Writing, Books, Painting, Politics, Neuroplasticity

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Page 69 Test, This Shared Dream

Marshall Zeringue asked me to contribute to the Page 69 Test at his long-running blog, Campaign for the American Reader.

The results pleased and surprised my–Page 69 of THIS SHARED DREAM really does reveal a lot about the book as a whole!   Go to http://americareads.blogspot.com/2011/08/pg-69-kathleen-ann-goonans-this-shared.html to see what happened when I opened my book to page 69.

The “test” is cool because you can’t fudge it–there is no way to predict what will be on that page.

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August 4, 2011   No Comments

Pam Noles at AND WE SHALL MARCH has posted a marvelous review of THIS SHARED DREAM.   Here is a bit of what she has to say:

Goonan deploys John le Carre-level spy craft in a thrilling, complex plot that takes the tech we have now and extrapolates its potential into the future. She flings a bunch of balls into the air at the start and doesn’t drop a single one as she takes the story home. She is talking about education. She is talking about global development. She is talking about war. She is talking about one-to-one functional and not family dynamics. She is talking about love. She is talking about race. She is talking about the monied and the not-so-much. She is talking about why we war. She is talking about hope. All at once, in this book called This Shared Dream, which is astonishing.

Wow.  I do like to hear these things.  Writing is a solitary occupation, and writers get little feedback about whether or not what they’ve tried to do hits the mark.  Sounds like maybe, for once, I did what I intended to do.

Read the entire post, and then more of AND WE SHALL MARCH, at this link:

http://andweshallmarch.typepad.com/and_we_shall_march/2011/07/this-shared-dream-by-kathleen-ann-goonan-is-a-phenomenal-book-you-should-read-now.html

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August 1, 2011   No Comments

This Shared Dream reviewed in Interzone

This Shared Dream is an instensely rich, original and provocative novel that is worth checking out.”

–Interzone, July-August 2011

Nice!

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July 28, 2011   No Comments

SONG OF SLAVES IN THE DESERT by Alan Cheuse

I didn’t think that I would have time to read any fiction this summer, despite the piles of lovely novels calling out to me.  With a long-anticipated book launch, courses to plan, academic papers promised, family visits, and much travel requiring several of me if I were to accomplish all that needs to be done, it seemed impossible that I might slip those bonds and escape into the joy of fiction.

That is why, when I opened SONG OF SLAVES IN THE DESERT, it was just for a quick, forbidden look, so that I could hear the interior “Yes” that compels me to put a book on the dangerously tall stack of “fiction for when I have time.” 

Instead, I was pulled right in and put the book down only to sleep.  Despite being five hundred pages long, SONG is so beautifully and clearly written that  I lost myself to the book and finished reading it in twenty-four hours. 

I love the possibilities of narrative fiction, which gives writer and reader the capacity to leap through time, to understand that no story is a single story but a braid of time, place, motive, moral ambiguity, and emotional change through which, if the writing is good, the reader lives.  This ability to access and chronical other times and places, fictional or real, is the gift of our form of consciousness.  To me, it is the chief and crowning human wonder.  If we set ourselves apart from other creatures and claim that we are superior, instead of just different, from them, it seems to me that literacy is the main basis for our overweening smugness. 

To attract and hold  my attention, a novel must be complex, have depth; it must promise a certain emotional and intellectual intensity and it must fulfill that promise.  In short, my favorite type of novel immerses me in many minds, many times, many points of view.  I like the introduction of many point of view characters in service to Story rather than as supporting cast members.  To me, this is what literature is all about.  So I was hooked when I found that SONG’s storylines reach back centuries, brings up compelling issues rarely examined in fiction, and are composed of many points of view. 

Nathanial Pereira, a young Jewish man on the brink of being sent to Europe for his grand tour, afterwards to take over his family’s New York dry goods business, is instead sent to his uncle’s plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, where he is to evaluate the business for his father for possible investment.  Once there, he is overwhelmed by the shock of slavery itself, compounded by the fact that Jews themselves were once slaves, which, to him, would make owning other humans seem an impossible hypocracy. 

Nate’s narrative is intercut with a powerful roar of images and stories that follow one slave’s lineage through generations in Africa and South Carolina.  Liza, beautiful and strangely literate, captures Nate’s imagination and lays bare for him the horrors of human ownership. SONG OF SLAVES IN THE DESERT is a novel about the power of literacy, but it is also a novel about slavery and freedom, human fraility, and human strength.  It is about these issues, and yet, Cheuse, because he is a masterful writer, never preaches, but shows what these ideas and words mean to real individuals, and how their understanding of these concepts and conditions changes throughout the novel.  

The book flows forward through plot twists that I won’t attempt to summarize here, because I don’t want to spoil the unfolding of the book.  I can only urge you to buy SONG OF SLAVES IN THE DESERT and read it soon. 

Or put it on that stack of novels by your bedside, and open it at your peril. 

 

 

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July 21, 2011   No Comments

THIS SHARED DREAM RELEASED

THIS SHARED DREAM is now out and about, strutting around in the world, a Real Book at last.  Get your copy at the bookseller of your choice.   It is available for Nook and Kindle, and a UK Kindle version is available at Amazon.com.uk (see link at right).  And, of course, for those of you who, like me, need a physical copy to read in watery or sand-laden environments, one in which you can write on the pages with wild inks, dog-ear pages, and highlight (or encase in a library cover for your Collection), hard copies are also available. 

Hooray!

 

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July 20, 2011   No Comments

Craig Ferguson, or, A Good Laugh Is Hard To Find

But not when I’m watching this zany man.

Mind you, I’ve only seen his show three times, and my father, a connoisseur of comedy, introduced me to the show.   He’s introduced me to much that is funny.  I remember “That Was the Week That Was;” coming home on a late weekend night to find him watching the Killer Bees on Second City Television; reading Perelman, Thurber, Benchley.  He used to call Jean Shephard when Jean was doing his radio show and chat with him while Jean played records.  I just read a slew of Gene Weingarten’s “Below the Beltway” columns my dad saved for me.  He “reads” me comics over the phone, clearly laying out the scene, and always attributing the writer. 

We were at Goonan Beach Week, and my father, the world’s most dedicated night owl  (he’s earned the right, as he turns 90 in September and has spent a lifetime perfecting what is not only an art, but a philosopy, polishing night owlism to glowing perfection) wanted to watch this show that featured “a robot as a sidekick.”  Well, all right.  We television amateurs set to and in a matter of mere hours of working with the five remote controls provided had found the show, set it up, turned on the captioning, and settled back, not knowing what to expect. 

Within a few moments I was literally rolling on the floor with laughter.  (This is because I was lying on a large pillow on the floor, but still.)  Ferguson has a weird, refreshing style, honest, direct, delivery, and hilarious lines.  

The first night he repeatedly compared his own self-described desultory, low-tech studio with his recent appearencewith Jay Leno.  The second night he opened with an obscene rabbit puppet (obscenities bleeped and the rabbit’s mouth covered by a tiny flag) talking about the new Winnie the Pooh movie, in which Ferguson plays Owl.  Splendidly, I’m sure.  All the time, there are running gags with Geoff the robot, who may be gay.  The last night I watched, Ferguson repeatedly interrupted himself to point and gesture at Geoff and chat loudly with him. exchanging what he called “the false bonhomie of late-night television.”  Then he talked about the time he was on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” with Jerry Falwell when Falwell was disparaging Teletubbies for promoting homosexuality.  Ferguson said that Falwell’s proof of the shows gay content was the Teletubby with the purple triangle bunny-bag headpiece, but Ferguson said that the gay character was clearly the one with the green penis on his head.   Flash of both pictures. 

Yes, you had to be there.  Sure, I don’t do justice to him.  He’s a postmodern genius, deconstructing late-night television, society, and himself in equal, disarming, hilarious measure.

I’m not embedding a clip, because you’d have to watch a thirty-second commercial and that doesn’t seem fair.  But don’t take my word for it.  Watch him yourself.  You’ll be hooked.

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July 17, 2011   No Comments

Words into Stories

Sometimes words are like smooth pebbles, separate and stubborn, refusing to mesh and blend.  They sit dry and separate on the page as if scattered, alien, across a field or a parking lot.  Their smoothness attests to the fact that they have known water; they have been caressed and shaped by flowing liquid, just as words—once rough grunts and utterances–have been caressed and shaped by their journey through billions of human minds over eons.  But these same words often sit, inert, stubbornly apart, unwilling or unable to flavor one another; unable to build, to join, to mingle and sing.

At other times, in my case, Writing Woman (as I like to call her, the writer within) provides a medium like water:  cool, clear, refractive:  melding these many-veined and variously-flecked entities into a unity capable of entering the mind of a reader as a smooth, powerful vista.   She draws the pebbles together under the rule of some principal (generally unknown to Me), and they come alive as in a swift-swirling stream, or wave-washed on a sandy shore.  Their miniscule, many-hued mineral grains sparkle and transmute into a picture; a voice; Meaning.

Last spring, my writing students came to me full of Story, and in those stories the words all pointed in one direction, magnetized by each student’s unique vision.  Our work as critiquers was to mirror, to the writer, those parts that deflected us, the readers, from that course, from the water’s cool,  invisible, illuminating lens.  There was no cookie cutter sameness about these stories!  Each crackled with its own energy; each was a unique world.  They required no “writing exercises” to get them going. 

But if I were to assign one exercise, it would be this:

Write for an hour a day.

Wait—I hear excuses!  “I can’t—there’s not—“ 

But you can, and there is.  You can write, and there is time. 

It might not take you an hour to leave self-consciousness and editing—the rough work of backing the boat trailer into the water or driving the kayak to the shore—behind and reach that exhilarating launch into the pure gliding motion that is writing.  Your own voice is always there.  Your conscious job is to give it time and space to launch, for your brain to move into that space, and then, you are flying.  It may be good, bad, or indifferent, but trust that it is there.  The desire to write (or paint, or photograph; sing, or act) makes itself known because there is something there, waiting or agitating for that space.  The first minutes, or half hour, whatever, are rocky.  Your brain is refocusing.  Inhibition is turned off, and the part of the brain that improvises—a portion of the prefrontal cortex—is unshackled.   Dr. Limb at Johns Hopkins has done fMRI studies on the brains of jazz musicians that show, precisely, what happens during this process and where it happens in the brain.  Writers, unlike musicians performing live, have the option of editing later. 

So have no fear.  Clear some space, and just write.  This writing time, this hour, is your practice.  Like a musician who is practicing, you will make mistakes.  Sometimes (as in jazz improvisation, for instance)the misstep, the discordant note or phrase, is not a mistake.  It is a new, important direction, something pointing to the infinite space outside of your preset editing parameters.  It is a time of discovery and illumination.

It melds the disparate into something with its own integrity, something more than the sum of its parts:  a story.

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July 3, 2011   2 Comments

LA Theater Review of Pam Noles’ !Death 40-Feet Tall! Still time to see it!

Pam Noles’ show:  a great review from LA Theatre Review.  Link to the entire  site at the end of this excerpt.

! Death 40-Feet Tall ! at ComedySportz LA

by Freddy Puza~

Theater has the power to translate and transform the anguish of the human soul. In ! Death 40-Feet Tall!, former Cop Reporter Pam Noles does just that. Putting her reporter/story-telling skills to use, Noles describes her journey on becoming an extra in Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie. Along the way, she throws in some wacky stories from her reporter days including an alligator hunt and details of a friendship with a fellow geek (Noles is a self-proclaimed geek), James. All the while, and most importantly, she reveals her definition of Prime and what it means to honor a true friend.

Her presence is somewhat meek and shy, but don’t let that fool you. Noles is a dynamic storyteller that grabs and keeps your attention. Her love and fascination for the cartoon Transformers is a perfect metaphor for her life. She has constantly had to transform herself to adapt to different situations: being the first female African-American reporter in an overwhelmingly white community, being a geek who usually tend to be white males, and wanting to be an actor without really being an actor.

! Death 40-Feet Tall !is a wonderful collection of memories and adventures and a touching tribute to Noles’ friend who once told her being a Prime means telling your story (venting) and seeing what comes of it. Noles successfully vents her story and in turn inspires the audience to find their own Prime.

! Death 40-Feet Tall ! runs June 18, 20, & 22 at 9 p.m., June 19 & 26 at 1 p.m., and June 25 at 3 p.m. It is also playing June 18 & 23 at 8 p.m. at the Fringe Cabaret Stage.

*****************************************************************************************************************

It’s clear that if you live within fifty miles of LA, you must see this.  Make plans!

http://www.latheatrereview.com/2011/06/19/fringe-2011-%E2%80%93-day-four-%E2%80%93-sunday-june-19/

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June 22, 2011   No Comments

WREK Interview at Georgia Tech

An interview by Charlie Bennett at WREK, the Georgia Tech Radio station.  Charlie did a great job!  It was fun.  I’ll be back on the air in the fall to answer more questions. 

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June 15, 2011   No Comments

Cheryl Morgan on Queen City Jazz

My friend Linda Nagata pointed me to Cheryl Morgan’s Mewsings, where Cheryl has posted about Queen City Jazz, my first novel and a New York Times Notable Book as well as a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist.  You can read the post  here:  http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=10937 , and then you’ll probably be compelled to read much more of Cheryl’s blog.  It’s addictive.  Nestled within that post is a link to Cheryl’s review of QCJ, where she says

“Flower Cities? Oh yes. After all, what is the point of being able to do anything if you don’t make it beautiful? I still contend that Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time is the first ever nanotechnology story. He understood, and Goonan understands, that a nanotech novel can be about art, and about the human soul.”

Writers, who spend most of their time laboring in the dark, as it were, can only feel satisfied that they have hit the mark rarely, at times when they read such nice things about their work. 

The rest of the time, writers just wonder if anything they do makes a difference. 

Linda Nagata IS a writer who makes a difference.  She is a writer of great range, wrote many powerful nanotech-related novels,  won the Nebula Award for “Goddesses,” and continues to write.   At http://www.mythicisland.com/ , you can meet her and her visionary novels and stories. 

http://www.mythicisland.com/

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June 14, 2011   1 Comment