“Wounded Tiger” Mixed Bag, Mixed Genres

wounded-tiger

“Wounded Tiger” A Nonfiction Novel

“Wounded Tiger” is chiefly about Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. This ambitious story opens on December 1941 in Tokyo, where Emperor Hirohito is described as falling weightless from a cliff’s edge, a metaphor for his decision to establish Japan’s dominance over the Pacific and East Asia.

Fuchida is well developed. We see this proud, talented military leader being challenged, disillusioned and transformed: “[H]e… observed the soot-covered poor carting off grotesque corpses, the veil of the elegant theories of war was torn away to reveal the hideous reality of a people enduring unimaginable suffering.”

T Martin Bennett excelled at finding the balance between conveying facts and demonstrating creativity. Authors writing in the hybrid category of nonfiction novel can flout some conventions of either or both genres. I would have appreciated meaningful footnotes or endnotes, an index and a bibliography to bolster nonfiction content. I would have liked a stronger spotlight on narrative arc to find this completely satisfying as a novel.

It’s evident that Bennett amassed a mountain of researched material, and the main story in this, his first novel, is overwhelmingly compelling enough to be, in the right hands, an important movie on a par with “Letters from Iwo Jima.” For that to happen, ruthless editing and disciplined script writing is necessary, especially considering standard movie runtimes. (In fact, Bennett first wrote “Wounded Tiger” as a screenplay.)

Enough material exists in the more than 450 pages of the first edition of the nonfiction novel to be reshaped into several books. As it is, “Wounded Tiger” tries to be too much – biography, history, conversion story, saga, creative nonfiction, novel – in one package. For that reason, I believe “Wounded Tiger” would be of interest to WWII enthusiasts, and have limited crossover appeal.

At times, it seems as though Bennett threw in scenes not to move the plot forward, but rather to remind readers about some of the other characters’ existence. For example, he included short scenes occurring at the Andrus farm in Oregon, where the family of an Air Force pilot who participated in Doolittle’s raid and becomes a POW, copes with the agony of not knowing where he is or if he’s alive.

The half-page final chapter, set in 1950, is given to the young woman whose forgiving nature inspired Fuchida’s conversion to Christianity.

The second edition, according to one of Bennet’s websites, includes 276 photos – there are none in the first edition. The newer edition includes more maps – the rudimentary maps in the first edition add nothing to readers’ understanding of situations that wasn’t adequately explained in the text. The second edition boasts 10,000 more words than the first edition. One hopes that typos littering the first edition were fixed before the second edition was published.

Overall, I liked the first edition and extend kudos to Bennett for his monumental achievement.  Nevertheless, the book could have been better if it were shorter.

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” 

 

 

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Critique this short story, please!

tanzola-house-with-pretty-shadowsI’m thinking of submitting this short story to a fiction contest. Would appreciate your constructive comments.

A Star on the Farm

 

“I don’t care about silly movie stars,” I said.

My big sister Elma, our nearest neighbor Lucy, and I were lying on our stomachs under the shade of the giant lilac bush next to our chicken coop. Lucy had brought over the movie magazine.

“You’ll care when you’re grow up like me and Elma.” Lucy had turned twelve last week.

“Listen!” My sister Elma read from the magazine: “It says more movies will be shot in color in 1937.”

Lucy grabbed the magazine from my sister. “I get to cut out Claudette Colbert for my scrapbook!”

I taped a four-leaf clover onto the first page in my scrapbook. Lucy and Elma sang “I’ve Got You under My Skin” as they clipped movie star pictures.

When Lucy wasn’t looking, I scratched myself as if something itched under my skin. Elma giggled behind her hand, partly so Lucy wouldn’t notice and partly to hide her crooked teeth.

 

About a week later, Lucy galloped right through our vegetable patch, shouting, “Elma! Elma! A photographer is….” Lucy gasped to catch her breath. “A photographer from the city newspaper is coming tomorrow afternoon!”

“You smashed our seedlings,” my sister said.

“Never mind about that.” Lucy bounced on her toes. “I’m going to braid my hair and wear my satin dress for the photographer.”

 

 

 

“Why would a photographer come here?” Elma asked.

“Daddy said a photojournalist is writing about farmers,” Lucy said. “Put on your Sunday dress and comb your ratty hair if you want your pictures in the newspaper.”

Elma was silent. Two sparrows raised a racket tussling in the dust. My sister was probably searching for the right words to explain to Lucy that the way we looked was the way farmers are supposed to look.

“My picture will be in the paper,” Lucy said over her shoulder as she left. “Just like a movie star!”

Momma stepped of the chicken coop with a bushel basket. “Remember the crazy quilt we sewed last winter?” she asked.

“Yes.” I remembered embroidering chain stitches onto the patches.

“I traded that quilt for these eyes.” Momma called pieces of potatoes “eyes.” She plopped the basket down. “Let’s plant these eyes before the sun gets too hot.”

She dug a hole in the dry ground. I dropped an eye in it and Elma pushed dirt over it.

Elma tugged her overalls. “We don’t get the city newspaper anyways, so it doesn’t matter if I won’t gussy up for the photographer.” She said that to an eye before kicking soil on it.

Momma moved along the furrows, digging more holes for the eyes. Gardens don’t wait for newspaper photographers.

 

The next day we were eating fried chicken under the lilac bush when Lucy bounded into the backyard. I think she stayed clear of the garden so she wouldn’t get her black patent shoes and white anklets with the pink lacy trim dirty.

“Aren’t you the looker!” Elma said.

Lucy was wearing a shiny dress with matching ribbons in her braided hair. She smelled soapy.

“Is he here yet?” Lucy pinched her cheeks to make them rosy.

“Who?”

“The photo-germal . . . photojournalist,” Lucy said.

We heard a motor and saw a dust cloud floating over the hill. Soon, a car pulled up to our fence. A man wearing a stiff white shirt and a bow tie and hopped out. He carried a box.

Lucy ran to him. “Are you the photojournalist?”

“Yes. Are you the lady of the house?”

“No. But you can take my picture and put it in the city newspaper,” Lucy told him.

Momma staggered out of the house, lugging rolled up carpets. She hung them over the rope between two trees. She squinted at the man and said, “You can take your pictures if you want, but we have work to do.” She beat the carpets with a paddle, making the dust jump off.

Between grunts as she whacked the carpets, Momma told me to draw enough water from the pump to make dinner. “Elma, you stack that cord wood over there.” Elma’s eyes rolled toward the huge pile of logs.

“Perfect,” the man said. “I prefer to shoot candid photographs. And I’ll deliver a copy of the city newspaper to your doorstep, to boot.” The man loosened his bow tie and peered into his camera box hunting for candid photographs.

Elma stacked wood straight and tight like we’d been taught. I put all my weight into the pump handle to coax the water up. Lucy twirled to make her skirt and braids flare out.

“Where’d she go?” the man asked, looking for Momma.

“In there.” Elma pointed to the chicken coop.

The man with the camera stood by the door to the chicken coop. He waited for Momma to step out so he could to take a candid picture. He aimed carefully.

In a less than a second, Momma flung that bird onto the stump and chop!

The people at the newspaper company weren’t going to get any pictures of Momma killing the old hen for stewing. The man had forgotten to press the button.

He leaned against the coop and wiped his face with his untied bowtie. Large wet spots darkened the armpits of his white shirt. Lucy stood next to him, fluffing her dress.

He took a picture of her. Then he took another one of Lucy on the porch swing. Lucy at the gate. Lucy in the grass. Lucy in the garden. Lucy on the cordwood Elma had stacked.

Elma sat on the fence rail for a breather before feeding the chickens. Dust streaked her face and around her eyes. Damp hair stuck to her forehead.

“Look at you!” Lucy said. “You look like something the dog drug in.”

I couldn’t hear what Elma said to Lucy as the camera clicked one final time. Lucy left, walking on stiff legs like one of our hens.

 

It wasn’t until after we’d dug up potatoes one day that Momma found a brown envelope tucked just inside the front screened door.

“Lookie here, girls,” Momma said.  She pulled a handwritten note, a five-dollar bill and a clipping from the city newspaper out of the envelope.

She read the note to us. “I won an award in a photojournalism contest and thought I should share at least some of my winnings with you.” A fountain-penned squiggle was in the spot where you’d expect to see a signature.

The photo in the clipping showed the back of Lucy’s head, kind of blurry. You knew it was her head ‘cause of those two big ribbons in her hair. In the middle distance my sister stood with thumbs hooked in her overall straps and a slight frown on her face.

Elma and I read the caption aloud together. “ ‘Looking pretty fades. Working hard pays,’ says Elma Green, the face of farming’s future.”

I taped that clipping into my scrapbook next to the four-leaf clover.

End

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

“It’s Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Good critiques help writers improve

Good critiques help writers improve

Have you ever written something that you worked on for a while, then asked for feedback? And the reader said, “It’s good.” Period. That feedback, while pleasant, isn’t especially helpful to a writer who is hungry to make his or her writing shine.

Here is a Critique Form that will help generate useful critiques that lead to better writing.

Writers’ Critique Sheet

You don’t have to comment on every item, however the more feedback you provide, the more valuable your critique will be to your fellow writer and the more you’ll learn about good writing.

Be respectful. Be specific. Be helpful.

Author’s name: _______________________ Title of work: __________________

  • What (if anything) “hooked” you at the beginning?

 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out the setting?

 

  • Is progress/movement/change conveyed? Progress might have been a person literally moving from point A to B or an emotional shift or a new insight.

 

  • How smoothly are transitions between paragraphs handled?

 

  • Which senses does the piece stimulate? (sight, sound, smell, tactile, taste)

 

  • How is the pacing? Slow, varied, fast.

 

  • Were strong verbs used instead of weak verbs? (i.e. strutted, sidled, eased, tiptoed versus walked.)

 

  • How is the balance between showing and telling? (Showing: “Jay slammed his fist into the wall.” Telling: Jay was angry.)

 

  • Do facts and data support and elucidate or bog the piece down?

 

  • How satisfying is the end?

 

  • How does the piece make you feel?

 

  • What did you learn?

 

  • Where does it leave you wanting more? What are you curious about that is unexplained?

 

  • In hindsight, is the title appropriate?

 

  • Other comments:

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

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