• Little Known Facts: A Novel
    Little Known Facts: A Novel
    by Christine Sneed
  • Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry: Stories
    Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry: Stories
    by Christine Sneed
  • Paris, He Said: A Novel
    Paris, He Said: A Novel
    by Christine Sneed
  • The Virginity of Famous Men: Stories
    The Virginity of Famous Men: Stories
    by Christine Sneed
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BLOG-O-RAMA (not to be confused with Illinois's disgraced governor)

Monday
Aug302010

Eat, Pray (That This Movie Ends Before Your Next Birthday) and Cast Aspersions on Those Who Grossly Misinterpreted a Good, Entertaining Book  

   If I mention the screen adaptation of a popular novel or non-fiction book, it often results in the eye-rolling disdain of my movie- and book-loving friends.  Still, despite the flops, there have been a number of notable successes: Dr. Zhivago, Ordinary People, Schindler’s List, Chocolat, Cider House Rules, Election, Wonder Boys, Into the Wild, The English Patient (there’s even a memorable Seinfeld episode based on this movie’s appeal to women, and whether or not you too had a crush on Ralph Fiennes, there were a lot of other things to admire about it).  I can even think of one case where the movie was much better than the book – The Bridges of Madison County (with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep as the leads, it seemed a pretty likely success, but there’s also the fact the screenwriter was able to spin straw into something resembling gold).

            When the source material is very good, I think our expectations are even higher (though we’re just as likely to feel pessimistic about the film’s chances of being a faithful and nuanced adaptation).  After I learned of its summer release, I looked forward to seeing the movie version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love.  A friend had given me the book two or three years ago, and it sat on the shelf until this past March when a Facebook discussion on the fiction writer Laura van den Berg’s wall motivated me to read it.  I know that Eat, Pray, Love has been the source of a lot of literary controversy, some of it waged in the strangled tones of the Seriously Aggrieved.  How dare Gilbert complain about her perfect New-York-City-GQ-world-traveler-writer’s life! How dare she leave her husband and nice house to search for fulfillment in Italy-Bali-India just because she’s going through a rough patch! Doesn’t everyone go through rough patches? And she at least had the money to see a shrink.  Harrumph.  She also seemed to have several dozen brilliant friends to bitch to about her sorrow and existential despair and disaffection!  Not to mention the fact she also got to have sex with a super-cute actor guy right after she dumped her husband on his lame, suburban ass!  And then she got to have sex with this dreamy South American guy who fell in love with her and she with him!  Damn that *&%$ bitch! 

Probably I’m making a few enemies by saying this (if I haven’t already based on what immediately precedes this paragraph), but I think the main source of Gilbert’s critics’ outrage can be summed up in this way:  How dare she take her personal problems and turn them into a highly readable, erudite, witty memoir that also happened to make her a lot of money.  A book that might also be the book of her career: there’s so much in it that works, so much self-effacing humor and sympathy and a sheer love of life with all of its felicities and surprises and possibilities.  It’s a book I’ve been recommending to my students and a lot of other people.  It affirms why I love to write, to travel, to be in love, and why, candidly, I love to be alive. 

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Wednesday
Aug112010

The Long(er) View 

My inaugural blog post! 

A little over a year ago, I was invited to guest edit prose submissions for an American literary journal that has been in existence for many years.  It has a devoted subscriber base, and the poems and stories its editors select often appear in the annual "Best of" anthologies. 

I was a contributor to a recent issue and one of several fiction writers and poets who were asked to guest edit for an upcoming issue.  The editors assigned me 600 submissions which I downloaded from the journal's Submission Manager. (In case you're not familiar with this Web software, it was created by Devin Emke several years ago and has since been adopted by dozens of journals and presses because it reduces the waste and expense of paper submissions.  It also allows many journals' far-flung screeners easy access to the hundreds, often thousands, of submissions that literary journals receive during their open reading periods.)

The journal I was guest editing for accepts submissions year-round, both paper and online.  They do not charge a fee for online submissions, but many journals now do.  In the download from the journal's Submission Manager that I did last March, there were 7,600 files.  I was humbled, appalled, and a little bit dazzled.  So many hopeful writers, so many poems, short stories and essays.  These 7,600 submissions were only a portion of what the four main editors read through every year.  I have no idea how many paper submissions they also receive.   Probably at least several hundred a month.  The editors are inundated, obviously, and it usually takes a full year to receive a response from them on unsolicited submissions.  Not ideal, but writers do get a fair, patient reading of their work, and simultaneous submissions are allowed.

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