What a strange month of writing and reading.
I’m working, writing in short, isolated scenes. One of the things I’ve realized in the last months is that there’s stuff missing. Holes. Important scenes. Scenes (no matter how small) that I want in there, scenes I can’t leave out, but just wasn’t sure where they would all go. When I was at my conference back in June, I made a list of possible missing scenes and came up with 37 possibilities to explore. 37! So I’m exploring them, writing them, mining them. It’s a reminder of how much “story” you can tell with a few short exchanges of dialogue, with one perfect paragraph, with a couple of key sentences. I think I’m only on 13 or 14 right now, and I’m sure I won’t end up using all of them, but it’s been interesting (and fun) (and enlightening) to dig back in at writing wholly new scenes instead of just trying to massage what’s already there. My book feels fresh again.
And speaking of writing, I found this article with the following timely quote for me and my new, sometimes mediocre / sometimes wow, scene crafting: “You have to surrender to your mediocrity, and just write. Because it’s hard, really hard, to write even a crappy book. But it’s better to write a book that kind of sucks rather than no book at all, as you wait around to magically become Faulkner.” Sadly, mere desire is never good enough when it comes to achieving anything – in writing, and in life. “No one is going to write your book for you,” she reminded us, “and you can’t write anybody’s book but your own.”
On the reading front, I’ve finished two books that I thought were completely different books when I started them —- as in, wait, I thought this was a memoir, and as in, what?? I’ve thought for a decade that this was chick-lit, and it is soooo not chick-lit.
I don’t know why I thought Lily King’s FATHER OF THE RAIN was a memoir. And even though it’s written in first person and you feel like you’re right there, the first (huge!) clue should have been that the narrator’s name is not Lily. Jaysus … I wonder about myself.
Anyway, FATHER OF THE RAIN chronicles a daughter’s intensely loving, volatile, complex relationship with her alcoholic father. If that sounds like a downer, the story is not. Give it a try. It’s a lovely lovely story. I’m looking forward to reading more by Lily King.
The best surprise of my summer has been Julia Glass’s THREE JUNES. I remember when this novel came out, and that it won the National Book Award, but I wasn’t swayed. The jacket-copy didn’t help —- it tells you basically nothing about the book, and I figured this was some cleverly crafted ruse. Left to my own obviously faulty devices, I figured THREE JUNES was about three women named June and thought “no” …. “just no.” And even when I heard Julia speak last year (and loved her), I still wasn’t buying this book. What a numbskull I am.
THREE JUNES is one of the best books I’ve read this year. By a mile. It’s about family complexity and perceived obligations, it’s about loss and expectation, it’s about the many many kinds of love. It’s about big subjects and small, elegant wonders. Not only is it not chick-lit, THREE JUNES is some of the best literary fiction, the kind of beautifully written story that’s smart as hell but still accessible to humans, male and female alike.
What have you read — or written — lately that’s surprised you?