How Short Could a Short Story Be if a Story Could Be Short?

Last week, I debated whether Twitter could be literature. I didn’t end up with a clear answer, essentially concluding that the difference between words and literature is only based on the subjectivity that is intention and interpretation. In other words, if the author meant it to be literature, it is, and if the reader understands it as literature, it is.

This, of course, is not very helpful. Perhaps that discussion can be continued and furthered, then, by looking at an accepted shorter form of literature — the short story.

Neil GaimanI’m finishing up the illustrious Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning right now, a collection of “short fictions and disturbances.” I’ve loved Neil Gaiman’s novels for a long time; American Gods and Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett) are two of my favorite books. Yet despite my enjoyment of Gaiman’s novels, I have always been more fascinated with his short fiction. As he puts it, they are often “disturbances,” seemingly small pieces of a puzzling whole that is always just out of my grasp.

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Can Twitter be Literature?

On previous Quote Tuesdays, I’ve talked about how quoting something might say more about the person quoting than the literature itself. The choice to take out a tiny part of a whole and use it to make your point is an artistic choice in itself. Along the same lines, a quote can never fully represent a piece of literature, or anything, for that matter. You wouldn’t want a quote of one thing you said to entirely represent you as a person, would you? Quotes are extremely useful and necessary ways to talk about and analyze writing, but they have limitations.

However, it is not the length of the quote that limits it; it is the lack of its entirety, its context. For example, six word stories have become quite famous, as supposedly inspired by Ernest Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.Classic_baby_shoes

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Words are Witchcraft

I was browsing the deep dungeon that is the lowest level of the Hopkins library yesterday between classes, and I discovered a couple interesting things. First, I found a section of great movies I never knew we had. Second, I found a book by Sir Walter Scott called Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. Turns out the famous novelist and poet was skeptical both of the supernatural and of “new science.”
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I perused through the brokenly bound book with morbid curiosity. It was mostly accounts of fantastical illnesses, sights, and happenings, but Scott reasons through a lot of philosophy and psychology by way of explanation as well. Going through a history of the belief in demons, Scott starts with explaining a possible misinterpretation of the Bible, in which the line “men shall not suffer a witch to live” might simply be “men shall not suffer a poisoner to live” depending on one’s translation. The connotations and translations of a word carry power and serve to justify and authenticate power as well, especially in terms of the Bible. Continue reading

“We perished, each alone”

Following up on my recent musing about Virginia Woolf, I want to talk this week about a quote within a quote. In Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, Mr. Ramsay, a well-read man obsessed with (especially female) admiration who has lost his wife and two of his four children, is traveling toward a lighthouse that existed before his losses. As he sails with his remaining, mutinous children, he repeats to himself, “‘We perished,’ and then again, ‘each alone.'”

Ramsay is quoting a poem called “The Castaway” by William Cowper, the last verse of which reads:

Hovhannes_Aivazovsky_-_The_Ninth_Wave_-_Google_Art_ProjectNo voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone;
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.

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Guest Post: The Value of Need in an Increasingly Materialistic World

My dearest reader,

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As I’m sure you will probably be able to tell as you continue read this, I am NOT the usual writer for this blog. I am, in fact, her boyfriend, a book recommender extraordinaire and general companion in her pursuit of all things literary. As I’m sure you will discover over the course of this post, I also have a little less eloquent of a writing style than my esteemed colleague that goes to school up the road at Johns Hopkins. Rather, I go to the United States Naval Academy (yes, I have driven a boat to see her), and I am a history major there. Honestly, I’m more of a person that’s obsessed with history, so I’m sure you’ll find that I tend to look at things through more of an historical microscope than a literary one.

I threw around many ideas for my first blog post over here on More Story. To be completely, transparently honest here, I developed a bunch of ideas, with full outlines and many different ways in which I could develop each idea. But then I sent them into the extremely capable hands of my loving editor up the Chesapeake, and she determined that they were all too broad of topics for posting here. To be clear, I was having a hard time ensuring that the things that I was writing about included enough valid literary context to post here (the history-lover syndrome strikes again), but once I really started thinking about the things that I needed to look for to write about, the more I began to obsess over what we as humans consider to be needs and how we determine their worth. Continue reading

A Sorority Novel and Binary Female Characters

While I’ve been savoring the “Short Fictions and Disturbances” in Neil Gaiman’s new Trigger Warning, I also flew through another book this weekend. Dirty Rush was a quick and absurd read about a girl’s crazy experience rushing a sorority. Normally, this is not my kind of book at all, but it was recommended to me for its hilarity and entertainment, so I gave it a try.

Yeah, the cover is ridiculous; I know. As a disclaimer, I am actually part of a sorority myself, but it’s at Hopkins, a school of intelligent overachievers, so my experience with a sorority has been that of a very tame social club, essentially. Compared to my college experience, this book seemed crazier than insane.

Yet as much as I found myself disgusted with the girls’ antics, as I continued to read, I also realized how judgmental I was being. It reminded me of an article I read called “The Girl Myth in YA Fiction (And Beyond),” which I highly recommend you read here. It had always bothered me that even the worst of male characters, if they were charming, could be loved for their complexity (the bad boys definitely have a fan base) while female characters who are imperfect are more often summed up as unlikeable or not relatable.  Continue reading

Who Gives a F*** About an Oxford Comma?

While the Vampire Weekend song that opens with the title of this article is extremely catchy, the answer to that question is that I do care about the Oxford comma. Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma is what goes before the conjunction in a list of three or more things.

There is debate among sources of publications and grammar, however, on its use. The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, for which I copy edit, follows AP style, forcing me to step over my beliefs and take out those brave little Oxford commas every Wednesday night.

I am a firm believer that Oxford commas save lives and dignity. For example, it is what prevents cannibalism in the phrase “Let’s eat, Grandma.” When you have a party, there will be a huge difference between “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin” and “We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.”  Continue reading