Sept. 18, 2009. Somehow I don't think I need yet another book on writing (in fact, what I need to do is just write), but I rather liked the look of this one as I wandered into B&N on this too-warm for mid-September Friday night. My plan is to sit in the cafe and work on a short story. So far, I've bought this book, a cup of decaf and a Godiva dark chocolate bar with raspberry filling. I'll be firing up Open Office any second now.
Sept. 25. Read the first essay "Before we get started" by Bret Lott, a meditation on the importance of small, workhorse words such as "a," "the" and "this," and how a story can turn on just those words. Lott uses examples from short stories by Charles Baxter, Flannery O'Connor and Raymond Carver -- stories I'll now have to make certain I read. If this essay is any sign of things to come, reading this book is going to be like attending those kind of college lectures that used to make me lean forward in my uncomfortable desk-chair combo, a little breathless, and turn all of the lights on in my mind. The best class I ever had was taught by a rumpled old professor who spent an hour the first day talking about the meaning of the word "still" in the first line of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." I loved
that professor. That's what this brief essay was like. It closed with a passage from Ezekiel about Ezekiel speaking a prophecy to bring dry bones to life -- used as a metaphor for writing. It made me want to go buy a Bible. Now that
's good writing.
Oct. 12. In the second essay "The Girl I Was, the Woman I Have Become," Ellen Lesser meditates thoughtfully on the use of reminiscent narrators in a few different works, among them Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day
and Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Leaving Brooklyn
. Again, the essay leaves me wanting to read the referenced works to really see the principles discussed in action. Lesser starts by pondering whether approaching a piece of fiction from a reminiscent point of view is simply an artificial way of infusing the work with a sort of glow of nostalgia, but then makes the case that reminiscence can bring perspective or be the instrument for a character's present-day change. Fascinating stuff.