Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reading, reading, reading...

That New Year resolution stuff seems a long, long time ago. Resolutions? Who has time for resolutions? I think I said something about only posting a blog if it related to working on my story. I did, didn't I? Well, that was before the start of resuming full time college. Story? What story?

No, I can't say I've forgotten my story in the midst of the classes, but it has been nearly impossible to work in time to work on it. My goodness...the READING. Textbooks and essays and short stories and long stories. Oh, my. I'd become so accustomed to romance reading and zipping through a book in a day. Of course, romances are my first love. Who hasn't had those nights staying up into the wee hours of the morning to get to the HEA? Not that I hadn't ever stopped reading in the middle of a book. If things like breaking the rules of a good romance occurred, or I simply didn't like a character, then I'd stop. It had been a long time since I'd stuck with anything that didn't hold my interest.

So, when you HAVE to keep going, through thick and thin, it's a bit like breaking a bad habit. I partially planned for it and got a taste of what that would mean by reading the longer works for a literature class before classes started. Thank goodness I did! I'd be sunk if I hadn't at least done that. Heck, it took me over a month...maybe two with the starts and stops to finish Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING. And then Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES, went easier. Not exactly the gripping page turner as the back cover blurb promised, but I got through.

Getting through...sounds really bad, I know. These are great stories...just totally unfamiliar in the style I'd become accustomed to. No happy endings for one thing.

But even with the story set temporarily aside, the writer in me is being fed by the reading. I'm seeing common threads and adventures across history, geology, biology and even literature. These are thread I wouldn't have connected only days ago. And perhaps, years ago, without all my time thinking like a writer about character arcs and plots, I wouldn't have seen the common threads across the board or seen them as adventures. Evolution and Charles Darwin, for instance, I may have pegged in the subject of Biology, but it's influence is everywhere. Even in literature, the writers of the late 19th century, were influenced by Darwinism. Their style, naturalism, "portrayed men and women overwhelmed by the blind forces of nature." (p. 1125, Concise Anthology of American Literature.)

Although naturalism is described as "pessimistic," I adored a short story by Theodore Dreiser (1918). In "The Second Choice," the female protagonist struggles with getting over a "glorious interlude" with a man who made her feel as though "in a trice, nearly, there was a new heaven and a new earth." She loves him -- is mad about him -- and remembers every detail of their time..."oh, the stars, the winds, the summer breath of those days!" And she ignores for "a year" the near fiancee, the second choice. "Every word that she tolerated from him was so much gold to him, so much of dead ashes to her." And, "it was her fate to be loved by him in this moving, pleading way, and hers not to love him as she wished to love -- to be loved."

Oh, it was lovely, written by a pessimistic follower of "naturalism" or not. In a way I saw her as self absorbed, but I did understand. It was timeless, but at the same time rooted in it's time of 1918, when she didn't see many options outside of marriage. In the end, the character, says "my dreams were too high; that's all."

So, while it seems I've been reading stories without happy endings lately, I have been enjoying the variety that I hope will make me a better writer. I'll still want to write a happy ending though. :)

What are you reading? Finding gems outside of genre? Ever think about how the variety will change or affect your romance writing?

8 comments:

  1. I think I've put at least half a dozen books down since Christmas. Just couldn't find one that didn't bother me in some way. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that particular type of story.

    Then I picked up The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley and was saved. It's a wonderful book, so well written and the characters are actually unique. He's not a duke (though the younger brother of one) and would never be called dashing or maybe even charming. But I love him already.

    And the heroine is a widow of no real status who happened to inherit a fortune for her elderly companion who had no family. No debutantes, coming outs, or inane chatter. *sigh* So nice.

    That is the down side to getting a business degree, no literature classes. :) That short story does sound lovely and I look forward to any tidbits you throw our way about all these works you're getting to experience.

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  2. Terri, I think you're right that we have to be in the mood for a particular style. Not just genre, but I feel like binging on certain themes. I think one weekend I read three stories with amnesia as the theme! Or, I'll read a good book and want to find the entire backlist of an author. (Have you read others of Jennifer Ashley or think your next book will be another by her? It sounds like a great book!)

    Even now, for my lit class, I'm wishing...can't we just read more of Theodore Dreiser's work? I liked that one and I want more! *LOL* But it's a "survey" of American literature 1877-Present. One writer would be like going to a buffet and only eating the General Tso chicken! At least it's not world lit from the beginning of time to present...that much variety would give me a stomach ache. *LOL* I'll definitely share my thoughts of others I enjoy.

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  3. Btw, that short story, The Second Choice, was so close to how I felt recently (don't know if you recall my personal "Fairy Tale" I posted on Revenge a while back) that it really almost gave me chills. Of course the prose was different (better) but the feeling was the same. Since I had NEVER read that short story before, it was really odd!

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  4. I'm experimenting with a different genre, so I've been boning up on that right now. :)

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  5. I've never read anything else by Ashley, but she has a good number of books she wrote before this one. I was surprised I'd never heard of her considering how good this book is. But then me missing something shouldn't be surprising anymore.

    I think she has a connecting book coming out this summer and I'll definitely be getting it.

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  6. Jennifer - thanks for stopping by...and best of luck with your experimenting with a different genre! It's kind of exciting to challenge yourself, isn't it? :)

    Terri - It's also exciting to find a new favorite! Yes, there is an infinite number of books we haven't yet explored...oh, for more time!

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  7. There really is something so totally thrilling about finding a new author (new to myself at least) in a genre outside what you usually read. I felt that way when I discovered Jonathan Tropper and Jeannie Ray. It's like pulling up a treasure on a beach.

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  8. Well said, Tina! I love that comparison to pulling up a treasure on a beach. It's thrilling to stumble upon treasures that are lovely surprises and send you looking for more treasure. :)

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