It’s been an interesting week full of, well, I’ll just say, surprises. Overall it’s been good. I’ve had time to think and re-imagine my life. In March I’ll be going back to school after almost 10 years off. Time sure creeps, huh? Aside from school, I’ll be focusing on writing, and hopefully, somehow, keeping food on my cat’s plate—because thats the most important thing, or so he tells me, and he only eats the primo shit. No Friskies for this cat.
I’ve been working on Dead Like Stars again, hopefully I will finish it for real this time. It’s hard to get started, mostly because I know the work that awaits within. Black pools of swamp that I must wade through, purify, and somehow polish into something that fits with the rest of the book. It shouldn’t be this hard, but I’ve been building it up in my head so it’s become this epic, looming mountain I must conquer.
I’m approaching it cautiously, bit by bit, and as I sink into the familiar narrative, I’m surprised to discover some of it isn’t all that bad. I won’t say it’s good, because what does that even mean? Good is subjective and whimsical. However, speaking of good…
I’ve been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s, “Lathe of Heaven.” It’s amazing, and I can’t stop scribbling in her margins, micro-printed notes, hearts—little smiley faces. I’ve probably underlined a third of the book.
I love how she handles character, each with their own unique tics, speech patterns, and styles of observation. I know this is something that is supposed to be standard in novels, but so often I feel it is something writers either ignore or do sloppily. I also really enjoy the way she peppers in backstory, unobtrusively with so many interesting and beautiful images and observations.
Another thing I found interesting, there have been a few places where I was jostled out of the story. Wait, you say, that’s a bad thing, right? You would think so, but no. It’s awesome. One example:
Early in the book, there’s a scene where one character, relaying a dream he’s had about his aunt Ethel, says: She was “usually disguised, the way people are in dreams sometimes; once she was a white cat, but I knew she was Ethel.”
It doesn’t seem like much, but upon reading that line, I laughed out loud and exclaimed, “SO TRUE!” (I also underlined it, and put a heart in the margin, in case you were wondering.) Why did I love this bit so much? Because it happens to me often. The strangest shit happens in dreams. I’ll have a dream where I’m doing something with my husband, but he’s also my sister, but at the same time he’s a parrot.
Until I read this book, I had never really thought about it, even though my dream diary is full of instances just like this. It never would have occurred to me to include something like this in my fiction. It’s details like these that make books fun. They draw parallels in our lives and add meaning—they create freakin’ connections. They add realism. In that moment it is real, and you and the character share a secret.
Anyway, that’s just one example, and not even the best one, and as I’ve said, it’s all subjective. Either way, go get a copy. It’s a great book, especially if you’re a writer. Once I finish, I’m going to immediately read it again, there’s so much to learn!
Haven’t read it yet? Please do, and after you’ve had your ‘conversations’ in Ursula Le Guin’s margins, please, tell me all about them!
Also, moderately interesting, I may have given Ursula Le Guin a fan letter last week. It was just like grade school: handwritten, folded into a little rectangle, complete with a smiley kitty face. I thrust it into her hands and ran, then I nervous-cried the whole way home. *facepalm*
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