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for My Cousin Ray

9/15/2006 c1 reluctant writer
This was really funny. I liked it. I liked the bluntness of the narration. The only thing I kind of didn't like was the ending. It seems like it just doesn't fit. After the whole piece seemed very honest and real, the ending seems a little overblown. Or just out of place. I know the ending does not necessarily have to summarize the beginning but it just seemed kind of awkward. Reading it through a few times, it didn't bother me at all, but you really shouldn't have to read through it a few times for it to make more sense, just to make it easier on the reader, you know. But otherwise, very funny and entertaining.
8/18/2006 c1 7The Breakdancing Ninja
The Breakdancing Ninja gives this story an awesome 4 ¾ out of 5 for hilarity and candor, and especially for the narrative voice. He also gives Ray another knee-to-the-chin for the hell of it, because he’s an asshole. Refer to the criticism below for more details.

The first paragraph is really true—it’s real hard to tell whether smiles are genuine or fake, but with a smile, it’s almost 90% sure whether it’s fake or real. Unless it’s some person who just likes to laugh… like my aunt. XD;; I think a “grin” is more of a positive thing. Maybe the real one you’re going for is “smirk”. What I like about the first paragraph is its tone; it’s so important that the tone, from the very first paragraph, expresses the pervading tone throughout the piece. The reason why this one sucked me in so easily was its inquisitiveness and its naivety. The author is at first sexless and child-like—it’s not offsetting to hear the author out.

I’ve never really thought about the subtle differences in smiles—well, okay, I have, but only for appearances sake. What I mean is that, I’ve never really thought about the aesthetic quality of smiles and laughs. I disagree, I think that there is such a good smile and a bad smile (morality-wise, not appearance-wise—no, that’s a lie. Ie: The Simpsons’ episode with Lisa’s dental plan and “The Big Book of British Smiles” ROFL!). I mean, smiles are like moods, and no one likes a sad cynical smile (I consider it a bad smile) and everyone likes a genuine sunshine smile full of happiness and joy and stuff. Okay, I’m going to get off of this. XD;;

[So my cousin gives this evil laugh as we’re sitting on the steps leading up to my Aunt’s house in the hills.] Great transition, by the way, especially use of the word “So”. And I like how the setting is casually in the first sentence, too, it gives me a sense that the narrator’s talking right to us.

[It’s my aunt’s birthday and all the adults are inside drinking wine] They’re in there drinking and leaving the kids all to themselves? wtf [while all the kids (me, my sister, my cousin Ray, and my other cousin Veronica)] The first mention of “cousin Ray” (who is also the title of the story) is in parentheses, which is interesting.

[making jack-asses of ourselves playing some good guy bad guy game] I’m really enjoying that the author is talking in present-tense, as if he’s reliving his childhood. I like a retrospective voice with a sense of humor, it really sets up a good feeling for the rest of the read—it’s weird how they’re playing a “good guy, bad guy” game even after the author has established the question of whether smiles are good or bad. I guess, in a way, we’ll always needs forums for comparison and parallels to help us formulate questions for writing. I’m glad for it, too—it really expands how much we connect thoughts to one another.

[Ray’s laughing all over the place like he’s some mob boss who’s just shot some poor kid’s dog or something] ROFL! Dude, I’d laugh to if I were a mob boss kicking a puppy. [my Sister Julie, who was 7 years old at the time playing a female ninja turtle] spell out “7”. And un-capitalize “Sister”. And she’s an awesome-ass kid if she wants to play a female ninja turtle. I mean like, when I used to play with kids from daycare, all the other girls wanted to be either the pink or the yellow power ranger. I wanted to be Billy, the blue ranger. LOL [starts crying about it and tugs at my shirt to make him stop] aww : she still has some girlishness in her.

[I hate to see my sister cry] I really like this narrator. Sensitive, sympathetic, good-natured. [so I came up to his level on the steps and looked down at him] shit, who is this kid? Mutombo? He’s fuckin’ huge if he’s going to stand on the same step as his cousin and still have to look down at him.

[at the time playing a ninja-pirate, mostly ninja because goddamnit, everyone knows ninjas are better than pirates.] hahahaha hell yeah! Except, I would be a pirate because they drink a lot of booze and have a wooden leg and an eye patch. And a parrot and a scabbard, which is total badassery.

[I was 8, Ray was 9, Veronica was 6, and as I mentioned before, Julie was 7] You’d better spell out all these numbers, or else! / [But I don’t know if it was the milk or the Mcdonald’s but I was a tall ass motherfucker for my age.] LOL *McDonald’s. [Among these kids I was like Shaquille Oneal in China, man, I was so tall.] ROFLMAO! *Shaquille O’Neal. You know, though, this paragraph serves as a good paragraph for tone, but it isn’t really necessary for the actual mobility of this story. The age is assisted by how each character acts—and I think the ages could be characterized, or even mentioned, a little more casually than in a big chunk that is this hilarious paragraph. I know, I know. I don’t want to cut it either, but maybe you could spread the jokes over the other paragraphs. This one glares.

[“What-a-matta –you? Eh?”] This is a by-product of Word Document auto correct. You might want to fix the dash and turn it into a hyphen. [and pisses some words out of his mouth.] this is one of the best figurative expressions I’ve ever heard in my life.

[Even Veronica, the little six-year-old transformer was balling,] There, see, her age! LOL *Transformer And… I think you meant “bawling”.

[So I’m trying to hold a straight face while Veronica’s spilling snot all over herself from laughing so hard and Julie is standing behind me smiling when I see Ray’s face.] I think a better edit would be “…Julie is standing behind me smiling—when I see Ray’s face.”

[Ray’s face was red, I mean tomato red, I mean red like the red writing on your test paper red.] Why did he start acting belligerent like this? I mean, why is he upset? Is it because Tim is the only one that hasn’t laughed at his joke? I don’t really understand the transition—I mean, it would serve as means for the ending and why Ray would be in there, but maybe… I think, at least, it should be in its new paragraph. So it would be. “when I see Ray’s face.” (end this paragraph, start a new one: ) “His face was red”. At least so people have a chance to kind of think about what is happening. I’m a good reader, and this sort of caught me off guard. I like the descriptions of red being used. The red of childhood. At least you didn’t say something awesome-fantastically corny like “redder than the blood of my razor” or something. LOL

[Julie’s smile changed faster than a cat pouncing on a mouse and she quickly came to my aid and rubbed my back like she’d seen mom do to me whenever I got hurt at soccer practice.] The “cat pouncing on a mouse” is funny, but it’s… weird? It’s weird that this tall kid would be playing soccer. This sounds… really racist and stereotypical, but wouldn’t it be more practical if he played, like, basketball? XD;; Okay, never mind. Forget that, I’m such an ass. Julie is really endearing though. I like her! ;_;

[“You ok Tim?” She asked. I nodded and I just wiped my nose like those fighters do on TV after they’ve been hit really hard.] These two sentences should be put into their own lines, since they’re dialogue. And I think of the movie “Bloodsport” with Jean-Claude Van Damme when I think of the snub-the-nose thing. hahaha

[I put my hands to my waist and stood real tall like, laughing like some sort of valiant-knight-guy.] Like, Louie the Rune Soldier or the guy from “Bastard!” HAHAHA

[So Ray get’s even madder and now he’s throwing punches at me.] *gets. I like the usage of the word “madder” instead of “more mad”. It has a nice tone to it.

[So Ray get’s even madder and now he’s throwing punches at me. He was throwing punches at me as if I’d just shit on his face or something.] I think it’s funnier and less glaring if it’s: “So Ray get’s even madder and now he’s throwing punches at me as if I’d just shit on his face or something.” Sounds more candid and hilarious this way… and you say it three times, “he’s throwing punches”—I think two is enough.

[I’m just standing there blocking my goods and Veronica’s still laughing.] LMFAO! I could totally see this, especially if Tim is a head taller than Ray. And I think I identify the most with Veronica because I laugh at that sort of thing. [The little girl really knew how to laugh; drool, snot, and all this other shit was running from her face.] I love this, it’s really endearing and it warms my heart. … but I’m not gay c_c

[Julie was smiling again.] his sister seems very matronly for her age. She’s always smiling. These girls seem to be indicative of smiling and laughter that is both genuine and good.

[After a while I said to myself, you know what, I’ve had enough of this shit, I’mma end this thing and get’s some soda.] *get. And this is hilarious! Lmao

[So after I took a little bit more of his shitty hand pummeling I brought my knee up and kneed him in the chin. It was the best knee-to-the-chin ever. I was so much taller then Ray that my knee didn’t even go past my waist.] ROFLMAO!1 Dude, fuck yeah! Lmao hjjhasdf seeing it written like that is hilarious, I could totally hear the voice lmao that’s great

[When my knee connected with his chin Ray just flew backwards and hit the wall side of the steps head first, HARD. He was bleeding and man, I felt like a badass, a freakn’ champion, a freakn’ badass-champion-Ninja Pirate.] *freakin’ Dude, Tim is responsible for his being in the Looney Bin. LOL The “HARD” in italicization like that really raises the hurt factor. I even cringed. Tim dude, you totally killed Ray’s brain. Good job. Here’s a sticker.

[When I go to visit him at this new place he lives at with white walls and barred windows I can’t tell if he’s happy or extremely happy to see me.] I like the way you slip settings into casual settings; I think it’s one of my favorite elements by you. Except for the knee-to-the-chin snippet. It’s kind of sad that Tim could really be responsible for Ray’s craziness.

[But when I hear him laugh I can’t help but laugh with him.] Maybe Tim is a little insane, too. I mean, he felt like a total champion for causing his cousin Ray some brain damage. XD!

The story covered all sorts of reasons for laughter or smiling, and everyone in the story had their own version of it… except for Tim. For some reason, he only had a “straight face”, and it never mentions him laughing or smiling except when he’s with Ray… in the crazy bin, which is kind of disturbing. I’ll see this again: I love the voice of the narrator; it really sucked me into the story. It went at a very fluid, even pace that kept me engaged the whole time, peppered with lots of kiddish (but COMPLETELY HILARIOUS) humor. There were only a few suggestion edits—which I strongly recommend—everything had such a nice flow.

As for the title of the story, I can’t help but think that true laughter is only achieved in a stasis of being where you’re not all there. I think the idea is: any smiling or laughter that is conscious is never as genuine as that of those who do it without thinking, ie: Ray. This could be true for a lot of things in Life—the message is a bit disturbing, but it goes without saying, the story was a very interesting read and accomplished, in itself, the ideal style of first person narration, which is to captivate and to amuse the reader while addressing a serious topic.

Again, great read.

Rock ON, Monochrome Lovers!

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