Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

It has come. The Book 100.

The Book 100 is Heather Sellers' brilliant idea of reading 100 books that are similiar to the book you would like to write. And you dissect them and put down your findings on a notecard, one for each book. You pick apart the greats and see what makes them tick. And the not so greats as well because those are fine teachers on what works and what sure as hell doesn't.

You start by writing down 100 books to read. I think I'm around the forty count- it isn't so easy. But that's no matter because you'll take things off and put things on. I don't think Sellers believes in reading tons of classics, mostly moderns. That's just too bad. Maybe I'm (once again) setting my bar way too high but there are so many older books I want to read, why not pick them apart and see what I can use for emulation?

I decided to kick off Book 100 with Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant. Lady Susan by Austen has joined in too. What do I have to say from my current dissection of Miss M.? That adjectives when piled three deep on any one noun leave little to the imagination. And also people interrupting other people's visits is as good a device as any to hurry the plot along. I wish I could say more. I'm sure there must be more, I just can't perceive it. The book was initially a magazine serial so that might have something to do with the lacking of "finds."

As for Lady Susan…there's no details about life only thrilling gossip and plot. I really enjoy reading great authors' early works because you see what they had to work hard on and how they managed to work around things they had little talent in. Lady Susan is a perfect illustration of this. It's a story written in correspondance form, a form that Austen doesn't shine in (as in later works) and while it was a popular narrative form in her day, she dropped it. Those are things that I, as a embryo writer, am currently wrestling with. Which narration form best suits me? How much detail is good detail? But that as Stephen King notes is something you figure out by writing tons.

The Book 100, I Salute You.

 

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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.