Books that Inspire

I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I find myself wishing that I had read it as a child–not because it’s written for children (I don’t know if it was) or because I would have enjoyed it more then than I am right now. I wish I had read it when I was younger because it is so well-written and such a wonderful tale that I know it would have been one of those books that I read over and over, one of those that inspired me as a writer.

As I read I’m comparing the book to the movie that came out a few years ago, and I am surprised at the amount of differences in just the first third of the book. This is definitely a case of the book and movie being almost entirely separate stories (I mean, in the movie, Yvaine never says “fuck”). So, although I have some idea of how the story goes, there are enough differences that I get to have that feeling of wanting to know what will happen next.

I would say the story has many typical elements of fairy tales and the fantasy genre (that is, before urban fantasy became popular). The details, though, are unique enough that I don’t feel like I’ve read the same story a thousand times. Since every basic story has been told already, as they say, it’s all in the way the story is told, and this one is told brilliantly. The way that details are revealed allows for just the right amount of suspense, in my opinion. I have a somewhat low suspense threshold and when it’s crossed, I get bored, so I’m happy with just enough to keep it interesting. And the language, oh my. It’s not news that Neil Gaiman is an excellent writer, but there is something about this book in particular… the quality of the writing fits so well with the setting of the Faerie world. In my opinion it’s quite ethereal, a little surreal, but not insubstantial or unbelievable in any way. Maybe I would still believe in Faerie if I had read this book when I was younger.

Last night I was reading this instead of going to sleep and I was reminded in a way that rarely happens these days that I am supposed to be writing. Of all the other interests I have cultivated, nothing makes me feel as satisfied as writing, and there is no other medium through which I can express myself so well. If I didn’t have bills and student loans and all that to worry about, I would just write full time starting NOW.

Advertisements

Currently Reading: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Although I enjoyed Pale Fire as a unique and well-structured book, I’m enjoying this one much more. It’s just easier to get into, in the sense of both the story and the philosophy. So far, this is my favorite quote:

 

“We all reject out of hand the idea that the love of our life may be something light or weightless: we presume our love is what must be, that without it our life would no longer be the same.”

This quote appears in a passage that talks about the chance circumstances that brought the two main characters together: The idea being that if the love of two people is what must be, then no matter what they do, they will end up together – but this is the way people want to believe it is, instead of the way it really is. Think about that…

Currently Reading: Pale Fire

I am in the middle of a very interesting book by Vladimir Nabokov. I am a little bit annoyed with myself because, for the past few days, I’ve been watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory online instead of using most of my time to read and write, which had been my intention before finding all the tv show links. However… what can you do?

 

At the moment, in lieu of actually reading, I am writing this post – but I’ve been putting that off for at least a day and a half. I think that means I’m ceasing to procrastinate in one regard in order to procrastinate on something else. As long as I’m procrastinating somehow, it’s okay. Can you imagine if I just had everything done? Of course, that isn’t possible, because new ideas for writing come to me frequently. Some will never turn into a piece that was written down, but I the point is that I always have something else to create. Which means I’ll never be finished. It’s lucky, though, in one sense – since I intend to write for my whole life, I never have to worry about retirement!

But I am digressing most flagrantly. This post is meant to put down some of my thoughts on Pale Fire. I will now move on to my original purpose…

If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it is a story written in this form: a poem by John Shade, with an introduction and commentary on particular lines by Charles Kinbote. Let me make this absolutely clear: The entire book, introduction through commentary, and I believe all the way through the index, is Nabokov’s novel. John Shade is a character, and Kinbote is a character. Kinbote is the protagonist. The annoying, ridiculous protagonist.

The commentary is amusing because of its somewhat unpredictable inconsistency. A few of the notes do seem to be attempts to elucidate the meaning of the poem, while others, apparently, are platforms for free association. In my reading, it seems that the notes that go on for pages about the King of Zembla is Kinbote’s own writing, which he has decided should be published and therefore sticks in the commentary anywhere he can.

The most interesting thing about it, I think, is the presence of at least three stories. One story is told by the poem, and gives us a sometimes hazy picture. It is Shade’s voice, and the only chance we have to see Shade from any POV other than Kinbote’s. Then there is the story Kinbote tells, centering on his friendship with Shade – which to me seems overstated, wishful. He writes as if he believes that Shade loves him, a man he only knew in the last year(s?) of his life, and his wife, Sybil, controls him like a captive lapdog.

The third story is about the history of Zembla, particularly the one king who ran away and was then hunted by a man who was supposed to kill him. It clearly has nothing to do with the poem, but Kinbote’s notes make it apparent that he thinks his stories about Zembla were the intended subject of the poem. The poem, in fact, was an autobiographical work from Shade -unlikely to connect to Zemblan kings in any way- and the biggest clue that Charles Kinbote is, to some degree, deluded.

I do recommend this book, but not to everyone. I don’t think it would appeal to general taste. If you decide to read it, I would suggest this: don’t read it as Kinbote suggests at the end of his introduction. Just read the poem, and then the commentary, referring to the poem only when you decide you want a refresher on what that particular line actually said.

What a Nightmare!

I dreamed that a number of my friends/roommates were talking about my writing while I was sitting in the room, listening uncomfortable. They were very negatively critical of things, didn’t have anything good to say at all, and didn’t seem to be aware that I was the person responsible for this terrible writing. I thought to myself “I hope they don’t find out I wrote that.” It was a very uncomfortable dream. For a writer, it’s a nightmare. A very dull, subtle nightmare.

 

In other news, I finished reading Life of Pi. I’m not going to write a review, like I planned. There’s a lot that could be said about it, but it didn’t evoke a very strong reaction, aside from the completely adorable swarm of meerkats, and as it would be entirely for fun, I only want to review books that excite me. Logically, it might be a better idea to review something about which i can think detachedly and academically, but that doesn’t sound very interesting. The thing I most want to relate to other readers was that I never felt like I connected to the book. The writing style was not complex or overdone, making it a quick read, and there were a number of lovely passages and interesting anecdotes to be taken from the book, but on the whole I was less impressed than I expected to be. (That is not to say that someone else, who is not me, would not consider this the best book they’ve ever read. It won prizes, after all. It just isn’t for me.)

In the near future I will be reading Pale Fire by Nabokov, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Possibly at the same time – it depends if I become very absorbed in the first one I start. Following this I plan to read Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello, although that depends on how long the other two take me – I might squeeze another book in before the Coelho. I’m not sure what good it’s doing me, really, all this reading, but as they/I say, a good writer (or a dedicated writer) should read a lot throughout his/her life. I feel very literary.

 

I’ve changed the title for an older post, and I like this title much better. Have a look —->

 

(And in other other news, I’m still unemployed. See title of post…)