Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!!!

Even though I don't write Gothic/horror stories, I have to admit I enjoy the sensation of being scared. The chill I got as a kid going through a haunted house. The vivid feeling I had after watching Halloween for the first time, and the shock of the last scene in Friday the 13th.  The reaction I still get to this day whenever I see a picture of Tim Curry as the clown in It (blast you Stephen King!). What I dislike is the ever increasing value placed on blood and gore.

Why? I want a good story. I don’t need to see gallons of blood or mutilated body parts to be frightened. In fact, it’s better to leave a lot of what frightens people to their own imagination. Who knows what is behind a door? Who is the mysterious person in the corner? Why shouldn’t the hero/heroine go into the basement? These are elements of storytelling. Anyone can write (or make a movie about) severed arms, sliced arteries, and blood pouring all around. This isn’t scary, it’s sickening.

Gothic literature is about slowly and stylishly bringing you to the brink of your own fears. It develops a sense of tension and heart-pounding realization of something macabre is happening, and you have no way to stop it. This is suspense. This is gothic. It gets in your head and makes you think why. You find yourself claustrophobic, wanting to run, like you are trapped in a dream. Only instead of wanting to wake up, you want to keep reading. 

What is Gothic?

"A Gothic tale usually takes place … in an antiquated or seemingly antiquated space—be it a castle, a foreign palace, an abbey, a vast prison, a subterranean crypt, a graveyard, a primeval frontier or island, a large old house or theatre, an aging city or urban underworld, a decaying storehouse, factory, laboratory, public building, or some new recreation of an older venue, such as an office with old filing cabinets, an overworked spaceship, or a computer memory. Within this space, or a combination of such spaces, are hidden some secrets from the past (sometimes the recent past) that haunt the characters, psychologically, physically, or otherwise at the main time of the story. These hauntings can take many forms, but they frequently assume the features of ghosts, specters, or monsters, (mixing features from different realms of being, often life and death) that rise from within the antiquated space, or sometimes invade it from alien realms, to manifest unresolved crimes or conflicts that can no longer be successfully buried from view. It is at this level that Gothic fictions generally play with an oscillate between the earthly laws of conventional reality and the possibilities of the supernatural … often siding with one of these over the other in the end, but usually raising the possibility that the boundaries between these may have been crossed, at least psychologically but also physically or both” (Botting, 2000).

 A Brief History

  • Historically imprecise term derived from the Goths, Germanic tribes that precipitated fall of Roman Empire, and later taken to mean all Germans (including Anglo-Saxons that settled Britain). In that context, referred to period of presumed barbarism, superstition, anarchy from about 5th century AD to Renaissance or (in Britain) to 16th century (break with Catholicism);
  • In 18th century, Gothic often seemed to mean primarily medieval period (Walpole claims Otranto was written between 11th and 13th centuries)
  • Gothic=obsolete, outlandish, old-fashioned, barbaristic, irrational, immoral, feudal (as opposed to enlightened, rational, neoclassical)
  • Gothic in literature often allied with a tradition valuing feelings and sensibility over enlightenment ideals of rationality, orderliness, tastefulness

  • Typical characteristics: fascination with past, esp. medieval; liking for the eccentric, supernatural, magical, and sublime, sometimes mixed with realism; psychological insights, esp. into sexuality; intricate or stereotypical characterization; stimulation of fear, horror; emotional rather than rational focus; exotic locations (Stevens 46).

  • In architecture, Gothic refers to style that dominated Europe from 12th to 15th centuries.

Here are a few of my favorite short stories and videos:

Faulkner, W. (1930). A Rose for Emily.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1844) Rappacinni’s Daughter.
 Jackson, S. (1951) The Lottery.
James, Henry (1898) The Turn of the Screw.
Poe, E.A. (1845). The Raven.

Enjoy the season!!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Proving Stephen King Wrong

Proving Stephen King Wrong

Sitting here at the computer thinking about SLOs, OTESs and about a dozen more acronyms I still don’t understand after 2 months of teaching, and the paraphrased words from Stephen King pop in my head, “you can’t be a writer and a teacher.”

Bull! I say.

I have finally figured out the balance of grading papers and making lesson plans. I am, after all, the guy who worked a half dozen part-time jobs, coached track and went to school fulltime. I worked way too hard to get where I am. I have some great co-workers, I love the kids and I’m having a blast. We have done everything from writing historical fiction stories, making videos, having debates, writing letters of encouragement to the football team, and so much more. And I am planning on doing a whole lot more.

It’s time to put on my big boy pants, and get back to work. Book #2 isn’t going to write itself as I sit here being lazy.

I can be a terrific teacher, a good coach AND a writer all at the same time. I am not going to be a chain smoking, drunken teacher/wannabe writer who feels like I spent the week with “jumper cables on my brain.”

So take that, Uncle Stevie!

I’m back and even the case of the evil acronyms can’t stop me.