Monday, July 6, 2009

Eat the Document wasn't holding me. It's well written. And the author has a detailed, almost reportorial, grasp of the times and places her characters inhabit (the late '70s and late '90s; suburbs of the Northwest). But the voices (there are several points of view, including a detached omniscient) lack momentum, and I'm moving too slowly through it. I have no complaints about the book, but it's not for me.

I read a short story from Jim Shepard's Love and Hydrogen collection ("Creature from the Black Lagoon"--which is exactly about that) to cleanse the palate last night. (This book I own.)

Today I started Robert Olmstead's Far Bright Star and was immediately stunned and engaged by the prose. The story, so far, is simply about soldiers in pursuit of Pancho Villa in 1916. Terrific voice, great narrative momentum, smart prose, vivid yet concise descriptions. I've not read Olmstead before. Looking forward to more of this.

As for Flannery, the biography, it was fine. For those of us who've read her stories, essays and letters, there was not a great deal new, aside from some interpersonal material. Gooch does a good job making a coherent narrative from all of the material, but there were countless problem sentences. Most of the problems came with ungrammatical presentations of quotes, which led to my having to reread many sentences. The editor must have been convinced--if he or she cared--that this was an effect of style rather than simply an error.

It seems my novel writing is--naturally, not as the result of some considered weighing of various styles--Nabokovian. I'm not writing fragments on index cards, but I am writing small pieces as I draft. I found myself doing this for "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down" (still waiting to hear about that). As a long story, that had something of a novelistic shape and, for me, complexity. Apparently I need to work through such things in teaspoons.

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