Context is very powerful

I’ve been teaching myself Spanish for the past six weeks or so, and am at the point where I can read very simple fiction such as the stories in this book, which are designed specifically for beginners, and use only simple, common words and phrases.

Although I don’t know all the words, and am still very confused by the grammar rules, tenses, and all that kind of stuff, it is surprising how easy it is to understand what a sentence as a whole means based on context. I find myself reading sentences, guessing at the meanings of words that I don’t know based on the sentence as a whole, and coming up with what I think the sentence means… and being right. Of course, sometimes I’m wrong (I always check, anyways) but not very often.

I remember being young and doing this with English words I didn’t know (before google!). If you see a word in context enough times you just learn what it means without anyone telling you, or if not exactly, then you get an aura, or flavor of what it generally means.

I also think that, aside from learning the meanings of words, we can learn all kinds of things just from context. Why did some character say a certain word, or act a certain way? What are a characters motivations or fears? We learn these things by the things that happen around the character. Not by having them explicitly, painfully, detailed for us.

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun learning. It gives me that little hit of dopamine every time I successfully decipher a sentence, like solving a puzzle. My hope is that, if I can get good enough at it to read actual novels, I will become fluent through osmosis, by just reading and reading, which is how I got good at English, after all.

Then I could read Marquez and Borges in their original text! 😮 Life goals!

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I, Claudius by Robert Graves

This was an interesting and entertaining, though not always very engaging read. Told from the point of view of  Claudius, a stuttering, limping, nephew of the emperor Tiberius.

I have no idea how much of this is historically accurate beyond the births and deaths of these people, but it painted a disgusting picture of the political world in Rome at this time. The book at many points read as a list of murdered people. Anyone who had even a slight bit of integrity or likability was murdered to help Tiberius (and eventually Caligula) stay in power. I feel like Game of Thrones may have been influenced by this kind of history.

In many ways, the greed and paranoia of those in power reminded me of our own political world today. Those in power seem evil in a pathetic, rather than impressive way.

On the down side this is a very historical novel, in that it is more a list of events than a story. The narrator, Claudius, hardly takes any actions himself and is more documenting all the things that happen around him. This makes the story hard to get into at some times.

 

Read Iapetus Shift free

Hi friends. I’ve begun publishing my first sci fi novella for free on Wattpad, the first 2 chapters are up and you can read them here:

https://www.wattpad.com/user/TheJonasDavid

All the chapters will eventually be posted for free, over the next weeks.

I’d appreciate likes and follows on that site, as I’m fairly new to it. And check out my other stories I’ve been posting there too 🙂

Thanks!

Story vault

I’ve started posting my old stories on Wattpad, so they can have a home. I’ve posted 3 so far, and will continue to post them every few days until I’ve posted every story I’m not ashamed of. I expect there should be 20 or so, maybe more. Most of them will probably go through some rewrites first.

No more will they languish in my digital drawer! Welcome to the world, stories!

Read them here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/TheJonasDavid

The effects of formatting

I’ve been reading Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, and it is formatted in an unusual way, in that it is basically a wall of text with no paragraph breaks. While this sounds odd, and annoying to read (it was at first) it gives the words a kind of overwhelmingness, and endless pressure and urgency that really adds to the story.

It’s interesting that the shape of the words can be such a big part of storytelling. The decision to leave out all paragraph breaks, even between dialogue, almost makes you feel trapped inside the text, just like the characters are trapped in the town in the story. The author also uses very long sentences, which makes it hard to stop reading, as if you’re just being dragged along against your will.

What other kinds of text effects do authors use?

give it away

I haven’t sold a story in over 5 years, and I’d like to think that I’ve improved in those 5 years… so that leads me to believe that even if my writing is technically better, I must not be writing what sells.

I thought for a minute that I’d better find out what sells, and try to write that. So I read some recent stories published in places that I regularly submit to, and found that I can’t stand them and would be embarrassed to have written them.

So… what does it all mean? In order to be published in the well-paying magazines, I have to write something with a broad appeal… But I don’t really like things with broad appeal… so, I probably should stop submitting to these places. Which I have.

As of now I’m exclusively submitting my stories to nonpaying markets. Because… socialism? And also because places that aren’t trying to make money might actually want to publish something they like, instead of something they are worried about other people liking.

Version two of this blog post:

No one wants to publish my writing so I’m going to tell myself it’s because I’m just too good for this world, and somehow turn this into a positive for myself.

when you want them to fail

I’ve just started listening to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which is about a missionary family traveling to the Congo. I’m only a short way in, but I’m feeling a sort of anticipation for all the horrible things I know are going to happen to these people.

They are described with just the right combination of naivety, arrogance, western chauvinism and old fashioned racism to make me itch to see everything go wrong.

Nabokov does this with his characters quite often, but with him it’s a slow build up to realize just how full of themselves and incompetent the character is. With The Poisonwood Bible, almost from the first pages I’m rolling my eyes and wanting them to learn hard lessons.

This is really good so far!