Sunday, July 24, 2005

An essay by a poet

I have mentioned before that I have a difficult time writing prose. I lack the organization and the sense of pacing to write much prose.

Vivé Griffith writes an amazingly beautiful essay in The Gettysburg Review that illuminates many of these feelings on why and how I write:

"I never learned how to tell a story. Try as I might, I can never quite place a beginning, a middle, an ending on things. I get confused, and my endings become beginnings, my middles endings. Or I forget what happened and make something up. Or I think I can see the full sequence, but I get impatient on the way there.

I have learned instead to create moments. I am in love with moments.

Her love of moments is illustrated in the the subject of the essay, her father. She uses her poet's sense of word-painting to give us a sad, sweet picture of him.

"Here’s the thing: my father uses my poems to sell timeshare. He sits across those cheap metal folding tables that seem to be a staple in every timeshare office and says, “Let me show you a poem my daughter wrote.”

What kind of poems sell timeshare?

It is this sort of writing that sets my fingers itching to write. We'll see if it helps...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

And on the lighter side...

I just finished The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, a book I discovered later than I'd planned due to the fact that I thought his name was either a typo or something made up. Apologies to Mr. Fforde.

I loved this book. I admit, when I heard the premise for the book, my first thought was that it would be either eye-rollingly ridiculous or too clever for the average reader. It may have been the latter, but I loved it. (I consider myself an average reader, but my friends and family tend to disagree.)

I am not a huge fan of alternate histories. While I believe they are good as exercises in stretching our historical perspectives and cultural imaginations, many I've read take themselves too seriously. There is little serious about The Eyre Affair.

The setting is England in 1985. Time travel is routine, and the French have revised much of history. Literature is serious business. The heroine is Thursday Next, a Special Operative in Literary Detection (a LiteraTec) who is chasing an evil criminal, Acheron Hades, who's just stolen the original manuscript of Dicken's Martin Chuzzlewit. He has also kidnapped the inventor of a device - the Prose Portal - that allows people to cross into the literary world. After Hades removes and kills a minor character in Chuzzlewit (only remembered thereafter by people who've read the book before 1985), he acquires the original manuscript of Jane Eyre and kidnaps the Jane.

I had a delightful time reading this book. It did, occasionally, get a bit caught up in being clever and scholarly, but the pace and wit were fast and addictive. The book is sprinkled with literary references throughout, but being well-read isn't necessarily required to enjoy the book. I loved the hilarious names (a corporate bigwig named Jack Schitt...!) and not-so-subtle jabs at literature. When a zealous Baconian knocks on the door to preach about dubious Shakespearean authorship and distribute literature (they heckle performances of Hamlet, too), I knew this was my kind of book.

After I finish the new Harry Potter book (yes, yes... I have kids and I happen to like the books), I plan to start in on Lost in a Good Book, the next Thursday Next novel. Heh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Particulate matter

Sorry for the silent period. I've been out of town visiting parents, in-laws and other wonderful people. Or I've been enjoying Reno in July (this really is a great town...!).

I've always loved reading a good book review. This, however, is the first book review that made me laugh hysterically and made me wonder about this ummm... book.

And a brief interview with poet Juliana Spahr brought a smile.

"I like poetry because it helps me think. It helps me resort data. It lets me list things and then think about the shape of the list. I am not sure I can make poetry do much more than this. I don't trust poetry when it tells me what to do without resorting the way I see things first. "

Check out her poems, too. Simply lovely, in my opinion...

And does anyone want to finance a year-long trip to Stratford for a poor accountant/blogger who happens to adore Shakespeare? Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear... Patrick Stewart in The Tempest... I think I may be salivating on the keyboard.


Friday, July 01, 2005

Sublime prose

If you asked me to list my five favorite authors, who made it on the list would usually depend on when you asked me. But (aside from Shakespeare) the list would always include Mark Helprin. I've read Winter's Tale five times, and A Soldier of the Great War and Memoir from Antproof Case twice.

Mark Helprin's prose is sublime. He can transport me like no other author can.

Harvard Magazine profiles Helprin:

"The study where Mark Helprin writes his novels and short stories, essays, speeches, letters, and Wall Street Journal columns is a spectacular room. Fifty feet long and nearly 30 feet wide, it holds two desks; there’s a fireplace at one end, and some fishing rods hang aloft on display. Everything is in immaculate order."

I wish I had the time to rave about his writing, but I need to get ready for a trip. Just go out and read his work (his new novel, Freddy and Fredericka is just published). You won't be sorry.