Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Shell Game

READING: Overheard at a recent convention: “I don’t read the way I used to before I was a writer.” Is this something you can relate to? What does it mean for you? Pros and cons?

By Catriona

I'm sitting in Jess Lourey's house in Minneapolis right now, with Terri Bischoff here too, and we're carving out an answer together.

Yes. That's the short version. 

But there's a longer version. There's an inevitable loss of innocence once you've learned how a book is put together: the bones and musculature; the shading and highlights; this metaphor is a mess.

It's not a bad thing. I like to see how someone else moves the cups whether or not I can track the ball. And every so often someone else finds the perfect way to express something you've been struggling with.  For example, I was trying to say that a group of people who had all shared a stressful experience in the past found it tough to hang out because that shared past could always intrude. I wrote and deleted and wrote and deleted and then read Laurie King in A Grave Talent saying "A memory swept into the room". GAAAHHHH. A memory swept into the room!  Exactly. 

There are a lot of beloved writers who do things better than I do but so accessibly I can hope to get there if I work hard and pay attention. Nick Hornby, Stephen King and Kate Atkinson inspire me. If I could write a Hornby-esque relationship, a Kingly description or an Atkinsonian one-liner I'd be very happy. And if I ever write an argument as well as Joy Fielding does, I'm going to buy myself a box of doughnuts.

But then there are the books you read and the fact that you're also a writer is irrelevant. Genius books. Books where the writing is so far above anything you could ever do that there's no point paying special attention. I would put Anne Tyler, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood in that category. Jessie would add Daniel Woodrell.  I wouldn't argue with that.

I would no more feel envious of them than I would of Chopin or Caravaggio, Usein Bolt or Simone Biles. 

1 comment:

Lyda McPherson said...

A collective "well said" to all of you. I agree. How are the kittens?