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Friday, April 20, 2007

escaping into O'Brien

I’m late posting this week because my blog day was sacrificed for Pro-Choice Lobby Day at the Capitol. Stella was my proud lobbying assistant, wearing her “I ♥ Pro-Choice Girls” button. Let’s go, girl!

My Mother Words class at the Loft wrapped up on Tuesday, which makes me a little sad. But how wonderful to have been able to spend every Tuesday morning for three months with such an inspiring and talented group of mother writers!

I am now going to try to advantage of this little break in teaching to catch up on some fiction. (I will never really catch up, of course, because my list grows faster than I read.)

I just started Edna O’Brien’s The Light of Evening, a story of mothers and daughters and the ways they are tied to one another. I’ve never read anything by O’Brien before and I wonder how this can be. She’s written 18 works of fiction! (How could I have missed her?)

The book begins by telling the story of Dilly, an older and ailing mother, as she prepares to check herself into the hospital. O’Brien’s prose is thick and lovely, and the way she describes the disorientation of being in the hospital is perfect. But this is my problem, of late, with reading. A scene I read reminds me of scene or sentence I’ve forgotten to put in my own book. (Which always leads to this thought: shit, another draft.)

But though I’m often reminded of my own shortcomings as a writer, I’m also inspired as I read. Another person’s written words often spark a glint of something in my dull brain, so I always have paper and pen ready to jot down ideas. But this is tiring, and consequently, reading rarely feels like an escape to me anymore. (Which is why, most evenings after Stella is in bed, I turn to television. I can just sit there and let that alternate world seep into me. I don’t have to think.)

But then occasionally, a book does offer escape. There is something in the voice, in the language, in the plot, that makes me stop thinking about craft. I lose myself. This is what has happened with The Light of Evening. It didn’t happen right away, on page one, and I think this is because the book begins in the third person, and there is something about that and the thickness of O’Brien’s prose and the stream-of-consciousness style, that made it difficult for me to fully engage with the novel. (This also may have something to do with the fact that I don’t have large blocks of time to dedicate to reading.) But then, the narration switches to first person, and now I’m hooked.

Maybe the stream-of-consciousness makes more sense to me in first person. Or maybe I finally set aside the time to just read, and that’s what I needed. I’m not sure, but I’m determined to dedicate the time this weekend so I can escape, again, into O’Brien’s rich story. And I’ll report back next week on the story’s complicated mother-daughter relationships.

1 comment:

Mandy said...

I hear you on the reading front - how it is part of the work. Sometimes I just have to force myself to not write a thing down about a book, to not write down any ideas that spring forth and trust that if they were important they'll simmer and come up later when I'm actually writing. Maybe that's writerly blasphemy, but it helps me remember why I would ever want to write in the first place.
Stella is such a rebel. :)