Thursday, July 26, 2012

13 Popular Novels Gone Dirty

You Have Been Warned!

For some reason 50 Shades of Grey gets a lot of attention in the media these days.  It's not like erotic novels are something new.

In fact, I'm pretty sure E.L. James was inspired by these other well-known novels before the censors got to work.

Me?  I just like how these long-lost titles sound.  But then again I snicker when I hear the word, masticate.

 13 Popular Novels Gone Dirty
  1. The Son Also Rises
  2. A Tail and Two Titties
  3. The Great Gasping
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Taboo
  5. The Mount of Monte Cristo
  6. The Adventures of Sure Cock Holmes
  7. The Bi-Curious Case of Benjamin Butt-Man
  8. On Her Majesty's Secret Servicing
  9. The Lord of the Cock Rings
  10. Brave Nude Girl
  11. Alice Tugged
  12. A Midsummer's Night Ream
  13. Harry Potter and the Gobbler Gets Tired
Actual titles we have to live with:
1. The Sun Also Rises, 2. A Tale of Two Cities, 3. The Great Gatsby, 4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 5. The Count of Monte Cristo, 6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 8. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (James Bond), 9. The Lord of the Rings, 10. Brave New World, 11. Atlas Shrugged, 12. A Midsummer's Night Dream, 13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 

And a bonus: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Bone

Did I miss any?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don't Hate 50 Shades of Grey

Perhaps you've heard the hype surrounding the recent phenomenon.  Maybe you can't understand why it's so popular.
  • Some say the quality is poor.
  • Others point to its awkwardness.
  • And is it really so original?
I'm talking about the Square-1 of course.

The Square-1 is a twisty puzzle.  I like twisty puzzles.

When solved, The Square-1 ends up as a six-sided colored cube.  Yep, I'm a cuber, keep going.

The Square-1 offers a unique challenge and it changes shapes when it's scrambled.  Again, sounds like something right up my alley.

Yet, I don't particularly like this puzzle.  But I don't hate it either.

The Square-1 is sliced through the middle on a diagonal axis that makes it rather different to solve than other puzzles like the Rubik's Cube.
I could appreciate what the Square-1 set out to do as a puzzle.  You turn faces.  You attempt to move pieces around the puzzle.  And you try to match all of the colors on each side.  

For me, it was a bit more painful to solve, but it had me intrigued.  I was hooked.  The Square-1 had that something to keep me at it until I was done with it.

And that was why I didn't set my Square-1 ablaze after I discovered it's not so much like the Rubik's Cube after all.

Let's move on to the recent phenomenon, 50 Shades of Grey, and see if there's something to appreciate in it, too.

Love it or hate it, this novel by E.L. James has become wildly popular.

I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and write a scathing (or praising) review of the book.  I really just want to point out there may be a lesson we can all glean from its popularity.

Sure the grammar may be awkward and the dialogue trying.  And there are already scores of blogs and websites dedicated to bashing the book.  But none of that academic stuff really matters.  It's not the writing style.  It's not the subject matter.

There must be something else between the covers that connects with so many people.


One of the biggest reasons for the popularity of this novel is character identification.

When you identify with characters in a story it's easier to suspend disbelief.  It's easier to ignore minor author annoyances.  You really just want to find out what happens to the characters.  Am I saying everybody who loved the book is into Sadomasochism?  No.  To identify with a character is not the same as imitating the character.

But what woman hasn't felt undesirable at some point and think she's not beautiful?  It can create a longing to feel desired and told you're beautiful.

Could this craving in Anastasia, the main character, be one of the things readers connect so deeply with?
And of course Christian Grey is a layered character in the novel -- it's called 50 Shades of Grey after all.  He's controlling, but he wants to be accepted too.  People can identify with these basic character struggles even if they do not share all of their specific traits or feelings.

I really think the lesson here is the character identification in 50 Shades of Grey is what strikes a chord that resonates so deeply with a lot of people.

Why do you think it's so popular?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

13 Things I Did In San Francisco Last Week

A Redwood crashed through our intended bridge.
I just got back from a trip to San Francisco.  Apparently the Bay Area didn't get the memo on the heat wave!  It was 50 degrees cooler on the Fourth than it was in Chicago.

This is true whether Mark Twain said it or not, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Other than the blustery weather, it was an action-packed and beautiful trip.

Here are 13 Things I Did in San Francisco Last Week:

1. Took a fortune cookie factory tour in Chinatown and ate piping hot fortune cookies.

2. Hiked through the Muir Woods Redwoods forest on an alternate trail because a behemoth had fallen and smashed through the bridge on the main hiking trail.  My quads cursed me for taking the steeper detour.

3. Shivered watching the Fourth of July fireworks over the Golden Gate Bridge.

4. Got sunburned on the tops of my hands on a cloudy day that barely climbed above 60 degrees.

5. Rode a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge  hence the sunburn.

6. Ate lunch and drank wine in Napa Valley after touring the Jelly Belly factory.  After enduring a questionable jazz rendition of Roxanne I wished I was back at the Jelly Belly factory instead.

7. Found free parking for dinner in San Francisco.

8. Watched buffalo (bison) graze in the city's Golden Gate Park.

9. Drove for hours and hours through the winding expanse of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

10. Drove down Lombard Street and up Twin Peaks.

11. Saw dolphins at Fort Point  at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.

12. Ate wonderful cassoulet with a nice Bordeaux.  The last time I ate this dish was almost five years ago in Toulouse, France.  Oh, and I also had fantastic Chinese (obviously), Korean, and Indian food.

13. Witnessed illegal firework transactions on the streets of Chinatown.  (This did not occur in the vicinity of Grant and Washington streets.)

Have you been to San Francisco or the Bay Area?  What was your favorite part?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Rubik's Cube and The Great Gatsby

Practice makes perfect, but versatility spawns greatness.

I became a serious cuber when I finally accepted the truth of this statement.

No single method of solving the Rubik's Cube  no matter how perfect  will give you insight to truly master the cube.

Believe it or not, there are scores of methods for solving the Rubik's Cube.  Some are optimized for speed, others for ease of learning, and yet others to use the fewest possible moves.

It wasn't until I learned a method to solve the Rubik's Cube blindfolded, that I understood things on a more profound level.

Solving the cube sighted is rather reckless.  While you focus on one portion of the cube, you don't really care what happens to the majority of the other pieces.  And you have the freedom to 'wing it' and decide what to do next after each move.

But solving the Rubik's Cube blindfolded is a huge departure.  You are constrained in what you can do because you must keep track of the original position of every piece.  You must take great care to move each piece into its correct location.  This requires meticulous planning.

Many of the lessons I learned from my blindsolving method could be applied to my normal, sighted method.

What about writing lessons?

I'm willing to bet F. Scott Fitzgerald achieved his greatness because of similar lessons he learned along the way.

His first two novels were significantly character-driven and somewhat lengthy.  A stark contrast to his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.  But if you look at what was happening in his life prior to that you'll see some of his versatility coming through.

He had been struggling financially and began writing short stories to make ends meet.  He later wrote a play called The Vegetable.  Each of these experiences heavily influenced what would become The Great Gatsby.

He no doubt applied some of the lessons he learned writing short stories.  And this produced the concise novel we have come to love.  But also, you can see the influence of having written a structured play.  The Great Gatsby is a very plot-driven novel.

So, if you write novels, try writing short stories.  If you need help writing dialogue, try writing a play.  If you write romance, try writing an action thriller.

There are countless techniques and methods for writing.  Each one has something special to make you a more versatile writer.  And don't worry if any one particular piece doesn't work  just remember Fitzgerald's The Vegetable was a commercial failure.  But it led to his most recognized achievement.

What unexpected writing lessons have you discovered?