Monthly Archives: July 2015

Wading In The Shallow End

At our most recent book club get-together, Sara made a comment that she was a “shallow reader,” a statement that I repeated about myself as did a couple of other people.

By “shallow reader” I mean that I take the words as they’re written without drawing tenuous connections between the story and some greater meaning; but I also mean that sometimes I feel like there is something I’m not “getting,” that there is some deeper meaning to the story that alludes me.

Many years ago in creative writing class I turned in a short story that was returned with comments about the story’s meaning, the professor wrote that I had taken what started as an interesting examination of a relationship and turned it in to a Stephen King story. Here’s the thing – I was trying to write in the vein of one of my favorite authors (Stephen King). Whatever the professor thought he read, it was in him not in my story. At the same time I was taking that class where we were analyzing novels. I enjoyed that class, but the experience with my own story made me wonder how much of what we were finding in these stories was put there by the author and how much was put there by us.

We were discussing the book Zezen by local author Vanessa Veselka who is also a neighbor and was at the meeting. At least for me, the “shallow reader” line of conversation was a way to say “it’s not your fault that I didn’t understand your Grand Meaning.” But when Vanessa talked about the book and where she was writing from, I took away that we weren’t being shallow in our reading of her book, that the story was the story and there wasn’t a Message to be discovered. Sometimes an explosion is just an explosion.

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Filed under Book Club Meetings, Writing

All In The Perspective?

Five hours of flying is much better with a good book, a story in to which immerse yourself. On the first leg of my trip, a two hour flight, it seemed I had made a good choice. I had easily read the first 200 pages of Delicious, I was completely engrossed, and looking forward to the next flight, another two hours, when I was sure I’d finish the book.

But then I got to the gate… I couldn’t find the book! I was crushed, I didn’t want to wait to find out what happened Billie, Lulu, and the rest of Ruth Reichl’s characters.

After I’d landed, checked in to the hotel, and turned on my computer, I went straight to Amazon and ordered an inexpensive used copy to have waiting for me when I returned home from this four day trip. It would be a delayed resolution, but it was the fastest way I could get resolution.

A week later I was happy to sit down to finish reading the story. But something had changed. The characters were a little flat, the story too improbable, too pat. Where had the Billie’s personality gone? Why was Sammy now a caricature?

Is this what some people mean when they talk about summer reading?

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Filed under Books to Read on Planes