So now for the unveiling: I’ve been in contact with several authors to ask them the basic question of
1) why do you write and/or
2) where do you find inspiration?
While these are seemingly simplistic questions, sometimes it is best to get back to the roots of why we write, what makes us tick. We’re always having new ideas, and focusing on getting published, but to take a moment to stop and think- hey, why do I do what I do?
Well, that’s more rare.
I present to you the first answer, given by Alexandra Styron. I read her book, Reading My Father, which details life growing up with her famous father, William Styron (Sophie’s Choice), and heard her speak in Chapel Hill. Both Styrons have impeccable writing skills and I highly recommend you give them a read.
A) I write because I don’t know how to do anything else 🙂
B) I’m intrigued by the tension between the world as it appears and that which is hidden. And I’ve always been a kind of psychological busybody, thinking to myself “Yes but why is she that way? What made him do that?” So in both my fiction and nonfiction, I like to explore the underbelly of character and the ticking of the heart.
Look for the next author response soon!
It is with great pleasure that I unleash the next step in HIP Life- a little something I call HIP Debaters. Ever have conflicting opinions with other people? (Of course you do, you’re human!) HIP wants to hear all about it! Two contrasting movie reviews. Two completely different takes on a new album that came out. A social or cultural issue that needs to be weighed, pros and cons. Anything that you want to debate on is fair game.
If you don’t know someone who can supply the opposite side of the debate from what you’re writing, no problem! Send me what you have and as other responses roll in I might pair two conflicting views up and post them together.
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s life without a little argument?
Thanks and rock on!
Allie Coker-Schwimmer, Editor
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
In my opinion, this is the only way to make The Great Gatsby. The 1974 rendition, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, was full of the “cheese” factor and low on zeitgeist, though it does share one defining, humorous moment with the new version. The moment I speak of is when the audience first sees the protagonist proclaim, “I’m Gatsby,” and flash a brilliant smile. Still, the 2013 version has had a decided upgrade in overall cast. DiCaprio delivers a predictably good performance, Joel Edgerton strikes the appropriate air of harsh brutality as Tom, and Elizabeth Debicki fits the novel’s description of Jordan Baker so well it’s as though she’s just materialized from the page. Carey Mulligan’s doe-eyed portrayal actually suits the character of weak, manipulative Daisy well, but the real standout is Tobey Maguire. Not only does he succeed in conveying the neutrality of Nick Carraway, but I haven’t seen such convincing acting from Maguire since the days of Cider House Rules and Pleasantville. He is all grown up and shines as the best performance in the film.
I do not think it is a mistake that The Great Gatsby was captured on film first in the mid-seventies, and now in 2013. While the message may be universal (for Americans, at least) the specific messages and meanings would not have been as pertinent in the 1950s, for instance. The directors of the two versions have chosen two time periods when alcohol and drug use and abuse were on the rise, the party culture rearing its head and materialism widening the chasm between the have and have-nots. It was incredibly smart of Luhrmann to remake this film now.
The adaptation itself was very concentrated. Not ignoring any major plot points nor running too long in length, The Great Gatsby chose to focus both on the love story between Jay and Daisy, but also on the development of Nick as a writer. We see him denying his artistic side at the beginning of the film only to give way to typing across the screen and developing a whole manuscript by the end. The role of narrator was defined by putting Nick in a sanitarium at the beginning of the movie and letting him alternately speak with his physician and write in the journal provided for him by the doctor. This technique required that the narrator and his duties not become stagnant. There was less emphasis on Meyer Wolfsheim and the back story of Jordan Baker (unlike in the book, we never find out that she is an athletic cheat) and just the right amount of Myrtle and George in the film.
The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg make their ominous, God-like appearance much to the thrill of the literary crowd and the green light does not prove to be heavy-handed in this film. One stylistic transition I loved was the drive from country to city, shown on a map with the color drained out as they travel further and further away from their riches and into the poor, ashen squalor of the everyday working man who struggles to make ends meet. We see this a few times so that it becomes a powerful form of repetition. Luhrmann has a great gift for sustaining and intensifying already dramatic moments. He employs some rather smart techniques in Gatsby, such as focusing on an object and its noise (the ringing phone, the ice pick) which keeps the audience invested in that moment and forces them to be on-looking participants of such tense scenes. Aligning the viewer’s perspective with that of Nick was important as Luhrmann used the trademark double-time and wild camera work at the beginning of the film to signify that this would be how Nick felt being introduced into such a chaotic society. Gradually though we lose the skittishness as he acclimates to his role and surroundings and the audience can easily follow the rest of the action.
While we’re on the topic of senses, the visuals in this movie are stunning. Worried that, as most movies do now, Gatsby would have pandering shots incorporated solely for the 3-D crowd, I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not so. The pure glamor and glitz showcased throughout the film shone from every angle with clean, sharp, polished lines creating a textural fantasy for viewers and if no one from the costuming department wins an Academy Award, this reviewer is likely to revolt. Each of Daisy’s gowns, in particular, more dazzling than the last, was crafted from pure elegance. Furs, diamonds, lace, pearls- this is a set and cast dripping in the decadence so characteristic of the upper class at the time. We believe it.
The one flaw I noted in this film was its music. Standards are set frivolously high when it comes to Baz Luhrmann’s work, mainly due to Moulin Rouge, but also to the popular remake of Romeo and Juliet from 1996 (hey, there’s Leo again!) It is likely that Luhrmann had less control over the soundtrack this time though given that Jay-Z was an executive producer of the film. Jay-Z inserted his big ego in the form of rap music, some of which is his own or that of his wife’s, which, with a couple of exceptions, did not suit the film as well as it could have. I’m still working on developing an “alternative soundtrack”, a lark like fan-fiction, but there’s a reason you have to purchase the whole album on itunes in order to get some of the better songs. Moments which could have been further elevated by musical selections fell flat throughout the film (once again, with exceptions.)
The Great Gatsby, along with, more recently, Les Miserables, The Help, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and (to a less extent) Life of Pi, might prove that film adaptations are finally becoming what they should have been all along- artistically-inclined, true representations of great novels.
Ok, so the term “new surprises” isn’t exactly the most precise or accurate. Basically though, there are some interesting things that will be happening right here at HIP Literary Magazine in the near future! While we ready them for you, our dear readers, please sit tight, keep writing and submitting and dreaming, and enjoy. HINT: said surprises may include some well-known authors….
A FISTFUL OF FRINGE
by Michael Price
One reviewer thought it was supposed to be a stand-up comedy routine. Boy, was he disappointed.
The Etch-A-Sketch guy (from the show) was my roommate three times at HCMC—once on second and twice on fourth. He was an excellently-diagnosed schizophrenic, and a helluva nice guy, especially if you caught him on a good day. Might’ve been him. He got out occasionally, and had a nice smile.
We certainly didn’t bill the show that way. A few cute lines sprinkled among the weeds and thistles of depression, sure; but not exactly Henny Youngman, all medication aside. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a stand-up comic start weeping uncontrollably right before the big killer finishing joke.
I’m not sure that would work.
Had to be the Etch-A-Sketch guy.
Another reviewer thought it was “…disturbingly good.” Which, the more I think about it, was a disturbingly nice comment.
My uncle Ron said it made him feel “…uncomfortable…”–that he thought there were a number of funny lines, but he was afraid to laugh. Then he quickly added, “But I’ve never been to a psych-ward before,” which explained a lot.
A friend of mine from the gym started rushing the stage immediately after the show, in pursuit of a big bear hug of congratulations, assumedly, even before I had taken my first bow.
Deliriously in shock, obviously.
But of course, prior to that night, Rolf had never seen me without a bunch of barbells in my hands.
As much as I like Rolf—and I do–stereotypes suck, and I’m pretty sure they always will; pass it on, and don’t pussy-foot around. Yell.
There were at least two anonymous reviews that I know of, which don’t count, of course, because, for whatever lame-ass reason, they wished to remain anonymous.
Not a problem on this end.
I hereby deem you utterly pointless. You do not exist. And if we should ever meet, I’ll be happy to tell you that in person.
I went up to the home to visit the folks the week before the run of the show. Gave ’em both Fringe postcards, told ’em a little about it. Mom was in too much pain to blink, and rolled over. Dad said he hoped to be there opening night, and resumed his life on the railroad in Kansas, as the lady-in-white, who just happened to be standing in the neighborhood, failed to smile over his shoulder, as was her wont in such matters.
Of course, dad lives–and always will—in a lock-down ward, for his and everyone else’s safety; a prisoner trapped in his own mind, so I encouraged him in his endeavor to come to the show. He wasn’t going anywhere, but he didn’t need to know that. I hope he gets there some day, but he won’t. He’s not going anywhere, so I encouraged him to try.
Mom has no such restrictions, so no such encouragement was necessary.
An old friend from high school, someone I really didn’t spend a whole lot of time with back then, a gal who I hadn’t even seen since high school, headlined her review of the show, “I laughed, I cried.”
Now how the hell did she know? I wonder who else knew.
There was a mostly negative review from a lady who didn’t much like the show, said it didn’t really go anywhere, but that I did an excellent job of portraying a mentally ill patient.
Not sure which way to take that one.
First of all, the notion that it didn’t really go anywhere seems apropos, for some reason, but I’m kinda stuck on why.
Secondly, I appreciate the acting accolade, but how did she know that? Which would seem to be a fairly pertinent question, under the circumstances. With whom was she comparing me to? What lucky bastard served as her measuring tool? Maybe I know him.
And lastly, as Larry (my L.A. guru-of-an-acting-coach and theatrical agent) used to preach to me, in approaching the portrayal of any new role, “Research, my boy, research.”
With that influence under my belt, I sure as hell should’ve been convincing, dammit.
When I first decided to do the show, I was excited about appearing on stage for the first time in fifteen years. Back in college, I remember eagerly looking forward to the possibility of making an ass outta myself in public as often as possible. As the line in the play reads, “Where do I sign? What do I gotta do?”
That was then.
It feels so good to be done.
This was a chore. Every performance had to be done. I looked forward to the days off. Same script, same chore. I have always hated that word. A chore is a chore. Just do it. Dad always said that–just do it. Mom had nothing to do with the execution of chores and, believe me, I did ’em.
Of course, as any actor will leap down your throat to tell you, no performance is exactly like any other, and I tested and proved that theory with great originality and resourcefulness during the run of the show, starting with the very first line, opening night.
Anybody that has ever appeared on stage knows that lines get changed or dropped completely every once in a while—it happens. But I feel comfortably safe in saying that I am the first person in the history of the theatre that actually dropped the first line of his own play. Opening night, no less.
After that, I was fine; that performance went okay. But I remember thinking at the time, sitting there on stage, after forgetting the first line of my own play, where the hell are you? And what are you doing on stage in the first place?
Asked and answered.
I was surprised to discover how difficult it was to memorize my own script. Yes, I know it’s fifty-five long minutes worth of prating babblement but I wrote it, for Pete’s sake. Uncle Ron wondered how much of the show was improvised, and seemed somewhat distressed when I told him that not one word of it was improvised. It was a script, after all.
I wish he hadn’t brought it up, because now that kinda distresses me a little bit, too.
I was also surprised at the number of positive responses that surfaced concerning my acting. Going in, I was pretty sure I had a solid, well-written script. I hoped my words would be good enough to carry my lack of recent acting experience through the run of the show.
Frankly, I had my doubts.
It always used to surprise me every time someone asked me to sing at their wedding.
Really? Me? At your wedding? Are you sure?
I never thought I was all that great of an actor in college. Sure, I got cast—all the time–but about three-quarters of the time they weren’t the roles I auditioned for.
Evidently, life experience really does count. I’m older; most of my favorite actors are old. And again, and I don’t think this can possibly be overstated—research, research, research.
Thanks a lot, Larry.
I was relentless, man. It’s in my file, signed by many psych-docs.
As for the production aspect of the show, the nuts and bolts of producing a play? Never again. And, for the most part, that wasn’t even my department.
And I still hated it.
My Aunt Elaine saw the show closing night. Smart lady, Elaine. Big I.Q., reads a lot, used to teach lit-classes to smart people. She didn’t say much after the show. She just stared at me, big smile, minimal blinking.
I took that as a compliment, but I might’ve been wrong.
A high school teacher of mine that I have managed to keep in touch with over the years, who wasn’t able to get to the show, asked me to rate—on a one to ten basis–my overall Fringe experience.
After very little thought, I gave it a six.
Mom just died.
Dad lives on.
The Etch-A- Sketch guy was right. Shoulda been a comedy.
Widely published in literary journals, Michael Price has been writing fiction for over 30 years. He earned his BA in Theater from the University of Minnesota in 1980 and performed his own one-man one-act play “No Change of Address” to considerable acclaim at the 2011 MN Fringe Festival.
Poetry for one and all!
Ex-Boyfriend, No. 2
(after the crocheted skull
Before you bury me
crochet my bones
threads and yarns
on metal hooks
in magic rings
as I was
not Yorick, alas
but a jester
with neither brains
(after the painting by Jasper Johns)
With star-spangled innocence
we chose the god
who had chosen us
our nation singled out
from wheat and chaff
from states and continents
from sea to shining sea
we, the chosen
we who are the jetsam
of a a derelicted ship
abandoned by the god
who first selected us
Small Fire Devil Figurine
(after the painting by Paul Klee)
What a little devil I am
with finger flames
white-hot heart and horns
I walk on burning coals
as if they were cubes of ice
I am the devil you know
better than the one you don’t
unless your head and soul
were on the auction block
my price, your wish
a butterfly that lives a day
for eternity in flames—
I always win
Twice nominated for the Best of the Net, as well as for the Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction Writers Association, Neil Ellman lives and writes in New Jersey. Hundreds of his poems, many of which are ekphrastic and based on works of modern and contemporary art, appear in print and online journals, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world.