I first considered the art of doodling in a creative writing class last semester.
Doodling as a story follows the basic structure of doodling as a drawing. You start where you need and stop at the end of a sentence or two. Just a margin, not a masterpiece. Reposition. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat as many times as it takes for you to detach yourself from the linear pursuit of a single story. Repeat until you’ve got a few diverse ideas that are exciting. Follow them a little bit more. Chuck the ones you don’t want. Doodle again. Toss some more. I think the best thing about doodling is the constant intake and outake. Nothing is concrete. You’re just exploring. And exploring can be one of those things - those hopeful things - that takes you out of your head and feels a little like a face mask, but, you know. Spiritual, or something.
Doodling brought me back to my middle school days of sketching dragons in the margins of lined notebook paper, repetitive patterns and extremely detailed irises. It always seemed like my best drawings were composed with a stubby pencil and not enough space to fit the whole picture between bullet points and paper limits. As soon as I’d gain enough artistic confidence to try starting on a clean, unmarked piece of white paper, a sense of pressure would descend upon me. How had I understood proportions so well just a minute before? Too much space, too many options. I inevitably ruined the “good” version by overthinking and perfectionism. It was in those marginal doodles, then, that I found the most peace. Things haven’t changed.
Doodling can be applied to everything, really. The absence of expectations opens you up to some marvelous opportunities. Friendships, relationships, new hobbies, old hobbies. Letting things happen as they may without trying to force them into a little preconceived box is immensely freeing.
Try it! Start with six sentences and see where they take you. It might be somewhere really cool. It might also be straight to the recycling bin. No worries either way. There are always more words and there will always be room for more doodles.
Written by Kristen H.
This December, the personal goal I set for myself was to read through books that fell into the weird, not-really-a-genre-genre of magical realism. A quick Google search of “Best Magical Realism Books” pulls up results that pull books from and about authors and cultures all over the globe. Some repeat-offenders on these lists include One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, various works by Toni Morrison and Haruki Murakami, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. These are all excellent authors and books, and all of them made my short reading list. As well, starting to recognize some of these big names drew me to my favorite book of at least the last six months, Salman Rushdie’s newest novel, The Golden House.
The Golden House follows a young film-maker, who introduces himself to the reader as simply René, living in a wealthy and insular community in New York. René finds himself drawn into the folds of the mysterious Golden family: the criminal-seeming Nero Golden, his new wife Vasilisa, and Nero’s three sons, Petya, Apu, and D. Fascinated by the people he has encountered, René tells their story both in context with himself and as part of the “mockumentary” he has planned around them. As such, the book is a mixture of the family’s events, René’s depictions of events he does not see (done in screenplay format!) and accounts of him working on the screenplay with other characters. The pieces come together in a fascinating sort of meta-commentary on the art of storytelling in three different layers: René hears stories told orally from the Goldens, which he recounts as bits of film, which are told to the reader by venue of the novel. So, that’s number one: if you’re interested in film, or how film and prose work together, this novel spends a lot of time investigating that relationship.
Number two is the characters themselves. The book sets up equally provocative relationships between René and each of the five members of the family; he is almost like a sixth family member, who has secret ties to each one. He gets to safeguard their fears, desires, and frustrations, sometimes even the feelings they have towards one another. And each one of the five family members is a hot mess. The Golden House is able to explore a huge number of topics and human questions from these characters psychologies. I was shocked and excited by how quickly the book could transition the reader from protests against Wall Street to discussions about gender identity, from the criminal underworld to the top of the iPhone app best sellers list.
Which brings me to reason number three why this book was so engaging: it is, as snooty as the phrase may be, a zeitgeist novel. (For those of you who don’t know the word, as I didn’t for like 20 years of my life, zeitgeist is from the German Zeit (time) + Geist (ghost/spirit), so it literally breaks down into “the spirit of the times.”) Its events span from Barack Obama’s election in 2008 to Donald Trump’s election in 2016. It is therefore completely full-to-bursting with statements and impressions about the time we are currently living in. It comments on political issues without allowing them to take over the entire book. (My personal favorite part is that it only refers to Trump as “The Joker” the entire time.) But it also looks at what New York, especially affluent and artistic New York, has become over the past decade. A warning, though: the book is also a screenshot of a affluent New York artist, so the texture of events can occasionally be drowned out in pages of allusion to antiquity or the classics of film and literature. Just as much as New York bleeds out of the pages, the consciousness of a highbrow narrator bleeds across them. René and the characters he meets often converse and think about things in terms of other things. References are everywhere; but you don’t need to understand them really. They’re merely part of the aesthetic texture of the book, which is rich with wisdom but also with the psyche of a very particular swath of recent human activity.
So, to recap, why I liked this book so much:
Oh, also, it’s just, like, good at being a book. Its story has a kind of epic grandeur to it. The book is long, but worth it. When I reached the end, I was impressed with the sort of antique poetic flourish that the whole book was. I hope you consider spending some time with this lovely book soon, and if you do, come talk to me about it!
Written by Erika S.
Maybe you’ve heard your friends talking about listening to podcasts while they work out or walk to class. Maybe someone you know has mentioned how it seems like “everyone has a podcast nowadays!” From Russell Brand and Snoop Dogg to Lena Dunham and Tyler Oakley, hosting podcasts has become a veritable craze in the past few years as people have realized from listening to classics like This American Life and Serial that podcasts are more than just on-demand talk shows or audio stand-up comedy. They’re a veritable art form that has room for just about anything under the sun in terms of subject matter, style, and format.
Since the podcast boom, finding podcasts that fit one’s interests, are pleasing to the ear, and haven’t been discontinued can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Not every podcast works for everyone, and genres intersect so much whilst formats vary so widely that it’s difficult to sort through all the options to find something you like. This post is meant to be an introduction to podcast classics that were or still are at the top of the charts, because that says a lot about their appeal to the general public. In the future, I’ll make more genre-specific recommendations, but if you’re new to podcasts, these are certainly some shows I’d 100% recommend you check out so you can kind of get an idea about what you sort of content you may like to listen to in the future. (All of them are available on the Apple Podcasts app or on Stitcher!)
The titan that started it all, brought to you by the creators of This American Life. If you ever ask someone about podcasts, odds are they’ll ask, “Have you heard about Serial?” This true-crime, investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig has two seasons out right now, each focused on a different crime. The first follows the trial that put teenager Adnan Syed in prison in 2000, whilst the second covers the desertion and subsequent abduction of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl. An easy podcast to get hooked on, Serial’s short seasons and effective storytelling make it an easy, captivating listen and have kept it on iTunes’ top 20 since its release in 2014.
#2 Welcome to Night Vale
Imagine the weird small town vibes from Twin Peaks, a dose of surreal romance straight out of Black Mirror’s San Junipero, and the weird science from Fringe, all wrapped up in a radio show format hosted by the dulcet baritone voice of Cecil Baldwin, the best voice actor you’ve never met. Created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Night Vale is an ongoing audiodrama that’s been on iTunes top 50 since its debut in 2012. This one is...hard to explain, but if you like mysteries, indie music, and stories where the paranormal is really the normal, give this one a try.
#3 My Favorite Murder
This show centers on true crime, but with a comedic twist, representing the other approach to true crime commonly found in podcasts when they aren’t following Serial’s investigative example. Hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, every week these women each pick a murder or crime story and tell it to each other, creating a cathartic outlet for the morbid fascination with murders a lot of people have but never talk about. These ladies add positive vibes to every episode without ever crossing the line into being disrespectful about the crimes they’re retelling, and really do manage to make every episode hilarious, heartfelt, and intense, all at the same time.
#4 Stuff You Should Know
Part of the insanely instructional HowStuffWorks network, this show gives you a 40-60 minute crash course on nearly everything you can think of. Impeachment and internships? Yep. The history of soda? You got it. Jack the Ripper? Of course. Hosted by Charles “Chuck” Bryant and Josh Clark, these two guys are gonna calmly guide you through everything you should ever know. Not one you need to listen to in order, this podcast is ideal for picking and choosing episodes on subjects you’re interested in or just letting the playlist roll if you’re ever having trouble sleeping. Even though these dudes crack jokes often, their voices are so mellow that this is a relaxing or naptime podcast if there ever was one.
Lore is another titan that has now even been adapted to an Amazon series and a book collection. Usually 20-30 minutes long, each weekly episode (all written and hosted by excellent narrator Aaron Mahnke) contains a mix of folklore and urban legends centered around a particular theme, like vampires, ghost ships, or strange childbirth stories. Always well researched and with a great ambience thanks to a selection of background music and creepy sound effects, Lore is spooky, captivating, and informative. A definite must-listen if you’re into the paranormal and/or appreciate the more can-you-believe-this? side of history.
Each of the previous podcasts is emblematic of a particular popular genre of podcast, but is by no means the standard nor the norm, so if you like the idea of one of these podcasts but don’t enjoy listening to the show itself, odds are there’s something similar out there that might do the trick. Expect more recommendations in future posts, but for now, check these shows out. Great for working out, commuting, or just passing the time, podcasts are a good way to both entertain yourself and usually learn a little something along the way.
Written by Mariana N.
Happy Groundhog Day (1993, dir. Harold Ramis)! Here’s a review of a different movie.
I have to preface this review of Thelma (2017, dir. Joachim Trier) by disclosing to the reader that I had a little bit of a personal bias before I sat down to watch this movie. Not because I felt one way or the other about any of the movie-makers or the subject of the film, but because I had to endure the harrowing experience of walking from Brown College to the Rice Media Center by myself in the dark in 118% humidity. I didn’t take the bus because I was paranoid about being late and I thought it would be faster to walk than to wait for the bus. (It was a 40 minute walk due to me going to two of the wrong buildings.) (I was still a half hour early.)
Thelma was disarming in its beauty. I’m not usually married to certain mediums of presentation for art, but I do think there was something worthwhile about seeing this movie on the big screen. I feel like you see a window shatter on your phone screen, and think, “a window shattered,” you see a frozen lake on your laptop screen and think, “yeah, that sure is a lake.” You see the mountains of Norway on a 20-foot screen and think, “20 feet and they still can’t fit the whole mountain in the frame?” You see a frozen lake in your entire field of vision and you feel like you could press your cheek against the ice. I don’t know if I was just sitting too close to the screen, but when I saw that window shatter I flinched. Even if the movie didn’t have subtitles, I think I would have been content to just sit back and let the images happen to me.
Plot-wise, Thelma strays far enough from convention that it’s enjoyable to a variety of audiences without being too disjointed: if you want an art film, it’s an art film with more than one line of dialogue every 10 minutes, if you want a psychological drama, it’s a psychological drama with some levity and romance, if you want a superhero origin story (which it has been called by other critics) it’s...kind of like that? I mean, the only superhero movie I’ve seen to the end was one of Andrew Garfield’s Spiderman movies in my freshman year of high school, but somehow I know that these aren’t exactly the same type of movie. I think superhero movies could be like Thelma if they tried, though. Basically, I don’t know if you’ll like Thelma enough to walk forty minutes in the dark to see it, but if that ends up being the case for you, I don’t think you’ll be too torn up about it once the movie ends.
Written by Rynd M.
Arrange whatever pieces come your way.
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.