If Reading is Writing
I was away for the last week, and I thought that travel might mean more time for the novel, but, as it turned out, it meant less, and so I have added 81 words this week and I like them but 81 words is not much. I have, however, been reading some books that are making me think about the structure of a novel and all the things that are possible.
Right after that, I read A Door Behind a Door by Yelena Moskovich, which is about a brother and sister who moved to Milwaukee in 1991 as part of the Soviet diaspora and, present day, can’t shake the violence of their past. I have been describing it as written in fragments, but they are really more like shards — you get the feeling that the form is dictated by the narrator’s state of mind, which devolves as the life she has tried to build falls apart. (Moskovich left Soviet Ukraine when she was seven, and reading this book against the backdrop of what’s happening there now made the jumps across time and perspective feel even more necessary.)
At the same time, I read The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber, which is part of Graywolf’s The Art of series. Silber describes five types of time in fiction: classic time, long time, switchback time, slowed time, and fabulous time. She gives plenty of examples of each, drawing from different centuries and cultures, and focusing on the starting point of the story, the ending point of the story, and how time is handled in between.
“Tradition, resistance to tradition, private experience, and innate belief go into any author’s choice of how many imagined minutes or years a story needs to make itself clear and felt. How much time it covers has everything to do with what it means.”
This book, especially, has me thinking about my narrator and how she’ll choose to tell her story and how much she’ll jump around (a lot).
And then I started reading Sasha Fletcher’s Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World, which I have not yet finished but which is also doing some wild things with time; every day in the book feels somehow the same and totally catastrophic and newly beautiful, and also the seasons do manage to change. This book feels like Frank O’Hara is alive today and wrote a novel-length poem. Also it’s full of cooking described in meticulous detail, and someone should make a little recipe book of all the meals in it so I can cook my way through it.
So, if reading is writing, then writing is happening. There are ideas, at least, and 81 words on a page.
Speaking of reading! I’m reading at an AWP off-site event this Friday, March 25 at Strangelove’s (216 S. 11th Street) from 4 to 6pm! The other readers are amazing! I have no idea what I will read but it will be something I have never read at an event before because I hate reading the same thing twice! I hope to see you there!