Posted in Photography

Fifty shades of … grump

Inexplicably, it has become a publishing phenomenon.

Like Twilight did.

I really like what author Stephen King had to say about Twilight.  Have you seen it?  He said, “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

I really can’t comment as I didn’t read the Twilight books and I haven’t seen the movies.

The author of Twilight is supposed to have had a dream, and when she woke up she wrote what is now Chapter 13 of the first book.  It grew from there.

An inauspicious beginning.

I am generally suspicious of books that take the publishing world by storm – I have read the Harry Potter series, but not Twilight, not The Hunger Games, not The Girl with any kind of Tattoo.

And I haven’t read Fifty Shades of …

Except for the excerpts available from Amazon.

I thought I’d see what the fuss was about.  I wish I hadn’t bothered.

You know how repetition is great in children’s books?  Susan Gannon, writing in 1987, claimed that “repetition is one of the most familiar features of children’s literature. It clarifies the structure of narrative for young readers, and helps them to remember what they have read. It adds rhythm and the mysterious charm of ritual to the simplest of verbal formulas. It offers the pleasure of extended suspense and delayed gratification to even the youngest audience” (p. 2).

But it’s one thing that rubs me up the wrong in writing for adults. The writing gets so boring, the author appears unimaginative, and I’m left wondering why this book has become a best seller.  The female lead, a stumbling, bumbling young thing (oh, for goodness sake, pick your feet up), “sprawls” into what’s-his-name’s office (who does that?) only to find that what’s-his-name is some sort of demi-god who came off the set of a Robert Palmer music video (except in the video all the clones have dark hair).

Here’s what another reviewer found (I wish I’d read this before I read the excerpt): “And oh, the repetition…and the repetition…and the repetition. I’m convinced the author has a computer macro that she hits to insert one of her limited repertoire of facial expressions whenever she needs one. According to my Kindle search function, characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips “quirk up” 16 times, Christian “cocks his head to one side” 17 times, characters “purse” their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana’s anthropomorphic “subconscious” (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana’s “inner goddess,” and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of “oh crap” (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to “holy crap,” “double crap,” or the ultimate “triple crap”). … She “blushes” or “flushes” 125 times, including 13 that are “scarlet,” 6 that are “crimson,” and one that is “stars and stripes red.” (I can’t even imagine.) Ana “peeks up” at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian’s “hooded eyes,” 7 to his “long index finger,” and 25 to how “hot” he is (including four recurrences of the epic declarative sentence “He’s so freaking hot.”). Christian’s “mouth presses into a hard line” 10 times. Characters “murmur” 199 times, “mutter” 49 times, and “whisper” 195 times (doesn’t anyone just talk?), “clamber” on/in/out of things 21 times, and “smirk” 34 times. Christian and Ana also “gasp” 46 times and experience 18 “breath hitches,” suggesting a need for prompt intervention by paramedics. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 “grins” and 124 “frowns”…

That’s a lot of repetition.

A lot.

Too much.

It annoyed me.  It annoyed a lot of people.

My question is: why didn’t it annoy more people?  Why didn’t it annoy everyone who read the book?  Who went on to read more than one, because apparently, there’s more than one?

Apart from the repetition, the other thing I didn’t like about what I read was the detail.  Do we have to know that they walked down the street and waited at the corner for the man to go green before they could cross?  It’s so pedestrian.  Writing that goes into that much detail about really mundane things says to me that the author is unsure of how to build tension.  Without tension there is no story (I am a drama teacher still).  I don’t know if any tension was created in the rest of the book, but I didn’t become interested enough in the bit I read to want to find out. That’s poor writing. “I can’t imagine what fans are comparing this to when they describe this as “good”(Amazon reviewer, with whom I happen to agree).

So, the upshot is, as my fingers move slowly across the keyboard, clicking the ‘a’  key before moving on to press the ‘s’ key and then pushing the space bar to create a space between one word and the next, then clicking the ‘m’ key before moving on to press the ‘y’ key and then pushing the space bar to create a space between one word and the next … the upshot is, I won’t be buying the book and I’ll be left wondering why it has become a best seller and why (when there is so much other material around in the genre – just look on any service station magazine shelf) the movie rights are expected to cost $5 million dollars.

I know I sound like a grumpy old lady (oh, don’t they drive you mad!) but that’s what happens when I read poorly written, repetitive stories, that try to cross Pretty Woman with a men’s magazine (and don’t do it very well).

It isn’t literature.

I’m not even sure why it’s read.

Posted in Learning

Learning … pain … achievement

I haven’t been well for two weeks now.  I generally don’t get sick and so it’s a shock to my system.  I haven’t been able to think clearly, to expend much energy on normal, everyday, regular things.  My breathing is short, my chest is tight, and my cough is just plain annoying.  And not just to me!  I’ve thought about writing a blog post but haven’t had anything to say … I keep searching my mind, but it’s a blank.  There is no inspiration.

Until I read this: “Probably the most violent and aggressive act that any person can do to other persons is to invade their minds with ideas and twists of meaning which disturb the comforting security of things known and faith kept. Yet this is what I, as a teacher, am required to do.” 
— R. W. Packer, “Breaking the Sound Barrier: A Dramatic Presentation” inTeaching in the Universities: No One Way, McGill-Queens University Press, 1974.

At Orientation in February I talked about the leap from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence (through a few stages) and how that process – the process of learning – is not straight-forward and is not painless.  There are bumps along the way, and periods of time described as “ouch” where learning bites. But I hadn’t quite considered it in this light – in the light of a violent and aggressive act.  Of invading minds; of disturbing comforting securities.

A student enrolled in Curriculum and Pedagogy is frustrated with my lectures: “Sharon just asks so many questions!  Why can’t she just tell us stuff?” is the cry (and I know there are other students who feel the same way – even tutors ask that question: why can’t you just tell us stuff?).  My questions disturb comforting securities, invade students’ minds, force them to think.  My questions are painful.  They suggest that there are no certainties, that students must create their own responses, must deal with not being completely sure, must live in the land of I’m not sure if this is right – the land of ambiguity. Wendy remembers this land and the frustration of being there; of being forced to go there through question after question. 

It hurts.

It’s not always a pleasant place to be.

It stretches us.

When you’ve spent the day in the garden, you wake up the next morning feeling a bit stiff (particularly if it’s been a while since you gardened).  You stretch your leg out and there’s a twinge.  You twist your body and feel the tug in your back.  Lifting your arm above your head brings another source of discomfort.  Just slight, but you can feel it in ways you couldn’t the day before.  You stand up, and realise your whole body aches.  Reaching for the kettle, climbing the stairs, bending over to empty the dishwasher … ouch.

But you look out into the garden and it looks fantastic.  The roses are tidy, the weeds are gone, the pebbles are all back where they should be, the edges are neat again.  Your effort, your pain, has produced this.  It feels good.

Trudi (not her real name) reminds me of this on the weekend.  I first met Trudi in 2008.  She was ‘just a …’ and couldn’t imagine being anything else.  I’m just a mother; just an SSO … I don’t think I could be a teacher.  (Trudi couldn’t imagine being a university student either.) Trudi has a core of resilience and tenacity and strength but wasn’t fully aware of that back then.  She enrolled in the BEd course, fearful, uncertain, not confident.  She started studying, at home, alone, surrounded by her family who didn’t know what it was like to study at home, alone.

Trudi’s mind was invaded, her way of seeing the world was challenged, her taken-for-granted assumptions were drawn to the surface and she had to examine them.  It was painful.  There were tears, and feelings of I can’t do this, and late nights, and other students (friends now) to support her.  And there was pain.

Most of all though, there was learning.

Trudi started studying in 2008; she was timid and not sure that she could do it. Now, in August 2012 Trudi is a teacher. She glows with it.  It shines from her, and despite her thinking that any minute now someone’s going to come into my classroom and tell me thanks, but I’ll take over now, she’s the teacher.  Her students love her. The parents of her students love her. Her principal comes into her classroom to tell her that she’s doing a wonderful job. She kept going through the pain; she stretched herself, she grew, she learnt … she achieved.

And I feel a sense of achievement too; a small sense of pride because I know I had a part to play in Trudi’s journey – even if that part was painful.

I might be causing pain, but I know the rewards are worth it.