Sunday, January 28, 2007

Once there was a plan....

I had a plan. A plan that had me reading from my stacks at quite a steady pace. The momentum came from the fact that I was reading books that although I enjoyed them, they didn't have a place in my permanent library. So my husband was going to take them out to Arizona with him in his truck and trade them in at my most favorite independent bookstore in the country- Changing Hands in Tempe. Since I am going out there at the end of February I could then use my store credit to- yes- buy more books. Which I know kind of defeats the whole purpose of reading from my stacks. Alas, the plan was not to be. Due to the freaky winter weather that has zapped much of the country, my husband did not drive out to Arizona but instead he flew out which did nothing to further my whole book scheme. But I am still reading from my stacks. An update:

"Red Plaid Shirt" by Diane Schoemperlen- I loved the unique structure of these short stories. The title story is written in parts, each starting with an item of clothing and going into memories surrounding it, in a second person voice. Each one ends with a kind of stream of consciousness medition on the color. Every story has its own structure that holds it together. It gave me many ideas to try in my own writing.

"Sugar Cage" by Connie May Fowler- I remember buying this shortly after her other novel had been chosen for the Oprah Book Club but I never got around to reading it. I thought it would be end up being a typical Oprah book but it was not. The story hums with magic and a certain lushness that places you in Florida during turbulent political times when Matin Luther King rises and falls. Each chapter is told through a different voice and through each story you come to see how they are connected. I love the empathy she shows for each character whether it's a reluctant seer of tragedies or a man who cheats and abuses his wife.

"The Novelist" by Angela Hunt- I know some writers who dismiss books about writers out of hand. Not me. I am drawn to them. So obviously a book titled "The Novelist" would catch my attention. I didn't realize at the time that she is a Christian novelist. I know some would also dismiss such a book on that basis alone but I chose to stick with it and read it. I am trying to stretch my reading this year beyond my usual comfort zone. It ended up being a story within a story. Or rather a parable within a story. I can appreciate that structure. The novel led me to think about how we conceive of our characters or stories. I tend to start with characters and I discover what their stories are. This book felt like she had a theme she wanted to explore so she invented characters that could do that for her. Not necessarily my way of writing but hey, she has 17 books under her belt. Gotta respect that. One thing I took away was the idea of using a JC Penny or Sears catlog to get a visual of your character. Sometimes I picture actors as my characters. Having a concrete image of your character can only help the story.

I am also reading "The Best Short Stories of the Century." A few each week.

And I am reading "The Sincerest Form, Writing Fiction by Imitation" by Nicholas Delbanco. I think this could possibly be the best book on writing I've come across- and I've come across hundreds.

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