when you want them to fail

I’ve just started listening to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which is about a missionary family traveling to the Congo. I’m only a short way in, but I’m feeling a sort of anticipation for all the horrible things I know are going to happen to these people.

They are described with just the right combination of naivety, arrogance, western chauvinism and old fashioned racism to make me itch to see everything go wrong.

Nabokov does this with his characters quite often, but with him it’s a slow build up to realize just how full of themselves and incompetent the character is. With The Poisonwood Bible, almost from the first pages I’m rolling my eyes and wanting them to learn hard lessons.

This is really good so far!

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What I want to read…

I’ve been reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent with a book club I just started with some friends. It’s much more enjoyable to read a book when you have people to discuss it with, but how can anyone ever get their friends to read the same books… if you’re even fortunate enough to have friends who read at all!

So we each submitted some choices, and voted on those choices (can’t vote for your own submissions!) and ended up with a book that everyone at least kind of wanted to read. Success! It wasn’t my top choice, but I was interested!

The novel is based on the true story of an Icelandic woman sentenced to death for murder in 1829, and her last days living on a farm with a family, who are tasked with watching over her while she waits her execution.

This sounded appealing to me, because I always am curious about the mind states of people in extreme situations. What would it be like, knowing you are doomed to die, awaiting the inevitable end day by day… Because it is like a magnified version of all our lives, all will end, all will end definitely, but we pretend they won’t. I find myself curious of what it would be like when you can’t pretend anymore.

I’m about 40% done with it now, and while it is an intriguing read, it’s not what I’d hoped it would be. The story seems to focus more on the family’s perception of her, and her interactions with a priest, and doesn’t delve much into her internal feelings on death. Not so far anyway. It seems to be more about perceptions, and how we decide a person is one way, just because of what others say of them, or judge their entire life and being all based on a single action, a single mistake.

An interesting read so far!

 

Submitted…. try not to think about it

I sent The Observer on it’s first journey to an agency. They give a 12 week window for response. So, now to try not to think about it for the next months…

Rejections are easier and easier to deal with, it’s the waiting that is hard. Because the longer they take, the more hopeful you become. Then the inevitable no is all the more painful when it finally arrives. Though, now that I’ve sent out my own share of rejections at Lucent Dreaming, I know that sometimes they just take a while to get to, and read, and think about. There’s just no getting around that wait time, is there? Unless you’re a really awesome place like Clarkesworld, then it’s only a few days or less.

It really is terrible, though… the waiting… the waiting… the torment of hope…

uh oh, the French are at it again

I’ve started reading The Plague, by Albert Camus since I liked The Stranger so much, and …. sigh. It’s the same problem I had with Madame Bovary and to a lesser extent, Swan’s Way. There are no characters, and just descriptions of things happening in a very passive, drawn back way. I don’t know if this is a different translator than The Stranger, or what, but it’s a completely different style and not engaging at all.

It’s a fairly short novel, so I’m going to stick with it, but I’m getting all kinds of ‘what not to do’ ideas for my own writing while reading this…

I’m about 20% through it, so it still has time to get better. I keep waiting for it to ‘zoom in’ and start the story, but it might not ever do this. We’ll see…

The Stranger, by Albert Camus

I’ve broken my streak of giving up on French classics!

This was a short, and somewhat disturbing read. The story opens with the character, Meursault, stating that his mother has died, though he’s not exactly sure when, and then describes her funeral.

We soon find that the Meursault does not seem to have any emotional connection to anything that is happening around him. He does not cry at his mother’s funeral, or seem to feel much at all about it.

The only thing that seems to get much of a reaction out of Meursault at all is the heat. He feels more about the heat while walking during the funeral procession, than he does his mother’s death.

As the story progresses, Meursault ends up helping a friend, Raymond, exact a pretty gross revenge on his lover. He does this without really thinking about it, and only on his second time meeting Raymond.

This cruel revenge leads the lovers brother to attack Raymond at the beach where they are vacationing. Meursault is present for the altercation, but doesn’t seem to feel or care much about it, except that he doesn’t want to be around the women (Meursault’s girlfriend and another guest) who are very upset by the incident. Here too, the heat is the only thing that phases him. The hot sun reflecting off the water and burning and oppressing him makes it hard for him to think. But he’d rather be outside in the sun, than inside with the upset women, so he goes for a walk out in the sun, which leads eventually to his predicament.

He finds, that in blind delirium brought on by the sun, he’s shot the man Raymond was feuding with.

The novel then continues with his arrest and sentencing, and time in prison. During all of it, the only thing that that seems to illicit any kind of reaction from him, is when the courtroom is over hot.

The end of this book, and Meursault’s thoughts on the inevitability of death had a anxious, upsetting affect on me, and I found myself connecting with this empty character in several ways. Mainly, his fear not of death itself, but his frustration with the inevitability of it, the lack of hope or means of escape.

There were many parallels to Crime and Punishment in this story, but unlike Roskolnikov, whose paranoia and guilt and nervousness lead to his capture, it is exactly the opposite for Meursault–his coolness and emotionless reaction to everything and everyone around him are his demise.

Very interesting, and somewhat upsetting read.

do i hate french authors?

I usually finish a book if I make it past the first chapter or so, but I just couldn’t do it for Madame Bovary.

Something about the way the story is told made it just impossible for me to pay attention or engage with the characters. The imagery and prose was really nice, which kept me hoping ‘maybe it will get going here’ for nearly half the book. But in the end I just kept zoning out so often I had to give up.

I think the problem for me is the story is told from such a ‘zoomed out’ point of view. I felt I was observing all the characters from afar, in a detached kind of way, like they were specimens in a terrarium, instead of living the story through their eyes. Every description of events or scenery surrounding the characters was described in a detached way, from the narrators view, instead of being described through the eyes of the character. It made it very hard to care about anything that was happening.

The last book I gave up on, last year, Swan’s Way by Marcel Proust, also a French classic. Do I hate French novels?

Who knows. I should have quit on it a long time ago though instead of wasting so much time with it.

Now I’ve started ‘As I lay Dying’ and am already feeling much more engaged and interested in what is going on.

Yay.

If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino

Maybe you’ve been watching my videos on this book, or maybe not! I have gotten tired of making them. I think writing is more my style than talking. But this book is definitely my style, and is one of the best things I’ve read, ever! I think it might be in my top 10 favorite books ever.

Why do we write? What is story? Why do we read? What are we after in each story as a reader or as a writer? All of these questions are a focus in this book.

This is a book made of beginnings, and interruptions. In short, it is a series of shorts that are framed as various books that you, the reader, keep getting interrupted from reading. But really it is a question about what makes a story a story. Does a story need to have an end?

Every page of this book was gold and I wanted to highlight all of it. I bought the kindle version even though I was listening to it, so I could do just that.

Read it if you have an interest in strange story structure, prose over plot, or just like things that make you think!