Notes From The Undergrads #6

Notes from the Editors is a series of posts written by SDSU Engl. 576, a publishing and editing class.  They explored issues of literary life ranging from book reviews to literary graffiti, live readings to the writing process.  Today, enjoy the work of the Heliotrope Journal editorial board.

“Timeless Tales Tainted by Twilight”
by Caitlin Kennedy

Confession: I judge books by their covers.

As a graduate student in English I know that I shouldn’t, I know that it
is what is on the inside that counts. But come on, can’t we all just admit
that a book’s cover art can either make or break that text’s sales?

HarperTeen certainly understands this book-selling tactic. However, in
this case, I really wish they didn’t.

Do you hear that sound? It is Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and Emily
Brontë rolling in their graves, because the covers of their TIMELESS,
CANONICAL, WORKS OF LITERARY BRILLIANCE, have been altered (read:
butchered) to mimic those of the Twilight Series.

In an effort to make these classics appealing to this vampire-crazed
generation of Twi-hards, HarperTeen has given the covers of Romeo &
Juliet, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Wuthering Heights a
face-lift (to appear younger, and more brooding I suspect). As you can see
on HarperTeen’s website, these new covers feature black backdrops paired with white and blood-red flowers– not wholly dissimilar from the cover art for New Moon, the second book of the famous vampire series.

And as if that were not enough to fool Edward-obsessed girls, the covers
even boast the same exact curly, yet dagger-sharp, font, and darkly
emotional blurbs that all gently allude to Twilight, such as “The Original
Forbidden Love,” or “Love Never Dies.” Top it all off with a sticker on
the new cover of Wuthering Heights that reads, “Edward & Bella’s Favorite
Book,” and HarperTeen has officially tapped into the money-making Twilight
market.

I suppose I wouldn’t be as upset if HarperTeen’s intentions were purely to
introduce these classics to a new generation, but clearly their goal is to
make money by fooling young readers into thinking these book are something
they are not. Sure, Heathcliff is dark and brooding, and Darcy is rich and
brooding, and Romeo is young and brooding, but teenage girls are going to
open these books expecting Edward and I fear that they are going to throw
them down again when they find something perhaps entirely foreign to
them– quality literature.

As the Wall Street Journal points on on its blog, HarperTeen has even added material to the back of each book to make it more teen friendly. Readers can take a quiz called “Which Pride and Prejudice Girl are You?”, or a test that asks “What Would You Do For Love,” to see how you measure up with Shakespeare’s young lovers. The WSJ blog even talks about how HarperTeen brings Facebook into the mix with sample profile pages for both Romeo and Juliet.

While HarperTeen claims that each of these revamped originals are,
“Beautifully presented for a modern teen audience” and “a must-have
edition of a timeless classic,” I think these new covers are merely a
depressing attempt by HarperTeen to make some cash off the platinum
Twilight bandwagon.

Over-the-Shoulder Reader
by Kate Murtagh

Amongst my friends, I am known as the “book-giver”. When any gift-giving opportunity presents itself, books are almost always my modus operandi. The books are almost ones that I personally have read and loved (and if you’re lucky, I might even give you a new copy), and here’s why: my favorite thing is to see people enjoy something that I have enjoyed. I guess that’s why I love book clubs (and lit classes, since they’re basically book clubs for a grade) so much. But the worst part is—I am totally that friend who will want to WATCH as you read the book. “Oh, which part are you reading?!” “Tell me when you hit chapter twelve!” I have been asked to leave many a room for this kind of behavior, not that I can really help it.

That’s why I love  Mark Reads. I found Mark when several people told me about a guy who was blogging his way through the Harry Potter series without having any prior knowledge of the books. He was over on a site called Buzznet at the time, where he was contracted to read and review both the Twilight and the Harry Potter series. He read chapter by chapter, and reacted right in the moment—bringing back some of my memories of the first time I had read the books. It was an incredible feeling of connection, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Hundreds of people from dozens of countries around the world laughed, cried, and discussed with Mark as he read—completely unspoiled about what came next. His blog went viral, and he soon left Buzznet to create his own site. He’s continued with his reading, having just finished Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, and he is now working on Book Thief by Markus Zusak. (Both of which I read because of him!) And he has a little something for everyone with his second site, Mark Watches. Reading and re-reading these books have given me entirely new insights and appreciations, plus the cherished memories of seeing someone else love what I have loved.

POETRY…AN ART ALL IN ITS OWN
by Vicki Valencia

I have always tended to lean towards writing fiction or creative non-fiction, but as of late poetry has grown on me. Now, I am far from a formalist, and I would categorize my work as prose poetry at best. Despite my lack of creative experience, I was captivated by the featured Swedish section in the latest Poetry International Double Issue 15/16. In particular, Gunnar Ekelöf’s poem Poetics struck me as the mission statement of every poet. (And to broaden the scope, every creative writer.)I feel that poetry and fiction are both creative outlets that evoke a reader’s response, participation and interpretation. This is spelt out in Poetics among the lines:

“…a search for meaningless/in what is meaningful/and the other way around…What I have written/is written between the lines” (PI 15/16: 322)

There is a comfort found in images that poets choose to share with their readers and a welcoming in the whisper of their words. It is like coming home after a looong day at work, school, or practically anywhere and being enveloped in the embrace of a lover.

I never knew how vast and diverse the poetry community in San Diego was until this year. There are so many events happening around the county. Means of obtaining that delectable poetry fix is at the fingertips of any and every interested poet and poetry connoisseur.

Poetry is an art form, and an inclusive one at that. Each poet shares a bit of themselves through their writing. And the truly timeless pieces will carry on the ideas, dreams, hopes and wishes of previous generations.

On Science and Literature
by Mike Lockwood

Cyborgs are real. Eugenics is real. And eventually, literature will be dead.

The advanced communication that humans now have combined with the inevitable manipulation of the human gene pool means that theisolated and goofy looking people we rely on for our art and literature will no longer exist, and mental problems will be fixed with computer signals.

Why live in sadness when you could just program yourself to be happy, as a cyborg will be able to do? Why have an ugly baby when you can guarantee a cute one with a little DNA tweaking?

The half man/half Mac of the future will not be driven to write about his problems or his loves and hates—a computer signal can communicate it instantly and with greater efficiency (to a whole lot of people!).

And, inevitably, as brains become closer and closer to computer hard-drives, the non-rational human emotions that inspire them to create will disappear. The incredibly fallible human brain will slowly be replaced with superior computer technology, where ideas can be sent instantaneously, and with none of the confusion that comes along with spoken words. Eventually language itself will go away, and so, inevitably, must literature.

The author will become like the modern barber: only a relic of what he used to be. His bloodletting, back in wacky times, was considered truly effective. But human technology has left him in the dust. Even the meaning of the word “author”, like “barber”, will no longer mean the same thing. Novels won’t exist, plays won’t exist, poems won’t exist.

But then again, who cares? Well, we modern humans do, but we are biased because books and words are so helpful to us. But eventually men won’t need them, because they won’t matter.

This won’t happen for a while, though, so don’t throw out those wonderfully textured and aromatic books just yet.

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