Summer Reading About Some’s Writing

If I was going to pop open a bottle of the bubbly to celebrate, it would have to be a small one. Very small. Because it was hardly like Pete Alonso winning baseball’s home run derby yesterday or being awarded a platinum record. But it was something. For the first time in two years or more, one of my e-books sold today. I’d almost forgotten I had them available on a website, it had been so long.

Tiny as a victory it was, it made me feel good. Largely because I know something I wrote connected somehow to someone else, which is really the ultimate reason to be partaking in the usually solitary task of writing anyway. It also reminded me earlier this year, I’d mentioned I’d been trying to read a bit more, so I thought I’d give you an update on a couple of the books I finished recently. Both tie into that last thought directly.

One was The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates. She classifies it as a “memoir”, and describes within her book the difference (as she sees it) between a “memoir” and an autobiography. the former is more selective and focused, the bio more all-encompassing apparently.

I must admit, I had never read any of her work before. I knew of her, but had little idea what it was she wrote to become so popular. I grabbed the book when I saw it at a dollar store, it catching my attention because A) I knew she was a respected writer and I find it interesting to see the insight those types have and what drives them, and B) flipping through it, I noticed she grew up in western New York and mentioned a lot of names of towns I heard growing up just across the border in Canada. Turns out she even lived a decade on my side of the border, “ten years in exile in Ontario – a fruitful and altogether wonderful decade” as she describes it, but one in which she was still aware she was an outsider. Worse yet, one driven there mostly because her old home – at that point Detroit during the race riots – had become too perilous to stay in. It spoke to me as a Canadian who’s spent time on both sides of Niagara Falls.

She had some interesting reminiscences of the ’50s and ’60s and the changing landscape, which applied as much to southern Canada of the ’60s and ’70s, from the role boxing played in male culture in times of yore to the farmland being turned into strip malls and subdivisions. As well, her insight into how events in her life shaped ideas in her fiction resonated with me. So, all in all it was a useful and enjoyable read and one which just might make me pick up some more of hers. Even though it was on the discount rack and thereby didn’t make her a whole lot wealthier, hopefully she too has the appreciation of writing something that makes a connection with someone else.

The other similar book I just finished is On Writing by Stephen King. While known for his horror, King has a way with words and can write quite a range of things, including this non-fiction. Part auto-biography, part college-level writing course, King looks back at his life and his path into writing, his near-death experience being hit by a truck while out walking in 1999 but also devotes a good part of the book on his advice for aspiring writers and how they can write more effectively. An odd mix perhaps, but very readable and itneresting.

I went through a phase, when I was young-ish and working night shifts, where I read a lot of his novels. It, Salem’s Lot, Pet Semetary, The Body… you name it. I probably went through ten of his books in the two years I was up all night. I grew tired of the gore and began to find bits a little repetitive in terms of dialog and so on, but I always admired his way with words. He’s a talented writer who has great attention for detail and can spin a yarn that keeps you turning pages. So his advice carries weight as well.

Perhaps the things which spoke to me the most in his story was his willingness to keep believing and keep putting words to page even when times were tough and he was an unknown and to tell the story as it should be told. The biggest quagmire a writer can get bogged down in is worrying about what others might think. As he points out, there will always be someone who objects to something and if you try to self-edit to placate all of them, you’re never going to finish a page, let alone a book. Good advice and in my own experience, the biggest hurdle to jump on the road to putting out a good story.

So halfway through 2019, I’m also about halfway to my reading goal for the year. And, soon will have some news about adding something to the possilbe reading lists of lovers of romance and comedy…

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