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Archive for the ‘Kaye Gibbons’ Category

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This has been a week for socializing more than reading, which has been a lot of fun. I’m about 75% introvert, but that other 25% really loves to get together with like-minded people…often other writers! I’ve had out-of-town writer buddies stopping by (something about Florida’s balmy temps while their hometowns are still getting snow flurries, perhaps?), and so I’ve been lunching, brunching, coffee-ing and dinnering like a fiend. I’ve loved every minute.

However, even during weeks like this, I read a little. I couldn’t get to sleep without reading at least a few pages of something wonderful. Here’s what I played with this week:

STUMBLED ONTO AND BREEZED THROUGH, UNEXPECTEDLY: ELLEN FOSTER, by Kaye Gibbons. I hadn’t ever heard of this little gem, though apparently it’s one of the Oprah Book Club picks. I saw it at the library, and for some reason I can’t explain, it called to me. It came out in 1987, so it’s not new, and it’s not exactly a happy read, but I loved it. The story is told by an eleven-year-old girl named Ellen Foster, and it could all by itself provide the basis for a master class in the art of voice. She’s brave, unsentimental, and unique. I won’t forget her soon.

books reading wolf gibbonsGOT SIDETRACKED BY: THE KANDY-COLORED TANGERINE-FLAKE STREAMLINE BABY, by Tom Wolfe. I wasn’t anywhere nearly cool enough to read Wolfe when I was younger, but isn’t it weird how your tastes can evolve? Because I’m excited about the upcoming HBO movie about Phil Spector, I decided to read Wolfe’s essay, “The First Tycoon of Teen,” written about Spector when he was only 23. All I can say is…wow. Strange, brilliant, stylish. Now I have to read the rest! This, too, could form a master class in writing. Except I’d want to title that class, “Great Stuff You Could Do With Style if You Were A Genius, Which You Aren’t.” Or…”Don’t Try This At Home.” 🙂

FINALLY GETTING INTO: GARDEN SPELLS, by Sarah Addison Allen. I’m probably not past page twenty, but I love it already. I understand not everyone likes magical realism (where trees throw apples over fences, and neighbors know you’ll need a breath mint long before the hunky neighbor unexpectedly drops by), but I really do.

It’s tricky, isn’t it, this matter of personal taste? So inexplicable, and yet so powerful. Take the one single issue of “paranormal,” for instance. I’m fine with it. Unless I’m not. I love Sookie Stackhouse, for instance, but was lukewarm about Jim Butcher, who is obviously brilliant. Why? I can’t put my finger on it…so how on earth is a writer to know what will work?

I even have “hot” words…words that, if I read them on the jacket blurbs, will make me put the book down like a hot potato. Some of the hot words, for me, are “espionage,” “arms dealer,” “Vietnam,” and “Mafia.” Okay, you might think, she’s just a sheltered little priss who doesn’t like disturbing topics. 🙂 And that’s not entirely untrue. But then how do you account for some of my weirder “tingle” words, the words that, if I read them on jacket blurbs, will make me hug the book and squee? “Tingle” words include “plague,” “psychopath,” “Bedlam,” and “Civil War.” If I get “hypnotically enigmatic” and “hauntingly evocative” in the same blurb, I might as well kiss my money goodbye.

And then there are the abrupt about-faces I can do if the writer somehow transcends his “hot” word. I tend to avoid “religion,” AND “1930s,” and yet I was obsessed with Susan Howatch’s series about British clergymen in the 1930s. Sometimes it even goes the other way around–I’m a fanatic about anything Tudor, and yet, in spite of a dozen enthusiastic recommendations, I can’t bring myself to read WOLF HALL.

So…what’s a writer to do? I guess the moral of the story is you have to write what you like, because, in the end, there is positively no guarantee of pleasing anyone else.

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