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Monday, December 15, 2003

Reaction to Close Range by Annie Prolux

Annie Prolux’s collection of short stories Close Range, Wyoming Stories depicts the harsh life of Wyoming ranch and rodeo life through an often bleak and dismal outlook. Prolux does not attempt to create unrealistic happy-ever-after endings or entice the reader with appealing descriptions of the setting. Being a resident of Wyoming herself Prolux has done a good job of accurately representing the reality she sees around her through interesting plots and carefully crafted language.
I’d have to say the most redeeming quality of Prolux’s story is the vivid language she uses. She uses unexpected descriptions and imagery to describe commonplace things, drawing connections with metaphors and similes that might otherwise not have been made. Even though is obviously a piece of prose many times her language tests the borders of poetry. This descriptive nature also applies to her careful choice of names for all her characters. She selects names that are not proper names but rather adjectives that perfectly describe some aspect of the characters personality. For example in The Governors of Wyoming one the main character’s name is Shy which describes his tendency to hide many portions of his life from the rest of the characters in the story.
Although not necessarily my favorite aspect of this collection, I can appreciate Prolux’s choice to completely eliminate any semblance of a happy ending from all her stories. Many of her stories contain some aspect of death, whether it be in the background or the forefront of the story. Also, many times the storyline explores family relationships which are not painted in a positive light. An example of this is seen in the piece The Mud Below in which the main character Diamond Felts is always at odds with his mother who seems to find no greater joy than putting her son down. This realistic view, though rather pessimistic, is slightly depressing, but in the same respect is refreshing. Her refusal to simply tie loose ends together at the end of the story to make a happy ending let’s the reader experience a reality they otherwise might have been ignorant to.
Another aspect of Prolux’s writing that struck me was her ability to write male characters so accurately. Almost all of her main characters are male, usually rodeo bull riders or some form of ranch hand. They all experience very hard lives filled with back breaking work, tough decisions, and emotional pain their role in society does not permit them to show. Often this comes across in the harsh gruff, and sometimes crude dialogue between characters, and internal monologues. I was very impressed by Prolux’s ability to place herself in the position of these men and give them voices and personalities that seemed completely natural.
Overall I enjoyed reading this collection, although it is not something that I most likely would have not chosen to read on my own. Prolux’s descriptive language and interesting storylines kept my interest even though the dismal tone of her pieces at first turned me away. Even though at times I found the ideas and relationships of the characters somewhat disturbing and morbid, I appreciated the hard reality of their situations. I would definitely be interested in reading some of her other works after reading this collection.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

I suppose my ideal reader would be someone who has had similar experiences in their life to mine. I cannot say my ideal reader would be either male or female, just as long as they felt that they could relate to the content of my writing. I feel that for some of my writing this "ideal reader" would encompass many people as I often tend to write about relationships, a subject which almost everyone has an opinion on or a story of their own about. Other times, my ideal reader would be someone who either grew up from the same area as me or one similar. Coming from a rural area I often tend to incorporate that into my writing in some way or another, and those who have experienced rural life would be better equipped to relate to that aspect of my writing.
Looking over this first paragraph I realize that most times I write for myself more than for other people, and I suppose that is the main reason my ideal reader would be someone with similar experiences to my own. This is not to say that I write without any thought of an audience in mind. However, it is very much a secondary thought when I sit down to write. I think it would be an interesting experience for me to consciously attempt to write a piece geared towards a target group completely different from my usual " ideal reader", and see how successful this attempt is at reaching this target group.
A much delayed reaction to the Julie Orringer reading...

As I've never been to a reading before it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed the piece that was read, and found it interesting as the content was not familiar to me. An Orthodox Jewish community setting for the story was completely foreign to me and I appreciated the very detailed descriptions of the lifestyle and customs. The situation that Orringer created in her piece was a very original and unusual making it easy to capture the attention of her audience. I also appreciated her ability to create a very believable personality for her main character.
Hearing the author read her own piece was an interesting experience, especially for the dialogue in the story. I was able to hear the tone and inflection the author herself intended the characters to have. It made me wonder how I would have read this piece differently had I simply read it on my own for the first time. Overall, I enjoyed the experience of the reading and the piece itself, it definitely sparked my interest in reading the rest of the book.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The story I enjoyed the most from this week's assignments was "Arrow Math" by Katharine Haake. I liked the structure of piece and how author allows the reader to merely glimpse bits and pieces of the story until she's ready to reveal the whole picture. I think the most obvious protagonist/ antagonist relationship in this story is the unnamed narrator and Linda. This is an interesting representation as we're allowed to learn so many small details about Linda ("Linda's had her nails done since high school"), while the only thing we know about the protagonist is learned through the story of her and Wyn's relationship. The conflict between the two women over one man seems to be mostly on the part of the speaker, as it seems Linda never really acknowledges her existence (at least not in this narrative). However I think there is another way to look at this story, with Larry as the protagonist, Linda as the antagonist, and Wyn's unnamed former love interest as merely a narrator. Larry needs information and emotions from his mother that she is unwilling or unable to give, causing an obvious conflict of interests. I think that in either scenario the crisis of the story is Wyn's death, and somewhat of a resolution comes from Linda taking her son back to the supposed scene of his death. As this story moves forward and backward and time it is unusual that the resolution would be revealed before the crisis if I what I've determined as the crisis and resolution are in fact correct. Both the crisis and the resolution are revealed, at least in part, in the two pages of the story, with the middle of the story being mainly "backstory" and finally returning again to a more detailed explanation of the crisis and resolution at the end. Although disorienting at first, I liked the way this piece did not use conventional structure to tell the story. The disorder forces the reader to piece together the story, without merely being spoon-fed facts.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

I think the name of character I'm going to invent shall be Marie. Marie drives 1969 Ford Mustang, cherry red with a white convertible top. It is her prized possession, a hard earned trophy that she paid for with the all the money she has earned waitressing and babysitting since she was 14. Her parents think it's one of the most irresponsible purchases of her life. "You should be saving that money for college, not draining it into the tank of that gashog." they insist. Marie shrugs her shoulders and smiles at herself in the rearveiw mirror as she backs out of the driveway, their protests growing distant. She keeps the exterior of her baby spotless, washing it and waxing it much more often than necessary. She likes the way the sun gleams off the glossy red paint. However, the interior, her second home, is quite a different story. The floor is often littered with Subway wrappers, about 5 half empty water bottles, and several pairs of shoes, as she hates wearing shoes while driving and often takes them off. The car is obviously not equipped with the latest stereo system, and a portable cd player rest on the vinyl seat attached to a tape adaptor and often playing some flavor of hard rock. Her cd case lays in the backseat amongst several hooded sweatshirts and contains much of the same hard rock music, intermixed with rap, some classic rock, and one unmarked, burned N'Sync cd hidden behind AC/DC "Back in Black". Although, her car is comfortably cluttered, it is never "dirty". She hates dust and the way its minions attacks her dashboard. Armor All is now her favorite product The last item of importance is a bent and tattered photo of senior prom. She stands with in the classic pose, arms around her friends. Half the picture has been torn off to exclude a certain member of the opposite sex, but she still thinks it's a good picture. She looks good in that dress, red is definitely her color.

Monday, October 27, 2003

For the entirety of my life before coming to Cornell, I have lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It's an area that thrives mainly on it's farmland and produce, and the tourism brought by the Amish. In many respects it is an area stuck in the past, not only the place itself but the people. This applies not only to the high population Amish and Mennonites in the area, but the most of the inhabitants in general. This is most likely the reason that I had always planned on leaving the area as soon as possible. I can truly appreciate how beautiful the area is and how a slower pace of life sometimes is much preferred over the alternative. However, I also cannot fathom how so many people from my area don't ever think about the fact that there is a world outside of their everyday existence. I cannot say that this is a characteristic that I have completely escaped, but leaving the area has definitely opened my eyes a great deal. However, I also feel that growing up where I did, in a rural area on a farm, has given me an appreciation for the smaller things in life, and taught me remember what is truly important.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Up to this point I have written mostly poetry for this class, which is odd because previous to this class prose seemed to be my writing style of choice. I feel that although it does not have to be, prose is much more structured than poetry. When writing in prose, the construction of the sentences and word choice tend to carry the most weight, whereas in poetry this stress can be more evenly distributed among these concepts, as well as form. Prose has completely different standards to live up to than poetry does, mainly because prose is the language we use to communicate in everyday life. We expect prose to provide information, whereas with poetry we usually begin reading it without any expectations, it is what it is. While this might make prose seem to be more restricted to some, I feel that this characteristic also opens up many possibilities for prose. Because it is such a common form of communication, it is sometimes much easier for the writer to communicate an idea to the targeted audience using prose. Also, when using such an expected writing form sometimes it is easier for a writer to develop their personal style and voice, using the form as a guideline.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Mystery is attractive mainly for the simple reason that it is the unknown. When things aren't laid out in black and white, with all blanks filled in, curiosity is sparked. I think it is basic human nature to wonder what is just around the corner, seeing what is around us and what we know as fact as commonplace,ordinary and boring. The unknown allows the imagination to wander discovering whatever it chooses, there is no preoccupation with accuracy or correctness because it is all merely suppostion. In the event that we discover the truth behind the mystery it rarely lives up to the expectations of our imaginations. Mystery surronds us in everyday life, why people believe what they do, why suffering still exists, or simply what the day will bring. Some of those mysteries will be solved and some will not, however it is the ones that are not so easily solved that are the most intriguing.
After reading "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" I sat for awhile trying to figure out exactly the point the author was trying to get across. Le Guin paints a very descriptive picture of Omelas, a world where people are happy,but not simple. She also paints a very graphic portrait of the child whose happiness Omela is apparently hinged upon, describing the necessity of the inhumane treatment of the innocent child quite vividly. I suppose the vivid descriptions in the text and the sometimes extreme emotions evoked by them,are intended to catch the attention of the reader and make them examine their own lives and how it is not that different from Omelas. Most would not consider their everyday lives as the utopia that the bright side of Omelas depicts, however it seems as though the people that live in Omelas simply take advantage of the things provided for them, ensuring their happiness, whereas most of us do not. Also, the child, in a very exaggerated way represents how there cannot be good without evil, we would not know what goodness was without the existence of evil. I think the ones who leave Omelas are representative of those who take their own lives in the world we live in. Those who cannot see past the bad things in the world to see the happiness they could provide for themselves.

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