reading · Writing

Y is Yarn

Improbable Yarn

I’ve heard of yarns and not the kind you turn into a sweater. The word is used to describe some movies and books. An in: “. . . a delightfully entertaining yarn . . .” I don’t suppose I thought stories described like that had anything in common besides being entertaining and fun.

But than I was reading The Art of Fiction by John Gardner a few weeks ago and this line stood out for me:

The yarn writer—like Mark Twain in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” or “Baker’s Bluejay Yarn”—uses yet another method: He tells outrageous lies, or has some character tell the poor narrator some outrageous lie, and he simultaneously emphasizes both the brilliance and the falsehood of the lie; that is, he tells the lie as convincingly as he can but also raises objections to the lie, either those objections the reader might raise or, for comic effect, literal-minded country-bumpkin objections that, though bumpkinish, call attention to the yarn’s improbabilities.

Also, I suppose I considered yarn a useless word that lots of movie reviewers to describe, well, movies. It never tells me anything about the movie itself. Other than that the movie entertaining and aren’t all movies supposed to be entertaining?

I’ve not read either of the stories Gardner mentions. But before I read I never really considered that there were yarn writers.

I am not even entirely sure what a yarn is. Mark Twain was popular in his own time, so all the popular books? Books where the character tells outrageous lies?

Googleing define yarn nets me this result:

Verb: Tell a long or implausible story.

Synonyms: thread – story – tale

Really, the only story I can think off the top of the head is The Warrior’s Apprentice. Miles spend the whole book telling story after story, bamboozling his enemies into surrender.

But I am not really sure. Maybe yarn really is short-hand for entertaining and fun, like I used to think.

General · Writing

W is for Writing Quotes

There are lots of quotes on writing and storytelling. These are the ones I like best! Some make me laugh, some say things that strike me as true and some are just pretty.

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. 

by Anaïs Nin

Sometimes I agree with this, sometimes I don’t. Depends on the day.


You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. 

by Ray Bradbury

This paints reality as a destructive force and sometimes life can be like that (that is when writing is most necessary).


Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. 

by E.L. Doctorow

It makes me laugh. 😉


I try to leave out the parts that people skip. 

by Elmore Leonard

This is always a good idea.


Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say. 

by Sharon O’Brien

So true! So true!


Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

by Mark Twain

Make me laugh. Also, makes me more aware of my damns and verys and other stuff like that.


I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.

by James Michener

I personally detest editing, but it is so so so necessary.


The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.

by Mark Twain

This strikes as a backward way to do things, but I do this too many times to argue with it.


Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. 

by William Wordsworth

Pretty!! Also, true.


Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. 

by Anton Chekhov

I don’t remember the first time I read and people always quote it when they are trying to explain the difference between showing and telling, but I remember seeing this in hs and thinking: Oh, that’s what showing is.


Easy reading is damn hard writing. 

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Truer words!!!


Be obscure clearly. 

by E.B. White

This strikes me as funny. LOL But true in a way.


The road to hell is paved with adverbs. 

by Stephen King

Funny! Also, makes me more aware of my adverbs.


Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself. 

by Franz Kafka

Personally, this the creepiest quote on writing I’ve ever read.

General · reading

S is for Speed Reading

columnfivemediainfographicsinfographicdesigncontI don’t speed read. I don’t want to speed read.

I read fast enough on my own. 75% faster than the national average, according to  the Staples test. It says I read 436 words per minute, about the level of a college graduate, which makes sense. 🙂 It makes me wonder about the rest of this country, too. LOL

It says if I maintained this speed, I could read War and Peace in 22 hours and 27 minutes. Which is fine. I could maintain it, as I read the piece in the test rather more slowly than usual because I knew there would be a test afterward. So I could probably read it even faster than that.

It’s just that I don’t want to read War and Peace. I read it once in high school (took about a week, reading a few hours everyday) and I am not ever reading it again.

It also says I can read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling in 2 hours and 56 minutes. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in 18 hours and 18 minutes. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller in 6 hours and 40 minutes. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell in 3 hours and 24 minutes. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand in 11 hours and 55 minutes. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck in 6 hours and 29 minutes. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper in 5 hours and 34 minutes. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in 5 hours and 11 minutes. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain in 4 hours and 11 minutes. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee in 3 hours and 47 minutes. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells in 2 hours and 19 minutes.

See, the Harry Potter book takes only a day to read and I don’t actually want to finish books that fast. Especially if I like the book. If I dislike the book, well, the faster the better. (Sadly, my speed decreases when I dislike a book.)

I want to spend a few days with a book, you know? I want to spend hours lost in the world, in the characters. I don’t like it when a book ends too soon.

So . . . I hope I never have to learn speed reading. Too many books end too quickly as it is and I really don’t to speed up the process.

Do you feel like I do? That speed reading allows you to read a little bit too fast?

reading · Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: Tom Sawyer

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

He’ll play hookey this evening, and I’ll just be obleeged to make him work tomorrow, to punish him. It’s mighty hard to make him work Saturdays, when all the boys is having holiday, but he hates work more than he hates anything else, and I’ve got  to do some of my duty by him, or I’ll be the ruination of the child.”

– Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

I chose these two lines because:

1) I am tickled pink by how “evening” is Southwestern for afternoon. Who knew?

2) The spelling – phonetic spelling? – of obleeged. LOL It just strikes me as funny.

3) This is from one of the longest monologues I’ve ever read. As a way to do exposition,  establish the aunt’s character, and her and Tom’s relationship, I guess it’s pretty good.

General · reading

Really Really Annoyed With Gutenberg

Yesterday, I downloaded a bunch of classics from gutenberg.  I downloaded maybe 17 classical works and only had trouble with two: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

They appeared to download fine. But, when I opened, I found nothing. Oh, it had, pictures of the cover and the spine, some of the inside pages, then the table of contents. It had the words “END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HUCKLEBERRY FINN“, followed by the text of its license.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the same, except it also had a word from the author and this sentence: “END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK TOM SAWYER.”

There  was no book! The actual story was missing. Gone, rubbed out, dissappered, MIA.

So I (this morning!) turned on my computer and went to gutenberg, The html version works fine. Only, instead having of actual story in the page, they got links in the table of contents. On my kindle, the table of contents wasn’t actually linked to anything.

Gutenberg has chaptered versions, but I don’t want the book in three different pieces. I want it one piece. All the other Mark Twain books were one easy (i. e. working!) download. Why is Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn so special?

I know gutenberg is free and you get what you pay for, but why couldn’t the whole book be in one download? Why is the kindle version so messed up? Why?

*goes off to look for a kindle-friendly Tom Sawyer*


Huckleberry Finn and the word nigger

Alan Gribben, a Auburn University professor and Mark Twain scholar, is planning to release Huckleberry Finn where all instances of the word ‘nigger’ are replaced with ‘slave’. Nigger is an offensive word. There is no denying that and teaching it probably requires a special kind of delicacy. (I’d forgotten Huckleberry Finn is a children’s book; Sayantani reminded me.) According to the Publisher Weekly article, he is doing this because teachers can’t teach Huckleberry Finn since it uses the n-word. Gribben wants to offer a book that can be taught.

Maybe this is a good reason; none of my teachers ever taught this book or even suggested it to me (they knew I loved reading and were always suggesting books). Instead, in 6th grade, my teacher directed me towards Johnny Tremain (this is probably the closest I ever came to it in reading). I learned Huckleberry Finn’s  itself from TV. 🙂 (Since then, I have read the actual book!) So maybe his reasons are good.

Part of the argument is that nigger is used in Huckleberry Finn to mean slave and taking it out doesn’t alter the text’s meaning, just brings it into this decade. It is true; words and their meanings do change.  (i. e. gay) Probably, there was point in time when nigger wasn’t a slur. I decided to look it up the word’s history and ran across these articles: The Savvy Sista, Abolish the N Word, Harp Week. The last one is probably the best of all three. It says by the early 19th century, nigger had already become an insult. According to wiki, Huckleberry Finn was published in the US in 1885 so . . .

It also mentions that sometimes the word is used among black people themselves and it is not an insult. I remember seeing that in high school myself (high school wasn’t that long ago. In  the 2000’s decade. :)) I will admit, it was confusing because everyone else (TV, parents, teachers, other black people) said it was a bad word. I soon realized that only some of the black boys used it and only among themselves. I figured it for some odd teenage black boy thing.

And yet, despite that, I can never be in favor in censorship. Which is what this is – blatant censorship. It should be possible to teach this book, without censorship, and put it in the appropriate context.