Do you ever stop reading and start to write? I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections trying to stretch my writing--attempting to see what’s new or different out there. Short stories are quicker to read than novels and the writing is often more telling in short form than long.
More telling: Tom Perrotta talks about point of view is switched through many of the short stories in the preface to the 2012 edition of The Best American Short Stories – and how this was radical 20 years ago and more going back— and isn’t anymore. Big check off for me because I like to switch point of views a lot in longer pieces (see LIE, my debut novel-10 points of view) but didn’t do it in the past, wasn’t it against some rule somewhere? But now I’ve tried it in some new pieces – and it doesn’t hurt at all.
Not new, uneven, but often exhilarating exploration of character: The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith. Outstanding stories include: “Gideon” by ZZ Packer, heart-breaking, about a black-white romance, and the hilarious stream-of-conscious ranting of Jewish grandmother to her grandson in “Rhoda” by Jonathan Safran Foer to the story I can’t shake from me: “Puppy” by George Saunders with its two different points of views – two women at different ends of the economic divide and a disturbed boy chained to a tree and a puppy.
I’ll admit it. I can’t stop reading. I read to write. I am a hard-core reader.
Next story collection: Married Love, by Tessa Hadley. What she says in the afterward resonated with this reader-writer: “I used to be nervous if I didn’t ‘know enough.’ Now I trust, up to a point, that the best part of “knowing” is imagining. If you can imagine it, then you’ll probably be able to write it.”
So here a few of my writing thoughts… notes… from reading these short story collections..,
1) the rule is there are no rules
2) we all want something new
3) even with no rules, wanting something new, we still want what we’ve always wanted: story, a way into other people’s lives because we can’t stand our own or a way into our lives to understand anything at all.
4) At the end of day it’s you knowing that you can trust yourself to
imagine and write.
More thoughts on reading-writing out there?