Category Archives: Writing

How The Story Ends

Leaflets

At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Despite the many awards and accolades, I don’t know that I would have read this book if it hadn’t been on the Book Club list. Blind girl and young German soldier meet in WWII, nothing automatically compelling in this boiled down description. (But isn’t it completely unfair to reduce any story down to so little?) What I’m trying to say is that I am grateful to Book Club for encouraging me to read this because I enjoyed it immensely.

The story that is told and the structure of how it is told are both mesmerizing.

I have a sense that Mr. Doerr’s characters came to life for him and told him how their story ended. As I read the final page there were parts I wanted to change, just a few minor revisions so this character or that character had a different outcome. But life doesn’t work that way, bad/sad things happen to decent people who don’t deserve those endings. I think it is a testament to writing skill that it feels as though the author didn’t give himself permission to rewrite his characters’ story so that all the good guys had happy endings, he wrote it the way it happened. Or the way it would have happened if these people had existed outside of his imagination.

This is the book we will be discussing Sunday and I’m so looking forward to it!

 

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Filed under Book Club Reading List, Writing

Does That Make Her Pretentious?

A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain’s sudden sweeping. The seabirds stopped their tuning, the ocean went mute. Houselights over the water dimmed to gray.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff

It is easy to find a wide range of reactions to this book. Whether you love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, a quick look at Goodreads or Amazon reviews will take you to someone who agrees completely with you.

I moved around a lot as a child, went to a different school every 6 to 18 months. I missed large chunks of educational basics because they were being taught in different grades at the different schools (I’ve never taken a geometry class something I often mention when playing pool or parallel parking). I was a precocious reader, but never studied Shakespeare, mythology, or many literature classics.

I took a long time for me to make the connection between the title and Greek Tragedy, and while reading the book I encountered many references that I only understood as much as you can get from watching Disney’s animated Hercules a few dozen times. My reaction to this was to be reminded that you might not ever need Algebra once you’ve left school, but a good literature class can stay with you forever.

Apparently other readers encountered references they didn’t completely understand either, but their reaction was to call the writing (or even the author) pretentious. I bet there is a myth or a fable that I could use as an analogy to demonstrate why it is wrong to cast aspersions at something just because you don’t understand it – but, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have that base of knowledge. So I’ll just go with, I think that is a cheap shot.

Otherwise, my brief review: I thought the Fates section would never end and came close to quitting a couple of times, but once I started on Furies, I couldn’t put it down. I would like to read an edited version, I’m betting there are complete paragraphs that could be cut that would only improve the reading experience. One of these days, after I’ve got a bit of Greek Tragedy added to my reading history, I think I’ll pick it up and read it again.

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Filed under Educational, I Need To Read This Again, The New York Times Book Review, Writing

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

Shifting Gears

I started this blog with the idea that our book club (or are we a book group, note to self: figure out the difference) could use it to communicate, or at least to keep an up-to-date list of when and where future meetings are being held as well as what book we’re reading.

Hasn’t turned out that way.

I’ve considered abandoning the blog completely, but something keeps drawing me back; and every time I finish reading a book I think about what I want to write about it.

So I release myself from the responsibility to keep track of the Brooklyn Book Group (club?), rather an over-statement since no one but me gave me that responsibility, and, instead, I will write about what I’ve read, what I want to read, and noteworthy book related things I’ve seen.

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Filed under For The Love of Books, Writing

The Life and Death of a Character

I just finished reading a mystery novel that I really enjoyed, but I can’t tell you the name of the book if I want to write about it because what I want to discuss would be a major spoiler.

At some point in the future I will mention the book’s title, though I won’t reference this post; today I want to ponder the author’s choice to kill a character after we’ve come to know and like them. Not just once, but in this book there were four different characters that were brought to life only to be killed.

The first person started the book but we had just shy of 9 pages in which to get to know her, not unusual or surprising. The second victim had about 35 pages in which she was brought to life, a little harder but still not unusual for this genre. The third had many more pages, and was more likeable than either of the first two, but at least she died of a heart attack before the serial killer got to her. But it’s the fourth victim that got to me.

Introduced on page 31 and pronounced dead on page 416 (out of 438 pages), this character played a major role in the story. Knowing that this is the first in a series of books about a different character (who would have been the perfect love interest), I was sure she was going to be around for the rest of the series. I absolutely did not see her death coming.

Normally I like it when I don’t see a plot twist coming, but this was one I had considered it and dismissed because it wouldn’t make sense to kill her (but probably really because she was my favorite character).

I will continue to read the series, but I will be very careful who I give my heart to in the future!

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