The silver sky threatens rain, again. Orange tiger lilies cut from the garden days ago, withered on their stems. Green tomatoes out front slow to ripen. Unplugged moments, wild as the flower beds, boys with steam to burn. Summer rushes on despite our protests, despite all the corn and berries our bellies can hold. The Cape came and went leaving us with seaside dreams and stacks of books to read.
I’ve wanted to share a few good reads I’ve picked up this summer, from writing craft to fiction, some of them acquired at the Falmouth library sale always a summer highlight for me.
But first, if you haven’t read Mary Oliver’s piece on The Artist’s Task, it’s worth your time! So many truth snippets in her poetic essay, particularly the beginning “creative work needs solitude” and “concentration, without interruptions” something that isn’t easy to come by during these summer days. Still, we carry on. Also, “In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities.”
I’ll leave you with these snippets, first writing craft then fiction.
1. If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland– “Keep a Slovenly, Headlong, Impulsive, Honest diary. It has shown me that writing is talking, thinking, on paper. And the more impulsive and immediate the writing the closer it is to the thinking, which it should be. It has made me like writing. It has shown me more and more what I am—what to discard in myself and what to respect and love. You must in time learn to write from your true self not only in your letters and diary, but in fiction. When you have written a story and it has come back a few times and you try to write it over again and make it more impressive, don’t think of better words, try to see the people better. It is not yet deeply imagined. See them—just what they did and how they looked and felt. Then write it. If you can at last see it clearly the writing is easy.”
2. Write and Revise for Publication by Jack Smith – “Read a little each day. Read critically and examine how writers practice their craft. How do they open and close stories? How do they develop characters and advance plot? How do they handle point of view? If you haven’t been reading for craft, now is the time to start doing so.”
3. State of Wonder by Anne Patchett – “The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope. Who even knew they still made such things? This single sheet had traveled from Brazil to Minnesota to mark the passing of a man, a breath of tissue so insubstantial that only the stamp seemed to anchor it to this world. Mr. Fox had the letter in his hand when he came to the lab to tell Marina the news. When she saw him there at the door she smiled at him in the light and in the light of that smile he faltered.”
4. Away by Amy Bloom – “It is always like this: the best parties are made by people in trouble. There are one hundred and fifty girls lining the sidewalk outside the Goldfadn Theater. They spill into the street and down to the corners and Lillian Leyb, who has spent her first thirty-five days in this country ripping stitches out of navy silk flowers until her hands were dyed blue, thinks that it is like an all-girl Ellis Island: American looking girls chewing gum, kicking their high heels against the broken pavement, and girls so green they’re still wearing fringed brown shawls over their braided hair. The street is like her village on market day, times a million. A boy playing a harp; a man with an accordion and a terrible, patchy little animal; a woman selling straw brooms from a basket strapped to her back, making a giant fan behind her head; a colored man singing in a pink suit and black shoes with pink spats; and tired women who look like women Lillian would have known at home in Turov, smiling at the song, or the singer.”
5. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – “The final dying sounds of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel Players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium. They hardly dared to breathe as the short, solemn figure of their director emerged from the naked seats to join them on stage, as he pulled a stepladder raspingly from the wings and climbed halfway up its rungs to turn and tell them, with several clearings of his throat, that they were a damed talented group of people and a wonderful group of people to work with.”
6. The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre – “The news hit the British High Commission in Nairobi at nine-thirty on a Monday morning. Sandy Woodrow took it like a bullet, jaw rigid, chest out, smack through his divided English heart. He was standing. That much he afterwards remembered.”