Sticking to it like a Benny Addict

Well, I’ve been on the trail of more great literature to distract myself with, but unfortunately the trail has grown cold.  Well, I’ve been on the trail of more great literature to distract myself with, but fortunately the trail has grown cold.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Literature is a matter of perspective, too, or ‘taste’ if you will.  There are lots of good stories out there, but what I really care about is how the story is told.  Just yesterday I picked up and put down two books.  The first was Heinrich Böll’s first novel, Der Engel schwieg (The Angel Said Nothing), which was only published after his death.  It’s easy to see why.  Not a bad book, it begins on the day World War 2 ended in Europe, and gives a convincing picture of how depressing it must have been to come back from the war to find everything broken and dead.  ‘Depressing,’ though, is a key word . . .  The protagonist is tired . . .  His house has been bombed . . .  Cigarettes are hard to find . . .  The narrator can’t seem to find the energy to actually end his paragraphs, so they tend to taper off into ellipses . . .  Which as a literary technique soon begins to grate on your nerves . . .

The other was a new novel by Julia Alvarez, whose Yo! I thought was splendid.  This one was Para salvar el mundo (Saving the World), whose protagonist is also depressed although we don’t know why unless she’s having a sort of a midlife crisis, and after twenty pages I found that I didn’t much care . . .

Actually, make that three books, although I didn’t actually put the third one down, but skimmed it.  In one of his journal entries, Kerouac had noted that Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger was an unacknowledged masterpiece of sorts.  I’m a sucker for recommendations from other writers.  In this case, the key word is ‘sucker.’  One huge mistake Twain makes is setting this clunker in Austria in 1690, a place and time he knows almost nothing about.  What’s even worse though is that it should not have been written as fiction at all, but possibly as an essay, or more possibly a diatribe.  Against what?  The human race.  We generally think of Twain as a comic writer.  Actually, like Kerouac, he was frustrated and depressed a lot of the time.  Wish he’d have left his typewriter alone during the bout of depression that led to The Mysterious Stranger.

Actually, no I don’t.  Bad writing can be instructive, too, and is most certainly less of a distraction than good.  Once I start something that grabs me, I’m lost until it’s over.  I really need to stop reading so much for a while.  My new novel continues to come together nicely whenever I force myself to sit down and work.  If only there weren’t so many distractions.  The yard looks like hell . . .  The house is a mess . . .  I need to think about a job pretty soon . . .  There’s this blog to keep up . . .

But right now the sun is shining, so I’m going for a hike.  Then, the second I get back, I’m going to sit down and stick to writing just like a benny addict.

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