dying, now or later…

The Plague has been getting more interesting. One part I enjoyed was, as the characters are now all quarantined inside the town, and death is all around, one character is sitting in his house trying to write a book, and rewriting the same sentence for days and weeks, trying to find just the right words. He’s asking his friends for advice, agonizing over it, switching out words for similar ones, and then putting them back, and so on. All while hundreds of people are dying all around him every day.

But we’re all dying, right? Even if these characters survive the plague, they’ll just die five or ten or twenty years later. So why not spend your time fussing over the first sentence of a book you’ll never write?

Life is strange…

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A cool glass of sweet water

Every time I finish a particularly difficult book, be it bad, or odd, or just confusing, I take a break with a Nabokov novel. They are always so clear and crisp and enjoyable, it’s like drinking a nice glass of cool water after a tiring time in the sun.

This time I’m reading the Luzhin Defense, the story of an anti-social, obsessive chess player who goes mad. As all Nabokov novels I’ve so far read, it is just a joy, and the prose is so delicious, my brain thanks me in much the way in thanks me for a good meal. And it always makes me smile, with little bits like this for example:

Little Luzhin would go away, trailing his satchel over the carpet; Luzhin senior would lean his elbow on the desk, where he was writing one of his usual stories in blue exercise books (a whim which, perhaps, some future biographer would appreciate), and listen to the monologue in the neighboring dining room, to his wife’s voice persuading the silence to drink a cup of cocoa.

Can you not just see that so clearly… the over optimistic father, the pouty child and coddling mother… all in just a few sentences.

Something about the way he writes is just very enjoyable and smilingly good for me…

 

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.

can’t write? edit!

I’ve been having some trouble creating lately… so I’ll delete instead! It’s been nearly a year since I reached the end of my novel, so it’s about time I started editing it.

So, I started… and I’m wondering if I’ve really improved that much in the past year, or if I was just blinded by creative juices while writing… because, there’s… so much to fix…

This will be a fun few months rewriting every other paragraph and deleting the endless procession of gerunds.

Wish me luck..

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.

Story number 4: JUPITER

I’ve completed story number 4 out of 6 for my resolution goal this year, and number 2 out of 7 for my planned collection of stories: The Planets.

This one was a real pain, and I had a hard time finding the spirit. But it came out okay in the end! Even though it went in a different direction than I’d planned.

It’s more personal proof that the ‘idea’ of the story is only one of many ingredients. It’s the seed that grows into who knows what. The end result might not have any evidence of what the seed looked like… let the story go where it wants, and don’t try to force it in your original direction!

 

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!