Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Black eyed peas

Happy 2013, everyone!

Scott always keeps a list of the fiction he's read, and I admire it and never do it myself. In 2012, the books I remember reading, in no particular order are:

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
Dear Life by Alice Munro
White Horse by Alex Adams
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Plainsong by Kent Haruf

There might be others, or there might not be. I'm not sure. There are many books I started and didn't finish, shamefully, and not necessarily because I wasn't enjoying the book.

Among these I remember, my favorite was Mrs. Bridge. This is a really lovely book. It's clever, emotional on a personal level, powerful on a historical level, funny, and so concisely written my lips get pruny just thinking about it. I also think some of my faithful readers would enjoy Plainsong. That's a lovely and delicate book...not as dark as I usually prefer.

This year, although I told everyone I wasn't making any resolutions, I realize that I made a couple of resolutions. 1. I intend to finish at least one book a month. In January, it's shaping up to be Wonder Boys, my third attempt at finishing a Michael Chabon book--I'm enjoying it so far. And in February I'm planning to read The Master and Margarita, which Scott G. to the F. Bailey kindly got me as a gift. Thank you, Scott!

2. I also have in mind the idea of writing one new short story every month, or at least the strong foundation for one that I can revise later. I want to force myself to rush a bit, because I think it has been a while since I've accessed that more panicky part of my emotions...novels offer a lot more time for reflection, at least the way I'm writing them. I have a catalog of stories that I started years ago that address important things in my life. For whatever reason, I don't think I was prepared to conclude many of them at the time, but I think I can now. I'm excited about that, as I'm excited to finish Cyberlama and maybe, maybe write a book for my sister-in-law and her sister because I think they would get such a kick out of it. In truth, this is probably more than I can handle well, but there you have it.

What's Peanut Eating? A stray dog's ear (granted, "eating" is an exaggeration, but it was troubling all the same).


  1. Yes, read more! Write more! Write quickly, that's my advice. The less you try to narrow down what you're writing about, the more close you can get to what you really believe, I think. If you're brutally fierce and fearless, that is. Write down what you hesitate to write down. And other slogans.

    I'm going to read more Kawabata, I've decided. Snow Country keeps nagging at me. This weekend I picked up a copy of Mudbound but then put it back. Someday. I hope you like the Bulgakov. It's a weird religious novel, but not in a Flannery O'Connor weird religious way.

  2. Some of the short story ideas are about weird things from my childhood that I never understood or didn't understand until much later. It is definitely the stuff that I've been afraid to write about in much detail. I can see some of them as novellas. I'm in a novella mood.

  3. I tried to write "Mona in the Desert" as a novella, but it kept getting longer. Now it's a novel. Someday, I swear, I'll write a novella. I just can't seem to do it.

    Lately I find myself trying to write mostly about things I don't really understand. Not like microbiology or that sort of incomprehensibleness, but weird things from life. Though my next book will have some stuff related to fixed nitrogen and the wars fought over bat guano. As metaphors, I hope.

    Hopefully I'll get to see something new from you this year. That'd be cool. Or cooool, as I first typed it.

  4. Was there a whole stray dog involved, or just an ear?

  5. The two books I'm planning to work on this year (as of today) are Cyberlama and this book for my Japanese-American peeps, which will involve magic chopsticks and Japanese internment camps. (I actually think outside readers would like that too.) If I write short stories, they will likely be much longer than what I published, but they will still be short stories (or novellas). Then there's my Four Rooms novel that is brewing in my head. The concept behind that is fascinating to me, but every way I try to imagine writing it feels boring.

  6. Peanut unfortunately attacked a sweet little stray shortly after my neighbor decided to adopt him and give him a bath. No skin was broken, but my dog had a good grip on the other dog's ear. The neighbor screamed. I had to pry jaws open. No one seems permanently damaged.

  7. I would read any of those projects. After putting a witch into "Mona," I've started to worry less about the separation between reality and unreality in fiction. You could claim that as Murakami's influence, but I think I get it from Gunter Grass and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Maybe. Not that it matters, right?

    I know what you mean by trying to imagine interesting ways to write. I keep putting off the Haydn book because it sounds dull to write no matter what I do. I think I've come up with a way to write a Patience Quince sequel, though. It will be a detective story interleaved with a memoir, or something like that. Or it will be the detective story interleaved with Patience's letters to Ali from America. Which might be better. That just came to me as a possibility.

    You should write about the stray dog's ear. I'd read that from you.

    Oh, and some unsolicited advice: I'd write the internment camp novella before revising Cyberlama. I like to always write something new before going back to work on something that's finished, because the new work makes me a better writer and gives me new tools and perspectives to use on the work to be revised. "Go Home, Miss America" will be better because I'm waiting to revise it until I finish "Mona in the Desert." Or at least that's my current idea. Maybe it's rubbish.

    I didn't think Peanut was that sort of dog.

  8. Marquez and Murakami both write about magic in a way that I really like. They merge it into the real world in a way that almost makes me think it's actually possible. That's really cool to me.

    I'm hella excited that you are thinking about a new Patience Quince book, not just because I like her, but also because it would be cool to see how you would handle a sequel. I've never really thought about how I would handle one myself. That's exciting.

    I took a long break on Cyberlama, so I think I've gotten some space from the project. But I get what you mean about having another book make me a better writer. Even just getting to the end of Cyberlama made me a better writer. We'll see, Mr. B. I don't always heed good advice.

    And, if you are a white dog with curly hair and are unfixed, chances are Peanut hates you. He's attacked three of them. He's that sort of dog. Cute on the outside with a real mean streak. Like me.

  9. Was the ear attached to another dog? Oh wait, I'm reading the previous comments. That thought just stuck in my mind and I had to put it out there. Macabe, but . .

    Magic and chopsticks; ok, I'm already intrigued.

    I have Gatsby on my kindle, I think, and I really should read it. I'll put Plainsong on my TBR list too.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today; it was great to see you again. I didn't know you started a blog; so awesome.

    Good luck with your new projects. I always make resolutions to finish or start something and then poof! squirm under the pressure I put on myself. But I do confess I need some deadlines to keep me moving forward on some projects - even when I whine about them :)


  10. Hi Donna,
    I stop by your blog often, even if I don't always comment. :) Gatsby is a short book, and some sections are exquisite. Definitely worth a read, in my opinion. You should check out Mrs. Bridge. I think you might like it.

    1. I will check out Mrs Bridge. And lurk all you want; I do my share of that still :)


  11. First of all, from the comments, YAY that Scott's thinking about writing a sequel to Patience! That makes me super excited too. :)

    I have Mrs. Bridge on my to-read list. I will get to it this year, I hope! I put down a lot of books this year because I wasn't enjoying them. I just don't have enough time to force myself through things.

    I was going to write short stories in 2012. I wrote not one. :(

  12. With Mrs. Bridge, if you don't like it after say 5-7 chapters, then you probably won't like the rest of it. It's pretty consistent. And the chapters a short! A lot of them are only a couple of paragraphs, from what I remember.

    Yeah, I can see myself not fulfilling my short story goals. We'll see!

    1. Okay, I'll try to remember that when I pick it up. I do like short chapters! And I'm sure your short story writing will go better than mine did. I don't think I tried very hard. :)

  13. Reading Alice Munro put me in the mood to write the short stories. A couple in her collection were really good.