Content Tagged ‘The Beatles’

My essay in Assay

September 1, 2016 | 8 Comments

Six quirky posts

July 9, 2014 | 9 Comments

Of course it was summer, my favorite season, when I started this blog almost six years ago. I was working on the third version of my memoir. As if the world needed another blog about writing—but that’s what excited me. It was July. Within summer, July is my favorite month—the lawns under control, the daylilies in bloom, the gin and tonic flowing. So it wasn’t too surprising that when I picked six favorite posts, to be discussed on the blog’s birthday next Thursday, that two of them were uploaded in July.

What was surprising was how many of my pets were posted in December or January. Two of my top posts were uploaded in January; four of my six finalists, below, were written in December. I guess December makes me reflective. And January seems the July of winter—the leaf collection over, the Thanksgiving and Christmas frenzies past, the slower winter season still stretching out forever but not yet unpleasantly.

My 12 favorites are just the ones that swam to the surface of my mind, ones I wrote with great pleasure or maybe were about a subject I’ve continued to worry. Frequent themes that have developed include the aesthetics of nonfiction, the use of self in nonfiction, and storytelling structure.

But of the six runners-up, not one is about writing per se.

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Combating the comma splice

October 9, 2013 | 25 Comments

Right now in the semester, I’m buried in student essays. Hour after hour goes into grading—sometimes over six hours at a stretch, and then there’s reading and class prep. And then more essays, a constant backlog, from busy young writers and revisers. I give them work, and it boomerangs right back. Yet if I suck after sympathy I recall an academic acquaintance’s rejoinder: “That’s a self-inflicted wound.”

Sure. But it’s my job. And as a fellow teacher once remarked, “Reading some of them is like getting hit in the forehead with a hammer with each sentence.” Yes, and again, that’s what we’re paid for. And I get to sit on my couch and listen to the Beatles while I grade.

I remember so vividly my own dawning awareness of original sin, as an undergraduate, when a professor circled my comma splice. In my memory it’s actually in a blue book—though why even an English professor would bother to correct a comma splice in a handwritten exam flummoxes me. “Don’t use comma splices,” he wrote. I marched right up and asked him what that meant. He explained that a comma wasn’t sufficient to join two independent clauses.

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Grading essays to the Beatles

October 4, 2013 | 7 Comments

The Beatles’ playfully creative upbeat tunes buoy my spirits as I grade student essays. Mostly I play late albums, usually Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Sometimes The Beatles (aka The White Album) or Magical Mystery Tour. Since I’m a boomer, this choice is freighted with nostalgia. One of these days, I’ll burst into tears. I’m getting choked up right now, listening to John Lennon’s surreal reminiscence, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Oh, that tender musical intro by Paul McCartney . . . his Mellotron keyboard a ghostly calliope.

And how is it possible that McCartney follows “Strawberry Fields” on Magical Mystery Tour with his own masterpiece musical memoir, “Penny Lane”?

It’s not possible. But there it is.

So mostly my listening experience is characterized by my amazement of the band’s artistry and output. They became such sophisticated musicians (a nod here to their great teammate, producer George Martin), and as they grew they created songs of delicious musical complexity and thematic richness.

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The 10,000-hour rule of thumb

October 27, 2011 | 3 Comments

Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Closer, let me whisper in your ear . . . —“Do You Want to Know a Secret,” from Please Please Me, 1963 By the time the Beatles brought the “British Invasion” to America, in February 1964, and my family watched them on the Ed Sullivan Show, John Lennon and Paul McCartney had been playing together for seven years. By a fluke, in 1960, “when they were …

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The Beatles were all about this

October 22, 2011 | 9 Comments

I found Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland by way of a British blog, The Beatles Songwriting Academy, devoted to learning to write songs by studying the Liverpool lads. It’s not just a worshipful fan site: blogmaster Matt Blick rebukes them for lame songs (his “Hall of Shame” includes “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”) and for some stinky rhymes that mar great songs. But Blick has a “Be-atltudes” page, too, in which he enumerates virtues, especially the prolificacy of Paul McCartney and John Lennon:

“Between 1962 and 1970 Lennon & McCartney wrote close to 200 songs. Almost all were recorded and released. The majority were top 10 hits as singles or album tracks. Whereas most writers today would throw away a song that wasn’t good enough for their next album or didn’t fit stylistically, the boys always had a reason to finish that song. And because of their insane recording schedule they always had to come up with more songs.”

Mates and rivals, who happened also to be gifted, Lennon and McCartney inspired and goaded each other to craft new work. What’s ranked as one of the greatest songs ever written, and their masterpiece, “A Day in the Life,” which concludes Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, showcases their separate gifts being expressed together under the pressure to come up another tune. They melded utterly separate lyrical fragments each had written.

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