Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech and Violence in Our Culture

I'm still too upset to talk about the Virginia Tech Massacre, and until we know more, I try not to speculate. However, the news about the violent screenplays written by the alleged gunman, Cho, makes me think on our gun-obsessed culture in the US.

I think when we deal with literature, art, culture, etc., especially when young people are concerned, the issues are complicated. We live in a society that glorifies violence and bloodshed, even in the light of patriotism or heroism. Look at the success of 300, and the slew of violent, disturbing movies coming out of Hollywood that target specifically young males. Our sports are violent -- not to mention WWF wresting and Monster trucks. Not to mention the violence in video games, songs, etc. Even our government is telling us that violence is the way to solve world's problem -- if things don't go our way, use force.

American culture is uniquely violent among developed societies. Europe is not that way. Japan is not that way. Even Canada isn't like that.

So while guns may not kill people, we're certainly encouraging people to pick up guns and kill others -- even if it's only a movie or a video game. We reward them -- the more you kill, the higher your scores and the more you can brag to your peers.

We live in a society where loving sex between two people may be deemed perversion and sinful, while children are encouraged to pick up a gun and shoot a virtual villain or a real deer. Religions are backing wars that kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. We'd like to think that we've progressed and we're above the barbarism in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East, but in reality, have we? MLK said, "Violence begets violence." Maybe he was right?

True, I don't think this isolated incident of a lone psycho is cause for having a mass reevaluation of our society -- but I do think there's a problem, and there are symptoms. Some of our youths are getting more and more detached, isolated, and violent. What are the causes? And what are the remedies? Like I said, it's a complicated issue that probably won't find a solution any time soon.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Layering

Lori asked another good question:
It seems that a lot of text have layers to them that are only noticeable or understood when studied or scrutinized, not when the text is simply read for enjoyment. Who does the writers put those layers and subtle subtexts into their work for? Themselves? To prove to others that they are capable of such things? Or do they add something to the text that's not readily apparent to the casual reader but that would be missed by the casual reader if they were absent?
My answer:

For the readers. Not ALL the readers, but those who take the time to read deeply, or those who read the book multiple times, or academia that study it. Layers, symbolisms, subtexts, and so on are like details, much like the varying hues in a flower petals, or the intricate patterns on a leaf. A casual observer would only see the whole and a general impression; and that's all fine. The flowers are red and beautiful. The leaves are green and fresh looking. But for the person/reader who dares to delve deeper, there's a whole different level(s) to appreciate, and it can be very gratifying.

Think of it as the hidden treasures, the golden nuggets somewhere for the curious to find. They can be very rewarding for the readers. And for the writer as well, when some of his readers "get it." I've had a few very attentive readers who see the layers and subtexts in my stories, and that's very satisfying for me when they tell me. It's the fulfillment of the ultimate writer-reader contract.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Love and Hate

Lori at AbsoluteWrite posted an interesting question: What do you love about being a writer? What do you hate about being a writer?

There are so many things. But here are some of my answers:

I love being inspired, either by an idea or a word or a beautiful sentence or a concept or a character or a theme or an imagery or a sound or a vision of something powerful.

I love the creation process - making something out of nothing but your own imagination. I love having characters and stories that take me somewhere I've never dreamed of, and surprise and delight me to no end.

I love the power of words and stories that transport a total stranger into your world and see, smell, hear, feel, and taste everything you created. And in the process, there's that connection even though there's time and space between us.

I love the freedom to be a writer -- to write about things I believe in, trust, or like. I love the freedom to do it at my own pace. I love the freedom to explore and learn and grow. love the freedom to say what I really want to say.

....

I hate writer's block. HATE IT.

I hate feeling unmotivated, as if all my creative juices have been drained, that I'm just husk of a man pretending to be something I'm not.

I hate feeling like I'm a fraud. Self-doubt can be crippling.

I hate the solitude. The feeling that sometimes I'm all alone, and no one understands what I'm trying to do.

I hate rejections -- not so much that I hate not being "validated" but the fact that someone dares to say "I am telling you that you're not good enough for me." Even though I know rejections are rarely personal, it's just a necessary evil in this process.

I hate not knowing: not knowing when you'll make it; not knowing what "making it" really means; not knowing IF you'll ever make it. There's no definitive prescribed path to publishing success, and sometimes I just feel like I'm slogging along without a precise destination.

I hate losing control -- my characters, my stories, my mind.

I hate having to write things about which I have absolutely no interest in writing.

I hate being taken for granted.

I hate Starbucks or Panera Bread running out of free A/C outlets.