A photo of a few books on my bookshelf. One of them I am currently ‘savouring’ – I refuse to rush through a good read. Care to guess which one?
I hope to review it later this month.
There are certain authors whose work I purposefully prolong. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History for example. A book so beautifully written that I read it very slowly over the course of two months because I wanted to memorize entire passages. Do you do the same?
I don’t think it’s possible to ‘slow read’ all books. A lot depends on the narrative pace and whether or not you’re the “instant gratification” type.
I am far - far - behind my self-imposed “fiction” reading “quota” for this year. I find I am reading a lot more non-fiction for work and the research for my own novel is taking up large chunks of my time.
I do though have an exciting list of “must-reads” for this year including a few self-published novels, some of them in genres I thought I would never read (part of my New Year’s Resolutions) so I am looking forward to reading them but I suspect I will get through most of them during my Summer break.
How are you doing? Are you reading more fiction or less?
Here is a quote for those of us who find ourselves today or tomorrow weighed down by anguish and despair and notions of failure. Those of us who stay indoors and isolate ourselves in order to produce work we hope will be read and well-received, possibly lauded.
He is ready to write, he is fully equipped. His fountain pen is comfortably full, the house is quiet, the tobacco and the matches are together, the night is young and we shall leave him in this pleasurable situation and gently steal out, and close the door, firmly push out of the house, as we go, the monster of grim commonsense that is lumbering up the step to whine that the book is not for the general public, that the book will never, never – and right then, just before it blurts out the word s,e and double – l, false commonsense must be shot dead. – Vladimir Nabokov
And here, a reminder that it is lovely outside…
I enjoy murder mysteries. Especially cases populated with complex characters and intriguing clues. I realized only recently that I have loved sifting through clues and motives since I was a child.
You see, before I looked like a girl I played with boys. I would have liked to play with girls (other than my sister) but from the age of five or so I found most girls were mean to me. I don’t blame them. I didn’t have the greatest role models in the my life and tea parties with plastic cups didn’t interest me. I was a very active child despite my fondness for reading. I loved climbing things, rollerblading and cycling. So I gravitated towards the boys who seemed to be, like me, always outdoors and they took me in, which is a marvel really since I wasn’t pretty, though one boy – his name was Joaquin - told me I had beautiful blue eyes. I remember flushing with pleasure when he complimented me so it’s a pity really that my eyes are not blue or green or anything in between.
On bad weather days my friends and I would spend hours indoor reading comics, playing Risk and Monopoly and dressing up. Boys are really into their capes and masks.
They’re also really into running around naked but that is a story for another day. We’d play ‘Not Three but Six Musketeers’ with swords and rolling pins and “Justice League of America” at the expense of several pieces of furniture. But when I kept losing all those macho-making arm-wrestling and spitting games I tired of all the chest-beating bravado. I wanted something more. Something cerebral. We needed a new game and it came in the form of Cluedo. A birthday gift.
I haven’t played it in years but those characters live on like old friends in a house with a conservatory and a billiard room! And to this day whenever I watch a murder mystery on television I want to shout:
“It was Mrs Peacock in the library with the candlestick!”
What was or is still your favourite board game?
About six years ago I lost a YA novel I was working on. I thought someone grabbed it in cyberspace. Now of course I know you should backup files and carry a USB flash drive around your neck. In hindsight I realize it wasn’t a particularly good novel. It was too heavily populated with ghosts, suit-wearing vampires and earth-bound angels to be anything but horrible but still, it was going to be my first complete work in years. I was devastated.
I grieved the loss of that book. I don’t want to compare it to losing a loved one but it came close. I moped around for months drinking way too much sherry and eating chocolate. Eventually an enigmatic character made her appearance (in my mind of course, in case you’re thinking I’m a stalker) and I was compelled to follow her and soon I was writing another story…
I’m now on my third novel which means Book 2 will also not see the light of day unless I rewrite it – completely. This writing journey though – this process of creation - has been very illuminating. I find my approach to writing has changed. There is no longer this sense of urgency. I still commit words to paper (screen) on a daily basis but without the old pressure. Yes, I am burdened with feelings of inadequacy (I am more than a little intimidated by the novel’s characters and the plot) but still for the first time in years I am calm; unhurried. I have a sense that the process of creating is perhaps more interesting than the end result.
What do you think? How do you approach the blank page?
M.C. Richards, poet, potter and teacher tells this story in her book “Centering”:
There are many marvelous stories of potters in ancient China. In one of them a noble is riding through town and he passes a potter at work. He admires the pots the man is making; their grace and a kind of rude strength in them. He dismounts from his horse and speaks with the potter. How are you able to form these vessels so that they possess such convincing beauty? “Oh, ” answers the potter, “you are looking at the mere outward shape. What I am forming lies within. I am only interested in what remains after the pot has been broken.”
With so many books and stories out there to choose from, have you ever found yourself wondering:
‘What should I be reading?’ or ‘Which books merit a place on my bookshelf?’
I love reading interviews with writers and my favourite response to that question has to be Kafka’s:
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? …we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. – Franz Kafka
I can think of many books that ‘woke’ me up. Books that affected me. Almost all of Alice Munro’s short stories for example move me deeply and Virginia Woolf’s way with words let’s the light in through the cracks in my head. Can you think of a book or a writer whose work has made you a better writer; a better reader; a better person?
I hoped to include a ‘bookish’ pic with this post but here’s what one of my favourite trails looked like yesterday.
Isn’t is magical?
By now you’re probably aware of how this author wrote a blog asking JK Rowling to stop writing because ”that book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere”. Yesterday Mark Pryor’s open letter to JK Rowling ‘Please Don’t Stop Writing’ was published on Huffington Post. Both posts are required reading and here’s why:
1. No matter what you choose to do with your life you’re going to have your critics and your haters. When the rose bouquets arrive so do the thorns.
2. Decide early on why it is you do what you do and give it your all. JK Rowling did not sit down to write Harry Potter for the money but even if she did what’s wrong with earning money? Consider the question: Why do you write? Is it because you cannot imagine doing anything else? Is it for the money or the acclaim? I write because I breathe. I hope one day it will pay the bills. If I earn enough money from my scribbles to buy me a castle then YAY for me. I may even like JK Rowling, donate to various charities.
3. Don’t envy another’s success. Envy is the green and gooey by-product of fear. And what you fear is your own light. Consider the question: Are you afraid to shine? More often than not success comes when you finally realize that who you are is enough. If this is all coming across as too ‘New Agey’ then let me put it this way: engaging in fear-based thoughts is self-defeating as well as emotionally and intellectually depleting. Don’t waste energy.
4. There is more than enough to go around. There will be a day and a time for you and your vision just like there will always be room for one of your books. Don’t give up because you think the space has been filled or the seat taken. Eliminate from your mind the notion that someone else has already taken your best.
I do most of my writing at the kitchen table. It’s an oval, wooden table that one rainy afternoon, several moons ago, we salvaged from someone’s backyard. We knocked on the front door and a man answered. And we asked if it would be okay if we could give the table a new (and dry) home and when he nodded we dragged it up the lawn and into the truck. I’m not 100% sure we didn’t steal this table. English was not that man’s first language. So there is that chance, albeit small, that he thought we said we would take the table out of the rain for him. There is also the slight chance that he wasn’t the table’s owner but the plumber or a visiting cousin.
It’s a wonky table. One of those tables with a short leg. I keep trying to even it out and balance it with scraps of paper so it won’t wobble when we’re eating. I’ve sat at many wonky tables in restaurants and the like and they’re probably the second most annoying thing in the world. I’m not sure what would be the Foremost Most Annoying Thing but for me it would have to be undersized underwear. Like a bra. In the wrong size.
What do you find annoying? (this post not included)
I despise bras that flatten and spread your lady humps instead of enhancing them. For some reason I inevitably end up buying one of these ill-fitting garments every time I go underwear shopping, despite being in possession of all my measurements (but possibly not all my marbles). It’s got to the point where I carry a measuring tape with me. This has served me well in IKEA but not so much in the Ladies Underwear Section.
But I digress. I wanted to let you know that I share my writing space with a bowl of fruit and a heap of notebooks. And the table cooperates nicely while I’m writing but not so much when we all sit down for supper.