Sunday, April 17, 2016

Novel-Induced Awe ...

Last year, upon finishing Liz Gilbert's Big Magic, I wrote an appreciation, not a review.

I have no business writing reviews. Who does, really? What speaks to me won't necessarily speak to you, and while many of us might be able to agree on what constitutes "bad," who's to say that others might not deem something "good"?

And so, once again, this is an appreciation, not a review.

But this time, I have two books to note.

I read Jennifer Niven's All The Bright Places almost exactly a year ago, April 14, 2015.

I finished Kerry Kletter's The First Time She Drowned moments ago.

I was awed by them both.
And I wish the characters could have met each other. I am sure all of their lives would have been better for it.

But they exist in separate stories, conjured by the magic that is the writing of fiction, a feat which I cannot fathom anyone doing as it seems wholly impossible to me but I am so, so glad that others have the gift.

I spend much of my days consuming news – you can take the girl out of the newsroom but you can't take the newsroom out of the girl – and when I do crack a book, it's usually non-fiction.

I don't read a lot of fiction because the editor in me almost never stops editing. It borders on involuntarily.

But every so often, I read a book that draws me in so immediately that my editor self cedes the moment to the reader and lets her revel in the story and the words, though the writer in me pauses every so often to admire a phrase.

To have read two such books, similar and yet very different, has been a delight.

Does J.K. Rowling deserve the credit for ensuring that so many adults appreciate young-adult fiction? John Green does, too.

And now we can add Jennifer and Kerry to the list.

I thank them for their generosity and talent. And I thank Angelo for introducing me to them both.

Read. Revel. Keep tissues nearby.



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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Yet More Thoughts, Connected ...

It's raining again, which on the one hand makes me grouse because for the love of God, how much moisture can there be in the atmosphere and why can't it spend more time over California to help remediate the drought so I can finally buy almonds at a sane price again? And which, on the other hand, pleases me, because hey, this is one more day when I cannot possibly cut the grass. At this rate, I may not end up cutting the grass for the first time this year until May, though my lawn may look like a Lhasa Apso when I do.

The rain, though, leaves me feeling justified to spend too much time on the computer today, which means that I read this 2010 essay from Nora Ephron which led me to two thoughts:

1. That was a very enjoyable read.

and

2. And you could not have read it, Beth, if she hadn't written it.

Yes, Beth, writing does not just appear in the world as if by magic.

I know that. And yet, for as much as I have written in my life – including the post you are reading now – I often don't stop to think about the source of it, about the writer sitting in front of a computer, butt in chair (a phrase used often by the lovely Anne Lamott), hands on keyboard, combining letters into words and words into sentences, some more enjoyable than others.

But these days, as I'm writing in a more concerted way on a project that I've been futzing with passively for far too long, I'm more mindful of the act of writing, more appreciative of those who have written things that I have enjoyed as I read them. Because each such experience reminds me that writing for profit – if not always fun – is not purely a privilege of others. I am a part of the club.

Some weeks back, I wrote, in this post:

Granted, not everyone can write well. But commodifying something most everyone does is a notion that has had my brain spinning for a long, long time. ... And then my brain says, "Really? I can do this? I can just sit here, clicking and clacking on my keyboard, and put something out into the world and people might buy it?"

I know it makes me seem dim, but truly, that blows my mind.


It still does. But each day, the degree to which my mind is blow lessens just the tiniest bit.

Inversely, I had a realization a couple of weeks ago, on the heels of several events in quick succession, all involving authors, and that realization was this:

"I belong in this world."

A former Tribune pal and I are working on our respective projects together, keeping each other on task, and I wrote to her about my epiphany and then I wrote the following to another friend:

I was telling her about my realization yesterday that I belong in this world and as I was relaying the story, I was realizing that the moment was very muted. For someone whose entire life to date has been defined in large part by indecision about her place and role, one would think a realization of that magnitude would have come with some fanfare. But then again, no. It's rather perfect that it just kinda floated by, because it's always been nearby.

I've long thought of myself as a writer.

I've never thought of myself as an author.


So thanks, Nora Ephron, for writing that essay. (And thanks for writing "When Harry Met Sally...," too.)

And thanks, rainy day, for sapping me of the inclination to do anything other than sit here and read (and write, eventually).

And thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to print my name when I was 3 and for modeling for me that reading was something to be relished and for being more than happy to buy books for me.

And thanks, writing friends, for your nudging and cheering.

And thanks, other friends, for doing the same.



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