Whoops, bit of a delay there in the updating. Anyway, here to discuss the latest in my novel attempt.
I’ve slowed down a bit, which is unlikely to surprise anyone that really knows me. I know myself, and I’m not surprised by it either. However, I’m not discouraged. My reasons for slowing down are actually related to my endeavor–I stopped to do some reading.
It’s interesting that around the same time I began to have difficulty writing with confidence, that I also stopped reading as regularly as I once had. It’s probably not a coincidence, either. This isn’t to say that I haven’t read a book in years, it just means I’m not always in the process of reading one book or another, and starting a new one once I’ve finished the previous one. This is tragic. If there’s ever a way to gain confidence in your writing capabilities, it’s by stopping to read literature and learning via osmosis. When reading books you begin to develop a feel for the language, the pacing, the way themes weave in and out. Reading is invaluable. I began to feel like I’d wasted valuable studying time, with my final exam date looming ominously in the distance.
So I went onto Amazon (my apologies, private bookstore owners) and picked out five new books to read. I actually only meant to pick up one– anything written by Jon Hassler. I read one of his books in high school (“The Love Hunter”– a fantastic book, though I could never really stomach the hunting part, which is literal) and greatly admired the way he put his words together. I wanted to immerse myself in his literary voice a bit more.
After hours of browsing, I wound up desperately wanting an extra four books, even though I kind of wasn’t willing to part with the cash. The price of the average used book on Amazon is a mere one cent, but that’s because you still have to pay the shipping and handling– which is about the price the book would be in a bookstore– plus tax, so the total adds up more quickly than you’d think.
“Well,” I thought, “this is for a good cause. This is for my career, dad gone it.” I confirmed the purchase. There’s little rhyme or reason in the choosing of most of these books; they were just books I decided sounded good and would have a go at. The roster:
Grand Opening – Jon Hassler
This is the Jon Hassler book I settled upon– about the experiences of a boy and his family as they move to a quiet Minnesota town. It was between this and a story called North of Hope about the tragic love a priest feels for an old childhood friend. Tough decision. The premise of North of Hope appeals to me more than any of the other books I looked at (guess I’m not into the “small town” thing), but after reading about how painfully sad the novel is, I refrained from purchasing this. I can always buy it later.
Gob’s Grief – Chris Adrian
A few years ago, I was perusing the shelves at a nearby Borders (again, forgive me private booksellers) when I spotted a book called The Childrens’ Hospital at random. I was drawn to it for one reason or another, and I thought about buying it then, but obviously didn’t. Years later, late at night on Amazon, I looked up the book again and considered finally sitting down to read it. After reading reviews describing the book as a heavy but very well written “doorstop”, I decided against it for a second time (I must have been in an interesting state of mind that night, not wanting to pick up anything depressing. Hm). However, Mr. Adrian’s prose was so praised I decided to find another book written by him. Gob’s Grief is actually his debut novel, and its premise got me from the get-go. It’s historical (science!) fiction about a young boy who loses his brother in the Civil War and decides to build a machine that will revive not only his sibling, but also all of the war’s dead as well. Adrian even manages to include actual historical figures, like Walt Whitman and Abe Lincoln, and somehow make it all work. I couldn’t resist.
At Swim, Two Boys – Jamie O’Neill
I have yet to receive this one, I think it might be coming in from overseas. The reviews for this book are sparkling– beautiful language, construction, themes (war, politics, religion, everything!), plot, etc. –and I couldn’t resist reviews like that, in addition to the compelling synopsis (1915, a turbulent Dublin, Ireland. Two young men, friends at first, find their feelings growing into more). I’m looking forward to this, can’t wait for it to finally get here.
Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman
This one arrived first, and I’m almost finished with it. I admit to being distracted and stopping for a weekend or so. It’s about a guy in his late teens, and the passion he develops for the beautiful young man his parents house at their summer estate in Italy. Wow, what an intense book. That’s the only way I can describe it– it smolders. The blurbs on the back say similar things, and I opened the book thinking to myself, “Well okay, let’s see how much of that is true.” It’s true.
In The Drink – Kate Christensen
It felt important to me to pick a book written by a woman. I heard somewhere than while women read both male and female authors, men generally only read books written by men (subconsciously, I presume/hope). As a female writer, this is disturbing, but a lot of life is disturbing, so *shrug*. Apparently this is part of the reason that many female writers use androgynous or ambiguous pseudonyms– J.K. Rowling would be a good example. When I was a kid, I couldn’t believe K.A. Applegate, (Animorphs series) and possibly her ghostwriter(s), was a woman. Blew my mind, and I was oddly happy. Now that I’m older, I get why.
But anyway, I felt drawn to Ms. Christensen’s book at least in part because of that reason– I felt obligated to support her. In addition to this, this book enters a realm I have yet to either experience or, in my opinion, limn accurately: the life of a typical American woman, late twenties-early thirties, going about life. For what it’s worth, I’ve never actually written a protagonist who’s in that particular point in life, but I feel like I should know how– I’ve said before that if writers only wrote about things they knew or experienced personally, then sci-fi and fantasy would be inherently bad reading. When it comes to that particular brand of reality, I’ve always felt like I’m just not quiiite there yet. And at twenty-two, I literally am not quite there yet. I’m hoping this novel gives me some (stylized) insight.
So that’s what I’ve been doing, though I won’t be giving myself leeway for much longer. I’ve really got to get a move on and work like I was a couple of weeks ago when I regained my stride.