Advice for Social Activist Writers and Readers, Inspired by the work of Adriana Paramo

(1) A literary work of social activism is nothing if not a series of ethical decisions made by the author, one that invites a return volley of decisions from the reader: what is important, whose story needs telling, do I recognize the importance of this issue, et cetera, ad nauseam.

(2) Always be mindful, but never forget to take the step that comes after contemplation; reflection is the best of starts, but a true work of social activism inspires action — recognition is where it starts, but movement is the ultimate goal, a realization in reaction.

(3) Finally: if your decision-making process and/or your understanding of the world has changed since reading a book, you must take a moment, a breather, and recognize that you have just read a good book.  Do not hide it; pass that information along.

Adriana Paramo’s talk was provoking, to say the least; more on this talent in the world of social activist writing can be found at her website, here.

From and On “What Is the Business of Literature?” By Richard Nash (2013)

“[Publishing has the power[ to disrupt industries like education, to drive the movie industry, to empower the gaming industry. … the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is. By defining books as against technology, we deny our true selves, we deny the power of the book. Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation—not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian. The business of literature is blowing shit up.”

The entirety of Nash’s article can be found here.

I worry that the closing argument contained in Nash’s article opens up too many opportunities for Michael Bay to defend Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as a work of art; having been involuntarily exposed to those reels on a half-dozen occasions, I would argue that there exist exploitation films–ones severely lacking in explosions–that do a better job of embodying “literature.”

Some of us like to think of ourselves as the disciples of long-established creeds, the guardians of the holy world of literature against those that might defile it, against the corrupting influence of a loose-moral-having wave of newfangled filth; some of us like to think of ourselves as anarchists, revolting against an established hierarchy that we ourselves find revolting, tearing down the tyranny of an industry that refuses to recognize the beauty in looking forward rather than behind.  The truth is that we are, all of us, a mixture of the two.

We are the breadwinners who publish Poe and Austen as a surefire means to put food on the table in an attempt to find secure ground in an industry in which taking a risk on an untested author could get a whole floor fired.

We are the artists who pour a sentence–one that has somehow never been written before–out onto the page in an effort to release the creative fluid that burns behind our eyes, so tightly compressed within our minds that pens act as our safety valves.

It’s in finding the balance between these to identities that we thrive.  It’s in pulling together that we branch out, in imploding that we explode; in reconciling, we blow shit up.

[Briefly] On Video Games As An Artform and As Literature

As a young writer who thinks too highly of himself–and as a self-loathing capitalist eager to find the next market that will put a dollar in his bank account–I am intrigued by possible career path of writing for the video game industry.  I imagine that the backlash the gaming community has received from literary elitists mirrors the hate mail sent by the old guard to the first filmmakers who picked up cameras in an effort to capture the human mind rather than the human wallet.  Hideo Kojima, writer/director of the Metal Gear video game franchise famous for twists and conspiracies that would leave David Lynch spinning, has famously stated that video games are not so much art as they are a “service”, despite the fact that his own creations are often held up as prime examples of video games as art and/or literature.  I can understand where he’s coming from, his belief that a game should engage through interaction rather than through introspection; but in the same way that the best novels have inspired generations of young men and women to pursue writing, the best games–paragons of interactivity–have also spawned thesis-papers’ worth of reflection.  And, drawing on another example from my gaming life that has fostered my belief in video games as literature, I wonder how one might watch the opening 15 minutes of Naughty Dog Inc.’s The Last of Us and not believe in the narrative and provocative power contained therein, the artistic and literary nature of the piece.

For examples of how Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series can be examined in a literary / artistic light , check out the community-driven study “An analysis on genetics, evolution and information regarding Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty” (try to overcome the poorly formatted html scripting), as well as Chris Zimbaldi’s essay “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as a Post-Modern Tragedy.”

From and On ‘Paper Dreams,’ edited by Travis Kurowski (2013)

“1922–Hemingway publishes his first story, ‘A Divine Gesture,’ in the New Orleans literary magazine The Double Dealer. Throughout the following decade Hemingway continues an active, though often contentious, relationship with literary magazines….” (393)

I have a dislike-hate relationship with Ernest Hemingway in addition to any and all other authors who would reduce the already-bland sentence “John sat down to dinner with his wife” to “He ate with her.”  Knowing Hemingway’s disposition, the sentence might more accurately read as “He ate.”   And again, knowing Hemingway, we’d see that two-syllable sentence many times over the course of the novel in which it appeared, the contents of a soup given greater play than interpersonal relationships and/or internal musings.  The current school of fiction-writing dictates that terseness is next to godliness; I have seen far too many Hemingwannabes in my time.  This is why I, perhaps erroneously, value the second paragraph of HP Lovecraft’s “Celephais” as one of the most beautiful and truthful pieces of English fiction.  I search for and fail to find those “fountains that sing in the sun” among the pages written by the so-called father of modern fiction.  I have a growing disbelief in the value of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize in Literature.  And as an editor of my own inconsequential shit-stain of a collegiate literary magazine, part of me takes a fair amount of pleasure in knowing that my turn-of-the-century forefathers gave Hemingway something of a “contentious” time.

For the ill-fated ones among us who hold value in adjectives: Lovecraft’s “Celephais.”

For those who would rather read of pasta-consumption: The Hemingway Cookbook.