homework week 4

Posted by jenny abeles - September 22, 2011

Creative Writing—Queens College—Fall 2011

 WEEK 4—21 SEP The Particular and the Universal

The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.

                                                                                                                                                       —Elizabeth Drew

We don’t meet for two weeks, and you have two larger writing assignments coming up (details posted on the blog under “pages”), so it may seem as though the homework assignment is lengthier than usual. Allow me to enumerate for you:

1) Read “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” by Joan Didion (an imperfect copy, I apologize, found on course blog).

2) By Wednesday 28 September, freewrite a comment in response to this post, considering the following questions: What is generalized in this piece and what specific details are given? What do you think “the golden dream” is, and how does this story illuminate that theme or idea? Is there something universal or broadly experienced communicated through this piece? What do you think of the writing itself?

3) Please write and post two more blog-entries, one by this Sunday and one by next Sunday. Read and respond to peers’ blog-posts!

4) Prepare portfolio i, as described, to be handed in when we meet next.

5) As soon as you can, and no later than Tuesday 27 September, email me the names of three classmates whose writing you would like to treat in your extended critique (details of this assignment posted seperately). I will do my best to accomodate your wishes, but everyone must be critiqued, so please accept your assignations with good spirit.

6) Bring one photocopied page of writing that you like, that you would wish to emulate, that you are open to being influenced by. We will discuss these in our next class before moving on to poetry.

7) Read, write, and live intensely.


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  1. jenny abeles says:

    “The Murder Rodeo”… Richard, I hope you write a short story with that title later in the semester.

    Thanks, guys–these are really excellent responses. I’ve taken notes and we’ll see what comes of it on Wednesday. Because not everyone did the assignment, the writing part at least, I’ve paid these extra attention and put stars next to your names!

  2. Richard says:

    I do not really know what the golden dream means, although I have heard the term before. I can’t help but associate it with the idea of the American dream. If I had to give an answer, I would say that the golden dream is a chance at creating everything out of nothing. In the story, California is described as a vast land, open with mountain ranges off in the distance and wastelands by the handful. In most western movies, the scenery is the same. Usually it is seen as an adventurous land in which gold is meant to be found or discovered or whatever. I guess in this story, Lucille was in search of her own gold, so to speak.
    Like Erin said before me, reading this short story was like doing detective work. The style is comparable to that of “Dial M for Murder” or “the Maltese Falcon” where we are interviewing people and searching for clues. The voice seems experienced, hinting that this is not his or her first rodeo with murder. I enjoyed the style because it submerged me into the story and I felt like I was awaiting the results of the trail in the courtroom.
    At the end of the story, I did not know whether to feel bad for Lucille or be happy with her being sent off to jail. All she really wanted was to discover the world…

  3. cwilkerson says:

    I do not think much is generalized in this piece. however, some generalized assumptions like “It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dead, wherever the wind blows” makes it seem like everyone in town is doing it like its the season of spring cleaning and yard sales and tending gardens..not that everyone does that either.. more so like inevitable things like the santa ana winds and leaves changing and long days. the golden dream is just that, a dream and often when dreams are pushed into reality theres that something that sets in and theres confusion and or a struggle to make whats real accept what is not. like trying to mix oil and vinegar, try all you want eventually they will separate themselves. i suppose desire and failure and misunderstandings are universally experienced. it was ok it took me a while to read it, i guess i just was not interested, like it was just an nicely stated fact overload that lacked emotion from the writer as well as the characters, i personally think these kinds of stories look better visually one because its a long span of events and because it adds more drama and emotion to the people involved.

  4. Julie Engel says:

    I have to say that after reading Didion’s work, I actually enjoyed her piece. Although it was a bit overly detailed at times which threw me off, it was all together a good work. She begins the work by being straight forward with the reader about what the story will be about. She writes that California is “a place where people are trying to find a new lifestyle, trying to find it in the only places they know to look: the movies and the newspapers.” People believe California to be this miraculous place where their lives can be changed for the better. The people that live in California are actually the opposite of how Hollywood portrays them. I found it pretty funny that Didion talks about the divorce rate in California being sky-high, and the story she tells is about a woman murdering her husband. Didion really shuts down the press and Hollywood nonsense that is pushed on to society, showing the real life truths that exist. Another thing Didion does that is spectacular, is that she allows to story to unfold as if we were experiencing it in real life, in a present time. Also the idea of dreamers being ridiculously fooled is very pertinent to our society in this present day and age, thus easily relatable. Overall all I really enjoyed her work and think she is a great writer.

  5. samantha says:

    The Golden dream i think refers to the American Dream. This kind dream is a timeless American desire which makes this story sort of an allegory or symbolic message. I think the author is trying to tell the reader that this dream is just an illusion. The story is an allegory for the golden dream being it’s own entity in which culture creates it’s people and conforms them a certain way. In a way, Lucille was oppressed within this ideal concept to reach this golden dream but she became stuck in an unhappy marriage.

    The author states that where they lived was dry, empty, “where little is bright or graceful, where it is routine to misplace the future and easy to start looking for it in bed”. She says Lucille was conventional and that she was a typical type of character…someone who wanted too much, which could be the motive for her to kill her husband. She even closes with saying that “the golden land is where everyday the world is born anew”. In other words, this illusion will continue lure people in and there’s no stopping it.

  6. madycha says:

    Joan Didion spends the first two pages describing the setting in detail. She writes about the stereotypes and describes the mundane in a stylized manner. For instance “…the country of the teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life’s promise comes down to a waltz- length white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce and a return to the hairdressers’ school.” The beginning of this essay was a bit off-putting but became bearable as the story unfolded. When writing about the trial Didion gives information from both the prosecutor and defendant’s side leaving the reader room to construct their own verdict.
    The golden dream is the idea of the good life in California. Didion describes the culture as materialistic and the society as lacking moral value. She shows the big picture and then takes out her magnifying glass and explores a specific section. Through the examination of Lucille’s story the reader sees her dreams of prosperity unsatisfied. This piece connects with a widely held belief that money and material gain will make one happy and successful.
    As the title of the second part of the book suggests Didion writes with style. Her ability to highlight specific details together helps keep this piece from being merely factual.

  7. erin says:

    The specific details that stuck out most to me are in the beginning. Where in the “golden land” no one remembers the past and they say, “We were just crazy kids.” They say this without regret and that’s hard to imagine. I think that’s why this detail is so important to me, it seems too impossible to live a life without any regret. Even if it is the smallest amount of regret, just one mistake you wish you could take back, I can understand, but so much hope for the future is crazy to me. Also mentioned often is divorce and unhappy marriages, which is something regrettable to some people. “The familiar season of divorce” is such a weird statement.
    As for the author’s writing, sometimes I’m a fan of it. In the beginning, I felt like it was a little hostile and weird. But then when I kept reading, it was more of a court report and I was reading it. Since it was from so long ago, I felt like I found it out of the archives and was doing some detective work. I enjoyed when the author would add more details in that weren’t actually necessary. Like the day the Miller trial opened, January 11th, she describes other things that were happening in other parts of California. They don’t need to be there, yet they help set the scene so well. I don’t really know what the “golden dream” is. I would say it has something to do with having a lot of money. It’s mentioned Mr. Miller wanted to be a doctor and wasn’t happy with dentistry. Also, it’s said they dreamed of “bigger houses, better streets” and maybe even happy marriages and nice families.
    It’s hard for me to answer these specific questions when I read. In some cases, like this I get too involved, and in other cases I don’t care about what I’m reading. Because I got too involved, I was curious about Lucille Miller, so I did read some archives on the subject. I read an article written by her eldest child, Debra. I tried to look for photos and what not. Not much information is there but what I could find was interesting. Instead of answering questions on the writing, I like to look up more on the subject. In the article by her daughter, she mentioned her mother wanted a bigger house, which relates back to the golden dream.