Good Can Come From Bad: A Review and Comparison of “The Goldfinch” Book and Film

Posted by Hemingway Lovullo, Fiction Reader for 8.2

After polarizing box office reviews, with critics and regular moviegoers alike ranking the movie everything from one to five stars, The Goldfinch film seems to require a certain kind of taste to enjoy it. And indeed, the book it was based on is not for the faint of heart either.As an avid reader and moviegoer, my expectations for this story were very high. So imagine my surprise when I found myself, for once, liking the movie better than the book! It’s true, I devoured the book, in love with the writing and the characters–from bitter, pessimistic Theodore Decker to his alcoholic Russian friend (and lover?) Boris Pavlikovsky. However, I was unfortunately blindsided by an ending that seemed to betray everything I had felt for the characters in the novel.

(Spoilers ahead!)

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Saving and Losing Work in the Digital Age

Posted by David Beyea, Fiction Reader for 8.2


Your hard drive is fried, your work is gone.

You’re unsure what happened. You had Netflix open while intermittently slapping away at your keyboard, slowly plugging away at your most recent assignment; suddenly, you’re met with that terrifying blue screen of death with a HTTP status code that is reminiscent of the black speech uttered by Sauron’s minions:

ERROR CODE 0xce00%00225

You panic. When was the last time you backed up your hard drive? When was the last time you even considered that that was an issue? Your life is busy enough as is; it isn’t fair. What gives your computer the right to just fail like this on you?

You search frantically online, you bring it to the shop, but unfortunately, the prognosis is grim. The scatterbrained documents, the last-minute papers, the pictures and memories – all of them are gone. Your work is all gone in just a moment.

So, where do you go from here? How can you prevent something like this from happening again?

Unfortunately, I cannot offer any fantastic bits of technological wizardry that can salvage a lost hard drive. To those who have suffered from such awful moments, know that you are not alone. Even the most responsible and tech-savvy can be caught in a moment like this without having a backup of their files. The history of literature is filled with dozens of famed creators and their lost works, possible masterpieces lost to time and the gormless swell of digital code. A hard drive being wiped feels like the equivalent to the burning of the Library of Alexandria. You will feel like you never want to put words on the page again. After all, what’s the point? You’ve already lost everything.

In an increasingly digital world, it is of the upmost importance that writers learn to cope with these losses. They will happen; there is little doubt in that. Every creator feels the pang of loss at some point in their lives. Don’t let it consume you. Accept your losses; continue to create. Imbue your future works with the sparks of what initially inspired you.

With that being said, you don’t just have to accept the fact that you will lose things. You can fight against it from happening.

Consider moving your work over to a cloud-based format, such as Dropbox, or at least having a backup of your files on one. The cloud is an online network that puts your files in different storage areas beyond those just in front of you. Instead of just having your data stored in just your hard drive, it would be putting another instance of the data somewhere else. Dropbox basic is a free platform that allows you to upload and access up to 2 Gigabytes of files, and you can recover files you delete up to thirty days afterwards. While flash-drives are becoming somewhat antiquated, it might be a good idea to start backing up some of those old papers you wrote on them; you’ll never know when you’ll need them again.

Try printing out some of the papers you’re proudest of. Store them away, show them to friends and families, or just keep them for your own benefit. Keep a repository (NOT on your computer) of your usernames and passwords. Don’t keep using the same passwords over and over again. I know it’s a pain to remember, but it greatly diminishes your chance of getting hacked and losing your work.

Perhaps the most important advice of all is to acknowledge that the literary world is changing. It may be easier to treat computers like they are just tools with which to watch or play or write, but that would greatly undersell entirely how complicated they are. Dr. Paul Schacht teaches a class at Geneseo centered entirely around how humanities are to transition to a digital format. This Digital Humanities class encourages its students to actively interact with their computers and understand how and why different processes happen. If you can understand your computer, then perhaps you solve or even prevent any possible issues in the future. Think of yourself not as a technician, but instead as a linguist of a new language – a digital language.

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The Art of the Experience: Considering Daniel Fleischman’s “Metropolis”

 

Posted by David Beyea, CNF Reader for 8.1

It seems odd to refer to a piece as being a clear love letter to the art of literary form. Isn’t that just a pompous way of saying that it is well-written? Perhaps not. In this issue of Gandy Dancer, Daniel Fleischman’s nonfiction short story “Metropolis” details the experiences of the author as he grew to accept life in New York City.

Certainly others have written of the city before, but there is a magnetism and finesse to Fleischman’s craft that elevates it from mere travelogue erotica. His pen is cast across the page with an unabashed exuberance; he frequently dips into descriptive prose and ruminates on not just the situations he finds himself in, but on the nature of civilization’s anthills. What does a city mean? It’s not really a question I ever considered, nor one that Fleischman explicitly answers. Unlike many authors describing a location, he does not attempt to solve the city, to have each element of it associated with some strong conclusion on the nature of life. Instead, he paints it. Continue reading

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Overwhelmed? Try Taking it “Bird by Bird”

Posted by Emma Raupp, Poetry Reader for 8.1

Writing only seems simple. Each day we casually compose texts, tweets, posts, and reviews but as soon as we’re expected to break out our professional writer’s voice for an assignment, the pressure is on. Despite my experience writing papers for high school and college, I still find myself staring at a blank Word document, struck by the need to write something brilliant, but terribly unsure of where to begin. I can see a fuzzy mental image of all the brilliant points I want to make; however, I’m so overwhelmed by my ambitions that I’m having trouble materializing it. The confidence I’ve carefully curated over the years evaporates, leaving lackluster doubt where my words should be. Sound familiar? Well, read on.

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Finding Inspiration Through Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

Posted by Aliyha Gill, Poetry Reader for 8.1

As a poet, I’m always looking for inspiration from other writers. I search for words, images, and techniques that I can borrow and make my own. So when I recently found myself in a writing rut, I dove into the poetry section of Barnes & Noble. Once I discovered Sylvia Plath’s poetry, I quickly noticed how it was riddled with enticing lines. Pen in hand, I jotted down every word or phrase that caught my eye. By the time I was finished, I’d read her poetry collections “Ariel” and “The Colossus” in their entirety. As a whole, her poems have melancholy tones, including “Morning Star,” which was written for her daughter, Frieda. Her stanzas are relatively short and her poems rarely exceed three pages. Plath tended to personify nature in her writing. She writes, “whoever heard a sunset yowl like that,” “let the stars Plummet to their dark address” (“Magi”), “the moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary,” (“Purdah”), and  “by day, only the topsoil heaves” (“The Colossus”) are all great examples of this technique. 

I also noticed that she used the following words/phrases in more than one poem:

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In Defense of Fantasy

Posted by Cal Hoag, CNF Editor for 8.1

The first books I remember actively reading were a series of children’s books called Dragon Slayers’ Academy by Kate McMullan. These goofy kids’ books kicked off a life-long love affair with the fantasy genre. I’ve read everything there is to read, from young adult fantasy like Harry Potter and Eragon, to classics like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and even contemporary masterpieces like my all-time favorite book: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. All this to say that I have a significant personal bias for the genre, and genre fiction in general, and so I take offense to the way it’s often looked down on across academia.

Although it isn’t always appropriate for a literary journal like Gandy Dancer, genre fiction, and fantasy in particular, is an interesting and important aspect of the literary world that’s often overlooked in favor of realistic literature, which is considered more valid. This view can end up being super condescending. Literary purists should reconsider fantasy, and, if they don’t enjoy it, perhaps find a way to respect it.

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Author of “To Keep from Undressing” Visits SUNY Geneseo for Fall 2019 Literary Forum Reading

Posted by Natalie Hayes, Managing Editor for 8.1

On October 21st, SUNY Geneseo hosted its second Literary Forum Reading of the semester wherein Professor Lytton Smith introduced Aisha Sharif, a Cave Canem fellow and Pushcart Prize recipient, to read from her debut poetry collection, To Keep from Undressing. Given Sharif is an African American Muslim woman who was raised in Bible Belt, the collection tackles the issues closest to Sharif—that is, identities and the intersection of said identities. She, both in the collection and in the reading, outlines the strange spaces she’s occupied as a result of being both African American and Muslim. (To hear more about this from the poet herself, check out her interview with The Kansas City Star.)

Sharif’s reading felt, at times, like a TED Talk; she showed family photographs and told childhood stories in between poems, making her story and consequent poetry feel all the more tangible. She sang a haunting song when she read a deeply emotional poem about a boy ripping off her hijab on the school bus, and I mean that literally—she sang the poem, and it was striking. That same evocative, lingering hum comes through in her work even without her singing it, though; there’s a profound sense of simultaneous pain and pride in Sharif’s reflections on her identity and, too, in the life-long pursuit, both in its wins and its loses, of that identity.

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The Versatility of the English Major

Posted by Julia Caldwell, Poetry Reader for 8.1

It’s your first year in college. You’re a business administration major and an athlete practicing more than fifteen hours a week. You’re discovering that the amount of work you did in high school will not suffice for college-level academics. Furthermore, you’re not a “test person.” You meet with your advisor. He tells you to either switch majors or transfer. You are lost and feel like a part of you that was solidified for so long, has been taken out from under you in an instant. Then you remember how much you loved your 11th grade English class. You switch your major to English and the following years are filled with close readings, endless writing, and interesting discussions. You’re finally doing well and you’re happy. But when Senior year comes, you have no idea what you can do with this degree.

English majors…what do they really do? Read? Write? Sit in a circle and dive into texts? Continue reading

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You’ve Only Got 100 Words… Go!

Posted by Emma Corwin, Fiction Reader for 8.1

Do you like short stories? How short? Ten pages? Two? How about 100 words? That’s right. A complete little story the length of a paragraph, wrapped in a tiny box with a bow on top—all in just 100 words. Can it be done?

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Posted by Elana Evenden, Art Editor & Poetry Reader for 8.1

Art and literature are often paired together, specifically in the realm of a liberal arts major.  Being well-versed in classic literature and art has always been something that many people hold to high regards and often use as a measure for someone’s intellect.  However, when it comes to contemporary literature and art many people who defend the classics seem not to care. As art editor of Gandy Dancer for our Fall ’19 issue, I have been reflecting on just how important art is in a literary journal. Having worked on the Gandy Dancer team last year, I believe that the art helps add life to our journal. Looking through the art submissions is my absolute favorite part of the Gandy Dancer production process. It is so exciting to see students’ creative eye and work from all different areas of life among different SUNY Schools. Continue reading

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