Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Literary Insularity

According to Sweden, we're not worldly enough. American writers are too "insular," said a spokesperson for the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, there is some truth to this. I mean, we are known to think only of ourselves and read ourselves. See articel here.

I'd been involved in conversations about our bad reading habits when it comes to foreign literature. Only 3 percent of books we get in America are translated--this leads us to reading works written only English. We don't get a lot of translations for books originally written in French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Japanese, etc.

What's worse is that translated works rarely get reviewed because critics don't know if they're reviewing a great book with a bad translation or vice versa.

For my part, I'm reading a book that was originally written in Burmese. Cool, huh?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Literary McCain

Lest you think I'm a left-wing liberal--which I am--I'd like to say that when it comes to books, I am truly bipartisan.

I found this article truly interesting. It's by the editor of McCain's books. He gives an idea of the kind of literary mind that this Republican possesses. Click here.

I truly think a President of the United States needs to be a published author. All of the presidents, except for Dubya, had written books. What writing a book can do is show focused attention and important critical thinking skills. Ur, something that our current president had been unable to do.

Oh, and if Ms. Palin still has her eye on the White House, I'd suggest she get out the paper and pen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Literary Defaming

In keeping with my last post, I wanted to share this message that Liz Dwyer sent me. Liz is an amazing writer and she can be read here.

The dedication for Letters to Montgomery Clift says: This book is dedicated to those who have Disappeared.

Liz, via Facebook, told me this:

I was in the library on Santa Monica today and saw "Letters to Montgomery Clift" on the shelf. Interestingly enough, someone scribbled a little comment on your dedication page. There was an arrow after "Disappeared" and at the end of the arrow was written, "Due to the policies of right-wing dictators."

I don't believe in defaming books, but I had to smile.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Literary Dictatorhip

In my first novel Letterst to Montgomery Clift I wrote about how the Marcos dictatorship in The Philippines ruined the lives of many. In my research, I noted how the Marcos regime didn't take too well to journalists who wrote bad things about them. Those journalists, like the father in the novel, "disappeared."

So, then it bugged me to read reports of how the John and Sarah campaign refused to let the media interview Palin until the press is "deferential" to her. They won't even let the media talk to Sarah Palin, only take pretty pictures. (Of course, we know why they won't let them talk to Palin: she can't say anything she doesn't know anything about, like the economy, international affairs, the War.) Read here.

I kept thinking that what they're doing is restricting free speech! They're acting like...like...dictators.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Literary Skull

This is why I love indie publishers. This is from Soft Skull Press...

Tim Wise's latest opinion piece: This is Your Nation on White Privilege By Tim Wise 9/13/08 For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

--White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
--White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
--White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
--White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”
--White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.
--White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.
--White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.
--White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”
--White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.
--White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.
--White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.
--White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.
--And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain. White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised 2008), and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month, also by Soft Skull.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Literary Shock

What?!?!?!?! David Foster Wallace is dead? He hanged himself? Oh, what goes through the minds of writers....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Literary Marshall

Here I am as a goofy student at Marshall High School, around 1985. (Ur, I'm the one in the middle.) Those glasses aren't prescription. I thought people with glasses looked kewl. So, I bought some on Melrose.

Yes, I had big hair--that's what a perm will do.

I didn't know that I was a writer then. I knew I was creative, but words were for other people. I was a stage guy.

I was intimidated by writing, scared of it really. I'm glad I faced my fears.

Looking at this picture made me feel sad. This was waaaay before the twin towers fell. In a way, it was really a more innocent time.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Literary Community Making

2008 Asian American Poetry and Writing (AAPW) and the Japanese American National are proud and excited to offer community-based creative writing workshops for aspiring and emerging writers. Our goal is to create affordable and culturally sensitive classes that allows writers the space to explore craft and theme in their work.

October 4, 2008 - November 8, 2008 (Saturday mornings and afternoons)

Japanese American National Museum
369 East First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
$150 for six sessions. $125 for JANM members (Minimum 5 participants, maximum 12). To sign up for a class please go to http://www.aapw-la.org/workshop.php. Pre-registration is required.


1. Stories Make us Real (1-3pm)
Introduction to Fiction with Noel Alumit

In this introductory class, we will read stories and then write our own. What are the elements of narrative? How do we utilize character, point of view, dialogue, plot, setting and tone? Through close reading and discussion, we will examine how others have created powerful fiction. We'll also workshop our own writing, helping each other to dig deeper and unearth the core of our stories and in the process--ourselves.

Noel Alumit's first novel "Letters to Montgomery Clift," has received many awards including the Stonewall Book Award (American Library Association), Violet Quill Award (Insight Out Books), the Global Filipino Literary Award (Our Own Voice), and the Gold Seal (ForeWord Magazine). He has also been nominated for the PEN Center USA West Literary award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Asian American Literary Award. His second novel "Talking o the Moon" was published in 2007 and went on to become a Los Angeles Times Bestseller. He also teaches for UCLA Extension. He blogs at www.thelastnoel.blogspot.com

2. The World is a Poem (11am – 1pm)
Introduction to Poetry with Neil Aitken

There are moments in our lives that transform us or change the way we view the world around us. Something we see or feel moves us beyond where we've been. Often it's love or loss, the stories of how we got here or where we are going, or maybe just the way that something we've always taken as ordinary reveals itself as extraordinary or beautiful. What makes a poem a poem? How do we set down our thoughts and emotions in a more powerful way? This course will cover essential poetcraft including: imagery and figurative language, rhythm and sound, line and form, and lyric and narrative styles. Some discussion of poetry journals and publishing will also be provided.

Neil Aitken is the author of The Lost Country of Sight which won the 2007 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and is due out from Anhinga Press in November 2008. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside and is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing at USC. More information about Neil can be found on his website: www.neil-aitken.com

3. Claiming Your Voice (11am – 1pm)
A memoir/personal writing class with Naomi Hirahara

Have you always wanted to write, but are not sure quite how to put your thoughts and experiences on paper? How do you find your written "voice" and how do you nurture and sustain it? Instruction will include writing exercises that allow students to take creative risks in a safe and encouraging environment. Participants will learn how to remove obstacles that keep them from being truly free in their writing. Basic craft skills will also be covered.

* Please note: Naomi's class will run from Oct 4 - Nov 15 with Oct 25 off

Award-winning writer and former Rafu Shimpo editor Naomi Hirahara is a Los Angeles literary treasure. She is the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, which includes Summer of the Big Bachi, Gasa-Gasa Girl, and Snakeskin Shamisen. Her website is www.naomihirahara.com

4. Lights, Camera, Write (1pm – 3 pm)
Introduction to Screenwriting with Koji Steven Sakai

For the cinephile who has the next great American Film within them, this six-week course will introduce you to the craft of screenwriting, where students will focus on story structure, scene development and dialogue. From plot-driven action to independent drama, students will write and workshop short scenes, basic outlines and short treatments.

Koji Steven Sakai is a graduate from USC's Masters of Professional Writing program. He co-wrote, Haunted Highway, which was directed by Junichi Suzuki and distributed by Lions Gate DVD. He has held several fellowships, starting with the most recent, which include: Film Independent's Project: Involve (2007), Visual Communication's Armed With a Camera (2006), and Screenwriting Expo 4 New Visions Fellowship award (2005). When he isnt' fighting crime or making movies, he is the Manager of Public Programs at the Japanese American National Museum.

To sign up for a class please go to http://www.aapw-la.org/workshop.php.