Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fun Fiction

A friend gave me a copy of a university-published "literary magazine." It's all short stories and poems. I've been reading it on the john. Most of the stuff is pretty good, though honestly, I'm not a big fan of the poetry. Some of it is obscure, even deliberately obfuscating, and that puts me off. But I liked a couple of poems in the magazine, and most of the short stories are well written.

The stories, even the poorly written ones, have one thing in common. It's as though the professor said, "Write about your most miserable experience. Child abuse, drug addiction, and/or rape will get you an A plus. And remember, no laughs!"

There are a few famous literary magazines that every writer wants to get into. I've tried to read them. I can't get through them. Too depressing. I don't know if all literary magazines are this way, just the ones I've read.

In fiction, a main character has to go through trauma. He has to have a strong need or we won't follow him. But I can't endure fiction that has absolutely no light in it whatsoever. It's one of the reasons I wrote Camelot & Vine. I like to learn when I read. I like to have to look up a word or check out a reference. But when I read I also want to enjoy myself.

It's not like I haven't experienced trauma. But I've already had therapy and I don't want to write about it.

In Camelot & Vine, you know from the beginning that Casey has problems. She's sleeping with a married man, she's failing in her work, and she has no relationship with her one surviving parent. Her history explains how she has become this person. Then she's thrust into an adventure she doesn't comprehend but must, in order to survive it. And it's dangerous and it's romantic and it's fun. At least, I think so.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with dire fiction, or highbrow poetry. These works require talent and perseverance to create, and they have an audience. I'm just not that audience.

So I did what I suspect a lot of authors do. I wrote the book I wanted to read.


And now for something completely different!


Ann Erdman, Pasadena's former Public Information Officer, apparently can't just sit back and enjoy being (or drinking) a Lady of Leisure. She's helping the Pasadena Senior Center spread the word about free concerts:

You don’t have to be a senior citizen to attend free, family-friendly concerts at Pasadena’s Memorial Park band shell Tuesday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. this summer, sponsored by the Pasadena Senior Center.

 * July 16 – The Salty Suites present a blend of toe-tapping Americana, bluegrass and folk music.

 * July 23 – Tumbleweed Rob and the Southwest Junction performs traditional western cowboy music with a country twist.

 * July 30 – Pasadena Summer Youth Chamber Orchestra performs historic and contemporary classical music.

 * Aug. 6 – The Folk Collection presents Americana music at its best, with songs made famous by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and other greats.

 * Aug. 13 – The Perfect Gentlemen combine a cappella harmonies with humor to keep the tradition of Vaudeville alive.

 * Aug. 20 – Lisa Haley and the Zydekats is a Grammy Award-winning group that performs lively Cajun Zydeco music.

 * Aug. 27 – The Rock Bottom Boys present rock and roll hits of the ‘60s and ‘70s with a fun, hillbilly twist.

 * Sept. 3 – The Great American Swing Band will round out the summer concert series with the sounds of Big Band, standards, swing, rhythm and blues, jazz and Dixieland.

Bring a picnic or purchase food at the BBQ snack bar. Memorial Park is on Raymond Avenue between Walnut and Holly streets in Pasadena.

 For more information visit www.pasadenaseniorcenter.org or call (626) 795-4331.


dive said...

With you there, Petrea. Sure, it's okay to suffer for your art but why make everybody else suffer, too?
Beethoven was a crotchety, deaf sociopath, but the finale of his ninth sure ain't a downer. Hell, even Morrissey can be hilarious.
Lighten up, folks. The miserablist writers in that magazine should go read Camelot and Vine and see how to write a book that loves to be read.

Margaret said...

I always say the same thing. I know life is hard. I don't need my entertainment to convince me. I wrote The Goddess Lounge because it was the book I wanted toread.

Petrea Burchard said...

It's okay for some people, Dive, just not for me. Or you~!

Here's The Goddess Lounge, a screamingly funny book. It also has angst. Angst is funny!

beckynot said...

It's an underappreciated concept: entertainment.

Even if I'm pouring out my soul or some one else's (rescue dog, political candidate, fictional character) I know I'm more effective if I engage (entertain).

Petrea Burchard said...


Ms M said...

I agree with you on most of the literary mags. I'm not into the post-modern stuff, Derrida, etc. I've enjoyed the books you and Margaret wrote so much more!

Desiree said...

You bring up a fascinating point!
Also, will be there for the Zydekats. We should all meet at one of these!

Petrea Burchard said...

Ms. M, I suspect that those who disagree with me won't comment, but nonetheless, I encourage it. It's really all a matter of taste.

I feel bad because I derided "The DaVinci Code" to a friend who really loved it.

Desiree, I'll bet you wrote the books you wanted to read, too.

altadenahiker said...

Humor is one of my requirements, too. Airy, light, smirky, dark, inky black, even mean, or so deeply buried you have to dig. Without it, I just won't believe. More to the point, I won't finish.

Petrea Burchard said...

Hiker, you make the point that although not all situations contain humor, there is actual humor in actual life. Even on the bad days.

Susan Campisi said...

I wrote a screenplay years ago that my writing teacher wanted to option (no money for that option, mind you). I turned him down: I thought I was writing a deep, dark psychological drama; he thought I was writing a comedy. Now with some time and distance, I see that he was right.

Petrea Burchard said...

We change so much, don't we? In college I wrote a play, which I also thought was dramatic. Turns out it wasn't even funny, it was just bad.

Bellis said...

Camelot and Vine had the three ingredients I long for in books: romance, history, and humor. When I describe it to someone, I tell them it's a lot of fun to read. I've just been looking through all the books on my shelves and there are many I never got far with, mainly those I had to read for book clubs. Is there a deserving place to donate them to?

Petrea Burchard said...

Any library would love to have them, Bellis. If not the library itself, the Friends of the Library store. You might try South Pas because it's close, they've got a nice store there.

Are you home? I've missed you!

TheChieftess said...

Remember when Oprah had her book list??? When she first came out with it I thought it would be a good recommendation for a good read...read one...started another one....and realized that in order to get on her book list...it had to be "child abuse, drug addiction, and/or rape"...and definitely "no laughs"! From then on...Oprah's list was the list of books to avoid!!!

Petrea Burchard said...

Yeah! The "great books" are so often about dire things. But I've read and enjoyed books that contained these elements. I think it has to do with the author's voice, or outlook. Is life over now? Is all the world a horrible place? Or can we overcome and learn to enjoy life?