Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How Ulysses Came to be Regarded as the Greatest Novel ever Written.

When I first visited Paris as a young man I was overtaken by a raw instinct that compelled me to make my way to the Left Bank, and find, approximately one block from the Seine River, a quaint, hidden-away bookstore with a storied past called Shakespeare and Company. There I purchased a hardcover copy of a novel called Ulysses first published in 1922 by the very publishing company that was part of the bookstore.

What I did in purchasing that book on that day was about as informed and as thinking an act as a salmon swimming upstream to spawn. I hardly entered the store and once there hardly looked around when I told a clerk what I was looking for. He went to the back of the bookstore and handed me a hardcover edition. I immediately left Shakespeare & Company with the book in my greedy hands. Sweaty hands, too, for I knew I was holding an illicit work rumored to capture the longings and passions of human sexuality.

"Unexpurgated" was such a sexy word in those days.

I must have been dreaming. I was dreaming. In my dream purchasing that book at that bookstore was partaking in a forbidden, sinful ritual that I found both tremendously liberating and exhilarating. I was committing a revolutionary act that I strongly identified with in ways I could not begin to explain had anyone asked me. No one did.

Dear reader, those among you who believe that current events portends an all-out cultural Armageddon between the forces of good and evil, right and left, listen up! This is not the first time such a catfight loomed on the horizon or been engaged with such furiously fierce determination and a sense of crusading righteousness on both sides.

About one hundred years before Trump threw his hat in the ring, an at-the-time rather obscure Irish writer by the name of James Joyce penned a tome called Ulysses. When he completed the writing of it soon after the end of World War One (1919), he found that his novel had been born into a world that could not have been more divided over its literary value.

Joyce's Ulysses was viewed at the time and is still thought of today as the very essence of modernism itself. As author Kevin Birmingham writes. "The book that many regard as the greatest novel in the English language and possibly any language was banned as obscene, officially and unofficially, throughout most of the English-speaking world for over a decade. Being forbidden is part of what made Joyce's novel so transformative. Ulysses changed not only the course of literature in the century that followed but the very definition of literature in the eyes of the law."

The Most Dangerous Brook tells the story of Ulysses as it immerged from Joyce's imagination, and how "its 732 pages took shape in notebooks, on loose-leaf sheets and on scraps of paper in more than a dozen apartments in Trieste, Zurich and Paris." It then goes on to describe how the advocates of Ulysses fought with every resource they had against the establishment forces bent on censoring and banning the work out of existence.

Those crusaders found the book so filthy that in some cases they dared not read it themselves for fear that they might catch some decadent, degenerate germ that might corrupt their artistic sensibilities. The book's supporters saw Ulysses as the supreme artistic triumph. And they saw Joyce as an artist describing his world in innovative ways, what finally became accepted as the ultimate modernist statement.

Modernism is all about liberty of form, content and style. It's not surprising that a liberated mind might wonder into areas many establishment figures might consider sinful, evil or corrupting. "Dangerous" was the word they liked to use at the time.

Birmingham again: "The transgressions of Ulysses were the first thing most people knew about it. A portion was burned in Paris while it was still only a manuscript draft, and it was convicted of obscenity in New York before it was even a book. Joyce's woes inspired Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate running a small bookstore in Paris [called Shakespeare & Co., by the way], to publish Ulysses when everyone else (including Virginia Woolf) refused. When it appeared in 1922, dozens of critics praised and vilified Joyce's long-anticipated novel in unambiguous terms. Government authorities on both sides of the Atlantic confiscated and burned more than a thousand copies of Ulysses … because Joyce's big blue book was banned on British and American shores almost immediately… Over the course of a decade, Ulysses became an underground sensation. It was literary contraband, a novel you could read only if you found a copy counterfeited by literary pirates or if you smuggled it past customs agents. Most copies came from Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach's Paris bookstore where, as one writer remembered, 'Ulysses lay stacked like dynamite in a revolutionary cellar.' It was the archetype of a modernist revolution. It is, in fact, the primary reason why we think of modernism as revolutionary at all."

This is the story that Birmingham's book tells that all the hundreds of academic, critical works written about Ulysses never tell. For me The Most Dangerous Book contains a treasure trove of stories about Joyce, about the writing of his book and the way the world received it. These stories helped me re-approach the work itself with fresh eyes, and with new information and understandings, which was exactly what I needed.

Why did I need that?

When I returned to my Paris hotel after purchasing the most dangerous book, I found the actual reading of the book to be a slog, difficult to get into, difficult to read. It's the book I'm not afraid to say I've put down as often as I've given up eating chocolate. And, by the way, that's how many times I've gone back to it, as well.

While I still haven't gotten all the way through Ulysses, I still have that hardcover copy I purchased at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, and I still remember my moment of rather easy revolutionary triumph when I, as a young wannabe writer, swam upstream to spawn. (Only artistically speaking, of course.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Take a Forgiveness Journey Today.

All of us are on a life journey.

We get to choose the kind of journey we are on.

Today is the perfect time to embark on a forgiveness journey.

What is your life like when you are on a forgiveness journey? And what is your life like when you are on an "unforgiveness" journey. ["Unforgiveness" isn't a word, but it should be, and I use it here and Christina Baldwin uses it because it communicates so well.]

[This month's entry is adapted from "Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest" by Christina Baldwin)

As Christina Baldwin wrote, "Forgiveness is the act of admitting we are like other people.

"We are prone to make mistakes that cause confusion, inflict pain, and miscommunicate our intentions.

[I would add, "One of those mistakes we make is becoming angry."]

"We are the recipients of these human errors and [we are] the perpetrators [of them.]

"There is no way we can avoid hurting others or being hurt by others.

 

"This is the nature of imperfection.

So, today I ask you, my EWA reader: Are you or have you been on an unforgiving journey?

"When you will not forgive someone, you fill your life with resentment, paranoia, isolation, righteous indignation, vindictiveness. You take assurance that your perceptions and actions are justified because of the wrong that has been done you. You withhold yourself from the human community.

"When you are unforgiven [by someone else], your life is filled with recrimination, self-abuse, isolation, fear of further accusation, shame that you have done something considered unforgivable. You withhold yourself from the human community.

"What results from either of these tracks are two crippled human beings, two crippling experiences, and two states of isolation from the spiritual journey. Both parties are in hell, and the only way out is for reconciliation to occur.

"You must decide: Are you going on a journey to see what love can accomplish, or are you going on a journey to see what revenge, blame, and hostility can accomplish? When looked at in this way, the choice seems obvious.

"But really now... [Think about it carefully.]

"A tiny bit of blame seems so innocuous and justified.

"A smidgen of hostility appears easily justified.

"It's so tempting to conjure up revenge as a sweet reward, isn't it?

"When you are on that journey WITH THOSE FEELINGS those things seem minor.

"You may not consider the consequences.

[So decide: What journey are you on? And this is so very important:] "Forgiveness is a skill that can be learned."

[Please remember:] "The journey is fragile. [I would add, "It is most important."]

"SO NOW TELL ME:  [You decide.] WHAT JOURNEY ARE YOU ON?"

                                                           

--Christina Baldwin

I wish Happy Holidays to all my subscribers. And may God bless each and every one of you.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Here's What I Love about Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey."

Christopher Vogler's thesis underscoring his entire body of work is that a certain kind of story has an amazing power to attract readers and viewers and turn them into ardent fans.

The author believes that "all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams and movies. These are known collectively as The Hero's Journey."

Here's what I love about Vogler: His assertion that writers have tremendous power to lift up and heal their readers as well as themselves from traumas and hurts.

Vogler wants all writers of every stripe to become aware of the hero-story structure so that they can tap into and leverage the magical powers of this kind of story. He writes that, depending on how they tell their hero stories, writers have the power to: 

-Leave this world a better place than they found it.

-Heal peoples' hurts, traumas, fears, recurring nightmares, etc., everything that keeps them down. Writers can heal themselves, too.

-Help people grow emotionally and live on a higher plane, with more emotional intelligence.

-Inspire and instruct people on how to deal more effectively with practical yet difficult-to-solve life problems; learn how to create better and more trusting and satisfying relationships; and learn how to become more human and vulnerable, and how to grow one's own humanity.

In my view, Vogler exalts the role of the storyteller to be that of a creator working alongside the ultimate creator, God, to improve and/or fix the world.

 

I stated another reason I admire Vogler's book in my June EWA:  "In his book Vogler not only gives us tools for understanding our own life story better; he also gives storytellers guidance on how to tap into powerful myths as they go about structuring their stories."

Notice that word, "structuring." This is a book primarily about story structure. Vogler believes that when a story is structured so that it borrows from ancient myth or personal hero myths, it can have tremendous reader appeal as a book as well as  viewer appeal as a movie.

For example, the perennial popularity of Star Wars stems from the way it interprets personal hero myth, telling an epic story that shares certain elements found in ancient myths.

 

Think of this book as an "instruction manual on the art of being human," or to put it another way, "on the art of being a complete human being."

The author sets out the communication objective for this book in the Preface to his Second Edition: "In this book I describe the set of concepts known as 'The Hero's Journey' drawn from the psychology of Carl G. Jung and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell. I tried to relate those ideas to contemporary storytelling, hoping to create a writer's guide to those valuable gifts from our innermost selves and our most distant past. I came looking for design principals of storytelling, but on the road I found something more: a set of principles for living. I came to believe that the Hero's Journey is nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual in the art of being human."

This is a key thought: "The Hero's Journey is not an invention, but an observation," writes Vogler. "It is a recognition of a beautiful design, a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling the way physics and chemistry govern the physical world."

Next month I'll conclude my discusssion of The Writer's Journey by describing six types of flawed heroes and eight kinds of archetypes.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What if, in the end, there really is only one story, the most powerful ever told?

Last month I wrote, "According to an excellent summary I've found online (no author given), The Hero's Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar, Joseph Campbell, that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual and psychological development."

According to Vogler, in his book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Third Edition), "In his study of world hero myths, Campbell discovered that they are all basically the same story, retold endlessly in infinite variations. He found that all story-telling, consciously or not, follows the ancient patterns of myth, and that all stories, from the crudest jokes to the highest flights of literature, can be understood in terms of the hero myth, or the "mono-myth" whose principles he lays out in his book.

"The theme of the hero myth is universal, occurring in every culture, in every time; it is as infinitely varied as the human race itself, and yet its basic form remains the same.

"The repeating characters of the hero myth such as the young hero, the wise old man or woman, the shape-shifting man or woman, and the shadowy antagonist are identical to the archetypes of the human mind, as revealed in dreams. That's why myths and stories constructed on the mythological model strike us as psychologically true.

"Such stories are true models of the workings of the human mind, true maps of the psyche. They are psychologically valid and realistic even when they portray fantastic, impossible, unreal events." (This explains the success of fantasy classics such The Lord of the Rings, and the more current crop of successful fantasy novels including The Harry Potter Series.)

"This accounts for the universal power of such stories. Stories build on the model of the hero myth have an appeal that can be felt by everyone because they spring from a universal source in the collective unconscious, and because they reflect universal concerns.

"They deal with the child-like but universal questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die? What is good, and what is evil? What must I do about it? What will tomorrow be like? Where did yesterday go? Is there anybody else out there?"

Campbell gives a condensed version of the basic hero myth. Vogler restates the basic story in twelve "story stages" organized below in three major dramatic "acts" that can be found in all stories and dramas.

Act I – Separation from the Ordinary World & The hero's decision to act.

1. Ordinary World. Most hero stories begin in the ordinary, mundane, everyday world. Think of The Wizard of Oz before the tornado. But there's often a tension going on either inside or around the main protagonist; we often detect a certain unease about the character or about something that is about to happen that allows the audience to identify with the character. The main character is often being pulled in different directions, and this causes stress that allows us the reader or viewer to identify with that character.

2. Call to Adventure. The hero is presented with a problem or challenge so pressing she or he must go on the quest.  "In Star Wars, think of Princess Leia's desperate holographic message to wise, old Obi Wan Kenobi, who asks Luke to join in the quest. For example: Leia has been snatched by evil Darth Vadar. Her rescue is vital to restoring the normal balance of the universe."

3.Refusal of the Call. The hero is afraid. He turns down the call to adventure out of fear of the unknown or doubts about his capabilities. He's no hero, he's just a regular person. "At this point, Luke refuses Obi Wan's Call to Adventure, and returns to the farmhouse of his aunt and uncle, only to find they have been killed by the Emperor's storm troopers. Suddenly Luke is no longer reluctant. He is eager to undertake the adventure."

4. Meeting with the Mentor. The mentor is usually a wise old man or woman who gives the Hero valuable advice and gets him over his fears. "The Mentor may appear as a wise old wizard (Star Wars), a tough drill sergeant (An Officer and a Gentleman), or a grizzled old boxing coach (Rocky). In Jaws, it's the crusty Robert Shaw character who knows all about sharks."

5. Crossing the First Threshold. The hero commits to the adventure and crosses the first threshold. He's now committed to the adventure.  Because the hero has now decided to act, this is the end of Act I. "This is the moment at which the story takes off and the adventure gets going. The balloon goes up, the romance begins, the spaceship blasts off, the wagon train gets rolling. Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road. The hero is now committed and there is no turning back."

Act II – Descent into Crisis. What happens when the hero acts?

6. Tests, Allies & Enemies. Now that the hero has gotten into action, "he encounters new challenges and Texts, makes Allies and Enemies and begins to learn the rules of the Special World."  Saloons and seedy bars are good places for these scenes to happen.  In Casablanca it's Rick's Café. In Star Wars, it's that bar with those crazy space aliens. We see the main character and his pals interacting with one another. Character development happens in this phase of the story, as our hero is put under stress and has to produce results."

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave. In mythology, "the hero may have to descend into hell to rescue a loved one (Orpheus), into a cave to fight a dragon and win a treasure (Sigurd in Norse myth), or into a labyrinth to confront a monster (Theseus and the Minotaur.)" In Star Wars, the Approach to the Inmost Cave is Luke Skywalker being sucked into the Death Star to face Darth Vader and rescue Princess Leia. In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the inmost cave is the Temple of Doom itself. 

8. Central Ordeal. "Here the hero's fortunes hit bottom in a direct confrontation with his greatest fear. In the Biblical story of Jonah, it's when Jonah is "in the belly of the beast." In E.T., it's when the little guy appears to die on the operating table.  "In romantic comedies the death faced by the hero may simply be the temporary death of the hero." "At this point in Beverly Hills Cop, Alex Foley has a gun pointed at his head." At this point in the story, we the viewers/readers of the story identify with the principal protagonist so closely that whatever happens to the hero seems to happen to us."

9. Reward (Seizing the sword). The Hero finally takes possession of what she or he has been questing after. "In Star Wars, Luke rescues Princess Leia and captures the plans of the Death Star, keys to defeating Darth Vadar."

Act III – Return. How does the Hero integrate new understandings about life and what is important about life into his or her personality or psychology?

10.The road back.  "Our Hero isn't done yet. He must confront the dark forces of the Ordeal. If the Hero hasn't reconciled with the Gods, they may come screaming after him or her. The best chase scenes spring up at this point of the story. For example, "Luke and Leia are furiously pursued by Darth Vader as they escape the Death Star."

11. Resurrection.  "The hero who has been in the realm of the dead must be reborn and cleansed in one last Ordeal of death and Resurrection before returning back to the Ordinary World of the living. Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop once again faces death at the hands of the villain but is rescued by the intervention of the Beverly Hills Police Force. Axel Foley emerges as a more complete human being."

12. Return with the Elexir. The hero returns to the Ordinary World, but making it meaningful means bring with him or her, some elixir, treasure or lesson from the Special World. "Dorothy returns to Kansas with the knowledge that she is loved. E.T. returns home with the experience of friendship with humans. Luke Skywalker defeats Darth Vader and restores peace and order to the galaxy. Sometimes the Elixir is treasure won on the quest, but it may be love, freedom, wisdom or the knowledge that the Special World exists and can be survived."

So, this is the 12-step mythical, archetypal story that creates a strong connection with the reader's or, in the case of a movie, the viewer's heart.

Can it also be applied to a literary fiction novel in a way that is highly original? Can it cause the reader to engage with the fiction without necessarily being aware of the hero journey achetype? Absolutely. But it takes a writer who comes to this archetypal story with his or her independent view of story, not someone trying to copy this 12-step formula.

In my view, there's something extremely elemental, ineluctable, and involving about these archetypal myths. When handled correctly, hero-journey stories create page-turners readers cannot put down and movie-goers are compelled to see. Next month I'll discuss the various kinds of heroes and storytelling archetypes.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why do some Stories Contain within them a Miracle Power to Heal? And What is that Story?

This month I continue my review of Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Third Edition).

Christopher Vogler's thesis underscoring his entire body of work is that a certain kind of story has magical powers to attract readers and viewers and make them feel extremely comfortable with and warm about that story.

In addition, Vogler believes that "all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams and movies. These are known collectively as The Hero's Journey."

Vogler first became aware of the power of The Hero's Journey as a story structure when he was a child reading nursery tales, ancient myths, and the like. As an adult he read a best-selling book about mythic tales entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell first published in 1949. That book changed Vogler's  life.

Today Vogler is one of Hollywood's premier story consultants, and a popular speaker on the subjects of screenwriting, movies and myth. He has often consulted for Disney Studios and other major industry players on the story structure of major releases.

In The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Vogler has brought Joseph Campbell's concepts up to date and made them accessible to an audience that is larger and more diverse than ever. Vogler's incomparable gift for intuitively understanding and being able to express the powerful magic at the heart of The Hero's Journey has been responsible for making his book, "The Writer's Journey" an indispensible guide for novelists and screenplay writers.

Vogler writes, "Understanding these [story] elements [of The Hero's Journey] and their use in modern writing is the object of our quest. Used wisely, these ancient tools of the storyteller's craft still have tremendous power to heal people and make the world a better place."

Vogler wants all writers of every stripe to become aware of the Hero Story structure so that they can tap into its magical powers. Addressing writers, he says:

By tapping into this story-myth, you can leave this world a better place than you found it; You have the power to heal peoples' hurts, traumas, fears, recurring nightmares, etc., everything that keeps people down, that keeps them from feeling whole and integral (just by the way you, the writer, choose to tell your story) You have the power to help people grow emotionally and live on a higher plane. You can help your readers find renewed self-respect and affirm their human dignity, live in a more authentic way and bring more mastery to the way they live their lives. Through the way you choose to tell your stories, you have the ability to inspire and instruct people on how to deal with difficult problems in life; how to create better and more trusting relationships; how to become more human and vulnerable; and how to grow one's humanity.

Vogler exalts the role of the storyteller as a creator working with the ultimate creator, God, to improve and/or fix the world.

 

It should come as no surprise: Vogler sees the role of a story writer as far beyond that of a scribbler of public entertainments who sells his stories in exchange for income. Rather, in Vogler's view, a writer embarking on "the hero's journey" takes power into his or her hands to, as I've already mentioned, literally improve and fix the world and, by so doing, upgrade every one of his readers' quality of life. 

"Oh, come on," you might respond. "Isn't it a little naïve to twist a writer-creator-screenwriter into a spiritual partner of the Godhead, able to redeem mankind with his creative output?" My answer to that is, no, not at all. In my opinion that's what it means to be a creator.

What is The Hero's Journey?

According to an excellent summary I've found online (no author given), "The Hero's Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar, Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of a group, tribe or civilization."

Last month I mentioned that the word "hero" comes from the Greek; it means "to serve and protect."

The emotional journey of the hero is always one that begins with the hero fulfilling his ego-driven needs ("me, me, me") but who, in time, begins working to help either his group, tribe or civilization. In that respect, the hero story eventually becomes in one way or another the story of self-sacrifice. The hero's "job" (if one can think of it as a job) is to become an integrated human being, to discover his true and authentic self throughout the course of the story.

The reason the hero myth has such wide appeal comes from the hero inevitably having flaws of one kind or another. He or she has inner-conflicts and is torn between love and duty, trust and suspicion, or hope and despair.

As you can see, The Hero's Journey is just that, a journey from point A to point B that mirrors the complexity of many real people's lives, and the maturity many people attain as they move from a purely material and ego-driven view of life to discover that life is ultimately about serving others while holding out against overwhelming odds, fighting for higher principals, and facing up to our worse fears, ultimately, to death itself.

Next month, we'll delve into the twelve story "stations" or stages of the Hero's Journey, and how these stations divide into three major dramatic "acts" (Act I, Act II and Act III) that one finds (in one form or another) in every play, opera, novel and memoir.

Are you on a Life Journey, Searching for a Secret De-Coder Ring? You've found it.

Imagine for a moment that you are in the middle of a journey that doesn't always make sense to you, but, nevertheless, is one that you have always felt was important, and still feels important even today. You wish to remain on this path until the journey ends. No, you're not bored with being on this journey. In fact, you have a sense of anticipation and excitement about where the journey may lead. For the sake of this essay, let's imagine that you can't wait to see how your journey turns out.

That journey is your life.

And now let's imagine that you are traveling along a road, and that one day you happen to look down and there by the side of the road you find a secret de-coder ring (in the form of a book). Someone left it there. Could someone have left it expressly for you?

You pick up the book and open it, and from the first moment you cast your gaze upon its first page and begin reading or de-coding the messages written there, you find this work helps you make sense of all the mysteries you've been struggling with all these years. You can use it to understand your journey at a deeper level. But that's not all.  What if this secret de-coder ring explained everything about life and even explained how to live, while at the same time allowing you to interpret and make sense of everything so that the explanations and your interpretations are always aligned. They never work at cross-purposes. If you came upon such a secret de-coder ring (only it is actually a book) you would exclaim, "Eureka!" You would extoll this book's praises to all your fellow wayfarers who are also journeying on trails and over trodden paths of their own making.

Well, that's how I feel about The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Third Edition) by Christopher Vogler.

"Eureka!"

In crafting his book Vogler not only gives us tools to understand our own life stories better; he also gives storywriters of all kinds valuable guidance on how to tap into powerful myths as they go about structuring their stories.

Vogler sets out the communication objective for this book in the Preface to his Second Edition: "In this book I describe the set of concepts known as 'The Hero's Journey,' drawn from the depth psychology of Carl G. Jung and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell. I tried to relate those ideas to contemporary storytelling, hoping to create a writer's guide to those valuable gifts from our innermost selves and our most distant past. I came looking for design principals of storytelling, but on the road I found something more: a set of principles for living. I came to believe that the Hero's Journey is nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual in the art of being human."

Vogler believes that try as we writers might, it is difficult for us to resist the temptation of casting either ourselves or a stand-in character in our work as a hero. As any successful writer will tell you, simply undertaking and surviving the creative adventure-journey of writing one's inner story qualifies the author for hero-status. But Vogler goes further, saying that those of us who are not writers can't help but create a hero's journey for ourselves, a journey that tugs at our heartstrings far deeper than any sentimental romance ever could. He says that casting ourselves for such a story is part of being human. Or, conversely, as we weave our story or myth and tell ourselves our story, we create the truly whole, human being that we become as we grow into that role.

"The Hero's Journey is not an invention, but an observation," writes Vogler. " It is a recognition of a beautiful design, a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling the way physics and chemistry govern the physical world."

Let's focus in on this term "hero" for just a moment. I'll bet we all think we know exactly what we mean when we use that term. It comes from the Greek word heros, that means "To Serve and Protect," which also happens to be the motto of the Los Angeles Police Department. Clearly firemen and police officers can or should always be heroes to us.

However, in real life, as well as in novels, and movies, things can be a bit more complicated. I'll bet you've run across the terms "tragic flaws" or "tragic hero" before. You may even have reason to believe that in your own hero epic story that you are living out, your hero may be flawed in one way or another. No one's perfect.

When you read The Writer's Journey, you learn there are many kinds of heroes, and all of them are exemplified in movies and novels that we are familiar with and dearly love to watch again and again because they mean so much to us. Here is a list of heroes that are discussed in this remarkable book:

-Willing and unwilling heroes

-Anti-heroes

-Group-oriented heroes

-Loner heroes and

-Catalyst heroes

This is just one example of the depth of insight that Vogler gives us. Indeed, I propose to provide you with additional depth over the next four months. Each month I will go into detail about one aspect of the content of Vogler's work and how it illuminates so much about the kind of hero journey each of us is creating for ourselves as we, hopefully, figure out what our lives are all about, as well as the lives of our characters either in the novels, comic books, songs, screenplays, operas or plays that we write.

In next month's EWA, I'll detail a key mythical journey-story that runs through so many great novels and movies that we know and love. You will understand how these works reflect, in one way or another, the writer's journey and why they are so endearing and valuable to us.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Here's my Rook Beview.

When you read Michael Erard's Um… Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders and What They Mean, you can't help but stumble across the Right Reverend William Spooner, Oxford Don, born 1844, who when toasting Queen Victoria at an official function said, "Give three cheers for our queer old dean," and who berated a student, saying, "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. In fact you have tasted two whole worms and you must leave Oxford this afternoon by the next town drain."

Thank goodness the Right Reverend left behind Spoonerisms which have been entertaining us ever since.

So, as I set out to read and review Michael Erard's, er, ah, a nook of flips, no, a book of slips, that is, slip-ups, somewhere in my brain an April 18th tax inversion rained, a bog fank rolled in, and out came more errors some of which were as entertaining as watching Charlie Chaplin slip on a banana peel.

Mr. Erard calls his book "a work of applied blunderology," by which he means to say that we buman heings, well, our minds are messy-Bessies; that is, according to Erard, "People say an average of 15,000 words each day and make about 1,500 verbal blunders a day." When it comes to plunders, I'm proflipic, prolipkip, er, prolific.

Erard gives us an in-depth look at the work of George Mahl, a Yale psychologist who was "the first social scientist to count adult disfluencies." In the 1950s, while studying fear and anxiety in psychiatric patients, he counted eight types of "speech disturbances:"

1. Filled pauses like "uh" and "um"

2. Restarted sentences, where somebody starts speaking a sentence and then breaks off in the middle and then restarts the sentence, where somebody starts speaking a sentence and then breaks off in the middle.

3. Repeated words, I say, words, ya hear?

4. Stuttering.

5. Omitting a word. That is, omitting a

6. Incomplete sentences that start and suddenly

7. Slips of the tongue, an inadvertent accident like the time the then presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, fatigued from campaigning, said 'wasabi' instead of 'Wahhabi,' the fundamentalist Islamic sect. He'd planned to say "Wahhabi" but when he reached to retrieve Wahhabi from his memory, "wasabi" jumped out in front of his brain. "Such moments," writes Erard, "which are also known as speech errors or slips, appear when the mental machinery that turns ideas into spoken words crashes into itself."

8. Intruding incoherent sounds.

Note: The Oxford English Dictionary first notes "hem," an alternate spelling of "um" in 1526.

By the way, English is not the only language in which people fill pauses in their speech "as naturally as watermelons have seeds." Erard explains that, "In Britain they say 'uh,' but spell it, 'er,' just as they pronounce the 'er' of "butter" ("buttah"). The French say something that sounds like euh, and Hebrew speakers say ehhh. Serbs and Croats say ovay and the Turks say mmmm. In Dutch you can say, uh and um, in German am and ahm. In Swedish it's eh, ah, aaah, m, mm, hmm, ooh, a, and oh; in Norwegian, e, eh, m and hm. According to Willem Levelt, a Dutch speech scientist, "uh is the only word that's universal across languages.

A glance down the book's table of contents reveals how Erard covers his subject and, at the same time, makes it sound like tons of fun:

The Secrets of Reverend Spooner

The Life and Times of the Freudian Slip. (Here he writes of Viennese Professor Rudolf Meringer's famed battles with Sigmund Freud over the cause of Fehlleistung, literally faulty performance, now widely called Freudian slips. By the way, Freud never once experienced the satisfaction of using the term "Freudian slip." Like so many others, he died.)

Some Facts about Verbal Blunders.

What We, uh, Talk about When We Talk About "Uh."

A Brief History of "Um"

Well Spoken. (This provides a History of Toastmaster's International, now a global organization, and how it came to advocate "uh" and "um" avoidance.)

The Birth of Bloopers. (How bloopers got their start on television in the 1950s and then became an entertainment craze through the 1970s.)

Slips in the Limelight. (About Noam Chomsky and how the MIT linguist inadvertently revived interest in slips of the tongue.)

Fun with Slips. (This chapter discusses the "wildly word-misusing character, Mrs. Malaprop, in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 romantic comedy, The Rivals. That's why word slips are now known as "malapropisms.")

President Blunder. (U.S. presidents' verbal blunders down through the centuries.)

The Future of Verbal Blunders

Why does Erard enjoy writing about speech dysfluncies? "I like them because they're signs of the wild, like viruses and sexual attraction, they'll always slip out of our grasp, evading our thickest armor. But such wild things make a lot of people uncomfortable."

Luckily for his readers, Michael Erard's expert writing skills turns speech dysfluencies into extremely entertaining reading matter.