Tag: Novels

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I’m reading some vintage Peter Mayle this summer. I just finished Hotel Pastis. It’s a treasure – crime, romance, humor, wine, a new career, what’s not to like? It would be a great movie. It seems some famous married producer/director couple almost made it a movie, but didn’t – so there’s still an opportunity. I […]

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I got an idea for a sci-fi novel the other day. But it relies on wormholes and I am not the astrophysics junky, nor sci-fi aficionado, that some of you are. So perhaps you can answer a couple questions. Bear in mind, because this regards a fictional setting, I am more concerned with believability than […]

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“At that moment, coming from the East, Lord Surya, mounted on his crystal chariot pulled by a thousand stallions, skirted Mount Meru, axis of the world, and went to the West following the circle of the constellations. When the chariot turned and was hidden by the enormous mountain, the Lord’s brilliant light dimmed and came […]

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“Oh, I liked the book better.” “The movie was better than the book.” Yes, we hear that all the time. We say it all the time. We just can’t help it. Any time a book is adapted into a movie or vice versa, we immediately begin to compare. It makes sense, really. Any time you […]

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I Don’t Do Novels

 

I write professionally. I have over twenty published books and nearly one thousand pieces printed in magazines, newspapers and online sites (counting only online stuff I have been paid to write). I can write fiction. I even have perhaps four short stories published. I think my fiction is not half-bad. (Read The Cards and tell me if you agree.) But I do not write novels. All my published books are non-fiction. All my planned books are non-fiction.

It is not that I am opposed to writing novels. I have the outline of three series of novels drafted. Not three novels – three novel series. (A set of mysteries set in East Texas, a series about an Age of Fighting Sail naval officer, a la Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubrey, and a series rooted in Arthurian legend – ending in 1940.) Plot outlines, lists of characters, scenes.

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Traditional Khmer Novels

 

The Khmer word for narrative fiction is lpaen. It is defined as works for pleasure. And before the arrival of the French in the mid-19th century, all traditional Khmer novels were written in verse. The French were the ones to introduce prose to Khmer fiction. That is not to say that Khmers did not write in prose before then. Prose was exclusively used for technical writings, medicinal treatises, astrology treatises, political and religious treaties, and for the translation of Buddhist literature. A new word was coined for prose novels when the first one was published in 1938 to differentiate between verse and prose fictions. Anyway, let’s ignore prose fiction for now because this post is all about traditional Khmer fiction, the verse-novels.

Lpaen or verse-novel has always been a popular genre in Khmer literature. French colonists in the 19th century would gather around the village halls in the evenings to listen to a recitation of a lpaen. Recitation is sometimes accompanied by a string instrument. Some of the verse-novels are quite long, as long as 9,000 stanzas. And they would take at least two nights to recite. A few could be mistaken for epics because of their length and subject matter.

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Why Study Novels in English Class?

 

When we love literature, and reading comes easily to us, we tend to assume that the purpose for studying novels is self-evident. We’d be missing out on the romance of Jane Eyre, the brilliance of Achebe, and the wit of Twain. Besides, how could one object to reading stories as a required activity for school? We may as well get credit for eating cookies or binge-watching our favorite shows.

But not all students are eager to crack open that musty Gothic work, especially when there are friends to text and movies to watch at the touch of a screen. Besides, some students find reading to be laborious, a limitation that isn’t necessarily their fault. Because reluctant readers tend to be the exception and not the rule, English teachers need to establish a clear case for the benefits of novel reading. (They should also provide tools to help students get the most out of what they read, but that’s a different discussion.) At the beginning of the school year, all students should understand the “why” of literature:

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I had a peripatetic childhood, and by the time I finished high school I’d attended well over a dozen schools on three different continents, with time off for good behavior during a glorious year (in about third grade) where there wasn’t a school anywhere in sight. My mother, who was largely disinterested in her parenting […]

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What is it? Why do many people like to be scared? Why do many people like gruesome tales or stories that revel in darkness and/or filth? These days, serial killer stories are a dime a dozen. Then there are monster stories, ghost stories, psychological thrillers, and gothic tales, among other subgenres. Some horror stories are […]

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A sensitive, scholarly Spaniard brooding under a vow of chastity. A fiery redhead, feral and untamed, raised by Africans, confounding the local villagers with her hot, exotic ways. He was trained for sainthood. She is rumored to be possessed by demons. Both are haunted by the same dream. What happens when their dream becomes reality? […]

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Summer is almost here, even if it still feels like spring (rain, wind, clouds). What’s on your summer reading list? Do you even have a “summer reading list”? Do your reading tastes change in the summer versus the rest of the year? I know the conventional wisdom is that you read the heavy stuff in […]

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I’ll just make a few remarks about three more of the Afghanistan genre. You can read the first and second reviews here and here. The Bookseller of Kabul is the account of a Norwegian journalist who spends three months at the home of an Afghani bookseller, one who has gone to great lengths to save books through […]

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“The Choice”, subtitled “A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism” by economics professor Russ Roberts, is a novel patterned after It’s a Wonderful Life, and is set in 1960. The George Bailey character is Ed Johnson, who runs the Stellar Television Company of Star, Illinois, and is an opponent of free trade. Unlike the usual […]

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Sunday. When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet.  More

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I know Ricochet has a lot of authors. I know we have a lot of computer people of various stripes. I have a problem, and I would like to see if anyone already has a solution or can suggest one. The problem stems from my hobby of writing science fiction as a form of constrained […]

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review appears Sunday. When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet. Seawriter Book review “It’s Up to Charlie Hardin” is a captivating book for all […]

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Fictional Advice For Fictional Authors

 

shutterstock_172002743Writing a novel or two (or ten) is on my bucket list. I’ve jotted down ideas, notes, scraps of dialog from a dozen different stories. But I have yet to actually write a book… even a bad one. This, despite the ubiquitous advice from published authors that writing anything every day is the biggest step. Do Ricochet comments count?

I have read books on the various processes of many authors, which is a bit like asking people in every state in the USA for directions to Oklahoma City. Strangely, they disagree. Still, I appreciate the suggestions.

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