Winter break reading!

Here’s a brief and by no means exhaustive list of books for you to consider over winter break, and beyond. I recommend you bookmark this post so you have it as a reference over the years.

A great list of modern classics.

More contemporary books.

And here are some personal recommendations I laboriously compiled and typed up for you:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Life of Pi by Yan Martel
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
Post Office by Charles Bukowski
Ask the Dust by John Fante
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Contemporary Non Fiction

Additional Non fiction reading:

On Writing by Stephen King
Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson
Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson
Lies My Teacher Told me by James Loewen
The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom

Short Story Collections:

Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
Escapes by Joy Williams
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill

And some movies I like, for good measure.

Synecdoche, New York
The Last Temptation of Christ
Grizzly Man
The Big Lebowski
Joe versus the Volcano
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Waking Life
Harold and Maude
The King of Kong
A Serious Man
Let the Right One In

Thanks for an awesome semester, everyone.

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The Facts.

Friday, Dec 10:
Regularly scheduled class day. Turn in your portfolios. Stick around and hang out.

No class on Monday.

Tuesday, Dec 14, 1:10-2:00:

Come pick up your graded portfolios/final grade in my office, room 229.

If you want to arrange for another time to pick up your paper, please text or email me.

Your final blog posts:
Write a reflection of your blog OR anything you want. Get these done by Friday so I can do final grades on your blogs over the weekend.

Keeping it simple, kids.

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Portfolios, Blogs, Bears, and Tigers.

But first, your last normal blog assignment:

I’d like us to revisit some of the earlier themes of this blog. For one of your first blog assignments, I asked you to talk about what you like to read and give a book recommendation. I’m going to ask you to do something like that again, but now, informed by all the new knowledge and experiences you’ve accumulated over the semester. You can write about a book, movie, some music, art, etc. The caveat is that I want it to be something that you’ve newly discovered, and I want you to treat it as an art and not mindless entertainment. Talk about how you learned about it, how it has enhanced your life, and why you would recommend it to others.

I also want you to be sure and read and comment on each other’s blog posts this time around, especially if you’ve been slacking on reading the blogs lately. You will learn a lot. Our time together is drawing to a close. Make these last couple of blog posts excellent. Give your posts good titles so people will want to read them.

The other thing you should be doing this weekend of course is working on your portfolios. Here’s some random resources that may or may not help you on the path.

Paper rater? It looks like you copy and paste your paper into this thing and it points out errors for you. Seems like it might be worth a try – just remember it’s a robot and don’t take what it says as gospel. Use common sense and/or other resources.

12 common punctuation errors. May or may not be fun to look at.

Also, Grammar.

More Grammar errors.

A couple of you have been asked to cite an interview using MLA. Here’s a link on how to do that.

Other good resources for writing skills are the writing center just across the hall from us (make an appointment ASAP, I’m sure they’re swamped right now), The Everyday Writer, and your textbook, The Curious Writer.

Just use all the skills I’ve taught you and you’re going to be fine.

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5 year plan.

Hope everyone had an excellent break!

Here is a tentative schedule of what the rest of the semester will look like. This schedule does not include blog posts or any additional readings, of which there likely will be. Please also note that I added a new link up top called “Portfolio.” You’ll find information there. I may be adding to that link as we go. Take note.

Monday (today):

  • In-class write on thanksgiving and/or future plans for life.
  • Return life-place essays, discuss
  • .
    Wednesday 12/01:

  • In-class write tbd
  • Portfolio talk
  • What is revision?
  • .
    Friday 12/03:

  • In-class write tbd
  • Revising the PAA
  • In class work on revision
  • .
    Monday 12/06:

  • In-class writing tbd
  • Discuss grading rubric / portfolio reflection paper
  • Revising the op-ed and life-place essay
  • .
    Wednesday 12/08:

  • Workshopping the portfolios/reflection papers
  • .
    Friday 12/10:

  • Portfolios are due. Regular scheduled class day.
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    I went outside and my fingers fell off. Class = cancelled.

    I’ve been sitting here debating this for like, half an hour, but I think this is a good move. It’s so cold, you guys. We’re ahead of schedule. Let’s just go ahead and cancel class and meet fresh after thanksgiving break.

    I usually do an in class writing assignment before any break where you write about how you plan to spend your extra time and all of that. So instead just think about it. I recommend reading lots of stories and novels.

    I’ll miss you! See you next week.

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    Okay. We’re going to continue our mini vacation, (our “staycation,” if you will) from non-fiction paper style writing with some stories! This weekend you’re going to read stories and then write one for the blog. I’m excited. I’m going to give you a healthy choice of stories to choose from. You have to read at least one of them. You are free to read all of them of course.

    The School by Donald Barthelme
    A & P by John Updike
    Dimension by Alice Munro
    The Nose by Nikolai Gogol
    Stillwater by Molly Laich
    The Red Dress by Kevin Canty
    Last Night by James Salter (Audio file.)

    For your weekend blog assignment, I want you to read stories, think about storytelling, and then write your own stories. Think about imagery. Think about what details to include and what can remain unsaid. Think about the psychology of your characters. What do they want? I know you all have varying degrees of interest in writing fiction, but give it a shot. Try to keep the stories pretty brief. Think about what a manageable blog length is. If you start working on something that seems like it’s going to be longer, I suggest posting some of it, and then if you want me to read the rest, bring in a hard copy. I’d be happy to look closely at anybody’s work upon request, being the expert that I am.

    In addition to the story, talk a little at the beginning or the end about which story you read and/or which stories most influenced the writing of your own piece. You can choose to do a strict imitation of one story, or go more on your own. Link to whatever stories you talk about.

    Try to get these up by Sunday night this weekend. I want to have time to read them and to pick a couple for us to look at together in class on Monday. Be prepared to read your work aloud and/or elect me to read it out loud for you. Courage, men.

    We will start actual revision work a little bit on Monday with your life/place essays, and then we’ll move into that full time after thanksgiving break. Until then, Viva la literature.

    Oh, and here’s links to some of the stuff we may or may not have consumed in class today.

    Bluebird – by Charles Bukowski
    So you Want to be a Writer – by Charles Bukowski
    Dinosauria, We – by Charles Bukowski
    What’s He Building? – by Tom Waits
    Reunion – by John Cheever

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    Life/Place and Raymond Carver

    It’s time to turn in your Life Place Essays. In keeping with irresponsible traditions, I’ll go ahead and have you turn in your papers outside my office on Monday. Please don’t forget to include: the paper, a reflective letter to me (don’t forget the letter! I love the letters!) and your workshopping questions. No need for any pre drafting materials this time around.

    Over the weekend I’d like you to also read the short story I handed out in class by Raymond Carver called “Cathedral.” (If you weren’t in class, I will leave extra copies of the story in my mailbox in the English Department office, LA136. It’s on the first floor near our classroom.) There’s a bonus story connected on the back that you can read or not, up to you. I want you to do a blog post based on the reading where you answer one of these questions:

    1. Talk about the narrator character. Is he sympathetic to you? Why or why not? How does the narrator change from the beginning of the story to the end?
    2. What’s the deal with the narrator’s wife? Why do you think the author chose to include all the details about her ex husband? Does the narrator have a reason to be jealous? Why or why not?
    3. Is there some sort of metaphor going on here regarding blindness? What do you have to say about this? Do you like the effect or not? Did you find the progression of the story predictable in this way?
    4. What did you think of Carver’s sparse writing style? Did you find it easy to read, annoying, ugly, pretty, etc? How might you utilize what he does in your own writing?
    5. Finally, if you’d rather not answer any of these questions, you can choose instead to write a Raymond Carver imitation story. Try not to make it too long, just a few paragraphs. A Raymond Carver story will almost always include the following: domestic tension. Alcohol or drugs. Sparse language. Mean, angry, or otherwise dissatisfied people.

    Get this post up by Wednesday before class and we’ll talk about the story and stuff!

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