Sunday, July 10, 2011


So tempted, I was, to set down Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! about 60 pages in. Repetitive, elliptical, circular (yeah, that's two shapes), and evidently never-to-veer from a structure in which ridiculously voluble people who don't talk like humans give us pieces of a backstory we're to slowly construct. It didn't feel worth the effort.

Then I picked up Carolyn Cooke's Daughters of the Revolution, which I'd seen praised. Yet the prose felt flat in the early going. The opening chapter, which probably started life as a short story, had a few shining moments, but several awfully cliché and awkward moments, and several elements that didn't feel credible. I don't know whether I'll continue reading it, but I now felt drawn back to the Faulkner because, look, it's an utterly immersive experience, a kind of vivid dreaming in which you know you're in a dream but you want to follow it through to the end. So now I'm on page 110 of Absalom, Absalom! It's crazy, it's wearying, but you know you're having an experience you're going to be glad you lived through.

Meanwhile, having finished an apparently unsuccessful draft of "I Tell You, They Have Not Died, But Live" and set it aside for a few days, I'm back to rewriting "You Have No Idea What I've Forgotten." The key, while reading Faulkner, is to avoid picking up any of his habits. Both of these have to be finished by the end of the month to be entered in contests. That gives me August to rewrite "Unearthed," which I think will be grand.

Highly recommended movie: Happy-Go-Lucky, one of Mike Leigh's cast-and-crew-constructed films. You leave it having felt you were in the company of actual people, not actors, which is a credit to everyone's talent as well as Leigh's way of building the movie out of improvisation followed by rehearsal. It's beautifully shot, too, and in a gorgeous, eye-popping palette that makes the real world (mostly) beautiful.

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