November 2015 — comments/reviews/thoughts
Dec 11, 2015Posted by on
The following thoughts may be obvious to most of you but to a newcomer in this motley band of short story writers, each step can be new to me. Here’s a part of my latest e-mail to the colleague I meet with every month:
On reading my submission through, essentially checking the punctuation (again), a couple of sentences that I thought were correctly punctuated still didn’t read well. It then occurred to me that it was the words used, sometimes simply their sequence in the sentence. Put in a nutshell: It was the cadence of the words used as they appeared in a sentence and the punctuation that needed to be considered.
Then I remembered listening to a discussion about translating opera librettos and why an opera may sound terrible in a language other than the one it is written in. It seems (obvious when stated) that languages have different cadences applied to the syllables of words that have the same meaning when translated. So simply translating the word is not enough as the translation may change the intended cadence.
Another a former colleague of mine once pointed out that words are simply concepts and I agree with her. However, concepts themselves may create an error when replacing a word with its literal meaning in another language. An example of his occurred on the CWG last month over the Turkish word for cage (When is a kafes not a cage?) which, in this case, meant a gilded cage. I would suggest that this is particularly valid, even in a common language, when a word can place a different emphasis on its meaning depending on its context.
That is; a word’s intended meaning has to be understood in the context of the language that it was originally written in. Two examples of language usage that confound translation from their original use spring to mind. The first being the lyrics thatLorenz Hart wrote for the Richard Rogers song Manhattan. This song includes the lyrics:
The city’s clamor can never spoil
The dreams of a boy and goil…
What do you get when you kiss a guy
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do, he’ll never phone ya…
So what’s this got to do with writing! Quite a lot in my view, writing is simply another art form subject to interpretation, in this case by the reader. While artistic licence may be used liberally, a story is written with an intended reader in mind. If the reader is to stumble over an included word in the sentence or its punctuation (or both) along the way — either literally or figuratively — it should be intended and have a purpose.
Peter a.k.a Aasof
The following are my comments/reviews/thoughts on this month’s stories — presented in the order submitted:
- ANOTHER SPIN OF THE WHEEL. Written by Atiller: — These stories would make a good series for television, there’s so much material in each story. The ending was neat, particularly Brenda being reimbursed. I’m not sure whether or not it was intentional to leave the reader (me at least) somewhat up in the air about Brenda and Sarah’s return to London. I can understand Brenda having to go to collect her money and that Sarah was required to return but other than that, their personal imperatives to do so was lost on me (unless it’s simply a joint wanderlust). In this sequence of stories I read their return to London as being more than a vacation, rather the link to the next story.
- CLASS DIVIDE. Written by Theodora2015: — A really enjoyable read, I do hope that you are in the CWG for the long haul Theodora. The entries are usually good and this month I thought that they were exceptionally good, so choosing the first three has been a particularly difficult exercise. Especially given the quality of your writing and the creativity of your storyline. Replacing the need to include the content of the letters from Dennis by the inclusion of the engagement ring sent to Mona was a clever ploy, as was its use in the conclusion. I can recall a time when such class divides were more obvious than they are these days.
- A MONTH AT BATH. Written by Giselle: — I read the story and obviously enjoyed it Giselle but I now believe that I read it and ignored your punctuation. It may well be that you intend the punctuation you’ve inserted; however, on rereading the story for this review I’m not sure that if it were read out loud there would be so many pauses. Particularly the use of commas in separating clauses with coordinating conjunctions but this is a complex issue and one that I’m still learning about.
- MANGLE. Written by Capucin: — I’m loath to admit how emotional I found this story Capucin and despite my system, which I might add now severely handicaps you, this month I found your story truly engaging. The switch in time frames while keeping the human characters doggedly anonymous was a nice twist to the tale — leading to the neat conclusion.
- THE BLUE COAT. Written by Peter Barnett: — The difficulty with autobiography is that you are expected to begin at the beginning and go on until the end; or to whenever you think your life ceases to be interesting, at least to the reader; or until you peg out with boredom, bemused by the self-indulgent vanity of the exercise.[sic] Giles Gordon — Aren’t We Due A Royal Statement?
- THE TRUTH WILL OUT. Written by Expatangie: — Another delightful story Angie. If the theme is always romance Angie the storylines are always quite different, which is in itself quite a task. Connecting the children (in this case) was a clever contrivance and I have to assume an Italian influence for your optimism regarding happy outcomes, especially the one implied for Hector and Chloe. On re-reading your story again, I’m amused by your neat solution to genetic complications and bemused by the words Brendan ignored her at school, especially when reading even though I knew in my heart that he preferred you. I would have expected some response from Brendan given the implied outcome of the reunion — guilt, remorse? I don’t really know, but something to reinforce the expected outcome for Jo and Brendan.
- THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT PERA. Written by TurkishJenny: — I’m sure that I must have read or seen accounts of this incident Jenny and had forgotten all about them (having seen the name Agatha thought that you must mean Christie). I’m not sure about the denouement introduced at: Agatha dies in 1976 aged 86 years. It seems like a leap to a footnote that is not part of the story, a bit like modern television when you become engrossed in the story only to find yourself bewildered by the rush to end it. To my mind an issue compounded by the fact that you’ve actually added a footnote and one that — for me at least — creates a curiosity regarding what may be your secret sources for these stories.
- PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLO. Written by PavlovaQueen: — Hello PQ, the story has a ring of truth about it? However, based on a real event or not, the elements of your stories are always so well done; characterisations, descriptive illustrations, dialogues, etc. What an odd family from North Dakota and what an unpleasant character Joe is. I assume there is some basis for casting them this way or have I missed something? The incident with the bottle of wine would upset me and let’s not start on the Sound Of Music, although I did find it odd that the family seemed to enjoy the singing. And what about the girl —is this a clue to something weird about Joe? His liking for questions with a hidden motive — is Joe simply an obsessive-compulsive personality? I guess I have to wonder like Alessandro, ‘What do to his family, what’?
- WHY MR. JAMES COULDN’T FATHER A CHILD. Written by Charles Stuart: — Always a great storyline Charles and for me, always a problem. I don’t know why you alluded to the conclusion in the title to your story and in the (unlikely) comment by the doctor that, ‘It’s as if one of you is actually a chimpanzee’. Nevertheless, I can’t claim at that point to have anticipated the ending. I think that it would have been more interesting without the alien story told by Mr James and an enhanced version of the discovery in the shed providing an alternative denouement (the possible link to a follow on story). Your reference to a chimpanzee would suggest that you know more about fertilisation than you have chosen to include in your story. I would really like to read this storyline as a longer piece (novella or novel maybe, or simply just a longer short story).
- PI BRIAN. Written by Danthemann: — It’s a great pity that you don’t appear to have a web page or a web site of your own Dan. A single place where all your stories can be found. They are really worth retaining and re-reading. Sometimes they may be deeper than I give them credit for, but I have always enjoyed then as simply a story. The complete story is always good and in this case the happenings in the DIY story are especially so. The ending came as a complete surprise to me. It seems that all’s fair in love and journalism.
- I AM ZHLOGH. Written by Archie_tp: — An interesting story Archie but it raised the issue of formatting with me as I was assuming that the the anthology was OK for this year. My assessment of a story takes the formatting into account inasmuch as I think that all stories entered each month should be formatted as intended. PS — I’m not sure why Zhlogh was considered a monster? The attraction to Nevin created an intriguing scenario!