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Solace for the Writer: On Criticism

Interpretation and criticism often wear the same hat, but unlike interpretation, which is relatively benign, criticisms and rejections can be devastating. Since I am a writer myself, subject to rejection and the barbs of critics as are many of you, an important book in my library is called Rotten Reviews & Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard and published by Pushcart Press in 1998. It presents critical, if not downright nasty, quotes from reviews and publishers’ rejections of now classic works. It is solace for the spirit, a “so there!” response.

For example, Samuel Johnson in Lives of the English Poets (1779) commented on John Milton’s Lycidas: “The diction is harsh, the rhymes uncertain, and the numbers unpleasing. . . Its form is that of a pastoral—easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting.” Continue reading “Solace for the Writer: On Criticism”

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What Is Unbelievable

The subject of ultimate reality brings me to piracy. What? You say. Let me explain. When I was growing up, I was thrilled to read about pirates, buried treasure, lost mines, sunken treasure. What could possibly be more exciting than that? My excitement exploded like a supernova into a barren universe of no interest from friends and family. My mom told me I needed to be realistic and keep my feet on the ground. My friends put me down as a “nut.”

As an adult, I learned that there are professional treasure hunters and that Florida and other states have laws requiring permits to go after sunken galleons and other wrecks. More, these states require a percentage of the value of the doubloons, jewelry, gold bars, silver and other treasure recovered from wrecks. That is reality, folks.

Here’s another piece of reality. Pirates pose hazards to worldwide shipping. You can go to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center online and read the reports of piracy and armed robbery of ships around the world 24 hours a day. As of this writing, there have been 72 reported incidents of piracy this year.

I point to three recent incidents:

May 21, 2014, near Lome Port, Togo. A boat with eight robbers armed with long knives attempted to board a chemical tanker at anchor. Alert deck watch-keepers on board noticed the robbers and sounded the alarm and ship’s horn. The alert crew and a moderate swell prevented the robbers from boarding and they moved away.

May 23, 2014, Jakarta Anchorage, Indonesia. Three robbers boarded an anchored bulk carrier. Deck patrol noticed the robbers and alerted the bridge. Alarm raised and all crew mustered. The robbers threatened the deck patrol with a knife and escaped with stolen ship’s engine spares.

May 22, 2014: Belawan Anchorage, Indonesia. Two robbers boarded an anchored chemical tanker. Alarm raised and all crew mustered. The robbers escaped with stolen ship properties.

So when I hear a writer put down someone’s plot points as being “unrealistic,” or “unbelievable,” I have to say with Shakespeare that, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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