narrator's diction; "terror," "sorry," and "gloom," for example, denote a crystalline scene of extreme, impassioned pain.

As for the plot, don't watch the movie, folks. Made that mistake in high school. Though the scenery is great and the actors: Moore and Oldman shine as the star-crossed couple, the plot is anything but true to the novel's concept.

The real plot is the only one that really works for this Puritanical society. But more about that later...

Though I do like reading more classical literature with flowery descriptions and such, I also like dialogue. The Scarlet Letter is very sparing with this type of communication--instead the reader is to conjecture what is going on between the characters. This gets pretty old around chapter 6. However, this method probably lends itself to the quiet, strained atmosphere of the Puritan town and what is held within, namely Dimmesdale's daily internal torture.

That is perhaps what I want to see most--Dimmesdale's decline. I know it is morbid, but there is something about watching a tragic hero fall slowly that makes me want to read on.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:20 AM | Comments (4)

September 8, 2004

An Unassigned Reflection: Mr. Mel (ville)

Having read one page of Moby Dick and seeing the blessed tome fly unceremoniously to the floor two years ago, I swore off Melville forever.

However, with the assigned reading, which entitles myself to a forced reading of Mr. Mel (not to be confused with the other Mr. Mel), as I like to call him, I began to notice what an incredibly humorous fellow he was. Herman--so Munsters.

Bartelby, the Scrivner was the assigned text--and I know I am breaking one of my own rules by relating that this was assigned, but my most beloved readers know that I do not read this kind of stuff on my own, but obviously, as this blog demonstrates, I really did like this Melville creation.

What has happened to my writing style? I think he has rubbed off on me somehow.

Anyway, I should inform you that Bartelby is an employee at a law office that, when he does not wish to do something, says, "I would prefer not to."

The more astounding thing is that his employer does not fire him, but keeps him on, pitying him when he finds that he lives in the office and will not leave.

H'okay, so the plot is important, but the most attractive thing, as ironic as it seems, is the narrator. His voice, Melville's writing style. When the narrator mentions John Jacob Astor, for instance, I couldn't help laughing at his love of the name: John Jacob Astor: "I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion." I would do something like this. I love repeating sounds and gestures that I find appealing and incorporating them into my own speech and behavior. However, in this passage, the lawyer does sound a bit like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, repeating the name of his patron. Mr. John Jacob Astor--Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I see definite similar characteristics.

When the narrator arrogantly implies that his employees are like horses in the statement, "In fact, precisely as a reash, resitive horse is said to feel his oats, so Turkey felt his coat. It made him insolent." As much as I laughed at this, I also felt the underlying sense of his condescension.

Just one more, I promise. Melville's dialogue cracked me up. "'All beer,' cried Turkey; 'gentleness is effects of beer--Nippers and I dined together tod-day. you see how gentle I am, sir. Shall I go black his eyes?"

What a hoot. Maybe I will give Moby one more try. Whoops, wrong link.



Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:44 PM | Comments (7)

July 30, 2004

Bystander

At the wall
Shifting from heel to heel.
Shrinking to the back
Grounded in the greyed canvas.

A shape--
Form?
Daunted by light.

Shirking activity.
A course outline
Blackened for effect.

Superseded
until this long query
Seen slightly by one wary.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:55 PM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2004

The Glass Bottle

One round lip
and a rounded bottom,
Something more lies within.

Cast aside,
Almost cracking on impact.
She waits
Angled haphazardly on a stone.

She will not be undone,
Without the desperate pull of a lonely one.

Inside, Something
Unknown even to her,
Lies waiting for discovery.
Alone--a long tract for recovery.

Taken again in angry waves,
Shards sparkle in the shallows,
She cannot contain it longer.

The white unfurls,
Her inky secrets twirl.
Dancing in a fancy script.
Without even a pull!
Her dire debt paid in full.

*A quick try at poetry. Inspired by my Grandma Ulery's seascape painting that is hung above my computer desk.*

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:26 AM | Comments (4)

June 8, 2004

On sale

Yellow bulbs light what's "on sale". I can't see them now.

Standing on a small tile diamond, each one waits for one more customer. Smile, make conversation. We stand in a line like hookers on a street corner. On sale--take your pick.

Humming snippets from songs I don't know, waiting for my turn, I scan aisles seen countless times before. A familiar sight: a young mother spanks her child, looking from side to side, like a burgular, before she meets her hand with the naughty's blue bottom.

Another person. Another minute. I am too fast. Or too slow? They sigh when I pick up too many pennies. They smell. The outdoors, dust, black mold. We have to take it. Deodorant is on sale...

Discount meat. It leaks red on the counter. My fingers leave imprints in their dinner roast. I wonder if they notice? Probably not.

After work, another face, on the way to a party; just one more person. Do they know that when they leave, I stay?

I smell. Dirty green from money. Rotting meat and dark lettuce. Soap is on sale. Deodorant is on sale. Meat is on sale. Oranges are on sale. Turkey gizzards are on sale...Time is on sale. People are on sale: only $5.15 an hour. And more if you can pick up pennies.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:15 AM | Comments (3)

May 28, 2004

An Untitled Summer Poem
*you may recommend titles*

Though I feel like I am blogging out into nothingness. (Where has everyone gone?) I think a little summer poetry might do the trick to bring back silent readers. I would love to hear your feedback.

Leaping from that high ledge
waiting for our screams to hush in the bubbly fabric.
Oh! To breathe again.

Shore-sitting eating our peaches,
Sweet juice sluicing down our faces.
Sinking into summer's reaches.
Stretching into tiny places.

The lazy dreamers tap the porchlight
Others sit in warm silence--glowing.
Feeling their way through the dark.
"There you are." Finding, knowing.

Bleached whites blot out a golden stain
Atop the hill, we watch:
the green carpet sways
in soft strokes.

Sweetened melodies we cannot recognize.
A piece to simply harmonize.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:44 PM | Comments (9)

May 26, 2004

Spam haikus

Yes, you read that right. Spam haikus via Lisa.

My favorite:

clad in metal, proud
no mere salt-curing for you
you are not bacon

and who dares mock Spam?
you? you? you are not worthy
of one rich pink fleck

Grotesque pinkish mass
In a blue can on a shelf
Quivering alone

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 3:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

Requited

A bunch of balled-up lace
Sits on the sill
Waiting to be freed
By the next soft breeze.

A solitary fly inches closer to the flicker
warmed by the soft glow.
Too close.
Seared to wax,
Wings incinerating.

Peering into the inky spanse
For headlights
She waits,
All night and none.

No screen.
She inches farther out,
Closer and then--

Fly.
Until she touches it.
Blackened green.
Her nightgown is sodden with rouged dew.
Until she touches It.
Blaring light.

*A non-autobiographical poem. Don't worry about me.*

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:28 AM | Comments (7)

May 3, 2004

Callow cake

A siren waned in the distance. Wax covered the pink rosettes, icing dripped down, slipping the hues. A decorated corner was sweetened with drying crimson--sliced to imperfection.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:49 PM | Comments (6)

April 26, 2004

And all was quiet...

I think everyone is working on their research papers.

SHHHHHHHH!

Yep.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:58 PM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2004

Observation

Wit as displayed throughout the blogosphere has been spelled in several ways:

Wit--here on Girl Meets World
W;t on Sugarpacket
and the culmination of these W;it on The Road Leads On.

Are we all spelling disfunctional or is this a screw-up with the title as displayed on the cover of our books? I think the latter. Our "outside audiences" may not know what we are blogging about, however.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 5:30 PM | Comments (2)

April 22, 2004

Controlled laughter: On guard for wittiness

Over break, I picked up Emma Thompson's mug on the cover of a movie named Wit. After reading the back of the box, I didn't think I could take such a depressing subject: cancer, for anything, as cutely named as it is.

Then I remembered, we are reading that in class. You know, the really tiny book with the Pulitzer Prize label on the front. I put back the movie, knowing that, for me, watching the movie first is a bad idea--you always have the director's characters and sets in your mind, inhibited mentally.

I finished the play tonight. Very short and easy. However, I couldn't tell in many places where the wit was being employed. When I did laugh, I was careful; I mean Vivian, the protagonist, has metastatic ovarian cancer--dying and I am laughing amid her pain. I felt like slime when I broke a grin.

Though tragedies often have comedic relief, this function is usually delegated to one or two characters, such as the nurse in Romeo and Juliet or Touchstone in As You Like It. However, in Wit, she is the comedic relief; the laughter stems from her knowledge, her critical views of those working around her. I think I need to see the movie to get a better idea of the mannerisms. I tried to imagine the story, but as a reader who has not endured such a situation, I find myself lacking in this area.

When someone is in depression or has lost a loved one, I don't say, "I understand what you are going through." I think I feel the same way about this play. I don't have the experience. I have acted before, but I haven't played a dying role. If I were to take on a part such as this, I would perform many interviews to get a better indication of what their situation is like, trying to step in their shoes, watching and mimicking their actions. That is why I can't wait to see the film; the visual interpretation will help me discern the laughable parts.

Via Dictionary.com

wit
n 1: a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter [syn: humor, humour, witticism, wittiness]

or
wit
n.
The natural ability to perceive and understand; intelligence.
Keenness and quickness of perception or discernment; ingenuity. Often used in the plural: living by one's wits.

Wit, as an emotional/personality entity, is described in both ways. When the technician asks her name, for instance, and she says, "Lucy, Countess of Bedford," (Edson 17) the reader can laugh at her use of another, outlandish name, and that she knows they are not listening to her as a person, but rather as an elaborate science project.

I liked the ending because it gave her the power over death, which parallels Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" theme of death's transience. Vivian chose the DNR order, she was given morphine (poppie (Donne l. 11)) to ward off the pain, and finally took a "short sleepe [to wake] eternally," (Donne l. 13) "naked, and beautiful, reaching for the light--" (Edson 85).

Loved it. I didn't stop, except for a short 1/2 hour snooze, but I woke up and couldn't wait for the climax. I can't wait to watch it and read what my peers think. Consider this blog as a place for preliminary thoughts. However, I don't think any of my peers will be reading this, as busy as everyone is, but feel free to comment anyway.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 6:39 PM | Comments (8)

April 5, 2004

Manner Gate

Rust scratches
the pale.
The gate--a slow release--jerking.
The turning knob,
touched by too many,
ornate script worn away.
In and out.
Not worth the time...

Chips left on the white,
Rub them--
Still there.
Never gone completely.


Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:27 AM | Comments (6)

March 27, 2004

Death and Donne (Pun Intended)

"I have never been afraid of death." How I wish that statement were completely true. I have feared death in my life, but I found a new hope, knowing that death does not have the last word. Death has been an enemy of mine. In "Death be not proud, though some have called thee," by John Donne, however, (Bartleby for text), death is discussed as a persona, not to be feared but pitied in its transient, almost powerless existence.

Donne's poem reveals that death only has power in the moment one draws their last breath, not in life: "nor yet canst thou kill me" (l. 4), nor after: "And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die" (l. 14). Death, as viewed by Donne, is not to be the enemy, a common foe among many peoples; it is, by his interpretation, as natural as sleeping (l. 11-13).

Though death is usually a morbid subject, I caught myself smiling while reading these lines. Parallelling my own Christian beliefs, this work is a great comfort. Instead of Death being portrayed as a scythe-wielding darksome figure with Poe's raven perched on its shoulder, Death is viewed as an almost mortal creation, with a definite end. Personifed as a slave, Death answers to "Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men" (l. 9); this representation brings an almighty persona, one of humanity's most feared entities, down to our level. When the speaker states, "Die not, poore death", (l. 4) the reader sympathizes with this creation, which has one powerful moment in its lifespan. Similar to a football player with only golden memories of his victories, death has a moment of victory and then disappears, just as a former athlete may recede into gray at a dead-end job.

Donne's characterization of Death as an almost-mortal being dispells fear and gives the reader a hope that when the "One short sleepe [is] past, wee wake eternally" (l. 13). I enjoyed this poem's content very much, but Donne should really get a spellchecker.

*I did not want to taint my analysis with other's views until I was finished. I will probably add more later, but as of right now...this is entirely my own work.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004

Not outstanding, but better

Running through my cranium...books.

Though I cannot say I enjoyed The Diamond Age during the first hundred-or-so pages, I did tolerate the second leg of the reading relay with more interest and ease.

My first impression of this book was more like--"Oh, no. Jerz has gone and given us Star Trek with children." I kept it by my bedside and fell asleep to the nanotechnological descriptions of Stephenson's world. That was what I hated most, I think. The plot, a thing most writers are working at developing--concerned about--did not surface until the book finally reached its new little owner, Nell around page 95. Almost a hundred pages of endless blathering about a world I had difficulty understanding. AND I READ AUSTEN!! Me, as a reader who never witnesses the actual very visually inclined technology, felt lost. Couldn't he have put charts or diagrams somewhere?

Needless to say, I dreaded the second helping. After reading the next few pages, however, I began to notice an underlying humanity amid all of the futuristic world's machinations. Fascinating. The primer's lessons really brought this element of the book alive for me. A kind of irony really: in the middle of all these intrigues and double-agenting, a little girl (portrayed as a princess no less) is being told once-upon-a-time stories of Rabbit, Dinosaur, Duck, and Purple.

The most (excuse the overused term here) interesting elements of the second section of The Diamond Age lies in the indirectt mother-daughter relationship Miranda has with Nell. Turning the pages, I found this to be the incentive to continue. Will she finally meet Miranda? How will Nell react to her if they meet?

Funny how I don't really care about the male characters, except perhaps for Hackworth. His intrigues below the ocean's surface are tangents I have yet to completely understand.

Another outlier is how the story's veins will coalesce. I like to think that the Primer has something to do with the story, that it holds the key. Time to get back to it...another incentive!! Making happy out of bad. Yay!

I would not put this book up on my favorites shelf next to Pride and Prejudice. Never. With time, though, I may label this among my second-stringer literary works. After all, if I like the ending, I could just rip out the first hundred pages. :)

I am so destructive lately.

The Diamond Age has not bored me, however; in fact, I plan on investigating other works in the Science-Fictiony genre. Are all of them crappy the first hundred pages? Do they all have lengthy descriptions and random sexual sacrifices? Hmmm.

"Beam me up, Scottie."

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 5:26 PM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2004

Hillibilly Dicksunairy

Via Paige.

All you English majors or intelligent human beings (the few that you are): Here is what you don't want to do...that is unless you have an inclination to sound like Jeff Foxworthy, the Beverly Hillbillies, Huck Finn, southwestern PA or a certain state or group of states to the south.

Personal experience with hillbillydom:

"Can I have 3 pokes?" an elderly gentleman asked me at County Market.

In my confusion, I asked again. He said the same thing.

I thought, okay...people ask some weird things. I had no idea what he meant, so I took it literally.

Before I reached over the register to start jabbing him in the arm, I finally realized what he was talking about--brown paper bags. Apparently the poke is also a Hillbilly term here.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 3:06 PM | Comments (7)

March 8, 2004

A river (or stream) of consciousness

I want to write something profound. Something that goes beyond the research papers and exercises I write for class. I want to write a novel, a novella, a poem, something to bring me back.

What am I missing? Have I lost a part of myself that I will never get back?

The blinking cursor mocks me with its blinkiness. There it goes again. Stop it.

Is this what drives writers crazy?

Do we write things of the everyday to assuage the battles that live within? Why am I such an actress? Why can't I just be one thing--not the schitzo? This isn't me, not the Happy Amanda everyone knows.

Scroll up to the top of the page....I have written enough. There, there it is. My blog entry. Another. I wonder what my last one will be. Probably something about squirrels, definitely squirrels.

Now I am turning into Rainman. Thanks Bennett for the dark inspiration.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:57 PM | Comments (9)

February 23, 2004

Shrilling Red

With tingles, she heard the gravel crunching underfoot and nothing else. Time to ride away now, tuck in the heavy black accessory. His face was smeared with red. Good. She smiled, pulling out her lipstick and put on another smooth coat: lighter than the crimson that marred his temple.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:03 AM | Comments (3)

February 16, 2004

Into Hues

A turn at the rosey corner,
A swipe on the blue.

Not now;
Not in this place.

Brush--Slather the blotched red.
Heating the frame.

Not this minute.
Not this time.

Tint with yellow--light!
Please, wipe the gray.

No.
Not today.

"I lost my colors in the sandbox.
The pretty ones.
I have one left."

Never us.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 7:07 PM | Comments (2)

February 13, 2004

Final Product: A Boxed Affair

The entire short story...ending and all.

The pairs of footsteps stopped clacking the granite floor as the elevator button, tarnished yellow from too many pushes, lit.
With long gray hair in disarrayed braids, Grace let her cane thump faintly against the polished surface, heading toward the shadowed gold opening. Two people stood closely together left of the door.
Grace noticed the young lady first. A lady, maybe, but she played the part to Grace’s eyes well: the pink tweed was tailored to the best advantage of her slim form and her shoes matched the pink perfectly. Then Grace angled her gaze to the tall middle-aged fellow at the young lady’s side. With a neatly clipped beard and a prodigious comb-over of Men’s Grecian Formula, he insisted on touching the glossy lit button like a child caressing his favorite Aggie. Grace waited in silence, listening to the pair converse in the brusque tones of business.
“You see Mr. Fromwell, I have many plans that I would like to incorporate here. Fromwell & Fromwell needs someone to promote the image of wholesomeness in family justice this firm embodies,” the young woman gushed with a pink hue tinting her cheek.
“I think I am just the person you need,” she said with excessive conviction, leaning toward him, raising her eyes to his. “Just give me a chance. I’m sure I won’t let you down,” she whispered with a grin.
“Yes, well, we could talk this over for lunch. Are you free, Miss Faith?” a light baritone responded.
He stepped a bit closer and looked into Faith’s eyes.
“I don’t believe I have anything planned. I would love to go, Mr. Fromwell.”
“Call me Henry, please,” Fromwell said with a hesitant smile. “We could go to Georgiania’s over on Fifth…Have you ever been there before?”
“No—”
A muffled ding called from the rectangle, and the slow door opened the dam of briefcases, suits, and pumps—a rapid flow that left as quickly as it had come.
Clutching a purse as large as her head, Grace turned toward the elevator.
The couple was already inside. Fromwell took Faith’s hand and quickly pressed it to his lips, then returned it to the small space between their bodies. A conqueror’s smile slashed Faith’s porcelain features.
Grace shuffled toward the entrance, glancing down between the cracks, then to the couple, as she walked onto the elevator’s carpet.
Turned away, Grace stood in front of them, looking at the grimy yellow buttons. Mr. Fromwell leaned close to Grace’s shoulder and pushed the button for the first floor, dingier than the rest.
“Do you need a floor?” he asked with indulgence looking down at her unkempt gray hair.
“No, I am going down too,” Grace said, fiddling with the strap on her purse as the door closed.
Sighing softly, the young woman looked to the tiled gold ceiling. “What’s good at Georgiania’s Mr. Fromwell—Henry?” she quickly added with an alluring smile.
“Well, I usually have the—”
Stopped in mid-sentence, Mr. Fromwell looked at the numbers above the door; the lights were between one and two. The elevator drifted to a complete stop sluggishly.
“Damn, one more floor and we would have been out.”
Now at Grace’s side, Fromwell opened the emergency call box and held the receiver to his ear, waiting for an answer.
“Nothing,” he muttered. “Damn people. It looks like we’ll miss Georgiana’s today,” he said, a frown puckering his shiny forehead. “I suggest we all sit. We may be in here a while.”
Grace knelt with a grunt, holding onto the gold handles that circled the interior and sat with an audible thud in the buttoned corner of the car, her cane resting at her hip. Following suit, Faith splayed her manicured nails over her Henry’s forearm for support, and then softly placed herself on the carpet in the center. Finally Fromwell sat with legs outstretched, crossed at the ankles, looking toward Grace with a newfound awareness.
“Well, we might introduce ourselves. I am Henry Fromwell, and this is Faith Aster,” he said turning himself toward Faith.
Grace lifted her head from her purse and nodded.
“I’m Grace Gibson.”
“Are you any relation to the late Hugh Gibson, CEO of the GI Oil Company, Ms. Gibson?” Fromwell asked.
“Mrs. Gibson, Mr. Fromwell. I am the ex Mrs. Hugh Gibson. I came today to hear my ex-husband’s will.”
“You see,” she said raising her head higher, her green eyes shrewdly scanning them, “my husband had an affair with his secretary about ten years into our marriage. It took me eight more years to divorce him, but I did it.”
“I am very sorry,” Fromwell said in an overly sympathetic tone. “He was one of our best clients; my brother handled his case specifically. I am so sorry for your loss.”
“Well, yes I am too,” an edge rising in her voice.
Readjusting her leather purse handles, she said quietly, “And then I left his little mansion over on Camille Avenue. I was alone. No man. No money. That’s what it was like back then. Couples didn’t get divorced,” she said as if reciting from a rule book.
Shifting her girth on the carpet, she fixed her eyes on the door.
“My family, everyone that I loved, was gone—including him. I did love him.”
“His secretary,” Faith interrupted, combing her long blond strands through her fingers, her eyes fixed on the split ends. “That must have really hurt. Such a cliché.”
“Well honey, the movies got that cliché from people like us. He lived with her for fourteen years after we divorced, quite the ‘modern’ couple,” she said with an ironic smile, tilting her head back. “I was quite surprised to hear from his lawyer when he died last Tuesday.”
“What happened?” Faith said, leaning her elbow on her crossed knee, looking closely at Grace.
“You mean today?” Grace asked.
“Yes,” Faith responded flipping her hair back from her face.
Grace opened her mouth to speak when squealing cables sounded overhead.
“Looks like we’re getting out of here,” Fromwell said.
“Yes, it would appear so,” said Grace, gathering her skirts. Fromwell grabbed her arm, helping her rise from her sitting position. Grace fixed her eyes on his left hand.
“What a beautiful band, Mr. Fromwell. How long have you been married?” Grace asked, slinging her purse over a shoulder.
“Um…s-seventeen years, I believe.” Fromwell responded.
Faith looked at him unflinchingly.
“And you, Faith—was it? How about you?” Grace said, causing Faith to blink.
“No, I am not married,” she said with a blush.
The elevator began to move, and the light flicked to one and slowly opened.
“Did you receive anything in the will, Mrs. Gibson?” Mr. Fromwell said, allowing her to step out before him.
“Why yes,” she said walking slowly to the revolving door in the lobby, her cane thumping once more. “He gave me everything: the company, the stocks, the houses. But it doesn’t mean anything now.”
A lone tear welled up in her wrinkled eye and settled on her gray hair.
“He taped it all, you know,” Grace said, another tear escaping her left eye’s corner, “on one of those VCR things. He made it about a year ago… He said he’d loved me all of those years, regretted every moment we had apart. He was too ashamed, too old to try again…We both were.”
She stepped inside the revolving door compartment and quickened her deliberate step with the swinging pace of the door.
Grace waited outside the building on a rusting metal bench when Faith left alone, a frown marring her comely visage. Mr. Fromwell stepped out of the building, a cell phone to his ear. Grace watched him pass—listening—a small smile smoothing her wrinkled face.
“No, honey,” Grace heard on the wind, “I won’t be having lunch at Georgiana’s today.”

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 4:48 PM | Comments (6)

February 11, 2004

A'Calling

To heaven I shall ring one day, yes ring;
In cries and sobs of misery will sound
On my end, depair--strife lives here at home.
At call's end, I will live a-knowing soon
The sky is ever blue in that place--Grace.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:41 PM | Comments (1)

February 9, 2004

More of the story

Here's another chunk of the story. You may have to read through the intro again. Or if you haven't read it before ENJOY! *Understand this: this is a work in progress that does need critiques. Yell at me if you wish!

The pairs of steps stopped clacking the granite floor as the button, tarnished yellow from too many pushes, lit.
With long gray hair in disarrayed braids, Grace let her cane thump faintly against the polished surface.
Grace noticed the young lady first, for she knew she was a lady, with all that tailored pink tweed. Then she angled her gaze to the tall middle-aged fellow at the young lady’s side; with a neatly clipped beard and a prodigious comb-over of Men’s Grecian Formula, the man insisted on pressing the glossy lit button like a child caressing his favorite Aggie. Grace waited in silence, listening to the pair converse in the brusque tones of business.
“You see Mr. Fromwell, I have many plans that I would like to incorporate here at Fromwell & Fromwell,” the young woman gushed with a pink hue tinting her cheek, “I think I am just the person you need to promote this firm’s image of wholesomeness in family justice. Just give me a chance. I am sure I won’t let you down.”
“Yes, well, we could talk this over for lunch. Are you free, Miss Faith?” a light baritone responded.
He stepped a bit closer and looked into Faith’s eyes.
“I don’t believe I have anything planned. I would love to go, Mr. Fromwell.”
“Henry, please. We could go to Georgiania’s over on Fifth…Have you ever been there before?”
“No—”
A muffled ding called from the rectangle, and the slow door opened the dam of briefcases, suits, and pumps; a flow that left as quickly as it had come.
Clinging to a purse as large as her head, Grace slowly emerged from her concealed spot behind a great potted fern, pushing the boughs out of her eyes.
The couple was already inside the elevator. Standing side-by-side, Mr. Fromwell, held Faith’s hand to his chest for a moment and brought it to rest at his side, a smile slashing Faith’s porcelain features.
Grace shuffled toward the entrance, hesitating, looking down between the cracks, as she made the last pregnant steps onto the short, gray carpet.
Grace stood in front of them, looking at the grimy yellow buttons, as the Mr. Fromwell, leaned close to her shoulder and pushed the button for the first floor, dingier than the rest.
“Do you need a floor?” he asked with indulgence looking down at Grace’s long hair.
“No, I am going down too,” Grace said, fiddling with the strap on her purse as the door closed.
Sighing softly, the young woman looked to the tiled gold ceiling. “What’s good at Georgiania’s Mr. Fromwell—Henry?” she quickly added with an alluring smile.
“Well, I usually have the—”
Stopped in mid-sentence, Mr. Fromwell looked at the numbers above the door; the lights were between one and two. The elevator drifted to a complete stop sluggishly.
“Damn, one more floor and we would have been out.”
Now at Grace’s side, Fromwell opened the emergency call box and held the receiver to his ear, waiting for an answer.
“Nothing,” he muttered. “Damn people. It looks like we’ll miss Georgiana’s today,” a frown puckering his shiny forehead. “I suggest we all sit. We may be in here a while.”
Grace knelt with a grunt, holding onto the gold handles that circled the interior and sat with an audible thud in the buttoned corner of the car, her cane resting at her hip. Following suit, Faith splayed her manicured nails over her Henry’s forearm for support, and then softly placed herself on the carpet in the center. Finally Fromwell sat with legs outstretched, crossed at the ankles, looking toward Grace with a newfound awareness.
“Well, we might introduce ourselves. I am Henry Fromwell, and this is Faith Aster,” he said turning himself toward Faith.
Grace lifted her head from her purse and nodded.
“I’m Grace Gibson.”
“What brings you to Fromwell & Fromwell, Ms. Gibson?” Fromwell said, taking obvious interest at the mentioning of the newly-deceased billionaire’s name.
“Mrs. Gibson, Mr. Fromwell. I am the ex-Mrs. Gibson. I came today to hear my ex-husband’s will. You see,” she said raising her head higher, her green eyes shrewdly scanning them, “my husband found a woman in his office, his secretary. That was after ten years of marriage. It took me eight more years to divorce him, and all the while I knew it.”
“I am very sorry,” Fromwell said in an overly sympathetic tone.
“Well, yes I am too,” an edge rising in her voice.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 8:40 PM | Comments (1)

Vote on a Quote

"There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time."--Edmund, Mansfield Park

"Poetry is a celebration of emotional excess."--Cathy Helterbran, writing mentor

"In later years they change face, place, and maybe races, tactics, intensities and goals, but beneath those penetrable masks they wear forever the the stocking-capped faces of childhood."--Maya Angelou, writer.

Can you guess mine?

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 8:28 PM | Comments (4)

Compressing and other things

While writing my short story for Intro to Lit, I found that my wordiness is not the only crutch; the complex plot, the characters, and overall tone, I want to convey is enough to fill 25 pages. Three or four pages is going to be tough.

Commenting on Tiffany's blog has made me mindful of my own writing style. How paranoid I have become!!

With such a short piece, I find myself hacking away at the descriptions I love. And I must say, this is great for journalistic lead writing. Just get the story out there, I suppose, and embellish only if necessary in directing the plot forward.

The show v. tell monster once more rearing its ugly head, though I do think I have gotten better. I try to read my story aloud to catch any typos or messy language, telling language, such as "she felt cold." I now write: "shivering with fierceness, she turned to the heater and felt its rays of light sear her skin with warmth."

My sentences are always long. When I was an intern at my local paper, I wrote articles with semi-colons. IN ARTICLES!! A great big no-no. Though I have developed journalistically since then, I do tend to write in lengthy sentences for other writings. I have been attempting to write in simple sentences more often, and punctuate without so much drama or passion. Imagine that: passionate punctuation.

With my story concocted, I find the greatest challenge in revising. When I go back, taking out the unnecessary words. Both Strunk & White and this short story group mention this as an essential. I have deleted some of my favorite sections in the name of this rule, but there is some consolation in knowing that you can use them in future pieces.

Though writing an original piece of fiction is a challenge, because I take from many influences, I think this story documents my changing writing style; I am not so inhibited by who is reading it; I focus on what message/theme I am portraying.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 6:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 7, 2004

Yella Rose

Did anyone know that all of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to "The Yellow Rose of Texas"? (Thanks Dr. Jerz)

hehe

All together now!!!

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 5:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 5, 2004

An Elevated Ride

A Little Diddy for all to enjoy:

Pairs of steps clacked the granite floor, as the button lit up in a tarnished yellow from too many pushes. With long gray hair in disarrayed braids, Grace let her cane thump faintly against the polished surface. Standing behind them, Grace noticed the young lady first, for she knew she was a lady, with all that tailored tweed. Then she angled her gaze to the tall middle-aged fellow at the young lady’s side; with a neatly clipped beard and a prodigious comb-over, the man insisted on pressing the glossy lit button like a child caressing his favorite Aggie. Grace waited in silence, listening to the pair converse in the brusque tones of business.
“You see Mr. Fromwell, I have many plans that I would like to incorporate here at Fromwell & Fromwell. I think I would be wonderful in the advertising campaign. Just give me chance. I’m sure I won’t let you down.”
“Yes, well, we could talk this over for lunch, are you free, Miss Grace?” a light baritone responded.
“Well, ah-ah No. I don’t believe I have anything planned.”
“We could go to Georgiana’s over on Fifth…Have you ever been there before?”
“No--”
A muffled ding called from the rectangle, and the slow door opened the dam of briefcases, suits, and pumps; a flow that left as quickly as it had come.
Clinging to a purse as large as her head, Grace slowly emerged from her concealed spot behind a great potted fern, pushing the branches out of her eyes. The couple was already inside the metal box. She shuffled toward the entrance, hesitating, looking down between the cracks as she made the last pregnant steps onto the short, gray carpet.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:40 PM | Comments (4)

February 1, 2004

Another Load

A Clothesfall down the steps.
Ride those sleeves and socks.
The fast way.
Don't let the little ones get away.

A groan and a grunt,
And then the monster rises.
Your head is eaten.
Drop him down.
Cut apart--
The white intestines, blood, and colorful scales.

Clickkkkk.
Add white with a flick.
Wait on the wooshing
Smile at the buzzer.

Add a softy.
And then more clicks.
Long heated moments.

For best results,
Promptly remove.
And fold.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:20 PM | Comments (11)

January 29, 2004

I miss

I miss the dew that sticks between my toes on warm evenings, the sweet, rotten smell of peaches in my backyard, the sound of dogs howling through my billowing lacy curtains. I miss smelling the grass, flowers, and even allergy-inciting dandelions that brighten the yard like small suns. I miss the feel of cool water on my overheated skin, the screaming songs echoing through the evening air as I drive my car too fast in the darkened enchantment.

I miss feeling most of all. The winter numbs me from finger to foot. I cannot feel, except for those fleeting moments I blush or fight with a worthy opponent. So much is kept inside now, I hurt with the weight of it. But knowing that my season will come once more, I do not fear. The days lengthen and I will know the light. But I miss it still.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:58 PM | Comments (8)

January 28, 2004

First Stab: Fifty-Word Fiction

I haven't done this before, so please be kind. Fifty-word fiction seems like something a journalist should be really good at...I hope I will be with a little practice. Or a lot. I have been accused of being acutely verbose :-( :-)

Black or was it blank? Is this what blind people see? Damn. Stupid bed. That's gonna hurt tomorrow. Just a little bit farther to the door...Eyes adjusted now, and then a shadow--a sink. A turn, and too many gulps. Too much water. To bed now, a chaste drunk.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 8:23 PM | Comments (9)

January 22, 2004

For a sun dress

Without a coat.
Kiss my skin, shiny friend.

Float around my knees,
and let the seams disappear.

Smile on my open back.
The white there.

And I will be red,
Once more.

Ouch.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 6:15 PM | Comments (7)

January 17, 2004

A Yellowed Paper

Television, reading, sipping a hot brew, and even sleeping, get old. The only thing left is to obsess about the crumb on the floor, the chipped paint, and the wallpaper. The number of pink stripes. The blue flowers in my wallpaper. Thank God it is not ugly. I have spent too much time in bed. "The Yellow Wallpaper" woman's situation is one that I have discovered in my own sicknesses (I am not sick now, nor have I ever been for long...how much worse her condition must have been).

Though I have not reached the depths of depression as post-partum mommy in the short story, I can commiserate with her state. Sometimes my mind wanders and I don't really know if it is I or someone else speaking. I know this probably isn't a kosher thing to talk about on my blog, but I truly understand the woman's progress. Something happens, however, that enables most people to let it go.


She did not. She grabbed at IT with her teeth and hands--and ripped. Was "IT" the paper or sanity? I cannot differentiate the two. Neither could she.

Though many interpretations of the ending exist, I take the story at face value. I do not want to say it is the only answer, because, as most of us freshmen learned at the reading discussion of The Secret Life of Bees, picking one answer is not the best way to promote thought (Thank you Puff, was that you--for that wonderful lesson).

She was tearing down the paper, and her husband, awestruck and revolted, faints. No one dies, though a hanging is implied through metaphors, such as, " But I am securely fastened now by my well hidden rope" (15). Then I think, she may die. As Karissa said, however, "Short stories are to have life before and after the story ends." But then I thought, couldn't she die and the story go on with her husband and other minor characters as survivors?

Hmm. As one can notice from my changed position four times in the last paragraph, I have not made up my mind yet.

Whether she dies really does not matter. At least that is what I keep telling myself (maybe this is a test of our own sanity as readers--the question of character mortality in a story that could go either way is enough to spark a flame of debate and inner conflict, comparable to a fungal paper).

The IMPORTANT thing to remember is that this story not only documents a slow slip into madness, but that in some measure, we all have the possiblility of reaching her level--but something stops us from scratching down the wallpaper. Is it activity that stops us from imploding? Is it us or our surroundings that make us sick...or something else?

I will stop the pshycoanalytical babble now, because I am generalizing about the psychosis of man instead of the literature itself. The literature, though, does ask many questions about our minds--and that is what is portrayed.

Gilman's short and over-punctuated paragraphs indicate a slipping sanity, which is progressively lost as much with the reader as in the woman herself.

I now stop myself when I count the threads in my sheets. A very fine line exists between being passionate and obsessive. Something writers are prone to do.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:23 PM | Comments (10)

January 16, 2004

Samson

Samson, the cat,
sits in the sink--
sipping.

Why, oh why--
did we start this?

Lift the bulk,
assuage the mews.

Lapping.
A gulp.
Jump down.
With a thud.
Fat puss.

Samson,
Are you too full?

Don't go in my room--
Please, no more messes in my life.

wrong_mouse.jpg Funny cat pics @ Cat Mine
Samson looks a little like this...but fatter and with a broken down ear--he had a broken blood vessel that was stitched in surgery with hot pink thread. So manly. I guess he isn't even a "he" anymore...poor thing. Maybe next time I won't get mad when he wants a drink from the people sink.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:58 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2004

Bloggy Groggy Memories

Now that Julie has given a presentation citing all of my blogging past with supposed rival, Paul Crossman, I am committed to upholding my reputation in the SHU blogosphere. And since Mr. Crossman will have to begin blogging once more for his English class, I am confident that we will have new and combative things to say about each other this semester.

Aside from the combat review, thank you, Julie for that presentation; it brought back many happy and hilarious memories.

I especially enjoyed the "hasty generalizations" comment, but then I thought, "Where the generalizations mine or Paul's?" I think I have a good idea about who :-)

The presentation brought back many lessons of blog indiscretion that I am happy to have learned. And maybe Julie is right, maybe I shouldn't talk about my love life, should attribute pictures, and not focus on one rival--but hey, everyone makes mistakes, and that was just the trial run. Heck, I now have half the SHU campus and Paige up my sleeve telling me when I am over-the-top.

New memories are waiting to be made.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 3:05 PM | Comments (3)