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Question on restraint and understatement

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Unc



Joined: 18 Aug 2004
Posts: 300
Location: South of FRANCE
Question on restraint and understatement  Reply with quote  

I don't know about anyone else here, but I learned something interesting about writing from The Stupidest Angel, and wondered whether you'd like to comment on it.

As mainly a lurker on this forum for the last few months, I've learned a bit about Chris Moore, the Politico. You have strong opinions and ways of expressing those opinions. And we've come to realize how passionately you feel about thiings.

Yet when it came to the new book, unless I'm mistaken, there is only one overt political statement. And it's a beaut. Seven-year-old Sam is trying to get rid of Raziel by persuading him to just beat feet with the Snickers bars instead of trying to pay for them with some ancient coin:

"Look, they aren't looking. Why don't you just take them?"

"I can't," said the blond man.

"Why not?"

"Because no one told me to."

Oh no. The guy looked like a grown-up, but actually he had the mind of a dumb little kid inside. Like the guy in Sling Blade, or the president.


That bit made me snort wine through my nose, all over a bunch of not-completely-understanding French People. It's just great.

But it also shows admirable restraint. Especially given your politics and passion, and the fact that you could probably easily have found ways to slip other Wilde-worthy one-liners into the book.

Was it a conscious decision to go for restraint and understatement? Was it hard to resist the temptation to go the other route?

Post Thu Nov 04, 2004 7:08 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
chris
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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To be quite honest, Unc, I've become much more passionate about politics in the last few years, especially as I've seen that our leaders' philosophies actually do effect our lives in very real ways, so restraint has been more of an issue on the last couple of books.

But, the main reason I stay away from politics, for the most part, in my books, is the matter of timing. Political humor has a very short shelf-life. My books are plagued enough by the advance of technology, and I've even considered going back and revising Practical Demonkeeping and Coyote Blue because the technology makes the stories seem outdated, but if I had indulged a rant against Bush, for instance, and Kerry had won the election, the book would have been stale even a month after its release. As it is, I"m sure the references to the video game "Barbarian George's Great Adventure" will stay fresh for another four years.

Post Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:52 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Unc



Joined: 18 Aug 2004
Posts: 300
Location: South of FRANCE
Thanks  Reply with quote  

Sage advice.

Post Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:17 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Ferrit Leggings



Joined: 29 Mar 2004
Posts: 2658
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I think Vonnegut does the same as Chris does with the techno stuff. Vonnegut's writing is very topical because bad politicians never go out of style kind of like bellbottoms. He placed a few of his books in the future but the events could be correlated with events today and the ones placed in the present time or past were so well written that it did not matter. Hitler was still a bad guy in Mother Night and Billy would still pop throughout time. in Slaughterhouse Five.

I read Slaughterhouse Five this summer again and found it just as absorbing as the first time when I was in high school. Good writing is like good music, it never goes out of style. Miles Davis and John Coltrane are still just as revered today just as are Mozart and Beethoven. People still go and see Henry the 5th and enjoy it because it is timeless. Time is relative to what is good and everything is relative.

What I am saying is that Vonnegut is not hindered by timely satire just as Chris is not by timely humour. As much as a love Hunter S Thompson I don’t think he will be read for the most part 20 years from now. It is like musicians and song writers who use slang in their songs. It may sound good and relevant now but in the future it will not be. Eminem made a good song with Mosh, I think that is what it is called, but years from now, at least four, it won’t be pertinent.

When I was a teenager I say the movie The Outsiders and thought that it was great. It was on television a couple of years ago and I could barely sit through ten minutes of it. It is filled with slang and euphemisms that were not at all applicable to today’s slang. Sure some of it was decipherable but trying to remember what I said twenty years ago was too difficult and I turned the channel to Discovery and watched Monster House. It was a good film for its time.

I don’t feel Chris has anything to worry about with his writing but the Rush Limbo’s and Bill O-my-god-I-had-to-pay-her-how-much-because-of what-I-may-not-have-said- ‘Reilly will not be remembered for their contributions to society. One reason is that commentators are bred out or partisan politics and The E Channel. No one will remember what they said about Kerry four years from now and, I hate to say this but it is true, Jon Stewart will have another to play with. Jon Stewart is a great comic but his humour is topical to its time, hopefully.

I am rambling so,

Ta,
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Post Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:31 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Unc



Joined: 18 Aug 2004
Posts: 300
Location: South of FRANCE
Nicely said, Ferrit  Reply with quote  

And I have to say I really like your avatar and sig quotes! Laughing

Mark's a treasure-trove of great quotes for writers. I always liked his rant on the use of "we" in writing. It went something like, "The only people entitled to refer to themselves as 'we' are kings, editors, and people with tapeworms."

Post Fri Nov 05, 2004 4:15 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Goudron



Joined: 03 Aug 2004
Posts: 2570
Location: near Cleveland OH
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Ferrit Leggings wrote:
When I was a teenager I say the movie The Outsiders and thought that it was great. It was on television a couple of years ago and I could barely sit through ten minutes of it. It is filled with slang and euphemisms that were not at all applicable to today’s slang. Sure some of it was decipherable but trying to remember what I said twenty years ago was too difficult...


Or you can create your own slang which helped "Heather's" retain some timeliness.
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Post Fri Nov 05, 2004 4:38 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
earthshoes



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
Posts: 213
Location: SW Missouri
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Ferrit Leggings wrote:


When I was a teenager I say the movie The Outsiders and thought that it was great. It was on television a couple of years ago and I could barely sit through ten minutes of it. It is filled with slang and euphemisms that were not at all applicable to today’s slang. Sure some of it was decipherable but trying to remember what I said twenty years ago was too difficult and I turned the channel to Discovery and watched Monster House. It was a good film for its time.


Based on S.E. Hinton's book, you mean? I never saw the movie--I preferred my own mental images of the characters.

On the other hand, I spotted this book on the shelves in seventh grade classroom at school last year and asked one of the classes if they'd read it. Numerous hands shot up with enthusiastic reviews. Many of the kids identified with the characters in the book. This is probably because we live in an area where the grand majority of the kids come from poor and working class families. My own son read it twice.

He said, "The language is really out-there (outdated), but the characters-- I swear I know Ponyboy from somewhere."

I don't think Chris has anything to worry about either. Some topics never go out of style.
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Post Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:40 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
palmer



Joined: 30 Mar 2004
Posts: 1324
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chris wrote:
But, the main reason I stay away from politics, for the most part, in my books, is the matter of timing. Political humor has a very short shelf-life. My books are plagued enough by the advance of technology, and I've even considered going back and revising Practical Demonkeeping and Coyote Blue because the technology makes the stories seem outdated, but if I had indulged a rant against Bush, for instance, and Kerry had won the election, the book would have been stale even a month after its release. As it is, I"m sure the references to the video game "Barbarian George's Great Adventure" will stay fresh for another four years.


I think that it depends on the nature of the book. I read a scince fiction novel a while back that had numerous timely references to an Ontario premier who was much hated in some circles, but it had little to do with the novel itself. It felt tacked on. It felt like an indulgence on the part of the author. And quickly dated. But the Vonnegut novel about the fellow who worked in the basement of the Nixon whitehouse -- God, I can't remember titles for shit! -- was a different story for obvious reasons. Then there are borderline cases...

Would it be fair to say that if it fits -- with the story or the particular character or whatever -- it's okay, and if it doesn't, if it's a self-indulgence, then it sucks?

Post Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:25 am   View user's profile Send private message
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