Archive for Reviews

Media Page is Up!

Posted in Publication, Publishing, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

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Hi!

Many of you showed interest in my adding a media page here, with links to my public appearances, interviews, and etc. So after a bit of research and deciding exactly how I wanted to go about it, I’ve put a nice, simple one together here. Do let me know what you think in the comments, and thank you SO much for all your wonderful support!

Jessica Rising in the News!

Posted in Books, Writing with tags , , on April 26, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

Here’s a link to the latest article about me and the world of Nil! — http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/apr/06/books-heroes-are-kids/

With more and more of this happening for me, I’m thinking of adding a media page to my blog. 😀 We’ll see how things progress, but what do you think?

Reviews!

Posted in Books, kidlit, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on April 26, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

I received not one, but TWO wonderful reviews of “Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine” last night, and wanted to share them with you!

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“This book was awesome! My children range from Kindergarten to Freshman in highschool. This was a book that, as a family, we all enjoyed reading. My 7th grader struggles with reading and she had a hard time putting it down.She even wrote a book report on this book for school. Love the double spacing and larger print. So much easier for young readers who still run a finger under the words to keep their place. We love the book and are impatiently waiting for the second book.”

and…

“My 9 year old son who is high functioning autistic and refuses to read anything unless it contains horses, absolutely loved this book. At first he didn’t want to read because he really wanted to play computer games but after telling him about the beginning of this book and not saying another word to him, he went and picked it up off of the counter. Three days later he had finished the book. An amazing feat, to say the least. It was all we could do to get him to put this book down to stop and eat meals. I asked him what he thought of this book. He told me “That was the best book ever without horses.” I have to say if a book can get my son’s undivided attention the way this book did, it is an absolute blessing and wonderful writing that got his attention and kept his attention through the whole book. He is now anxiously awaiting book 2 in this series. Thank you Jessica Rising for writing this book that even a “i hate reading” kid loved to read.”

(Reviews can be read — and written 😉 — here.)

To say these are wonderful reviews is an understatement. I’m GLOWING! Bringing the joy of literature to children — especially ones who normally hate reading — nothing compares to that. I am SO blessed to be a writer!

Structuralism & “The Rape of the Lock”

Posted in Books, Literature, Scholarly, Writing with tags , , , on November 16, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

This is number two in my ongoing graduate paper series. (You can find number one here.) I will only be posting those papers I write which I feel might help other writers who read my blog. For more information, please refer to my works cited document(s). ~ MM

I was thrilled to discover that Barry’s chapter on structuralism handed me a key toward the solution for my own greatest weakness as a writer: how to avoid over-explanation, aka, how to trust your reader. Barry’s description of Barthes’ five codes of narrative structure helped me see better how different readers might view words on a page for different reasons. Number 3, especially, caught my attention. Barry says that cultural Codes, according to Barthes “… contain[s] references out beyond the text to what is regarded as common knowledge.” (Barry 49) In using cultural cues that are well-known among my readership, I can say something without going into a long narrative to describe and explain it. Of course this may seem like a “no-brainer” for most people, but I tend to try too hard to explain exactly what I want my reader to know and think and feel… which has been a constant thorn in my literary side. In fact, the very idea of structuralism is what I have been looking for to uncomplicated my writing for children overall.

But I digress on my own personal uses for this chapter. I’ll move on now…

Barry’s definition of structuralism is “… [in] essence, the belief that things cannot be understood in isolation…” (Barry 38) When viewing a story through the lens of a structuralist, one must not look so much within the confines of the story itself, but rather “read between the lines” and look “outside the box” to better understand the story as a whole. Barry discusses different ways this can be accomplished, such as understanding the use of language itself: “… if language as a sign system is based on arbitrariness… then it follows that language isn’t a reflection of the world and of experience, but a system which stands quite separate from it.” (Barry 40) and the structure of relational context: “Concrete details from the story are seen in the context of a larger structure, and the larger structure is then seen as an overall network of basic ‘dyadic pairs’, which have obvious symbolic, thematic, and archetypal resonance…” (Barry 45) The chapter then goes on to break this system down even more, into five “cultural Codes” as expressed by Roland Barthes in his 1970 book, “S/Z”. These codes are The Proairetic Code: indications of actions, The Hermeneutic Code: questions or enigmas used to heighten suspense, The Cultural Code (defined above), The Semic Code, and The Symbolic Code. The first three Codes are easily defined, but the latter two, Semic and Symbolic, are a bit more vague. In order to better explain these, Barry takes the reader through three “Stop and Think” exercises based on two specific texts: Poe’s “The Oval Portrait”, and the beginning of an unnamed novel by Mervyn Jones. However, these exercises can also be used in structuralizing other texts, such as our readings for this week.

I have chosen to use Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” in Stop and Think Exercise #1 on page 52 of Beginning Theory. In Barry’s example, he asks the reader to parallel contrasts of story-within-a-story halves in Poe’s poem. He gives examples of said contrasts such as the relationship between two people and the role of the art in each half. These halves in Poe’s work, Barry says, are the reality of the wounded unnamed officer with the story-within-a-story of the painting and the gruesome way it came to be. In Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”, there are similarly halves that can be contrasted. The most obvious is that between the frivolous reality of a young maiden losing a simple lock of hair to a beau and the heightened dramaticism Pope gives to the same, rendering it a rape in the midst of a battle. Still, within this obvious relationship there are many more contrasts to be noted. Among these are Belinda’s anger at her pride being “raped” by the scissors in contrast to the Amazonian warrior defending her honor in battle, the playing of a game of cards between beaus and belles at a party in contrast to an epic war waged between them, and the loss of a simple lock of hair in contrast to the radiant trail of a star. All these, as well as many others I have not named, can be seen even better though the lens of structuralism when one studies outside the cantos to Pope’s own life, from where the epic poem came. In doing a small amount if research, I found that it is a satirical view of a true story that happened within Pope’s own social circle, which he decided to gently mock in order to calm those involved.

Of course, there are many ways to look at Pope’s poem through structuralism by both comparing and contrasting, from study of its mythological mentions to the allegorical card-battle, to the Shakespearian additions of Othello and Ariel. This would be quite a poem to study further!

Works Cited

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory Manchester University Press (1995, 2002): 17-20. Print

Pope, Alexander. “The Rape of the Lock”. Rutgers.edu. http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/rapelock.html. Web

Duel of the Dystopias

Posted in Books, Dystopia, Literature with tags , , , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Recently I picked up a book at Costco: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Having been a longtime fan of Orwell’s 1984, and writing a dystopian series myself, I figured now was the time to finally dive into this titan of classic dystopian literature as well. One thing I learned is that it’s impossible not to compare BNW to 1984 when one has read them both. In today’s blog, I have decided to do just that for your reading pleasure.

First, viability. Of course, nobody wants either of these grim images of the future to come true — I rather fancy Roddenberry’s vision, myself — but if one of them were to happen in our world today, I believe it would be Huxley’s, as Orwell’s wouldn’t last long enough to permeate the whole world. Here’s why: We have Huxley’s dystopia, where the citizens are genetically bred to be happy, and we have Orwell’s dystopia, where the citizens are violently forced to be complaint with the government. Happiness, even fake happiness, is a much stronger and longer lasting system of controlling a human populace. We have seen this fact in our own societies. America, with its rallying cry of “for the people”, grew into THE great superpower of the world in a very short time, and has lasted as such for two centuries, while the Nazi regeme in Germany, with its iron fist of control over its people, lasted only a few years (thank God).  Sooner or later, no matter how strong your control is,  enough people will get mad enough to overthrow a 1984-style government, but if you make your people feel like they are happy and content, your government can go on for much, much longer. For this reason, I believe BNW is more realistically viable than 1984, so round one goes to Huxley. Feel free to disagree with me. I love a good debate.

Second, entertainment value. Nobody expects a dystopian story to be lighthearted or have a happy ending, but fiction is, above all else, an entertainment medium. Both BNW and 1984 are depressing and end badly, as per the norm for their genre, but of the two, I enjoyed 1984 much more. Being a character-driven reader and writer, I have to have characters that I like and want to root for. Orwell’s main character, Winston, was that for me. Rooting for him to escape, caring what happened to him, that made reading 1984 fun. Even the ending worked in that I still cared about Winston, and therefore was genuinely unhappy for him. It mattered because Winston mattered, which made it entertaining. Brave New World, on the other hand, was just depression with no entertainment value whatsoever. The vast majority of its characters had no empathy-rating for me at all.  At first I cared about Bernard, but then he showed himself to be a selfish jerk. Then I cared about  John… until he showed HIMself to be a crazy fanatic. I never liked Lenina, whom I saw as stupid and shallow from the get-go. In the end, the only character that I could truly care about was Helmholtz, who isn’t  even a major character, and is absent most of the time. When the story was over, I didn’t care what happened at all, because none of them mattered, so it didn’t matter. So round two goes to Orwell for being far more entertaining.

Three, social commentary. One of the most important aspects of dystopian fiction is its use of social commentary. After all, the whole purpose of this genre is to point out the flaws in humanity and warn us where those flaws could take us if we’re not careful. Both 1984 and Brave New World are full of these warnings, though the bases of each are very different. In 1984, Orwell warns the reader of what could happen if a world government is formed with the inevitable crushing power over the people, while BNW is all about complacency, and fighting for your right to be an individual despite the cost. One fights against pain, while the other fights for it. In this way I believe both novels work together to give a poingient warning: all things in moderation. So round three is a tie.

In the end, I believe both novels deserve their reputation as grandfathers of the dystopian genre. Please take the liberty to agree, disagree, and/or add more to what I have discussed in the comments. Certainly this is a vast and varied subject, and one I would have a blast discussing with you all.

John M. Cusick

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