A new feature on the site — Recommended Artistic Consumption — where I simply round up some random things that have been fascinating me of late.
Andy Warhol eating a hamburger
If you haven’t already seen it, you HAVE to watch [the classic 4-minute conceptual art film/joke of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger)
It’s the weirdest way to eat a hamburger ever. First off, he puts the ketchup BESIDE the hamburger, and then dips the burger into it. It only gets odder from there.
While you’re at it, why not watch the parody Macaulay Culkin Eating a Slice of Pizza?
Artful Car Wash
While away a few more minutes with the car wash scene from Michael Haneke’s brilliant art film The Seventh Continent. It’s mesmerizing and beautiful.
The Story Grid
Recently read The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne. It sounds deranged when you take a look at it, like a super-structural, hyper-formulaic scam. Actually, it’s a pretty solid synthesis of some core concepts from Robert McKee, Christopher Vogler, and other structurally minded editors/writers.
These critters have a bad reputation with writers, but if you actually read their work, you’ll see that it’s not as prescriptive as it seems, although I disagree with a number of fundamental propositions, like the prominence of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” in their theories. (I believe that the “Hero’s Journey” is ill-suited to modern storytelling, although it works well in particular genres.)
Cautions noted, this Coyne book is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of breaking down pretty complex narrative structural issues into their core fundamentals. Also, he emphasizes all of this as an editing approach as much (if not more than) as a writing approach, and as a result this is probably the best book I’ve ever seen for plot-focused story editing.
I really need to make the time to write my own book on editing. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book. Coyne also made the whole book available online for free, in blog posts, “for the ramen eaters” (as he puts it). Jump down to the very bottom of the post archives and read chronologically (towards the present) and you’ll read the whole book plus more. I ended up buying The Story Grid before I finished reading it online, so that’s my endorsement.
Coyne does a very simple, extremely clever thing: he divides Genre in TWO and claims that strong stories have both an EXTERNAL Genre (e.g., a horror story) and an INTERNAL Genre (in other words, the protagonist’s interior world has an entire storyline/movement that is A DIFFERENT GENRE than what’s happening “externally” in the plot).
Coyne looks very closely at The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris to explore how (in his terms) that story combines a Thriller plot with what he calls a Disillusionment plot. Although this maybe sounds like gobbledegook to some of you, it’s actually an extremely simple-on-the-surface but complex-in-depth way of looking at how you can combine genre plots and (for lack of a better term) literary characterization in a very practically minded manner. Worth checking out, I guarantee.
Like everything else in the writing realm, you just need to not put all your stock in Coyne’s prescriptions, and remember this book exists in a tradition of narrative theory that is heavily prescriptive. It’s a more useful tradition that the naysayers would admit, but it’s still a specific tradition … it is of great use, but limited use.