Monday, November 3, 2014

What Not to Do if You're Butthurt and Other Stories

Here are a few mini-blog posts, instead of one coherent one, because that is what I have for you.

(1) I woke up this morning thinking about public figures who are not universally admirable - a consequence of reading this post, which had a sort of eternal-mirror effect on me, as I'm close to removing that blog from my reading list because I find the writer increasingly combative, and so while I don't have the same relationship with the writer of that blog that the writer of that blog has with the subject of that blog post, it's still kind of ironic. Dontcha think?

I considered writing my own post about how I cope with public figures I admire but do not like, but after I looked at the comments on Jenny's post and found that "people we admire usually aren't everything we want them to be" is not in fact the great new lesson that I thought it was - because I learned it on my own, through experience, without being taught it by a parent or a mentor or an article on, and hence thought it was worth sharing as if it was new - I decided to save that musing for a time when it's somehow more relevant. Anais Nin, Richard Nixon, and yes, Amanda Palmer: these are people who are not everything I want them to be (or sometimes almost nothing I want them to be), but whom I still admire. Another time I'll tell you why.

Yes, I admire Richard Nixon.

There are so many good Deal With It pics that I pretty much died trying to pick one

(2) This weekend I finished Absalom, Absalom!, and I hope there are few books more momentous, more sublime, to come in my lifetime. I don't think my heart can take many more. It was SO HARD, you guys, it was harder than Remembrance of Things Past (or the first three volumes anyway) and way harder than Moby-Dick, but it was better than almost any book I've ever read.

I don't know why.

I can't distill for you why, for me, it built to such a pitch that I thought my head might pop like a grape before I was finished putting all of its words through my eyes, nor why even for all that I couldn't understand exactly what happened in the last major set piece. (Thank Christ for SparkNotes.) It was like the dead middle of The Sound and the Fury, two or three of my favorite pages in all literature, except bigger and badder, and for a stretch of many more pages. It reminded me of a film, Ordet, which is so difficult as to be almost unwatchable but which I always list as one of my favorite films. It gave me a set of thoughts and sensations that no other film has ever given me. Absalom, too, is so hard that I can't see myself recommending it, but I'll certainly put it up there on the list of the best books I know.

(3) Something happened in the videogame world that reflects very tidily on something I'm dealing with in my workshop class that I've been wanting to blog about. Jim Sterling, a critic for The Escapist, created a walkthrough review of the independent videogame The Slaughtering Grounds, giving it a poor grade. (That is, Sterling recorded his eye-view experience of playing the game and talked over the recording, discussing what he found was or wasn't working about it. Video here.) The developer, whose name does not seem to be a matter of public record, responded to this poor review by making a video with text annotations over Sterling's criticisms, explaining his intentions in making the game and why Sterling is a poopyface. This went about as well as you might expect. (Sterling's response to the response to the review is here. The dev's response to the response to the response to the review [yep] is here.)

Actually, same goes for this one - just Google Images "butthurt"

The central problem here is that you can't argue against someone's response to your art. You can't. You can't. You can talk about how your intentions may be different than the consequent experience of the art, but it's risky; I think the only contexts in which that works are a) if you need to improve the art, to make the experience jibe with your intentions, and you need more explicit feedback to do so, or b) you find it funny or interesting or instructive how the intentions and experiences don't match up and you want to share that. But it is not possible to defend against user experience. And most kinds of defending oneself against criticism sound terrible. They sound defensive and immature, almost universally. From the outside, even subtler ones than this dev's poorly spelled insults sound defensive and immature.

See, I couldn't even narrow it down to just one

It's particularly awkward in workshop, because there's nothing I know of that a writer can say about her intentions to which I won't respond with "Okay, but it needs to be on the page." If you get published, you can't go around to everybody in the world who's reading your story and stand over them and say what you meant by this or that. It has to be on the page. Matt's boss puts it even more succinctly: "You don't come in the box."

[by which he means a little version of the developer is not wrapped up with the game disc. perv.]

(4) My writing exercise this weekend went so much better than I expected that it put me in a good mood, which is such a rare event that I feel the need to record it. I keep waiting for a writing exercise to be good enough that I want to share it, but not so good that I want to keep it under my hat for revision, expansion, and potential submission. If that ever happens, I'll post it here. In the meantime, th-th-th-th-that's all, folks.

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