Sunday, July 17, 2005

Oh holy overload, batman! I went from dry to overflowing in a matter of a week--and no that is not a personal hygiene reference. As I am winding my way toward the end of this novel, an ENTIRELY NEW novel idea has come shoving its way through what I thought were very well-paid, beefy guards protecting my creative energy from just this sort of thing. I mean, don't the muses know about cross-pollination, about energy-sapping? How do they expect me to be true to these three time-wrought characters who have already waited long enough for me to give them their full stories with these two new characters and their slightly magical, strange little worlds erupting into the quiet meeting room? Tell me that, huh? Don't I already struggle with choices, with choosing between things?

I'll tell you one thing, for a long time now, at least five years, I've been seduced by the idea that a literary work can have a magical element without being classified as something off-color, or worse, being unclassifiable at all. Somewhere between Jorge Luis Borges and J.K. Rowling is the perfect novel. I'm thinking The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I'm thinking The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. And now, this book I cannot put down, Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill (who will be featured on Word by Word August 3rd). What these books all have in common is that some element of the narrative defies rational belief, but yet does not make you, reader, think "This cannot be! How dare she make up such a farce and call this a novel, rather than a fantasy!" That is because we all share a longing, I think, for the unexplained, the slightly mythic, the part of ourselves that still has no satisfying answer for the age-old question of why we're here, and how we got here, and what existed before the big bang. We want magic because there are already so many unanswered facets to reality that on some level, magic is a part of life. In all three books, the characters don't get off easy by way of the magic of their circumstances. If anything, their lives are harder, more tragic. But the reader is lifted beyond the mundane.

I was just having a conversation with the umpteenth friend who finally got me to read The Kite Runner, for which I am grateful not only because it is a beautiful book,very well-crafted for the most part, and one in which the love of Afghanistan is communicated indelibly in a time when I think we need these love stories of Middle Eastern countries more than ever, but because it broke my dry run of reading. However, I told her somewhat apologetically that, "it didn't blow me away," and I was rather suprised at myself, because by all accounts it should have. It blew everyone else I knew and respected away. Which is not to say that I was unmoved, by god no. But perhaps I'm no longer surprised by literature, or rarely so. I want to be more than blown away. I want to be transported. I want to be brought just shy of communion with the higher source. And that is also what I want to write. And whether or not this strange, foundling tale one day old that is trying to be told through me is anything like this or not, I do not know, but I know that it feels in the writing of it like I felt reading any of the first three books I mentioned. And that's the litmus test to keep writing or not.


At 8:18 AM, Blogger Katie said...

I want to be transported. I want to be brought just shy of communion with the higher source.

I love that. LOVE IT!

I've been reading a lot too lately and some books that are raved and ooed and aahed over are barely registering with me. What's my problem, I think. Is it me? Am I just reading too much these days to get any one book? Why am I not appreciating these lauded books?

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Thanks. I meant it.

Well, I don't want to start sounding like one of those crazy people who eschews all things mass-marketed and popular...I mean, I'll admit I have the new Harry Potter. I too fall for it. But on the whole I have to ask myself who constitutes the masses that buy books, that sky rockets them to the top? Are they discriminating literary types who would just as soon as read literature in translation, William Trevor and Dante as they would pick up "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night" or whatever it's called?

I don't know. Sometimes hype is just hype.


At 6:43 PM, Blogger Maurie said...

I read Kite Runner (on that cheating?) and thought it good but not great. I liked "Gilead" much better.


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