Thursday, September 21, 2006

Validation and Potential Ball-Grabbing

Today I got this message from the international reader in my class- he's this writer who gives a sort of "second opinion" to what the professor and classmates have to say, another professional eye, if you will:

Subject: Grabbing the ball and running with it

Victor Rangel RibeiroCreation date: Thursday, September 21, 2006 12:13:12 AM EDTDate last modified: Thursday, September 21, 2006 12:13:12 AM EDT

Your writing flows so smoothly that I found myself liking every bit of "Fresh Bruises", and yet was beset by very mixed feelings by the time I had reached the final paras. Why, I asked myself, had I liked the opening section, where an apparently shaken Olivia is called to account for the very first time by her grandfather; and had also liked part 1 of the second section, where she begins her formal defense; and had liked as well part 2 of the same section, where her vision of future stardom becomes present reality with true comic effect; and had approved (on the highest ethical grounds) of section 3, where GrandPapi decides to hear the party of the second part before rendering his verdict; why, despite liking all this, did I feel the story did not hold together?
Part of the problem lies in that Olivia begins by addressing one particular audience---Papi---and ends up addressing quite another, a multitude of imaginary idolatrous fans. Olivia is talking directly to her grandfather when she first blurts out: "She started it!", the standard, normal/rational/default child/subteen/teen justification for a preemptive strike every parent and grandparent is accustomed to hearing. But when on page 2 Olivia boasts, "My show is seen and heard all over the world. My albums have sold millions of copies. I get crazy money that keeps me in limos and mansions. . I've gotten tons of movie offers" she is no longer addressing Papi but a multitude of imaginary idolatrous fans. By grafting an impossibly glorious future on to the present, Olivia's high opinion of her own talent grows exponentially, until in a single sentence we read, "Just last week at the Grammy's Madonna threatened to kill me and Whitney had a nervous breakdown when she saw my album was coming out the same day as hers." Caramba! What a great line!
Some years ago, Robley Wilson, author and much admired editor of the North American Review, had told me at a workshop I attended: "When you get what you think is a worthwhile idea, treat it like a football; grab hold and see how far you can run with it." This is what you've done in the passage I've just quoted, but I'd now urge you to begin your run farther back and carry it a bit longer.
I have come to believe that Papi, who is supposed to provide the solution to Olivia's problem with her sister, is himself a problem in search of a solution. Sections 1 and 3, in which he appears as both judge and jury, are sober and realistic; section 2 starts off by being just humorous and goes on to being wildly comical. As long as Papi is presented as the Eventual Great Decider, we the readers must wait for him to hand out a verdict; and the verdict must wait until Papi has heard the party of the second part. That takes the focus away from Olivia, and dilutes the ending.
Consider therefore the unthinkable. Consider eliminating Papi the Judge, with or without extreme prejudice. Let Olivia command center stage, with the floodlights focused directly on her; and let Amanda come out of hiding if she dare.

Victor [Rangel-Ribeiro]

People, you can deny my genius no longer. Even Victor, the International Reader knows the real-deal-holyfield...So where's Random House with my book deal already???



we got egos like hairdos

they're different every day

depending on how we slept the night before

depending on the demons that are at our door