Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Why-Did-I-Bother?

Writers need to read. Voraciously. The good, the bad, and even the why-did-I-bother.

I had a friend once who dragged me to high-end antique stores and galleries. When I protested, saying I could never afford a $25,000 cabinet anyway, she said, “It doesn’t matter. You look at things to educate your eye.”

In a similar way, I think, we read to educate our ear. We listen to the language; we hear the cadence. Our ear is jarred by the sentence that doesn’t work, the word that doesn’t fit. As writers, we often read twice. Once for pleasure and a second time for the underpinnings: the scaffolding, the technique, the craft.

We’ve all heard writers say, “Oh, I never read anything when I’m writing. I don’t want my voice to be influenced.” And the thought always crosses my mind, “Honey, I’ve read your stuff. A little influence couldn’t hurt.”

This week I read one good book and one why-did-I-bother, neither of them newly published.

Rosalind Brackenbury’s BECOMING GEORGE SAND is a wise and beautifully-written novel that intertwines the story of Sand and Chopin with that of Maria and Edward, a long-married present-day couple. Maria’s affair with a younger man causes a rupture in the marriage. As reviewer Nancy Kline wrote in the New York Times (3/18/11), “Brackenbury writes ‘the body’ well. She captures the urgency and tactile lusciousness of sexual passion; the cocoon-like sense, in the beloved’s presence, of a heightened reality; the postcoital amazement: ‘She hardly knows him . . . she knows him completely. . . . They rest, lying against each other, laughing with surprise . . . because it’s astonishing, isn’t it, the way this happens, the way they are together’.”

I re-read this book, not just because I’m taking a class with her this week but, rather, with an eye to the eternal question: “How’d she do that?” I want to ask questions about this book and her other work when I meet her. I’ll share my thoughts – and her answers – in a subsequent post.

And then, there’s Garth Stein’s THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN which I picked up in a used book store. Dear God, it’s LOVE STORY with a dog as narrator. You know: boy with dog meets girl with rich parents. They fall in love. Have the most adorable child EV-er. He’s a race car driver. She has brain cancer. (Are you weeping yet?) Her mean old parents take her to their house to die, won’t let him come to the funeral, sue for custody of adorable child using a trumped-up charge of sex-with-a-minor. Only the dog knows the truth and, alas, he can’t talk (although, apparently, he can write a best-selling novel). Auto racing as a metaphor for life; lots of talk about karma, reincarnation and the dog’s old soul. Dog dies in master’s arms (sound of sobbing in background).

This book was published by a major house with an initial run of 50K. It sold 599K trade paperbacks in one year. Let’s sit quietly for a moment and think about that.


From Pat Shipman: "Can I subscribe?"  
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From Deirdre Kindthistle []: "My e-novella #Bonaventure Pilgrim is looking for a cheap paperback publisher to create a beach read. I am just a little ahead of the curve and my audience (50-somethings) haven't caught on to ebooks yet. Any recommendations?"

Deidre: Please tell us a little more about what you have in mind: Traditional publisher? Small Press? Paperback only? POD? I do have some thoughts  and, hopefully, others will, too  but we need a better idea of your goal.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marian - So glad you enjoyed "Becoming George Sand" - thanks for your kind comments. Bravo for the blog - I look forward to meeting you. Hasta manana! Rosalind