Thursday, April 30, 2015

Professional Wrestling And Life Writing

Yet another fun file find here!  Back in 2007, I wrote a proposal for a Modern Language Association (MLA) conference paper.  I wasn't surprised that the proposal didn't get accepted, as many MLA panels seem to be prefabricated, but the panel organizer did ask me to write the paper and submit it to a journal that he edited.  Alas, I never followed up on it since I had other scholarly projects in process then and didn't have time to add another project.  It would have been fun to work on.  If someone hasn't written a similar paper yet (and I do recall hearing one that was in the same ballpark, er, wrestling ring that focused on inconsistencies between two different biographies by the same wrestler a year or two ago at the Popular Culture Association conference), then please feel free to have a go at it.  I doubt that I will ever get around to doing this project.

"Grappling With The Past:  The Genre Of Professional Wrestling Biography"

Since 1999, when professional wrestler Mick Foley's first autobiography, Have A Nice Day:  A Tale Of Blood And Sweatsocks, achieved the number one slot for hardcover nonfiction on The New York Times Best Sellers booklist, dozens of professional wrestling biographies have been published.  Though most of the biographies are ghostwritten, some wrestlers become more involved than others in crafting the narratives of their life stories, particularly Foley, who writes his books himself, having published three autobiographies to date.  But, regardless of the level of the involvement of the wrestler with the book, the interest of fans of professional wrestling in such books has caused the professional wrestler biography to emerge as a genre within celebrity life writing.  Why has professional wrestling, a form of popular culture often held in low esteem by nonaficionados, turned so literate in recent years?  Part of the attraction of such books for wrestling fans is learning about the world of professional wrestling beyond the ring.  For, despite the knowledge that it is typically scripted, professional wrestling continues to thrive on mixing fantasy with reality, or what in wrestling terminology is known as a "shoot" (real) and a "work" (fake).  Fans, especially the hardcore vocal minority who participate in Internet forums and likely purchase many of the books, often seem to delight in analyzing storylines, attempting to distinguish artifice from reality.  However, though the dedication to keeping trade secrets, known as "kayfabe" within the wrestling industry, has lessened with wrestling's recasting of itself as "sports entertainment," even the supposed tell-all professional wrestling biography may not be as forthcoming as it appears to be.  Indeed, the construction of the identity behind the wrestling character in the biography may be just another mask to hide behind.  In this paper, I examine several representative wrestling biographies in an attempt to, pardon the pun, pin down notable aspects of the genre.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Robert Cormier Interview

I found some more interesting stuff in the old files.  This one is definitely worth sharing.  It's a 1988 interview with Robert Cormier, who was a popular novelist for young adults at the time. 

"My worst nightmare is a reader closing one of my books and yawning.  I want to shake people up a little.  I want them to react to what I write," declared awardwinning author Robert Cormier during a press conference with area high school students Wednesday at the tenth annual Youngstown State University English Festival.  Cormier was the featured lecturer at the English Festival and four of his books, including The Chocolate War, are on this year's festival booklist.

Cormier's writing career has spanned four decades.  He started writing as a journalist and won the Associated Press Best News Story Award twice, in 1959 and in 1973.  He wrote fiction in his spare time for many years before he decided to write it fulltime in 1978.  Cormier has won numerous awards for his fiction, including the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year Award three times for his novels The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and After the First Death.

A friendly man in his sixties, Cormier looked relaxed as he fielded questions about his writing, answering them in his New England accent.  Cormier denounced the adolescent literature label on much of his work by saying, "I don't think I write young adult books.  I write books about young adults.  When I sit down at the typewriter and begin creating a story, I don't write with a sixteen-year-old in mind.  I write for an intelligent reader regardless of age."

Cormier also stated that he feels a great kinship with teenagers, and their problems and lives are of general interest to him.  That is the reason much of his writing concerns teenagers.  He claims to have total recall of his teenage years, and he became interested in writing about young adults when his three children reached adolescence.  Despite his strong affinity with teens, Cormier exclaimed, "I wouldn't be a teenager again for a million dollars.  It's the most turbulent, lacerating, total, terrific time of life, which is what makes it so fascinating."

Cormier said that his writing stems from emotions.  He claims to need a strong emotional catalyst to start writing, and he has a great emotional involvement with his characters.  He described himself as a storyteller who possess a "third eye," which picks up nuances and, then, feelings of people that he can use in his writing.  He keeps his writing style sharp by every night recording his impressions of the day.

Cormier always thought of himself as "a writer disguised as a newspaperman," and, when he had the chance, he became a fulltime writer.  He compared his relationship with the typewriter to the relationship between an artist and an easel or a pianist and a piano.  He wants to have readers react to his work, and he is very pleased when he gets feedback from readers on his work.  He even placed his phone number in I Am the Cheese when Adam tries to contact his girlfriend, Amy.  Sometimes readers call.

As long as he keeps writing, they probably will keep reading as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Day I Met Marjane Satrapi

I was going through some old files recently and stumbled across an old cartoon.  It looks as if I spent all of five minutes on it, but it's amusing enough.  It's a true story also.  You probably will need to click on it in order for it to be legible.  It is fun to draw a comic from time to time.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Freelance Season

Freelance season is beginning a tad earlier this year than usual, so I am advertising it a bit.  If you, or anyone you know, need any editing, proofreading, or writing done, then please feel free to get in touch for more details (wredfright AT or 216-227-9493).