Who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop?

At the beginning of the juvenile novel Boy Toy by Barry Lyga there is an interesting list:

Ten Things I Learned at the Age of Twelve

  1. The Black Plague was transmitted by fleas that were carried throughout Europe by rats.
  2. If you first paralyze it, you can cut open a frog and watch itl lungs continue to inflate and deflate.
  3. There are seven forms of the verb to be:  am, being, been, is,was, were, and are.
  4. In order to divide fractions, you invert the divisor to arrive at the reciprocal, which is then multiplied by the dividend. (Mixed fractions must first be converted to improper fractions.)
  5. In Salem, the witches weren’t burned at the stake–they were pressed to death under big rocks … or hanged.
  6. Islam was founded in the year 610. It is the third of three world religions worshiping the same God.
  7. Each point on a “coordinate plane” (created by the joining of an x-axis and a y-axis) can be described by an ordered pair of numbers.
  8. “Monotheism” is a belief system centered on a single deity, while “polytheism” subscribes to belief in multiple deities.
  9. The area of a circle can be determined by using the formula πr², where r is the radius of the circle.
  10. How to please a woman.

There are more than three religions that worship the same deity, but otherwise, an interesting list.

Continue reading “Who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop?”

I stood tip-toe on a little hill

Throughout my years of reading, teaching, discussing, appreciating literature I have tossed off a few pithy phrases that sometimes help to get the discussion going and sometimes shut it down and make immediate adversaries of everyone around me. I suppose it depends of the room I am playing at the time.

It’s All Fiction

This one I absolutely stand by—all writing is fiction—it may seem real but it is all filtered by the human imagination and intellect. People have argued that if history is fiction then the Holocaust didn’t happen. See the fallacy here? I didn’t say that the events in the history of the world were fiction, only that the writing about those events is fiction. All writers, whether they are involved with fiction or that bookstore categorization, non-fiction, select what they will write and how they will write it. Do you know they place Glenn Beck in the non-fiction shelves. That should tell you  … It’s all fiction!

All great English Literature is written by the Irish

This one has many exceptions but even so, think of the great writers of English Literature:  Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, Laurence Sterne, Sean O’Casey, John M. Synge, Elizabeth Bowen, Samuel Beckett, Brian O’Nolan, William Congreve, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Banville, George Berhard Shaw, Maria Edgeworth, George Moore, Charles Maturin, C. S. Lewis, Edna O’Brien, Bram Stoker, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, … and many more.

To be a great poet you have to either die of consumption or a venereal disease, preferably at a young age

This one shows my focus on the English Romantic poets as an undergraduate (I shifted to Restoration Drama in graduate school). I’m sure that the list of English poets who died of old age is quite impressive, but for a while there, I didn’t know if I should cough or just head for the opium den.

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Automatic Writing

When I took a mandatory Art class in High School, one of the exercises we performed was to take charcoal and while staring at the person across from us, draw a full-size portrait without ever looking down at the paper in front of us. I was amazed at how the deep inner spirit of the person was captured in the nuances of the charcoal portraits.

Actually, I’m lying:  most of these drawings were unrecognizable as even being of a human being and unless their inner spirit was similar to a dark scramble of meaningless, unconnected smudges, then I don’t think the exercise was a success. We also did a similar exercise where we stared at the subject for way too long and then with closed eyes took charcoal in hand and drew a similar smudge.

So I mentioned that John Dos Passos experimented in Automatic Writing. The key point of my comment was that the author experimented with extending the process of writing fiction. Automatic Writing itself is generally considered a technique to tap the deep inner spirit of the author but despite the more surrealistic examples, the result is more often a verbal smudge.

Interestingly, The Skeptic’s Dictionary has something to say about Automatic Writing:

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