"Don't despair, not even over the fact that you don't despair."
This cheerful advice doesn't come from anti-despair authors like Eckhart Tolle, Wally Amos, or Thich Nhat Hanh. It comes from Franz Kafka, an author whose writing is most known for themes of alienation and persecution, but who obviously had his optimistic side. We were pleased that Red Roomers kept this mind when they blogged last week. The challenge was either to blog in the style of Franz Kafka or to write in normal voice as if living Kafka's life.
What struck us immediately about this crop of posts is the one-liners. From hand-to-forehead drama (Daniel Curzon: "I wish I had writers block") and simply true (Kelly Tweeddale: "If Franz Kafka was a woman the absurdities of life and the meaning he found in them would all be in another’s day work") to the angry/funny (Susan Browne: "After two months of this, I wanted to pour wax all over the boss, stuff a wick up his nose, and light him on fire"), who knew quiet desperation could be expressed so succinctly? The most economical expression goes, of course, to the one-word post by Yoga D. Punguin that you shouldn't miss.
Amid the clattering grind of their laptops' relentless gears that drove them into a spiral of dread and self-doubt, two entries by first-time Red Room bloggers really stood out:
- Member William J. Jackson's first post here is dark and pretty bleak; somehow, it also has that right touch of the absurd. Maybe it's the first paragraph or the fact that it's narrated by a mortician, but we think you'll appreciate "Your Burdens, a Kafka Blog."
- Like several bloggers, member David Moskowitz didn't write in Kafka's style; instead, he chose to contemplate What Kafka Would Say if he were alive today. David think's Kafka probably would have been tempted to say "I told you so." What do you think?
They'll receive books from two Red Room authors:
The idea for the Kafka blog topic came from Red Room author Maria Espinosa. Her semi-autobiographical 2009 novel, Dying Unfinished, is the story of a tangled mother-daughter relationship that includes a rivalry over the same man. Maria's Kafka post, by the way, is her take on a scrap of paper that might have been found in Kafka's room and read by a curious servant girl.
Red Room author Dale Estey has written a thus-far-unpublished novel about Kafka and blogs about him regularly on Red Room. His 2006 short-story collection, The Elephant Talks to God, contains whimsical tales of an elephant who searches for the meaning of life. Of course Dale blogged about Kafka last week; his posts, "Kafka Lived Here" and "Kafka Goes Up in Smoke" give fascinating historical background and speculate about the author's reaction to novel new book repackaging gimmick.
Here are some other Kafkaesque blog posts that we loved this week:
- We had to give Claire Elizabeth Terry credit for taking the idea of modernizing Kafka and running with it in her funny and insightful New Age gloss on his novel The Castle. Will Kafka purists be outraged by "Franz Kafka goes New Age"?
- Mary Wilkinson wrote that she "allowed the pen to drive without gears" in her haunting post "Dreams and Nightmares." As usual, Mary was able to break character immediately in the especially supportive comments to this post.
- Anyone who's endured a university faculty party will understand how Marilyn Kallet connected one to Kafka in her entry, "Kafka Blogs: Party With the Other Cockroaches."
- For her first Red Room post, Sezin Koehler brought Kafka's style to one of today's hottest trends—ZOMBIES! See for yourself how she does it in "The Sneeze."
- Red Room's own Jennifer Gibbons brought her love of '70s TV to the topic in her delightful and rather touching "I'm In The New Zoo Revue, Coming At You."
- It didn't take having read Kafka for Abdelwahab Hammoudi to produce a short story for someone to whom he sent it to find Kafka in it. We agree; read "A Kafkaian World."
- We've seen how Kafka might blog, but only Anthony S. Maulucci speculated on how might read if he were alive today. Read "Kafka and the Kindle."
You can read all the Kafka blog posts here. I hope you'll choose your favorite, and leave a comment letting the blogger know why you enjoyed it. See all of Red Room's past blog topics listed on here, and suggest a few more in the comments. Thanks as always for blogging!
–Huntington W. Sharp, Editor, Red Room