Reading and wRiting that is. Two things I seem to have been neglecting of late that left undone will cause the creative spirit to wither and die (or at least go a bit sickly). But last both have happend – and in the same week – funny that, isn’t it?
The book I picked up (in this respect I’m afraid authonomy reading doesn’t count) is by Anita Shreve, an author I have for some reason been avoiding, although I don’t know why. I think I may have picked up Fortune’s Rocks and disliked the cover or the opening page. (Aspiring writers note how these things matter!) and there she was, condemned for all time, or until last Friday when I picked up A Wedding in December in the local library. This is a slow burn of a book with a leisurely pace and no style or plot acrobatics , and the idea of a reunion of school friends is hardly a new one. But I found it immensely satisfying. Characterisation was subtle but telling. The plot unwound iteslef almost imperceptibly. Was there a denouement? If so I felt I knew it already.
Isn’t this how books used to be?
Since the ‘A’ word has already come up, I have to say it’s an object lesson in how quickly a reader (agent/editor) makes a decisions about a book. With my ‘watch list’ (aka slushpile) always beckoning, I am becoming adept at judging a book if not by its cover, certainly by a few opening pages. Because it’s embarrassing to offer to read and then find little to say that’s constructive, I now accept a ‘read swap’ only after reading the other writer’s pitch and the first page. If I’m completely turned off, I decline. This happens quite often if the writing just feels weak or undisciplined. In those I do read, I often find that a shaky opening is followed by something much better, but for those I’ve aready declined, their subsequent pages will never be seen – not by me, anyway. Interesting, though, how decent writing leaps off the page, regardless of genre.