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Archive for the ‘Intro’ Category

The Glitter! The Glory! The Gag Reflex!

In Books, Intro on August 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Last summer, Brooke and I began a collaborative paper entitled “The Angel: New Textures and Consistencies in Literary Excrement; Or, A Study in the Gross Overuse of the Words ‘Velvet’ and ‘Bronze’ in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.”  Sadly, the rent came due before this masterpiece of exegetical literature was complete.   Our mercenary landlady was less than impressed with our offer of 20% of the proceeds from all future sales of the nascent bestseller and insisted on receiving some sort of monetary compensation, rather than a stake in our magnum opus[1].  Thus, our cherished work of art had to be sacrificed to the daily grind of our nine to five jobs for a short period of time.  C’est la vie.  However, in the timeless words of AC/DC, we’re back in black[2], baby!  The rent has been paid, we are through with our nine to fives at five, and we now have the free time necessary with which to share our brilliance with the masses!  Learn and be edified.

All joking aside (all right, most joking aside,) we’re gonna kick things off with Twilight.  Not only is it a wildly popular book series, spawning secondary literature, manga, and tchotchke[3] galore, it is also a blockbuster film franchise that has Kristen Stewart and Taylor ‘Abs’ Lautner laughing all the way to the Caymans.  Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock or in cloistered seclusion, you have at least heard of Twilight, if you haven’t actually read the books or watched the films.  I know, I know – in our last post we said that we were going to explore the classics of literature, and the Twilight saga hardly belongs in that canon.  In fact, (Twihard Alert) we do not think that Twilight qualifies as a great work of literature, period – contemporary, classic, or otherwise.  It kinda shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same paragraph as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emily Brönte’s Wuthering Heights, or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (all of which, by the by, Meyer references as parallels to highlight the love story of her protagonists).  However, that being said, we will admit that Twilight is an entertaining story.  We’ll even cop to liking the series – although Brooke will deny it to her dying day, the fact remains that when she needs a mental Mai Tai, she’ll reach for Eclipse in the hope that maybe, just maybe this time, Victoria wins.  And once she starts, she has a hard time putting it back down[4].

Here’s the deal: the books aren’t selling bajillions of copies for no reason at all; there’s not been a massive partial-lobotomy performed on two-thirds of the American female population, neither is there a conspiracy at Little, Brown & Co. to induce feminine relationship-dissatisfaction in order to sell the bare-chested bodice rippers of moist-eyed teenage fantasies.  It has, as we’ve said, an entertaining plot – forbidden love, self-sacrifice, cool battle scenes, a nice, light bit of grossly distorted history, and a few pointers on how to dabble in the black market – all the ingredients necessary for a Lifetime Movie of the Week!  But here’s the point – great literature does not just consist of ‘a good story’.  The formula isn’t simply: hot chick + hot dude + issues = WUV 4EVA.  It’s (wait for it…) a good story told beautifully – a story with multi-dimensional characters artfully developed through an interesting, well-crafted plot by the use of appropriate literary devices.  Here’s our point:  while Meyer tells a good story, she doesn’t tell it beautifully. She doesn’t tell it artfully, expressively, or well.  Brooke says she doesn’t really ‘tell’ it, so much as undergo some sort of Muse-induced emotional trance with pen in hand, precipitated by a lack of athletic participation and intellectual stimulation.  And this makes sense, since Brooke’s got a pretty big mouth and is fond of shooting it off whenever the spirit moves her.  We’ll see if she can back it up this time.

Stay tuned!


[1] We strongly suspect she was Team Edward.

 

[2] No, really.  Brooke refuses to wear any other color…it gets depressing.

[3] tchotchke [chahch-kuh]; n., slang: an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament, the purchase of which hardly justifies the expenditure in calories required to take it to the register, much less the $5.75 and 8% CA sales tax they’ll hold you up for.

[4] Unless of course, I make a snarky comment in hearing range, in which case that sucker will leave her hand faster than you can say, “Edward’s perfect face.”  These books make excellent missiles, and her aim is much better than you might think.  Thank God for paperbacks.

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Hello World

In Intro on July 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Contrary to popular opinion, the enormous books assigned by vindictive English teachers are not only useful for things like propping open doors and shutting your roommate up when she annoys you.  Anna Karenina does more than cure insomnia; The Lord of the Rings did a lot more than just launch Orlando Bloom’s career, and Shakespeare is responsible for the beauty and elegance of the samurai-film genre.  Throne of Blood, by Akira Kurosawa – Netflix it.

Le Footnote[1] is going to explain why books like these are called ‘great works of literature’.  That phrase gets tossed around a lot – you’ll be standing in line at Barnes & Noble clutching your copy of Breaking Dawn and someone will go, ‘Oh, that’s a great book!’  What the hell does that mean?  That the author’s use of language, imagery, and symbolism were so beautifully synthesized that the resulting narrative opened spectacular new vistas and horizons in the speaker’s intellectual and emotional life?  Or that the speaker really liked how she felt when she was reading it?[2] Very generally it’s the latter.  However, there’s a pretty big difference between an entertaining story and a great story.  What exactly is that difference?  That’s what we at Le Footnote are going to explain to you.

Here’s why you should care about learning the difference: we all are, in a certain sense, living out our own stories; stories that really aren’t so very different from the lives of the characters we’re reading about.  The old adage says that art imitates life, and many of the great authors drew from their own life experiences and those of the people and world around them to create the literature of the age.  Reading about these people and what they do serves a very useful pedagogical (that’s a new word; look it up) purpose, as it enables us to imagine how we would react in certain circumstances and situations.

So why are we calling ourselves Le Footnote?  Well, a footnote is an explanatory note added to a body of work which might include commentary, a clarification of something found in the text, alternate explanations for certain theses proposed in the text, or additional information designed to further illuminate the reader’s mind. Remember the little number ‘one’ that you saw after ‘Le Footnote’, or the number ‘two’ you saw in the Breaking Dawn sentence?  Go read their corresponding sentences now.  Get it?  A footnote’s supposed to help you better understand what you’re reading – you’re supposed to read it and go, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ not, ‘Well, that’s two minutes I’ll never get back.’  That’s what we’re going to do – help you understand those big, bulky, wordy, books so that you’ll actually want to skip White Collar and 30 Rock to read them instead (the books, not the screenplays).  Think of us as the talking-heads version of Cliffs Notes – in our shortly forthcoming podcast (our fearless leader is even now wining and dining prospective patrons into fronting the benjamins for this outfit), we will be giving a lot of general information, as well as scholarly and personal opinions about the weekly selections, in order to do three things: 1) to help you understand why it’s a ‘great work of literature’; 2) to show you why it matters to you, and 3) to prove conclusively that books like Anna Karenina stand on their own merit, not Oprah’s good opinion.  The blog will serve as a ginormous ‘footnote’ to the podcast – you’ll get more information, more resources, and funny anecdotes about Jane’s life as program specialist, and Brooke’s life as an admin and the one female Manchester United fan in SoCal.

Happy Reading!


[1] We’re using the French definite article because someone else had already taken the English for their GMail account.  There’s no way on God’s green earth we can exist without a GMail account, so we went with Le Footnote instead.  It sounded sexier anyway.  We have to be sexy.

 

[2] We guarantee you it’ll be a ‘she’.  The chances of a man referring to Breaking Dawn as a ‘great book’ in an enthusiastic tone without a gun being held to his head are slender in the extreme.