Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Say it ain't so, Papa

Per my previous post on my efforts to work my way through the reading list in Master Class in Fiction Writing by Adam Sexton, I triumphantly slammed the cover shut on The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway yesterday. It's the first Hemingway I've read since high school when I thought to my young self "Hey! A racist AND a sexist, great stuff."

After doing the post-school runaround I settled in with the Sexton book to see what I had learned about the elusive "voice" as illustrated by Papa Hemingway.

Only to realize that I was supposed to have read A Farewell to Arms.

Noooooooo! So now it's back to the library to pick up ANOTHER Hemingway novel. I am really suffering for my craft.

In the meantime I started to reread Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, one of the writers I admire most because she makes it all seem so easy: the historical accuracy, the compelling characters, the beautiful language.

I was struck by one of Sexton's observations about the relationship between writers and novels: if you figure that an average novel is 300 pages long, and a reader can manage 30 pages at most per sitting, you've got to write a book that will engage the reader ten separate times to drop everything else and pick up your book. In Brooks' case, I couldn't even stop until page 100 - and I've read this before and know what happens. Better, for me anyway, than with Hemingway where I keep flipping to the last page to see how much longer I have to go...

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