Saturday, March 18, 2006

Problems and Other Stories by John Updike

These aren’t stories. They’re sketches. I had to read half a dozen of them or so before I figured that out. At first, I was upset. Who does this Updike think he is, passing his sketches off as stories? Making us look in futility for the plot, the point, the moral. But then I realized that this was the kind of writing I should do more of. Sure, Updike is a famous author so he can publish his writing exercises, call them stories, and keep that income and those accolades rolling in. But just because I can’t get away with that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t exercise my craft this way. And these are pretty good sketches. They all (or most) seem to be about marriages breaking up or infidelity, but they’re all tight and exist well within themselves. They don’t seem to be about much and nothing seems to happen in them, except that the characters think, act and interact based on a premise. Nothing has to happen, so the author has a certain amount of freedom to start or end anywhere. My current project is the exact opposite. At times it seems like so much has to happen that it’ll never get done. Perhaps I should break away from time to time and just write a little sketch about A and B in situation C. Would I be able to? Or will I helplessly want to make it say something more?

Thursday, March 9, 2006

The Plot Against Asthma and Allergy Patients by Felix Ravikovich

According to this tome, asthma, allergies, migraine and chronic fatigue syndrome are curable, but the cure is hidden from the patients. The cure is histamine, the same substance whose release from mast cells cause allergy symptoms. But in the right amount it stimulates the receptors that release another substance that naturally curtails the histamine spills and brings balance back to the immune system. This truth is hidden by the pharmaceutical industry and their willing allies in the medical establishment because they don’t want a cheap cure to come along and wipe out their immense profits from drugs designed to be taken daily and forever to manage symptoms. Is any of this true? Who knows? The scariest part is that about the side effects of steroids taken to manage asthma and allergy symptoms. They essentially destroy the body’s natural immune system and make the patient dependent on them forever. More evidence for the conspiracy-minded.