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I'm a college professor in Rochester, NY. My other books are "The Yellow Wall-Paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Dual-Text Critical Edition (2006) and
Pagan Dreiser: Songs from American Mythology (2001).
Rather than try to describe who I am through a series of historical events or by listing my accomplishments while concealing my failures, I thought I would name several writers/books that I can honestly say have changed my life in a material way. I have also included a few remarkable films. These influences may not always be done justice to in my own writing, but they are definitely owed a substantial debt. In no particular order:
-Stan Lee, author of hundreds of Marvel Comics. Some have called him heavy-handed or naive, but to me, from an age even before I learned to read, really, Stan's plots, characters, and dialogue epitomize soul. Considering the increasingly cynical environment in which his work appeared, it's truly inspiring to see the spirit of the Romancer carried on with unwavering trust that young people still get it.
-Carl Sagan, author of Cosmos. This book showed me the interconnectedness of all things, and buckled my world-view at a period of my life when I defined myself against others. This caused me infinite trouble, but I would not trade away the experience for any amount of inner or outer peace.
-Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and various political lecture-essays. Could anyone actually read these works and not walk away dissatisfied with the status quo, even as regards one's own heart?
-Stephen Crane, the too-briefly-with-us author of more great fiction than many who lived three times longer. Those who have oversimplified naturalism, the most stark version of literary realism, have had to willfully ignore his works to do it.
-Oliver Stone, director of JFK. This film was for me what The Matrix was for the next generation: a dramatic reinterpretation of Plato. Valid or not, his presentation raises the spirit of inquiry to such a height that one must question every "reality" from then on.
-Stephen Speilberg, director of the quintessential monster movie Jaws, showed us that there is no outworn plot, archetype, or device, creative writing teachers be damned. By every professional standard, this film should be an obscure failure, and yet it's one of the best and most well-known ever made in any genre.
-James Cameron. The Terminator proves, in its retelling of the Oedipus myth, that a solid premise can overcome any budget deficit: time, money, materials, personnel.
on Jan. 27, 2013 :
Originally posted as a review on my blog, titled, A Rich Tapestry Woven by Clotho's Loom, found here: http://www.emilymcdaid.com/blog/2012/12/3/a-rich-tapestry-woven-by-clothos-loom.html.
My rating: 5 stars
Based on this first offering, I'm excited for Shawn StJean's bright future as a writer of military literary fiction. I am awarding this book five stars for its excellence married with the author's future potential.
The characters of Clotho's Loom are richly imagined and the imagery extremely detailed. The storyline brings us to the heart of the modern wars we mindlessly continue. Shawn StJean's biggest strength as a writer is articulating the nuances of military culture, and he very clearly has a grasp on the English language. He has a command of so much vocabulary he could be bilingual: his second tongue being Obscurity. The result is a rewarding piece of fiction that reminds of you of the beauty, depth and breadth of our English language, which I guess is one of the points of literary fiction, and Shawn StJean has nailed it. I enjoyed this novel especially because female and male characters are deeply realistic: easy to picture; people that you feel you know.
My main complaint with the book was something that was perhaps triggered by the author's command of the language: a simple character name. The lead female name, Nexus, to me, sounded incongruous with her age and position and kept reminding me of a science fiction novel. It would be interesting to learn why the author chose such an unconventional name for her. Perhaps with later works naming can be conquered more deftly. But that minor complaint is far outshadowed by the author's command of vocabulary, the interesting storyline and the well-thought plot. The nugget of imagination that the premise relies upon (a veteran being drafted because of his experience, rather than in spite of his experience) I found deeply realistic in light of today's counterinsurgency warfare, and as such, it was easy for me to suspend my disbelief and get into the character's head. For this reason, for me, Clotho's Loom was very much a story worth telling.
Make no mistake, this is one long book, but it was worth it for me. I was really impressed by how clearly Shawn St. Jean had every detail of this story mentally imagined. He accounted for every minute of his characters' lives. And I felt he did a tremendous job translating his mental imagery to the page, the result of which is a novel one can really sink their teeth into and expand their horizons on the topics of personal relationships, the intricate bond between governments and the men and women who fight to defend them, war itself, and especially, the beauty of language and literature.
(reviewed the day of purchase)