Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eight cups of steamed white rice in a silver chafing dish

I finished Moby Dick several days ago and didn't know what to say about it until now. Here's the background. I read the book many years ago, and I remember liking it. But! I also remember liking a scene where the captain falls into a coma or something, and I was never quite sure if that cool scene was from Moby Dick or some other book. In other words, I didn't really remember it.

So, I read it. And for the first hundred pages or so, I was fairly bored, but I told myself to push on because I was sure it would get better. Then, around 250, I was still fairly bored, but I pushed on. One day, on the bus, I was reading, and a guy named Kevin mentioned that the book was his favorite. He spoke passionately about what was so good about it. Coincidentally or not, I liked the next 100 pages or so. Finally I was getting some of my questions answered and learning a lot of new historically and technically interesting things. I thought, finally, I had gotten to the part that was good and it would be smooth sailing to the end of the book. (Incidentally, Kevin had not read anything by Tolstoy because he sensed that the writing would be too slow.)

I was happy with Moby Dick. Things were happening. I was learning--because really, much of the content could serve as a text book too. But then the book stalled again. And it was just off and on for me until the end. I didn't love the book. I admired it. I enjoyed some parts of it. I don't need to read it again. I feel like if the book was distilled down to the scenes with characters and motivations, it would be a very short book. The rest of it was details that I think some would find really interesting and others might not. This is not to say that a book should only be about characters and motivations, but for me the rest of it was stuff I wasn't interested in. Go ahead argue with me about the goings on of my heart.

But here's the concerning part. As I was navigating through this whale of a book I began to realize that I made a lot of the same choices in Cyberlama that Melville did. (At least that's how I see it; we can't fully know the author's intentions.) In my book I told myself that these sidebars, these digressions, these details were interesting and additive to the emotion of the book even though I could share the journey of beginning to end with fewer words. I began to wonder if my book would bore as much as I was bored by Moby Dick. And I began to ask myself why I had chosen that route. This of course got me on a track wondering about value and what people wanted out of a book. It's stuff that might be a waste of time, or not.

I'm revising Cyberlama now with this in mind. I'm not yet sure how it will affect the revision, but I think the awareness is a good one. When we still had Literary Lab, I feel like I would have thought a lot more about stuff like this. I had given it up because it seemed to be time wasting, but I think it's important to work through these things in parallel to the writing.

What's Peanut eating? A popcorn kernel on the elevator floor. He ate half of it on the way down, and I thought he didn't like it. But he ate the other half on the way back up after a long walk. Of course, he eats paper scraps and plastic nubs too.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Frastrologer

Hey everyone!

Scott G. F. Bailey's debut novel, The Astrologer is officially available!

Bailey is a beautiful writer who really incorporates good stories, good characters, and exquisite prose into unified wholes. I admire him greatly, and you should check out his book.