When I watched the most recent film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince with my sister, I cried like a baby — I actually had no control over my emotional reaction. We paused in the middle because my sister declared she had to practice violin (typical disciplined type A older sibling), and because I have no self-control, I looked up the rest of the movie on Wikipedia (the movie necessarily deviates from the original source material). Even just reading the article, which is plain old plot summary, made me cry. That’s how ridiculous of an effect it had on me.
We finished the movie together anyway, and at one point, Jennifer asked me, “Wait, why is she looking for the little prince? He’s not real.”
I felt annoyed and couldn’t exactly pinpoint why, until after we finished the movie and I figured, well, none of it is real, per se. And does that matter?
We keep literature, music, film — the arts, basically — close despite the fact that none of it is really tangible. Think about how different it is to read something like A Song of Ice and Fire or Love in the Time of Cholera versus a New York Times news article. More often than not, there’s such a distinction that, somehow, these books affect us much more strongly than a fact-based report. Somehow, someone else’s world — which in turn becomes inexplicably yours — is so incredibly powerful and moving. The words on pages bound together into a novel, shapes on a movie theater screen, that tell a story separate from reality are yet far more identifiable than the reality in which we’re rooted.
I’m sure we’ve all felt this, whether with Harry Potter, or Calvin and Hobbes, or Her. But the skeptics remain.
Albus Dumbledore famously said in the final Harry Potter novel, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
Yes, none of it is concrete and none of it is tangible — it’s hardly even explicable. Things like novels and films are woven, entangled with metaphors, because art simply can’t be defined in normal terms. It can’t be quantified or rationalized. And maybe it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why it affects us so, but maybe the reason they do is the reason we need them.
So yeah, all of that was happening in someone else’s head. And it’s playing out in yours now, too. But at the end of the day, isn’t everything? Is anything “real”? Does the "realistic" nature of art matter at all?
When it comes to art — the intangible — the part that matters is the fact that it does.
Written by Julianne Wey (’18)
About a month before school began I came across this gem in a Half-Price Books store. I knew that I admired Pynchon’s work (Gravity’s Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, Inherent Vice, all of which I recommend as well), so I thought I would check out how well he wrote when he was about my age. I did not find great stories in this collection, or early signs of an American literary wunderkind. What I found was an introduction that gave me comfort in the immaturity of my own writing. Often upon revisiting my own work I come down with the grippe from pure embarrassment. My stomach contorts and I immediately consider calling anyone who has seen the story. I consider pulling a Prince, hereafter signing my name as an unintelligible symbol to be referred to as “the paragon of inadequacy that is Caleb Smith.” After telling myself that it isn’t that bad—or that I can learn something from the piece—I calm down and realize that I’m hypercritical of myself, and even if it was that terrible it does not preclude me from continuing to write.
The actual stories will not blow you away with elegant prose or subtle genius; it is, in the author’s own words, “pretentious, goofy, and ill-considered.” But that is exactly what I love about them. In Pynchon’s introduction to the collection he discusses his obsession with seeming literary and being a part of the Beat movement, which ultimately collapse into “some mighty tiresome passages.” Pynchon is ruthless toward his own writing and his younger self, often so rude and sarcastic that I actually laughed out loud. But he berates himself on our behalf, and demolishes the notion that literary genius is innate. When you read the stories, the issues that he outlines in the introduction are glaring. At times I had to put the book down because I was privileged to the knowledge of the older, wiser Pynchon. The poor attempts at phonetic spelling made me cringe every time, and I am certain that it would not have been so bad had he not pointed out his case of “Bad Ear.” The introduction comes with some great, quotable advice for young writers: “get too conceptual, too cute and remote, and your characters die on the page”; “Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person’s mental map. It has contours and coherence”; “It is simply wrong to begin with a theme, symbol or other abstract unifying agent, and then try to force characters and events to conform to it.” Pynchon analyzes his own work in order to come to these conclusions, and along the way displays the effect of the Beat insurrection, JFK, and the Cold War on American writing.
My copy from Half-Price cost $7.50, but I’m sure you could find it on Amazon for cheaper. It is worth the money, even if only for the introduction. If you have ever doubted your ability to write, or if you have written something that made you pray for a time-machine in order to return to your self-proclaimed “moment of inspiration” and slap the folly out of yourself, then you will find solace in this book. I have received the same advice from several different sources—so there must be truth in it—write on, through the good and the bad. Slow Learner makes the bad times more bearable and the good times less sacred.
Written by Caleb Smith ('17)
Since the beginning of time, creative writers have been divided into two camps: Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters carefully plan their pieces and stick to outlines. Pantsers write on the fly, “by the seat of their pants” so-to-speak, letting the story flow naturally. Neither group quite understands the other.
My fellow Plotters believe that writing means research-- lots of research. It means meticulous plotting sessions, careful outlines, decisions on where the story is going before even sitting down to write. Plotting is a useful way to creatively explore a world or a scene before even beginning to write.
And yet, sometimes I enviously glance over to the other side. There, the Pantsers live, crafting stories on a whim. They discover the plot as it comes to them, making decisions in the moment. Pantser-land seems like a magical place, but I know it comes with its own struggles.
George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, identifies these two groups using different terms. He characterizes Plotters as architects and Pantsers as gardeners, saying:
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they're going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there's going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don't know how many branches it's going to have, they find out as it grows.”
Initially, it does seem like this is a divide that can’t be breached. But it really just comes down to how you best create. There’s no right or wrong way to write; there’s only what works for you. After all, we all have the same goal: staving off writer’s block as long as possible. Be you Plotter or Pantser, architect or gardener, I wish you well in your quest.
Written by Megan G. ('19)
Charms Against Lightning, the debut poetry collection from James Arthur, is my go-to collection when I want to read something old and familiar, find inspiration, or just think about my experience as a writer. It begins with a hauntingly beautiful poem that bears the title of the anthology and reads like a chant. Here’s just the first two lines:
Against meningitis and poisoned milk,
Flash floods and heartwreck, against daydreams
In just those two lines, you can get a sense of a few of my favorite things about Arthur’s poetry. All these poems read as a collection of sounds and images that link together and convey a greater feeling. They feel both like diary entries and conversations: they are simultaneously secrets and musings being shared directly with their reader. The poetry talks about the painful, doubt-provoking parts of life but leave room for positivity and ask questions of how we experience hope – charming away daydreams alongside heartwreck, as an example.
I bought the collection after the poet visited my high school back when I was a senior. Like a performative or spoken word poet, Arthur recited all his works from memory, which gave him space to rearrange and create the experience of the poetry all over again. I got the honor of hearing him present the same poem a few times; it was like hearing an adaptation of a familiar story. Even though the words stay largely the same, when all you’re relying on is the poet’s voice, the poet shapes the entire poem uniquely every time. Part of this effect, I learned directly from Arthur. He analyzed a poem alongside me and the other students in my writing class and imparted what is maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned about poetry: that it works sometimes just to put sounds together and make meaning from what you get.
One of my favorite poems from the collection is called “Distracted by an Ergonomic Bicycle,” and can be found with a recording of Arthur reading the poem at this link: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/weekly-poem-elegy-1/. This poem is an incredible example of what I find is so meaningful about Arthur’s poetry. It captures a moment so clearly while also weaving in human feeling and subjectivity. For example, lines 17-18, “…I felt only not myself/ but that I’d never been…” are stated without decoration. They stand out alongside the experience of the moment of seeing the bicyclist and make the poem itself intimate in a way a lot of poetry has never done for me. I find myself thinking sometimes - even when I haven’t read the poem in a while - about standing on a street corner in the rain with a Doberman watching an ergonomic bicyclist go by and having that experience as if it were my own.
You can find the poet’s website here: http://www.jamesarthurpoetry.com/. There, you can find links to more poems to be read and listened to and experienced. James Arthur’s poetry is absolutely incredible for summarizing subjectivity of loneliness and uncertainty, the vivid corners of our world, and the way sounds come together to make meaning.
Written by Erika S. ('19)
The 2016 edition of R2: The Rice Review is now online! You can view it here in our archive.
The full launch of the magazine will be next semester, Fall 2016. Be on the look out an announcement!
Editor’s Note: “Resolution” seemed to be the perfect theme to fit our last Monthly Contest of the year. Likewise, this piece is beautiful, profound, and wowed every member of the committee—the perfect poem to round out a great year of submissions that have brought true insight for each prompt. We hope this poem will bring you a bit of resolution, whatever it may be, as you push through the end of the semester!
—Bailey Tulloch, R2 Monthly Contest Committee Head
by Ian Morell
Since July she’s appeared before me,
always after the bright morning
bile has settled, the meticulous coating
of each tooth. Words of bone
white light crackle through
her fingertips, caressing
my neck like blades and
Eyes shut I can find you dancing,
swimming through jet lounges.
She reminds me of you without
the broken cul-de-sac tattoo.
You move both time and sky
the way dad used to lie
and take my splinters
out with a knife; you rise
to fall or maybe it is all
a misunderstanding like those poor
migrating, minding their business.
Her technicolor spit, a wild mix
of ash and berries; and you…
pores dripping soft hellfire mixing
mind with action.
Was it you or her
at the Tremont
who finally spoke--
An orange hospice house
is the only thing I can imagine anymore.”
Join us in celebrating the launch of the 2016 edition of R2: The Rice Review
When: April 23, 2016. 2-4 p.m.
Where: Rice Coffeehouse
We're so excited to share what we've been working on these past few months. Come out for free coffee, treats, and plenty of magazines!
We'll announce this year's prize winners, and then open the floor for any contributors who would like to read a bit of their work.
Editor’s Note: Happenstance is one of those words I always have trouble defining. If you look it up in the dictionary, it’ll tell you it’s a “chance happening or event; coincidence.” But, for me, happenstance has a deeper connotation, it’s more fate-driven than mere irony. This piece perfectly captures the definition I can never seem to find, that idea of a fateful encounter which changes everything—and whether it’s for better or for worse, we’ll never know.
—Bailey Tulloch, R2 Monthly Contest Committee Head
A Light Lost in the Rain
by Isaiah Tristan
Childhood memories are a blur. When we walked around, our eyes darted everywhere, blurring our vision and filling our heads with more sights than we could perceive.
As we got older, after years of being told to sit still, we learned to keep our eyes straight. We walked through life determined. Focused on our goal and nothing else. Whether going to the store or to a life-changing meeting, we walked with our backs straight, eyes forward. We walked with eyes that were cold, that did not turn to greet the other eyes moving past. Every now and then, something would catch our attention, however. A smell of fresh bread might turn our head to the corner bakery, blurring our vision and introducing us to the small glow coming from inside the shop. Each time we turned, we turned back, forsaking the light and continuing on with our business.
What a chance it was that I would see the light of your face in a puddle of water that rainy evening. I had dropped my phone while waiting in a line for a glass of lemonade at the park. When I bent down to pick it up, I saw your reflection. While I was standing there, thinking of how to approach you, I overheard you say you forgot your wallet to the cashier, and I jumped to pay for you. We walked and talked, sometimes looking at each other, sometimes our eyes darting around. The rain stopped, and the sky opened up just for us. I showed you the stars and told you all of their names. You showed me your heart, and things were never the same. Everything was so bright then, when I could see your face, and blurry when you were near me. We left the park late that night, and I never found you again. Neither the phone number nor the address you left led me to you.
It has been years, and I fear you do not remember. I wonder if you are sharing the stars with someone else, as I once did with you. Even so, just once more in my life, I wish I…
[A doorbell is heard, and the man goes to answer. The story is never finished.]
Editor’s Note: This piece may have been restricted to 400 words, but its grotesque imagery and wonderfully eerie tone knows no limit. It is haunting and mysterious, but most importantly, it stood out to us as the most unique interpretation of a “message in a bottle” in that it shows how you may not always want to know the answer to the message in the bottle…
-Bailey Tulloch, R2 Monthly Contest Committee Head
My First Wife
By Moez Dawood
She could feel blood slowly drowning her. Cold skin framed her, pressing with the force of an ocean. She had just been wearing her wedding dress, free and lively, celebrating a new chapter of happiness. Now, she was naked, enclosed but alive, and slowly withering.
Lily wished for a beautiful day, but instead, her wedding would be during a storm. Dave did not care - as long their love stood strong.
Lily was a florist. She thought of today as a sunflower: on the inside is a glowing beauty, revealed only during full bloom, but on the outside is a grotesque, prickly shell for a plant.
Both Lily and Dave were previously married. Lily’s marriage to a lawyer had a predictable dreadful ending. Dave was a pathologist and had married a pathologist. Their love of the postmortem united them. Unfortunately, Dave’s first wife disappeared shortly after their wedding. No resolution was reached. Distraught yet determined, Dave strived forward. One year later, he was marrying Lily. Lily admired Dave for this thick-skinned demeanor – it made her feel protected.
Later with calmer weather, Lily and Dave drank champagne and overlooked the sunset on the harbor. A serene blanket of sea interrupted by a singular glow. A shiny sliver of silver on a dark expanse, like a diamond on black velvet. Lily’s heart was exploding at the beauty, but Dave interrupted, “So Lily, I had an interesting autopsy several months ago.”
Caught off guard, Lily mustered, “Oh. That is good.”
“When I examined her bowels, I found a half-digested note.”
“That is odd.”
“Miraculously, the handwriting was legible.”
“What did it say?”
“Her husband’s name. She repeatedly wrote his name on the paper and swallowed it.”
“That is actually kind of romantic.”
“She wanted a closeness with her lover, so she swallowed him whole!”
“The case washed in from this harbor,” gestured Dave. Lily studied Dave. She thought he looked different.
“A human body found within another human body,” continued Dave.
“I do not understand?” responded Lily.
“The inside body was identified to be female,” glancing at Lily, “She had been buried alive inside of a dead person and thrown into the river. However, she was trapped inside a body, so she did not die immediately.”
Shattered glass and spilled champagne at Lily’s feet preceded one word: “Who?”
“My first wife. My name was on that paper.”
March Prompt: “Happenstance”
We welcome everyone to submit a piece! Email a short story or poem up to 400 words in length to email@example.com. Winners receive a $25 Coffeehouse gift card!
Hello, writers! We're extending the deadline for our February monthly contest to let everyone get their submissions in. The guidelines are the same as always: 600 words or fewer, any genre, prose or poetry, submit via word doc to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prompt: Message in a Bottle.
Don't forget our awesome prizes! If your piece wins the monthly contest, you'll receive a $25 Coffeehouse gift card, a feature on our website, and a feature in The Rice Thresher!
RSVP to the Facebook event to let us know you plan on writing (and to remind you of the approaching deadline).
"Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they are never weakness.