Luckily I did not stop at THE GIRL IN THE BLUE BERET. I gave Mason a second chance by reading AN ATOMIC ROMANCE. wherein the skeleton of ideas was much better fleshed out by a more coherent coterie of detail. There were still a few too many irrelevant tidbits strewn about but not nearly as many as cluttered BLUE BERET which repeatedly struck me as a rough draft in need of tightening up. And now a digression on the distraction of blogging. That last sentence itself could do with some tightening up and if it were going into a work of art I would spend time honing it. As it is going into a blog, I send it as is out into the world. In a book I strive towards a poetically vigorous prose wherein each word serves a purpose, semantically, thematically, metrically, etc. If I spend the time to hone each blog entry to the same keenness we might never see another book. So I may write pretty someday, but do not expect it in a blog. I do invite everyone, however, to read each word in a book with a critical eye for levels of meaning, coherence of theme and sheer beauty of language. If you find a pigeon in one of my books that should have been edited out then, please, feel free to blog it to the world, tell me through this site or whinge to your friend over a beer; that works, too.
Even Melville sins, however, from time to time. Moby-Dick is a huge work, a classic I must deal with as a would-be promulgator of literature as a living-growing-becoming-being, chock full of details each and everyone of which
I have read two to ten times but there are some to which I say now, “No more.” There is a beauty to the twentieth poetic exposition on just how really big whales are that I now give myself permission to pass over. I can get the juxtaposition of Ishmael’s naturalism versus Ahab’s mysticism without reading each and every word of the encylopedic entries. I’ve done the hard work twice all the way through with numerous returns to critical passages and dutiful digging into supplemental readings. I think now that the next time I pick the book up I will give myself permission to skip dry bones and fossils just to play with the juicy bits.
The strongly telling detail, not the extraneous, not the weakly-setting-scene detail, is my own goal as a writer.
In THE CANTERBURY TALES IN NEVERLAND there is a reason Benny is introduced as wearing a blue shirt, a
reason that is still resonating more than a hundred pages later when she is telling the story of Deacon Brown.
There are reasons why the innkeeper at the beginning of MOBY-DICK is named Coffin, reasons which resonate from the sinking of the Essex (in the real world) to the bobbing of Ishmael at the end of the novel. But in THE GIRL IN THE BLUE BERET there is a pigeon that pissed me off; not because I have anything against pigeons per se, but because it looked like another detail thrown in to, at best, repeat the setting of scene and as I am
getting more serious about being a professional writer I am getting less tolerant of other writers wasting my time as a reader. The scene is a conversation at an outdoor café. The real work in the scene is being done by the conversation between two characters. I am interested in the conversation (even if it is a bit flat) and what I am learning of character and plot from the conversation. And then a pigeon walks on stage to peck at some bread in the street . . . and to distract me with wondering why it is worth two sentences plopped down in the middle of this
conversation. Different readers are allowed their own responses, but mine is that that pigeon should have been edited out.
I can also pontificate about writing styles. For example, I recently read THE GIRL IN THE BLUE BERET by Bobbie Ann Mason. I find Mason to have a transparent style that allows me to see clearly through to character and plot
and then, once I have enjoyed the first reading I set her books aside never to be read again. I recently re-read
Michael Chabon’s THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. I find Chabon to have a transparent style that allows me to see clearly through to character and plot and then, once I have enjoyed the first reading I
return to his books again and again for the pleasure of the language and nuance and resonant details. Ditto a
recent re-reading of MOBY-DICK or the dozen times I have read HAMLET. I am currently struggling within myself
over whether this is a matter of quality or taste. Some prefer Mason over Chabon and so be it. But do I myself prefer Chabon over Mason because his style of writing is more like my own, perhaps his style of thinking more like my own? Or is there a quality, a Quality, which transcends preference? More on this tomorrow when I pick up the
fine thread of detail.
Is it a plus that I can blog about my work? True, I can say something like THE CANTERBURY TALES IN NEVERLAND is a contribution to the argument Michael Chabon, Lev Grossman and other writers of
renown are making that genre and literary fiction are not exclusive categories. Chabon won a pulitzer
writing about comic books. Grossman won acclaim and sales writing an adult story about wizardry
school. Hilary Mantel just won her second Man Booker for a historical fiction series. And now THE CANTERBURY
TALES IN NEVERLAND makes a post-apocalyptic detective thriller resonate with literary history and ask what it means to be well-read. I can say all that here but wouldn’t my readers prefer the pleasure of
figuring that out on their own?
To blog or not to blog, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to take time away from the writing of new books to
write about other things to attract your eyes to this website and hence, perhaps, to the amazon links to buy, buy, buy or to write new books that no one ever reads. To write, perchance to sell, aye, there’s the rub that makes merchants of us all. While writing this I am not writing for THE CHARGING BULL OF TERRY COUNTY:
A MEDITATION ON WAR AND PEACE the Japanese officer’s soliloquoy over the ashes of Hiroshima the image of which will haunt the American POW survivor of the bombing as but one spectre in a survivor’s mind. While writing
this I am not working those mechanical details needed to release THE TIME-TRAVELER’S FOOL: A SCIENCE FICTION MYSTERY OF LITERARY SURVIVAL. Instead I make a public figure of myself so that THE CANTERBURY TALES IN NEVERLAND might sell, sell, sell, and you and I together, writer and reader, might make a career of this stuff that dreams are made of.
I wanted to write a classic regular folks would actually read. I wanted to write an adventure academics would find resonant with meaning. You tell me how well I did.