Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yeah, I know what bildungsroman means

One of the definitions that may appear on my American Literature final is bildungsroman.

For reasons exclusive to my own past, this is all at once a giveaway mark and a horrible, horrible memory that scars my consciousness to this day.

When I was twelve, I was--if you can believe it--an aspiring young writer. I was also, one will note, twelve. My age might've varied anywhere from 12-14, but it was certainly not much out of that range. As any 12-14 year old who read fantasy with a love bordering on the obsessive, I wrote simplistic, childish fantasy: you know, swords, dragons, elves, dwarves, that stuff. Mine were tinged by a subtle undercurrent of JRPG trends, since at the time I played more or less nothing but JRPG videogames, but the differences were mostly aesthetic.

Anyway, like a good many young, aspiring writers, I posted my stories on Fictionpress, in the hope of receiving some constructive criticism, and praise. Okay, let's face it: I wanted praise real bad. I wanted people to be like "Dude, you should get published right now."

Unsurprisingly, this did not happen. There was a fair bit of praise, though, which naturally swelled my little head like an overblown balloon. Little did my poor, balloon-headed 13-year-old self know that a post-graduate needle was hurtling towards my ego at ramming speed.

One day, I log on to my fictionpress account and check my reviews. One new review, the counter says! "Yay!" I think. I then read the review.

What followed was to be an absolutely blistering criticism of just about every word that I had written. Naive kid that I was, I endeavoured to contact this person and try and benefit from their insight: they were, you see, a post-graduate student.

Actually, I don't even know if they were postgrad. I just know they had some sort of degree in English.

Anyway, this person proceeded to sneer, snark, and generally mock my genuine attempts to understand just what the problem was with dragons and elves and dwarves and whathaveyou. At one point came the somewhat illuminating phrase: "You've basically written another generic bildungsroman, and not even a good one."

Not wanting to be a fool, I feverishly googled bildungsroman and learned all I could about it.

So, yeah. That's how I know what bildungsroman means. (Also, if you check the wiki for bildungsroman, The Name of the Wind is listed as an example. How cool is that?)

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