Saturday, July 2, 2011

Aristotle, for starters

That Aristotle. I'm reading his Poetics. Quite entertaining. His genius lies, even when he's clearly pulling something out of his ear and making an unsupported opinion sound like a fact, in categorizing everything, which at least has the effect of making you look at something in terms of its parts rather than its entirety. It's too bad his only points of reference are prior to the fourth century BCE; this tends to limit you when every time you want to give an example, you say, "Let's consider the Odyssey . . . " I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower
With such a cool name, you'd better not be just a public relations invention! He's not. I've only read the first story in this collection, "The Brown Coast," but it's a winner. Great writing, witty observations, and one of those situations that does what Aristotle says tragedy should do, evoke pity (for the character) and fear (that this could happen to you). A guy who's been thrown out by his wife is given by his uncle a make-work task of fixing up a run-down house that's been in his family but that no one has taken care of for years. What he thinks will be his salvation, the presence of the ocean, is undone by the sheer ugliness and foulness of the coast, but still he finds moments—and strange creatures, human and otherwise—full of grace . . . and awfulness.

Still reading Lester Dent's The Man of Bronze, the initial Doc Savage story. I'd thought Dent's personal history as a traveler and kind-of adventurer would intimidate me into feeling utterly inadequate in my descriptions of what befalls "The Old Man," my homage character. However, please note my surprise. Dent does pepper things with the occasional detail that gives you the vague sense he knows what he's talking about, but much more often, the narrative flails about so spastically, it's evident that verisimilitude is the last thing on his mind. (Near as I can tell, in the last scene everybody on Doc's plane was shooting at someone on the beach—while they were still inside the plane. [Dent doesn't seem to have noticed.] Only later did they climb out and, obviously foreseeing the next scene, in which a plane would dive at them, set up a machine-gun on one wing.) Anyway, I now feel like any realism I've brought to these stories, including in the action scenes, stands up far better than I'd first thought.

I'm now working on three stories somewhat simultaneously. (I'm increasingly inattentive.) Two of them I hope to enter in contests. I think they all sound quite different, but I could be wrong. Much to my surprise, two have ended up as first-person pieces (though they didn't start that way). It's good to have deadlines (end of July).


Anonymous said...

A small press apparently will publish new novels by Will Murray, based on outlines by Dent, starting this month. Presumably there won't be an shooting booboo. Also, in case you're interested, a few years ago a Role-Playing publisher reprinted a series of Dent stories about airships. I haven't read the book yet though, so I have no idea how good they are.

William Preston said...

No shooting booboo . . . but will there be a shooting bonobo? (That'd be kind of cool.)

Thanks! I had seen mention of those novels somewhere(s). I have to say, Dent stepped up his game considerably in this first novel when Doc piloted his aircraft into "the Valley of the Vanished." Experience evidently gave Dent the necessary means to describe the difficulty of the flight and the topography over which they passed, so the tension felt more vivid.

Far superior to the goofy running around between buildings in the book's opening. "The guy took out a knife to cut the cord. He dropped it. He took out another knife . . . " That kind of thing. Yeesh.