Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley

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Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley

Post  Sam on Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:35 pm

I guess we'll make a separate thread for each essay.

So anyway, this one's about the one about tennis. Don't quite know how to begin a book-club-type conversation in this medium. I suppose I'll just start with my thoughts:

I read an interview by mr.Wallace after reading the essay, and he said something in it about his own writing that I found to be accurate: he said he sometimes makes grammatically and syntactically correct sentences, but makes them sometimes deliberately convoluted them so as to be difficult to parse properly -- the natural reading of the sentences the first time through will cause the reader to assume certain words play a different grammatical role than they do, but when the sentence ends and the reader finds that it doesn't make sense the way he read it, he'll have to switch around some parts of speech until he finds an arrangement that makes sense. Wallace does this quite a bit.

Moving on: from the little I've read so far, I find his nonfiction to be more imaginative than most peoples' fiction. I don't know how he pulls this off. What skill!

About the essay itself, the one thing I can really think to say is about the ending. About how he says that he didn't get better post-Tornado. I wanted to say a couple things about it:

A) these ambiguous endings...I LOVE THEM! I don't understand how the good writers do it so artfully. In movies, too, they can be done really well. Have you seen Half Nelson? That's like an exaggerated example, but I think they fit in the same category: a mildly cathartic ending that, for some, may leave a lot to be desired, but for others serves to...I don't know...maybe retain the magic of the story that they thought it was? I mean, if a story/essay/movie has an ending with a clear moral, or a "they lived happily ever after" type ending, it's like...the story is over. These characters cease to be characters for themselves, but rather the writer's means to an end.

This is all coming out of me stream-of-conscious like, sorry if I'm rambling. I hadn't quite thought about it like this before.

But yes, it's like this: a common, and highly suggested apparently, writing technique is to start the story in medias res, in the middle of the action. I hear about editors of plays and books and movies telling the writers to just delete the whole first 1/5th of their work. I think there's something to be said about ending in medias res as well. If the story isn't over, and doesn't have a clear moral, one potential benefit I can see of this is that the whole story isn't spoiled by a potentially bad idea. I mean, say the writer had some specific meaning in mind for the piece, whatever genre -- if that were made explicit in or before the ending, and that meaning were not agreeable to a big portion of its audience, the whole thing loses tons of appeal, in addition of course to taking the life away from the characters as I pointed out before.

But, of course, these sorts of endings can't just be done haphazardly. There's an art to it. An art I wish to figure out. Perhaps you, as an English grad, know something about the theory behind how to properly end a work?

B) I have not, to this point, actually engaged in any interpreting of the work. Sorry about that. Here it is. This is my interpretation of the ending (not quite sure what to make specifically of everything else, other than that I liked it).

He said he stopped getting better post-tornado. I guess when I was finished with the essay, the big question for me was, why? Why did he say that, and could the reason he said that perhaps have to do with some implied reason about why he stopped getting better? So I guess I started thinking about why he stopped getting better.

His edge in playing was that he had a sort of understanding with nature, with the wind. He could use it to his advantage. There are two possibilities, keeping this in mind, that the tornado was the end for him:

(1) it was a violation to him. he realized that his special relationship to the weather was not a thing that actually existed and was going to be respected by nature. perhaps it put him off a bit to be shown so powerfully that he was not favored by the thing he considered his greatest advantage.

(2) if all of his skill came from him using the quirks of nature, wind, and the unevenness of the court, then this tornado perhaps perfectly represents the apex of his skill. he was basing his whole "career" on using natural interferences to his advantage -- what bigger natural interference than a tornado? perhaps he viewed his tornado experience as his prime in some way. he will never have anything as powerful to take advantage of in a match any more.

Maybe my 2 reasons for why he didn't get better are bullshit. Maybe it doesn't even matter why he didn't get better. This is just what I came up with.

Sam
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