Posts Tagged ‘diana joseph’

My Summer Reading List

05.28.2009 1 comment

I have an ambitious reading list for this summer. Just like my dedication of two hours to write a day (or ten hours per week), I’m challenging myself to read for ninety minutes a day on Monday thru Wednesday plus Friday, or six hour a week. I tend to read 40 pages in an hour, 50 when I’m really feeling it, so if we take my optimistic number and combine it with six hours that’s 300 pages per week. Starting this week through the end of August, that’s fifteen weeks or 4500 pages. …That seems like a lot. I may have to re-think this. In the meantime, let’s get a little ambitious this morning!

All of these are selections I’ve never read before, so I have a completely fresh slate of stories awaiting me. Here they are in no particular order:

Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard (fiction novel, 272 pages)

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (fiction novel, 288 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (nonfiction novel, 307 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (nonfiction novel, 274 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockemeier (short story collection, 288 pages)

Tin House #39 (short stories and poetry, 200 pages)

I’m Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph (nonfiction short story collection, 208 pages)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction, 320 pages)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (fiction, 528 pages… I can’t find the abridged version, which the Ron Book Team has decided is just fine for our summer reading) * Ron Book Team selection

How to Think Theologically by Howard W. Stone & James O. Duke (textbook, 126 pages)

Best American Short Stories 2008 (short story collection, 384 pages)

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (fiction novel, 272 pages)

I also have the following to “read” on audio, all of which are re-reads for me:

On Writing by Stephen King (nonfiction novel)

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (short story collection)

Up in Honey’s Room by Elmore Leonard (fiction novel)

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman (kinda-sorta-not-really nonfiction novel)

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King (fiction novel)

That’s only 2235 pages – a far cry from the 4500 pages I calculated above. I think I’m going to be reading a lot slower than at my 50-pages per hour clip. I’ll be reading short stories and each one of those deserves to be digested slowly like little meals unto themselves. Some of the novels are for Men’s Book Club and I want to slow down and annotate them so I can better lead discussion sessions. And others I hope are so good I’ll need to slow down and savor them (Road Dogs). I’ll keep you posted as I finish different stories.

Right now, Kelly and I are almost finished with the audio version of From a Buick 8 and I’m about forty pages into The Last Picture Show and really enjoying it. I hope to finish it before I go to camp and start on a new book by then, too (that’s June 13, for readers who aren’t in the know).

What are you reading this summer?



Analyzing a Short Story: Ryan Harty (Part II)

My presentation last night went well, and it lead into a discussion on using the components of genre to one’s advantage when writing, particularly science fiction. This quickly evolved into a great, multi-faceted discussion sprawling into all sorts of speculative talk on writing, creativity, and entertainment.

Our instructor, Diana Joseph, tossed out the question of what today and tomorrow’s entertainment world is and what we feel is coming after post-modernism. The class latched onto the idea that turning life into a game show on “reality tv” where things seem real but are also staged is a new genre of storytelling the western world seems fascinated by. For my part, I believe this is true, and we’ve also moved past cynicism to an age of self-aware irony while at the same time a reinvention of reality. I think enough people understand the ridiculous manufactured moments on “reality tv” while being simultaneously fascinated by it.

I think this carries over to the emergence of magical realism making such a prominent mark in entertainment these days (think Pan’s Labyrinth, or Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper). At this point, my colleague (and great writer – somebody give this guy a teaching job! …I’ll take one, too…) Luke Rolfes interjected that in times of war, this sort of story becomes appealing as an escape. This lead our instructor Diana to speak of the cycles of art and how they’re directly tied into the national mood. Right now, with “reality tv” ruling the national consciousness, it’s no surprise memoir outsold fiction last year, and that trend is likely to continue.

We particularly examined the post-freedom movements of the 60s and post-Vietnam era of the 70s, and I had a moment recalling my film studies undergraduate days of looking at it from the western genre point of view: the feeling out of the genre in the early “pioneer” days (The Great Train Robbery, Stagecoach), the classic formula of the “golden” era (The Searchers, High Noon, Shane), a cynical “satire” of the genre (Blazing Saddles, Silverado, even the uber-violent The Wild Bunch), and finally “reinvention” (Unforgiven, Dances With Wolves, Tombstone, 3:10 to Yuma).

I could go on and on, but the main point is we had an excellent discussion last night and it all lead from the way Ryan Harty wrote a science fiction story – a genre often lacking in the respect it deserves – with character and emotion at its center. Harty used the genre to its greatest strengths, and we all felt it in class last night.

The state of art and life endlessly reflect each other. Harty’s story is a prime example of this. Wanna read it? It’s in the 2003 Best American Short Stories collection at for $1.99.