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Aug 6 2013
By Dave Hood
Instead of writing a personal essay or memoir, creative nonfiction writers often craft literary journalism essays and reviews about popular culture, including film, art, photography, famous people, fashion, and music. For instance, the popular magazine, “The New Yorker,” publishes literary journalism essays as profiles of public figures, perspectives on current events, essays on topics in the news, as well as film, music, and book reviews. “Harper’s” and “The Atlantic” are other magazine that publishes literary journalism essays. As well, many literary journals publish literary journalism essays, including Tin House, Epiphany, Witness.
The literary journalistic essay, as it applies to writing about popular culture, involves writing true stories about people, places, events, film, books, music, photography, art, and so forth. Writers craft this category of essay by completing research and then writing the narrative using the elements of fiction, literary techniques, and poetic devices. Writers usually narrate the story from the third person POV (“he/she”) and include scene, summary, and personal reflection.
Sometimes a creative nonfiction writer will play the part of a reviewer or critic, reviewing a film, concert, painting, or book. This review will include a description or summary, share the pros and cons, provide opinion and recommendation. For instance, a writer might write a literary review of a book that’s just been published, and the reader will use the review to decide whether to purchase the book.
The purpose of the literary journalistic essay and review of pop culture are always to inform, educate, and entertain readers.
In this article, I’ll discuss popular culture as it applies to writing literary journalism essays and reviews. The following will be covered:
• Defining popular culture
• Perspectives for writing about popular culture
• The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction
• Gathering material by completing research
• Writing a review
• Writing a literary journalistic essay
• Tips for writing about popular culture
• Additional reading
Defining Popular Culture
There are many definitions of popular culture. Essentially, popular culture refers to the contemporary popular culture of a particular society, such as Western pop culture. It deals with the contemporary aspects of film, photography, art, sculpture, painting, cuisine, genre fiction, poetry, music, fashion, trends, fads, influential people, such as political leaders, rock stars, sports heroes, Hollywood starlets, video games, anything to do with the current popular culture.
From pop culture, we define our tastes, likes and dislikes, identities, fashion, leisure time, beliefs, values, norms, and much more. Pop culture includes many institutions, such as Hollywood, where many motion pictures are produced. An important element of pop culture is the mass media: television, radio, books, magazines, newspapers, film, Internet. These institutions create brands that people can embrace and relate to. A particular “brand” can become an emblem of pop culture. For instance, anything Apple is now part of the pop culture of contemporary society in 2013. These institutions also shape our values, views, opinions, beliefs, and behaviour.
The physical artifacts of an era are an aspect of popular culture. Digital technologies play an important role in defining our current popular culture. Most people own either a smart phone, tablet, such as iPad, or digital music play, like the iTouch. Most people surf the Internet for work, or entertainment, or leisure. Many people use the computer to access social media, such as Facebook, to connect with friends and share their lives. Many use the computer to access YouTube to watch and post videos and Flickr to view and post photographs. It seems that young people now spend more leisure time surfing the web, text messaging, visiting Facebook than watching television. The masses have embraced digital photography, capturing an endless stream of snapshots with their smart phones or point-and-shoot digital cameras. Everyone is now a digital photographer. Digital technologies pervade the popular culture of 2013.
Serendipity often creates pop culture. Fads and trends happen by accident or chance. For instance, in the late 60s and 70s, long hair was fashionable for men. Now many men “crop” their hair as though they are enrolled in the army. Men and women adorn their bodies with a coloured tattoos. These trends arrived by accident, pure chance. At some point, the trends will depart, and be replaced by something new.
Influential people, such as Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, or Bono of U2 also create popular culture, and shape how we dress, think, and act. For instance, Steve Jobs was the “mastermind” of the digital technologies which pervade contemporary life, such as iPad, iPhone, and iTouch.
Any definition of popular culture most include Zeitgeist. It is a German word, which means “the spirit of the age” or “spirit of the time”, and refers to the cultural, political, ethical, intellectual, spiritual climate of a culture during a specific era or time frame. The spirit of a particular era will include the shared views, shared attitudes, shared feelings, shared tastes, shared morality, and shared preferences toward war and technology, political movements and religion, economic conditions and types of work, new scientific discovers, or anything that is part of society.
Think of zeitgeist as the “collective consciousness” of a particular generation. To understand it, you’ll have to conduct research on the Internet and in the library, uncovering the significant events and people and artifacts. Then you’ll have to analyze this popular culture and write the essay, providing examples, which illustrate the idea of collective consciousness. For instance, a decade from now, people will look back and see that digital technologies, such as the iPhone, iPad, Internet, social media, were important aspects of our collective consciousness.
To assist you understanding the “spirit of the time,” use the Google Search called Google Zeitgeist . It will tell you what is on the minds of people. For instance, in 2010, according to Google Zeitgeist, the iPad, Master Chef, Justin Bieber, were some of the most popular searches, and on the minds of millions of people around the world. You might then ask: Is there a spirit of hope or hopelessness, progress or regression, optimism or cynicism, alienation or inclusion?
Perspectives for Writing about Popular Culture
When writing a literary journalistic essay, writers use popular culture in several ways: They use popular culture to provide context to a story. They write as subject matter experts on some feature of popular culture, or as a witnesses to some aspect of popular culture, such as film, art, photography. Play the role of reviewer and write reviews on books, film, music, art, theatre, and more.
Pop culture can provide context to personal narrative or literary journalism essay. Often when writers craft essays that include setting, they allude to the music, film, fashion, values, beliefs of the time period. This provides context to the story. How does a writer find out what happened twenty or thirty years ago? Writers can use a timeline, which shows the significant events, popular culture, and influential people for a particular year. A good website to find context for a true story is http://www.history central.com
The writer, often a subject matter expert, writes a commentary or opinion on some an entertainment personality, film, music concert, event, issue.
The writer might write as a witness. For instance, the writer might craft a personal narrative about a visiting to the Art Gallery, such as the Museum of Modern Art or attending the Bruce Springsteen concert, or what it feels like to cheer for a losing football team, such as the Buffalo Bills.
The writer can play the role of reviewer or critic. For instance, experts in film write film reviews, ,experts in music write music reviews, experts on art write literary journalistic essays about painting, sculpture, photography. To review some “art form,” the reviewer must experience the art. For instance, if the writer is writing a book review, the writer must first read the book. If the writer is writing a film review, the writer must first watch the film. If the writer is writing a review on some painting or sculpture or installation or photograph, the writer must first attend the exhibition.
The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction
Writing about pop culture requires that you follow the advice of Lee Gutkind’s “Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction:” He suggests the following:
• Write about real life, real people, actual events, real art forms, and actual places.
• Complete research, collecting facts from the library, interviewing experts, reading essays on the Internet, watching television or film, listening to music, immersing yourself in the “art form.”
• Write an essay or review about some feature of popular culture. Use immersion and other tools of research, facts, and fact checking to write the essay or review.
• Include personal reflection. Share your personal thoughts, feelings, perspectives about popular culture.
• Read widely and deeply. Read books, magazines, articles, essays, commentary, Internet blogs to understand to the topic, issue, event, or person.
Gathering Material to Write the Literary Journalistic Essay
If you intend to write about pop culture, you must stay informed and conduct research whenever you have a topic to write about.
Here are a few publications that will help you learn about pop culture and stay informed:
• Music. If you intend to write about the music scene, including singers, song writers, artists, bands, rock, pop, soul, rap, jazz, begin by reading “Rolling Stone” magazine.
• Art. If you desire to learn about modern or contemporary art and artists, read “Canadian Art”, “Art in America,” and “Artnews.”
• Film. If you want to learn and write about film, turn the pages of “Sight and Sound” magazine.
• Fashion. If you desire to become an expert on fashion, read “Vogue” magazine (for women) or “GQ” magazine (for men).
• General entertainment news. Stay informed by reading “Entertainment Weekly” and “The New Yorker” magazine, and by reading the entertainment section of your newspaper.
• Literary journals. These are specialized publications, illustrating the best of some an art form. For instance, to read short fiction and poetry, read the journals Granta, Epiphany, Witness, Tin House.
A literary journalism essay is based on facts, gathered from research. Writers can use different methods of research, including:
1. Interview subject matter experts. Contact an expert and interview them. Make notes as you ask questions, or use a tape recorder.
2. Immerse yourself in the story. Attend a music concert, or watch the film, visit the art gallery, and then make notes.
3. Use the library. Read relevant books, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and take notes as you read.
4. Use the Internet. Conduct a search of your topic using Google search, to learn what has been written on the subject and where there are books, magazines, journals, subject matter experts.
5. Complete primary research. A primary source is a record created as part of, or during an event, crisis, or time period. For instance a letter, diary, personal journal, and government records and governmental report.
Writing a Review
Before writing a review, you should first experience the art form, such as viewing the painting or seeing the film. You should also have a good understanding of the genre. For instance, if you`re going to write a film review, you should have a good understanding of movie terms, concepts, film making techniques, movie stars, and history of film. Writer William Zinsser, in “On Writing Well,” provides some suggestions for completing a review:
1. Love the art form or medium you are reviewing. In other words, if you don`t like film, be sure not to write a review. It will be tainted.
2. Don`t tell the readers everything. For instance, if you`re writing a book review, don`t tell the readers the ending. Provide them with only enough detail to convince them to read or ignore the book.
3. Don`t use adjectives to exaggerate your impression of the art form
4. Use a minimal writing style to express what you think and observe.
As well, when writing a review, do the following:
• Summarize what you observed, heard, or experienced with your senses.
• Share pros and cons.
• Give you opinion. Tell readers whether you like it.
• Make a recommendation. Should the audience see the film or read the book or visit the art exhibition.
Writing a Book Review
There are many ways to write a book review. Just check out the Globe & Mail or The New York Times, and you will see that each newspaper includes them. Lovers of books desire to read them. All book reviews should include a summary of the book, identify the book’s strengths and weaknesses, specify the publishing information (title, author, page count, price), and determine whether the reader ought to read the book. Here is one method you can use to write a book review:
Before Reading the Book
Before reading, scan the book and make notes of the following:
• Title. Does it indicate what the book is about?
• Preface. Does it tell you the purpose of the book?
• Table of Contents. Does it indicate what the book is about?
• Glossary. Does the book include a glossary? Does it appear useful?
• Index. Does the book include an index? Is it useful?
After scanning through the book, jot down your impressions. Next, research the author to find out what his/her biases, views, expertise, and other books he/she has written.
Reading the Book
While reading the book, make notes on the following:
• Your impressions
• Author’s argument
• Author’s main points
• Facts and evidence
• Topics covered
• Strengths and weaknesses
Writing the Book Review
Your first paragraph needs a hook, which grabs your reader’s attention. You should also include the name of the author and title of the book. The body of your review requires a summary and should identify some of the most important strengths and weaknesses of the book. You should conclude with a recommendation.
Your book review also requires the following publishing information:
• Title of the book
• Name of the author
• Name of the publisher
• Page count
• Price of the book
Most book reviews include information about the author, such as the author’s views and biases, the author’s expertise on the subject, other books that the author has written. A good book review identifies the types of readers who will enjoy reading the book, and it indicates whether the information in the book is useful to the reader. Many good book reviews also state whether the book expands on the existing body of knowledge.
Writing the Literary Journalistic Essay
Writing about popular culture requires that you determine your approach. Are you writing as a witness? Are you writing as an expert? Or do you only want to use popular culture to provide context to a personal narrative essay or literary journalistic essay? Or are you writing about popular culture as a reviewer? Follow these suggestions:
Don’t use jargon or clichés. Use familiar instead of unfamiliar words and simple rather than fancy words. As well, use action verbs and concrete nouns.
Elements of Fiction
All stories unfold in a particular setting. Include the setting details— time and place and context.
When you narrate a true story, use a narrative arc. It includes:
• Inciting incident
• Conflict, either internal or external
• Turning point or climax
• Resolution. End of the story.
If you are writing a profile on a person, develop the profile by describing the person’s appearance, action and reaction, and by using dialogue. Always answer the question: Who is this person?
Point of View
Write the literary journalistic essay on popular culture using either the first person POV (“I”) or the third person POV (“he”/”she”).
Scene, Summary, and Personal Reflection
If you’re writing a narrative, write one or more scenes (showing the reader what happened) to show what happens. A scene includes setting details, action, dialogue, POV, and sensory details. Use summary to explain and tell readers background information. As well, use personal reflection to share your impressions and emotional truth (How does it feel to you?).
Use various poetic devices to write your literary journalism essay, including:
To reconstruct setting and events and impressions of people, use sensor details, writing descriptions of what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch.
Don’t include every detail. Instead use “telling details.” These are concrete, significant, particular details, which reveal deeper meaning than their descriptions.
Facts not Fiction
When writing true stories of popular culture or people of popular culture, don’t fabricate dialogue or events. This is writing fiction. As well, don’t add any facts without first completing fact-checking.
Follow the advice in “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.
The first draft is never your best work. Always revise the draft, completing a macro-edit (structure, tone, elements of fiction, POV) and micro-edit (grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, sentence patterns).
Tips for Writing about Popular Culture
Popular culture is never static. It is always evolving. New things are continuously being introduced, such as film, music, art, and technologies. And so, to write about popular culture, you must stay informed. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Schedule a “Creative Date” each month. Examples: Visit the art gallery, go to a concert, buy tickets to watch a movie.
2. Stay informed. Read the entertainment section of the newspaper to find out what is going on in your city or town; read pop-culture magazines, such as “Entertainment Weekly”; watch the news and listen to the radio; read articles on the Internet, including the blogs and websites; watch YouTube videos and connect to Facebook and other social media.
3. Keep a writing journal. Make regular entries about pop culture in a writing journal.
4. Become and expert. Enroll in a photography, art, poetry, film study, music course.
5. Consider writing a speculative narrative. For instance, you might see a piece of art in a gallery, and then write a description using sensory details, and then rely on your imagination to determine the meaning of the art.
6. Remain aware of the fads and trends. Regularly, Ask yourself: What are the fads? Trends? What’s popular in your culture? How does film, fashion, music, art influence you? How have books influenced your life? How has the smartphone, tablet, digital music player, or digital camera altered your lifestyle?
7. Make popular culture part of your life. Immerse yourself in film, art, literature, photography, music, and you will see view the world from a different perspective, a viewpoint that will enable you to write about popular culture.
For addition information about learning creative nonfiction, read the following:
• Story Craft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hart
• Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, Second edition by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
• To Tell the Truth: Practise and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction by Connie D. Griffin
• Creative Nonfiction : A Guide to Form, Content, and Style with Readings by Eileen Pollack
• You Can’t Make This Stuff: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything In Between Up by Lee Gutkind
• The Best American Essays Series 2012, edited by David Brooks and Robert Atwan
• The New Yorker magazine
By Dave Hood
A few weeks ago, I perused Chapters, a big box bookstore in Toronto, and stumbled across “One Year to a Writer’s Life.” The book is a collection of 12 workshops, written by Susan M. Tiberghien, a teacher/professor/published writer of “Creative Writing.”
I have discovered that it is one of the best books written on Creative Writing. It based on 12 workshops she provides. Each chapter is a workshop. There are chapters on journal writing (the foundation of all creative writing), poetry, personal essays, opinion essays, travel writing, short story writing, poetic prose, memoir, finding alchemy from dreams, memory, surroundings–and concludes with a workshop polishing/revising your work.
I especially enjoyed reading the chapters on journal writing, writing opinion essays, personal essays, poetic prose and poetry.
For instance, in the chapter on Journal Writing. The writer identifies the benefits of keeping a personal journal, and provides advice on what to include in a journal entry. The author Susan M. Tiberghien poses the question: Why keep a journal? Then she lists the reasons:
- To establish the habit of writing.
- To capture memories.
- To discover what you think and feel.
- To find your writer’s voice.
- To take risks and experiment with your writing.
- To plant seeds for poetry, personal essays, short fiction, a novel.
She then provides examples of good journal writing. She also explains how to keep a journal. The most important advice: Just begin to write. Start with a date and title. Get whatever comes to mind down on paper or on your computer screen. Only buy writing on a regular basis, getting into the habit of writing, will you become a good writer. She states that keeping a journal is the foundation of creative writing.
At the back of the book, there are a list of additional resources for you to find additional information on journal writing, poetry, personal essays, short fiction, and much more.
For instance, if you want to find more information on journal writing, she lists “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg as two useful books to expand your knowledge and skill in journal writing.
“One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft” is in its fourth printing, and has become very popular. You can purchase a copy for less tha $20 at Amazon or Chapters/Indigo.
If you want to fast track your way to creative writing, this is the book for you. It will provide you with sufficient advice to get you started as a creative writer. I strongly urge you to buy a copy, read it, follow the exercises, and keep a personal journal. Most of all: Write every day. Get into the habit of writing.
Here’s an overview and link to details about the book and writer: http://www.susantiberghien.com/works.htm
366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Life
- Author: Fred White
- Publisher: Writers Digest
- Year: 2008
- Page count: 377 pg
- Price: $19.95
Fred White in “The Daily Writer” states that writing can be a deeply fulfilling and spiritual experience.
He writes that it is also a kind of mind-alchemy in which the aspiring writer can transform ideas into poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
His book is intended to help awaken the spiritual side of writing through daily meditations.
By means of 366 meditations, the book’s purpose is to:
- Help the aspiring writer to integrate the habit of writing into his or her life.
- Motivate the aspiring writer to write each day.
- Prevent or end writer’s block.
- Enable the aspiring writer to learn about the craft of writing.
The book is organized into 366 chapters, each consisting of a daily meditation and exercise on writing. The index is organized by writing topic, which makes it easy to complete meditations and exercises by topic instead of completing the book in from start to finish.
The Daily Writer is a book of 366 writing meditations, intended to cultivate a productive and meaningful writing life. Each meditation explores a particular aspect of the writing craft, such as allegory, myth, and parable; art and iconography; brainstorming; books and reading; drafting and revising; journaling; and language. Each mediation also includes additional points to further reflect about and one or more exercises to complete.
Here are a few examples from the book:
In the Vocabulary Builder Meditation, White tells the reader not to memorize long lists of words. Instead the reader should read widely and deeply, and use the dictionary to look up words that are not understood. As an exercise, he suggests that readers should study their dictionary to build their vocabulary.
In the meditation on Reverence for Books and Reading, White provides advice on how to become a good writer. He states that “you cannot become a good writer without being a good reader.” For further reflection, he asks the reader list the books that he/she enjoys reading. As an exercise, he suggests that the reader reread a favourite book.
the Keeping a Journal Meditation, White explains why all aspiring writers should keep a journal/writer’s notebook. He points out that it is a fundamental writer’s tool for jotting down ideas, a way of staying in the writing habit, and a means to gain insight. As a exercise he suggests that readers should begin keeping a journal, and for a first entry they should write about a “wild fantasy.”
In the meditation on writing concisely, he suggests that writers use fewer words, make every word count, use common sense, and eliminate redundancy, wordiness, and nominalizations. As an exercise, he suggests that readers to a sentence-by-sentence edit of a piece of writing.
This book is for aspiring writers who want to learn how to write, prevent or overcome writer’s block, get into the habit of writing, or learn about the various creative writing topics.
About the Author
Fred White is an associate professor of English at Santa Clara University. He holds a PH.D in English. He is also the author of four textbooks on writing and has published a myriad of essays, short stories, and poetry.
Are you looking for a book that inspires you to write? If you answered “yes”, then The Daily Writer is a book you should purchase. It includes 366 topics presented in the form of daily meditations that are intended to teach you about some aspect of writing and to inspire you to write. So, if you are an aspiring writer or a writer who has lost his/her inspiration, you should add this book to your reading list and to your bookshelf for future reference.
An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry
- Author: Sage Cohen
- Publisher: Writers Digest
- Copyright: 2009
- Page Count: 262 pages
- Price: $22.95 (CN)
Sage Cohen writes in “Writing the Life Poetic” that you don’t need to have an advanced degree to understand or write poetry. Her book is an inspirational companion for anyone who is interested in poetry. Its purpose is to provide you with what is needed to “write, read, and appreciate poetry in a new way—whatever way pleases and inspires you.”
The Life poetic consists of 80 short chapters. Each chapter covers some important aspect of poetry. For instance, there are chapters on the following:
- What makes a poem a poem?
- Showing versus telling
- Living the poetic life
- Reading the poetry you love
- Point of view
- Figurative language, such as the simile and metaphor
Cohen uses several devices to explain each topic. She begins each chapter with a brief explanation of the topic, often including an inspirational quote, an occasional poem, anecdotes, and advice. Then she provides the reader with questions to answer or exercises to complete.
As an example: In chapter 2, “What makes a Poem a Poem?” Cohen answers the question, suggesting that a poem is a compression of words. Each word must count. A poem uses imagery to make its point. A poem has music or rhythm and sound. And a poem is composed of lines and stanzas.
In her chapter on “Showing versus Telling,” she writes that the golden rule of poetry is to show, don’t tell. In other words, use concrete and specific images to describe the world in which you live. Avoid declarative statements and clichés.
In the chapter “Living the Life Poetic”, Cohen suggests that the aspiring poet needs to “tune into the marvels of the mundane” and “savour mystery instead of uncertainty.” The aspiring poet should also observe the world in which we live, and understand what we do when we are living in “autopilot.”
Some of her exercises include keeping a metaphor log, where you describe the world using figurative images, creating a found poem using email, learn poetry by imitation, reading to discover new ideas, and using repetition to create a poem.
She gives sound advice in her chapter on “Read the Poetry you Love.” She writes that the reader should “read poetry to be informed, moved, transformed, and inspired”, and that “writing poetry flow out of reading poetry.”
Her advice is often illuminating. For instance, in her chapter “The Starving Artist Has Left the Building” she states that the reader ought not to expect to make a living writing poetry. Instead, the poet should keep his or her day job, and use leisure time to write poetry. The “day job” cannot take the poetry away from you.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The book is well-written and entertaining. Furthermore, it contains lots of information about most topics on poetry. The author provides useful advice about reading poetry, writing poetry, and living the poetic life. The poems and anecdotes make their point. Her inspire the reader think. The exercises are challenging and helpful. And the author provides the reader with a companion website to learn more about poetry.
Unfortunately, this book doesn’t include a glossary of terms, a tool that would be useful to the aspiring poet. As well,some of the topics could have been covered in greater detail, such as the chapters on rhyme, sound, and living the life poetic.
This book is written for anyone who wants to learn how to read or write poetry, or who wants to expand their knowledge of poetry or skill in writing poetry.
About the Author
Sage Cohen is the author of the poetry collection, “Like the Heart.” Her poems and essays have appeared in a plethora of publications. In 2008, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In 2008, she won the Ghost Road Press poetry contest. Presently, she teaches an e-course in poetry and writes a monthly column about the life poetic for Writers on the Rise. She also edits this publication. She is also a speaker at writing festivals and writing conferences.
For more information about this author, visit www.writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com .
This book would a useful companion for a student enrolled in a course in poetry where the textbook is the primary resource. This book would also be beneficial for a person who has a good understanding of the basic elements of poetry but would like some inspiration on how to read and write poetry, or live the life poetic.
A Book Review
- Author: Dr. Mardy Grothe
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
- Year: 2009-10-29
- Page count: 326
- Price:$19.99 (CN)
What is an aphorism? It is a pithy observation that attempts to communicate a truth about human experience, often with a dash of wit and wisdom. Many of the great thinkers and writers have viewed the aphorism as a tool for expressing wisdom. For instance, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If you would be loved, love and be lovable.”
Dr. Mardy Grothe has written a book about aphorisms that begin with the word if. His book, “Ifferisms”, includes nearly 2,000 aphorisms, each beginning with the word “if.” It contains aphorisms for a myriad of topics, such as the human condition, human relations, wordplay, love, sex, romance, and more. It is a compendium of wit, wisdom, and wordplay.
In the introduction of his book, Grothe defines what he means by “ifferism.” It is an aphorism, beginning with the word “if.” He defines the aphorism as “a brief observation that attempts to communicate some kind of truth about human experience.”
He writes that the aphorism is also known as an adage or maxim.
And it is a personal observation inflated into a universal truth. For instance: “If man would learn from history, what lessons it might teach us.”
He writes that many aphorisms have gained such wide popularity that they have become proverbs or axioms or truisms.
He points out that the if-aphorism (ifferism) is a based on hypothetical thinking, something assumed to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation.
He also states that the if-aphorism is based on counterfactual thinking, in that what is imagined runs counter to the actual facts of life. When people use counterfactual thinking, they are engaged in “what if” thinking.
And he writes that the ifferism or if-aphorism is a conditional statement, written in the form of “if-then” statement. For instance, “If you can’t feed a hundred, feed one.” (Mother Teresa)
In the book, he includes nearly 2,000 aphorisms stated or written by great thinkers, philosophers, scientists, celebrities, writers, and so forth. For instance, he includes the following aphorisms that are words of wisdom:
If your heart has peace, nothing can disturb you. —The Dala Lama
If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. —-Katherine Hepburn.
If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects. —Albert Einstein.
If you want to write poetry, you must earn a living in some other way. —T.S. Eliot.
The book is organized into 18 chapters, each covering a different topic and listing aphorisms for that topic.
At the beginning of each chapter, Grothe introduces the topic with an anecdote, or story, or explanation.
For many of the aphorisms, he provides perspective by telling the reader how the aphorism originated, or by providing biographical information, or by providing historical details about the person who created the adage.
In Chapter one, Grothe writes about the classic aphorisms. For instance, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”
In chapter two, he identifies if-aphorisms related to wit and wordplay, such as “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing with the pits.”
In chapter six, he writes about aging and the stages of life, and the if-aphorisms associated with these topics. Examples: “If you rest, you will rust.”…If you can’t recall it, forget it.”… If I lived my life again, I’d make the same mistakes sooner.
In chapter 9, he identifies if-aphorisms related to human relations. Here are two he includes: “If you want to have a friend, be a friend…If you want people to speak well of you, do not speak well of yourself.”
In chapter 10, he identifies if-aphorisms about love, sex, and romance. For instance, he writes that Woody Allen stated that “If you smoke after sex, you are doing it too fast.”
In the final chapter, he identifies if-aphorisms related to writing. Here is one: “If a poet writes to save his soul, he may save the souls of others.”
The back matter of the book includes an index and source information, but there is no list of resources for further reading.
About the Author Audience
Dr. Mardy Grothe is a psychologist, management consultant, and public speaker. In his leisure time, he enjoys collecting quotes. Some would call him a quotation maven. He is also the author of several other books, including:
- Oxymoronica, a book about oxymoron’s and paradox.
- I Never Metaphor I didn’t Like, a book about similes, metaphors, and analogies.
For more information about the author, or his books, or his aphorisms, visit his website at www.drmardy.com .
This book is anyone who aspires to use the English language creatively. It is for those who enjoy wordplay. It is for those who are interested in learning how to write aphorisms. This book would also be a useful reference for anyone who needs to use aphorisms in their writing, like speech writing.
If you are a lover of language, or desire to learn about aphorisms, you should read this book. It is entertaining, illuminating, witty, and filled with small chunks of wisdom.
Generate Ideas and Stimulate Your Writing
- Author: Bonnie Neubauer
- Publisher: Writer’s Digest
- Page count: 218 pg
- Price: $21.99
Do you need inspiration to write? Or are you suffering from writer’s block? Author , Bonnie Neubauer, has written a marvellous book, “Take Ten for Writers”, to help you find inspiration to write. All you need to do is take ten minutes each day to complete the writing prompts, and your writing will improve. You will also learn the art and craft of creative writing.
“Take Ten for Writers” is a book of writing exercises. Each exercise has 10 ways of completing. The total number of exercises is 1,000. Each exercise is two pages long, consisting of five parts.
In part one, you are provided with the setup or scenario. In part two, you are to pick a number from 1 to 10, write it down, and then turn the page.
In part three, you select a corresponding number from the list of ten variables. Each variable provides you with a unique way of completing the exercise.
In part four, write for 10 minutes to complete the writing exercise.
In part five, you are provided with tips, suggestions, questions, or ideas that are intended to help you to write, find inspiration, and improve your writing.
For instance, exercise 4, “A House Divided”, tells you to write about a time in which you felt divided about a decision, incident, or act.
Exercise 6, “Bear in Mind”, presents you with a scenario: You just turned 100 and are asked to tell a scary story about a “bear” to an 18 year old. Your goal is to scare her using one of the corresponding variables as a writing prompt.
Exercise 14, “Classified Information”, tells you to write a descriptive classified ad that describes who you are and what you are seeking. You are to start with: In search of…
For exercise 22, you are presented with a scenario: A guy shows up at your door unexpected. You look through the peephole. You are to start with: If you know what is good for you… Next, you are to pick a number from 1 to 10, and then turn the page. If, for instance, you selected “5”, you are to respond as if you are a small town cop.
The author, Bonnie Neubauer, believes that learning should be fun and play should be educational. Her new book “Take Ten for Writing” reflects this view. Each exercise is original and entertaining, and will help you find your creative spirit.
Neubauer also conducts workshops on writing and has written “Write-Brain Workbook”. To find about more about the author, visit www.bonnieneubauer.com .
Her book is for anyone who wants to learn how to write creatively. If you are having trouble finding ideas to write about, or if you are experiencing writer’s block, then “Take Ten for Writer’s” is a book you should purchase and read.