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Author Topic: Exposing Myself  (Read 21011 times)

Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #40 on: March 23, 2007, 10:40:32 PM
I sort of agree with that. It's good when books do all the aforementioned things, certainly.

But I get a bit uncomfortable with ranking. Is _Tequila Mockingbird_ better than _Candide_, for instance? Is that really a meaningful question?

EDIT: to be clear, I'm using _To Kill a_ as being an example of a well-rounded book, and _Candide_ as an example of an intellectually-driven book which relies on the reader's academic engagement to gloss past craft issues. Of the two, I personally like _Candide_ better. In contrast, though, I like _Salt Roads_ (which I'd characterize as a well-rounded book) better than _Candide_, so I'm not arguing that academic-only books are better, just saying that I don't think well-rounded necessarily trumps limited emphasis.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2007, 10:55:39 PM by palimpsest »



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #41 on: March 23, 2007, 10:52:15 PM
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Would 580 Split really be inclined to publish something its readers would find dead dull?  Or do they publish work they think their readers will find captivating even if Esquire's readers would be bored senseless by it?

Just noticed I glossed over this.

A lot of lit journals have extremely, extremely small readerships. 580 Split as a non-paying magazine which I'd never heard of before I went to Mills... well, the circ # doesn't seem to be in my copy of Writer's Market (I can't find the listing, if it has one), but I imagine it's very small.

Further, because its funding probably mostly comes from the University rather than from subscriptions, I'm not sure that increasing readership is its number one priority. (I slushed a bit for the magazine, but I did not attend any business meetings. I may be mischaracterizing 580 Split. I don't mean to impugn it.)

So, rather than trying to put together a magazine that will attract a broad, or at least dedicated, readership -- i.e. thinking about the readers' responses to the work -- my sense is that most literary magazines that are tied to academic institutions are more interested in putting "the best" stories together, to create a work of art that is the best that it can be.

That piece of art might attract an audience, if the audience is particularly sensitive or if the zeigeist is right, but that's a happy result of, say, planetary alignment. It is not by marketing design. And if it does not attract an audience -- well, it might just be theat there are an insufficient number of people around hwo appreciate true art, or at least who have the money to spend on the litarry magazine and also apprecaite true art.

This is a different attitude from Greg Bear's, "Get their beer money," and it's what I mean when I say that audience is more at the forefront of genre discussions than of literary workshops. The lit workshops are interested in getting the art right, and then maybe people will like it, and maybe they won't. The genre workshops and writers groups that I've been part of have tended to be more focused on "how do I take this thing I want to do and balance it with what the audience will like."

I mean, it's a game. All magazines balance art with business; all writers balance art with audience. But where one's priorities lie affects how much sway one gives one factor over the other.



SFEley

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Reply #42 on: March 23, 2007, 10:58:36 PM
But I get a bit uncomfortable with ranking. Is _Tequila Mockingbird_ better than _Candide_, for instance? Is that really a meaningful question?

To me it is, because I haven't read Candide.  >8->  I'm not going to claim universal truths, but I'm fine ranking things in my own opinion.

And in that opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird tops the scale.  I also think that Atticus Finch is a paragon for how to be a father.

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #43 on: March 23, 2007, 11:01:08 PM
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I'm not going to claim universal truths, but I'm fine ranking things in my own opinion.

Oh, sure!

I just thought you were using TKaM as an example of the set of well-rounded books, as part of an argument that well-rounded books are generally the best thing (which is a fine argument, but trips my "what is universalism?" kvetch). Sorry if I misread.



SFEley

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Reply #44 on: March 23, 2007, 11:30:33 PM
I just thought you were using TKaM as an example of the set of well-rounded books, as part of an argument that well-rounded books are generally the best thing (which is a fine argument, but trips my "what is universalism?" kvetch). Sorry if I misread.

Well, I was ambiguous in my intention.  I actually do think that well-rounded books are generally the best, and I think it's defensible in the sense that if a book is truly well-rounded, you'll get more people from more perspectives to agree that it's a great book.  I don't equate that with fundamental truth, and I wouldn't be stricken down by exceptions, but I think it's a reasonable heuristic by every criterion I can think of, and it stands up very favorably against its inverse (that books that succeed on many levels are bad.)  >8->

Oh...  And come to think of it, is To Kill a Mockingbird another example of a story that starts with a bigass lump of exposition?  Okay, the very first sentence is action, but after that it's all exposition and analysis for the rest of the chapter:

Quote
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem's fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn't have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out.

I said if he wanted to take a broad view of the thing, it really began with Andrew Jackson. If General Jackson hadn't run the Creeks up the creek, Simon Finch would never have paddled up the Alabama, and where would we be if he hadn't? We were far too old to settle an argument with a fist-fight, so we consulted Atticus. Our father said we were both right.

Being Southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings... 

...And so on, with the complete family history for a few pages.

Opinions?  Is this opening with exposition, or is it character development?  I could see it both ways.  What it isn't, except for the foreshadowing in paragraph two, is plot.

Anyone find it boring?

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #45 on: March 23, 2007, 11:44:28 PM
I'd call that exposition. It interests me.



Roney

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Reply #46 on: March 24, 2007, 10:19:15 PM
I like Salt Roads (which I'd characterize as a well-rounded book) better than Candide, so I'm not arguing that academic-only* books are better

* My emphasis.

I (politely) (at least I intend so) disagree that Candide is academic-only.  I got a lot out of it as an interested teenage civilian, thanks to a recommendation from my Da.  Some of the jokes that made it accessible at the time are still funny.

Narrative is not necessarily exposition.

A very good point.  I think we're in danger of falling into one of those arguments where everyone actually agrees with each other but we don't realize it because we use the same terms to mean different things.  I get the feeling that some people are using "exposition" to mean "boring infodump".  (Correct me if I'm misconstruing you.)  Without wanting to start another grammar pedantry thread, that would be genuinely begging the question.

My opinion is that there's only so far that "show don't tell" can go, and that sometimes you have to tell.  This is not a bad thing.  Telling is what words is for.  And it can work from the very first sentence: I love stories that draw me into them by slowly conjuring a world that I want to know more about.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #47 on: March 25, 2007, 02:56:12 AM
I'm defining exposition as that space in the text which has the primary purpose of relaying information. Often, this means stopping the action (whether that action was taking place in narrative or scene).



JaredAxelrod

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Reply #48 on: May 02, 2007, 05:59:27 PM
What it isn't, except for the foreshadowing in paragraph two, is plot.

I'd argue that paragraph 3 is also foreshadowing, if for no other reason than it paint Atticus Finch as a wise, understanding man much before we get indroduced to him proper.  It's almost subliminal.

So, there.  One and a half paragraphs of foreshadowing, one paragraph of character development, and one sentence about family history to provide a sense of place.  The exposition is one sentence, done as a line of throwaway family history. 

The lesson from Harper Lee?  If you're putting your exposition in the beginning, limit it to one sentence snuggled into an ancedote.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #49 on: May 02, 2007, 06:28:05 PM
Foreshadowing is not exposition? I'd say it is.



JaredAxelrod

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Reply #50 on: May 02, 2007, 06:54:11 PM
Foreshadowing is not exposition? I'd say it is.

Only when it's done poorly. 



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #51 on: May 02, 2007, 07:32:27 PM
It sounds increasingly like your definition of exposition is "stuff that bores me."



JaredAxelrod

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Reply #52 on: May 02, 2007, 07:44:06 PM
It sounds increasingly like your definition of exposition is "stuff that bores me."

One could also say that it sounds from your arguments like your defintion of exposition is "stuff that isn't plot."

My definiton expostions hews very close to Merriam-Webster's, actually.  They say it's "a setting forth of the meaning or purpose,"  which strikes me as fairly dead on.  Exposition is the author puting aside the story for a moment to explain something.  If your foreshadowing is done in a plainly ovbious way, than it's exposition.  If you subltly work it into the narrative in such away that the reader exclaims some form of "Why didn't I see that coming!  All the clues where there!" then it's not.

Is it boring when authors stop the story to explain where we are, who we're talking to or why we're talking to them?  Sometimes.  Depends on how good the author is.