Monday, August 11, 2008

Read On?

I've been tasked by a certain editorial someone with an assignment: read the first page of five favorite books, then ask myself - would I flip the page? Why or why not?

I spent about a week angsting about the five favorite books, then realized I was procrastinating. I closed my eyes and picked from the three stacks towering by my nightstand.
First up... The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger). The TTW does happen to one of my top 10's, if not top 5's. Take a gander, then tell me - would you read on? Why or why not?

CLARE: It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays.

I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way.

I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I'm tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that's been under the snow all winter. Everythng seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?

Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that i wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?

HENRY: How does it feel? How does it feel?

Sometimes it feels as though your attention has wandered for just an instant. Then, with a start, you realize that the book you were holding, the red plaid cotton shirt with white buttons, the favorite...

The analysis: Yes, I read on - how could I not? What wonderful tension - why is Henry always leaving? against his will? where is he going? and why can't Clare follow him? Clare's voice is plaintive here (later, though, her voice is more assured, almost flip, a sassy confidence). The prose is luscious - eg, Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Shivers. Then, when Henry begins his preamble with his repeated question, my gut shrivels in delicious anticipation. I need to flip the page to find out how IT feels.

This book amazes and confounds me for so many reasons. I'd love to pump Audrey's hand, thump her back with a "Bravo! You broke almost every rule in how NOT to write a novel, and ended up with a blockbuster!" She's a genre-bender who writes her tremendously long story in first person present and bookends the whole deal with 'logues'. BRILLIANT!

Audrey's my hero. And I've learned a lot from reading - and rereading - her book.

THE WRITING...Jeesh, it's all I've been doing for a week now. What a treat. I was going to spend the week working on PURE, but that got put on hold when I got an editorial nibble. So instead, I spent much of the week revising BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT into past tense. Among other things. The first 100 pages are completed to my satisfaction; working on the remaining 300 or so. Sigh. Rewriting from present to past tense is time-consuming; first, there's the tedious technical aspect of simply switching verb tenses. Then, there's the 'flow' revisions, rewriting in terms of the time distance that past tense invokes, allowing perhaps more introspection and memory to come into play. I'll let these pages marinate for a week or so, then revisit...

I did some more prewriting around PURE. Over the weekend I realized I needed to write a character's journal, so I found a nice, silk covered one to write her entries in. Should be fun - Radcliffe in the late 70s, an affair between a student and her professor. Otherwise, lots of reading, both on the craft, as well as for 'fun' (ie, my assignment). A yahoo - a small, non-fiction piece was accepted this week; more once I find out whether it survives the production hatchet.

Off to New England - lobster rolls call. Peace, Linda


  1. Hey Linda, enjoy New England! I'm a bit jealous : )

    I'd also be very curious to see what other books you picked, and get some snippets of their first pages.

    I liked TTW but didn't love it (don't kill me). Was definitely hooked by the beginning though.

    I almost want to do this assignment. I already know what my top two picks would be. Well, actually I think I already have the five picked out. There is a certain spot in my literary heart where few books really, deeply reach.

    I'm glad your heroine breaks the rules - that's a good role model for doing what the book or the story wants and going with it. I'm very interested to see how BTB comes out in PT.

    And CONGRATS on getting a non-fic piece accepted - I know I owe you an email, and will most likely sit down with that tomorrow - but definitely want to congratulate you - you rock. And, I never had any doubt that that piece would make it.

    Happy writing trails!

  2. i love TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. so does precie. we're just kurazy about it.

  3. Congrats Linda on the non fiction acceptance! I enjoyed this post. I haven't read the TTW but this made me want to. I like the idea of writing a character journal also. very cool. Have fun in New England -- one of my favorite places! Enjoy the lobster rolls!

  4. happy holidaying! i really enjoyed TTW. i picked it up on a lark and was surprised at how touched i was by the story. the last scene was really poignant for me.

  5. I knew I wanted to read that book. Now I have no choice. Wander if I can read with my eyes closed while I'm sleeping?

    So No One Tell me NO more.

    Switching tense- yuck! and double yuck!!

  6. Good post, Linda. It reminds us of what we do as readers all the time, and then to be aware of what someone else will do when they look at our finished product.

  7. Back from vacay - nice to get away from it all. Even the writing for a change... Chrys, next up is THE FEAST OF LOVE. Funny how I keep picking these first-person present tense books...

    Moonie and Cindy, yes, the TTW is fabu. The rst of you - if you haven't read it, do - it's a great, sob-ripping story and spiffy writing to boot.

    Thanks also for the congrats, MJ.

    Stephen, glad to see you back. Paige, revising is usually fun for me, but I must admit - I prefer revising to editorial order ;^)

    Peace, Linda