Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Menaissance Movement

So much for the PC world of gender-neutral.
A 'menaissance' is afoot and men nationwide are taking pause to question David Beckham's metrosexuality to consider making a return to manliness.  The TV series, "Mad Men," is being credited for promoting the new sensation of rugged masculinity and inspiring universities to implement 'male studies' courses.
Today, I take a moment to think about what defines masculinity and femininity.  Through the ages various iconic images and social events influence the ideal.  However, as a writer my curiosity is particularly piqued.  I find it fascinating that in a time of financial crisis male society is willing to embrace the 'Daper Dan' image, which is undoubtedly linked to Wall Street and Corporate style.  This clearly sends a message that in a time of instability Americans will immediately cling to comforts of power. Is this a natural instinct for survival?  Are men adopting the 'spots' of those they reject and if so, how is this a return to manliness?    
The academic sector claims that, "Males are at a point now where they are experiencing a considerable amount of dismay and uncertainty. And somewhat scorned, in principle, by females," said Lionel Tiger, one of a group of professors who support the new discipline of male studies.
Preliminary course descriptions explain that the new discipline will explore the biology behind masculinity and address the concerns that society is "feminizing boys."  
This development causes me to ponder, "Are we raising a generation of wussies and who is responsible for this mishap in society?"
Lionel Tiger from Rutgers University further explains that drugs like ritilan contribute to feminizing boys.  He warns, "Don't by any means let them drug your child to turn it into a girl, which is what, effectively, they do."  He believes such medications make boys compliant, passive, and inhibit their natural desire to bounce around classrooms.  According to Tiger, being inactive and docile is a noted feminine quality and is disagreeable when it presents in males.
So what is a boy to do?  To fight 'feminization,' men are going retro, and embracing the "Mad Men" persona by turning to macho hereos like Theodore Roosevelt and Steve McQueen.  Brett McCay, author of "The Art Of Manliness," supports the retrosexual movement.  He suggests that men can end the confusion by embracing the tradition of machismo that includes honor and self-reliance.  
"I think it's just a reflection of this idea that men, young men particularly, want to grow up," McCay said.  "They're tired of, you know, feeling like they're a teenager still.  While a male studies class may help, McKay said a good first step is a simple one -- dress like a man." 
'Dress like a man,' sounds eerily familiar to the phrase, 'Act like a lady.'  Is this progressive or a turning back of the clock?  Mckay recommends men who are interested in going elegantly macho to visit both Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers, two companies that are capitalizing by selling "retro" clothing lines.  
I don't know about you, but when I think of dressing like a man and masculinity, I do not immediately visualize Banana Republic.  

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stop! Grammar Time!

Everyone who has completed high school English knows grammar is a system of rules defined as:  
a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences. 
b. The study of structural relationships in language or in a language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history. 

Most creative writers understand that the use of grammar is more a guideline, rather than a frigid regime to be slavishly obeyed.  A fiction writer's style has a confident and familiar relationship with grammar, but a good writer knows that sometimes the seemingly wrong combination (grammatically) achieves precisely the intended affect.

My particular favorite is the run-on sentence.  If you're a technical, business, scientific or analytical writer, or just a person who thrives on structure and learned rules, than this will drive you insane.  However, before yanking out the highlighter and pointing to a writer's blaring mistakes, take note that some of literatures most revered and studied authors broke the rules to create a unique voice.  For example, authors Cormac McCarthy, Henry Miller and Virginia Woolf were masters of the run-on sentence.  Woolf's creative ability to string over a hundred words together invented an entirely new writing style termed, 'stream of consciousness.'  Grammatically, her writing was incorrect, but creatively it was original and poetic. 

Why use a run-on sentence?  It provides a lucid, intelligent and musical quality to a scene.  Specifically, the run-on sentence is utilized by creative writers to describe setting, a journey or even relay intimate thoughts.  It can also build suspense and enhance emotions such as panic or boredom.  The run-on sentence can increase or decrease tension within a scene and create a feeling of calm or chaos.

I'm convinced that most fiction writers understand the rules of grammar, but often choose to stretch and play with them in order to give voice, style and creative affect to their stories.  If I listen to some of my critics and shore up my work to neatly fit modern English constraints, then I wouldn't be a creative fiction writer.  I'd be stuck in an office cubicle spitting out technical jargon and cc: memos about newly implemented policies.  
I encourage readers to open a novel and have a look at the run-on sentences littering the page.  Just for fun, choose a sentence that might benefit from a grammatically incorrect, liturgical rhythm and play.  Rather than correct, shorten and neaten it, really let the words rip.  Exercise your paratactic muscle, and your ampersand key, and connect rather than disconnect with the art of language.

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