The Strumpet Rediscovers An Author

Elizabeth Hand is a wonderful author, her prose other-worldly and lush.  Elizabeth Hand uses the word crepuscular.

I love the word crepuscular.

I actually associate the word with her, because I’m quite sure I first read it in one of her books.  It’s the kind of word she uses a lot, with great authority.  And great verve.

(For those of you, who, like me, were not intimately familiar with the word at first glance, here’s the definition: of, relating to, or resembling twilight.  Now isn’t crepuscular a much more interesting word than twilight?)

She also uses words like moleskin and knickers and peignoir.  And paroquet (which I have to go look up) and verdigrised, and even if I don’t know what they mean, I still love the look of them on the page, and the sound of them even better.

I was a huge Elizabeth Hand fan a few years ago, after reading Waking the Moon and Glimmering, but then I lost sight of her.  In truth, I forgot about her books, and I’m not sure why.  So I am very grateful to the cool site I found that reintroduced me to her.  Its called the Great American Book Giveaway and you can check it out here.

Every week you can enter to win one of five featured books.  Even if you don’t win, you get introduced to great titles you might not otherwise find.  Cool, huh?

This is where I was spied Hand’s latest title, Generation Loss, which is not quite released yet.  I have a hold on it at the library, and meanwhile I am reading her novel, Mortal Love.  It’s in this book that I read the following description of an American visiting London that blew me away:   

"The dandyish, souk-colored clothes suited him: not world-weary journalist but knight errant, wide-eyed, slightly stupefied in the dazzling sunlight of an older world."

Slightly stupefied in the dazzling sunlight of an older world.  Damn, I wish I’d written that. 

The Road

Oprah chose Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, for her next book club selection.  And, she succeeded in convincing McCarthy to give her an interview–his second in 40 years.

I’m kinda a big fan of both–though I’m more a fan of McCarthy in theory than in reality because I can’t stand to read his books.  Lewis is a huge fan of McCarthy, no surprise, as Lewis is a guy stuff kinda guy and so is McCarthy.  To put it mildly.  I bought Lewis The Road for his birthday and he read it in one sitting and then thrust it at me and said I had to read it.  I tried.  Really, I did.  I’ve read one other McCarthy novel, at the behest of my first MFA mentor, Melissa Pritchard, which was All the Pretty Horses.  I am an admirer of McCarthy’s terse, smooth prose and he probably is one of the best, if not the best writer alive today.

But.

I can’t stand the violence in his novels.  The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and his son traveling through a ruined landscape.  At the time I tried to read it, the US was having one of its periodic blustering showdowns with North Korea.  Couldn’t stomach the novel.  I can’t read McCarthy for the same reason I don’t watch war movies–I just choose not to take those kinds of imagery and ideas inside me.

I know that’s very woo-woo and New Agey, but there it is.   

Since I can’t write an honest review of The Road, not having read it all, I will instead share my Oprah theory with you.  I call it, originally enough, the Oprah Effect. 

Its like in the Langston Hughes poem, I, Too, Sing, America, when he says: They send me to eat in the kitchen/When company comes/But I laugh/And eat well/And grow strong.

People belittle Oprah’s minions, but we minions ignore the naysayers, and watch her show ,or in my case, since I always forget to watch TV, read her magazine.  And we grow strong. 

The Hughes poem continues: Tomorrow/I’ll be at the table/When company comes/Nobody’ll dare say to me/Eat in the kitchen/Then.

One day we minions (mostly women, I have to add) will quietly take over the world, just as we have quietly turned on her show every day or read her magazine every month.   We’ll be eating at the table when company comes.

The world will then be a place of peace and beauty, where everyone gets to shop at VERY expensive shops and everyone’s house is decorated by clones of Nate or whatever his name is, and everyone is fit, both mentally and physically.  Most important, everyone will understand that we make our own lives.  Period.

It’s gonna be awesome.  Trust me. 

Beginnings

My friend Sue (one of my Nashville peeps) and I have both recently started re-writing our novels.  Today she emailed me and asked what I knew about first chapters.   I told her one thing I know about first chapters is that they are hard–hard because a first chapter is the foundation for everything that is to follow.

First paragraphs in articles are hard, too.  Usually (okay, always) I must have my first paragraph set before the rest of an article will flow, and its for the same reason–all the words that follow depend on  the firm foundation of the first paragraph.

So, too, with first entries in a blog, like this one. It logically (though logic is not my strong suit, despite my love of Sudoku) follows that the premiere post should be a strong basis for all the missives to come.  It should delineate the themes of the blog, be witty and erudite, and make people want to keep coming back for more. Which makes it really hard, just like writing the first chapter of a novel.  The difference being that by the time a novel gets published, that first chapter will have been rewritten a gazillion times, and the essence of a blog is daily communication. So, to heck with it.  I’ll forget about strong foundations and all that and just dive right in.

After all, one of my fondly held beliefs is that process is more important than product, at least while one is the middle of the process of creating a product.  Its so easy to get caught up in thoughts of the product–does it sound right? will people like it? is it good?–that it can paralyze you while you are trying to be engrossed in the process.  And conversely, there’s nothing better in the whole world than those times when you are so caught up in the writing process that two hours pass like two minutes. 

This blog will focus on process, and words, and how to produce a lot of them, and a whole lot more.  After all, the word strumpet means prostitute and the word prostitute means, according to Webster’s, a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, especially for money.  As a word strumpet, I engage in promiscuous writing activity, especially, but certainly not solely, for money. Strumpet that I am, I can’t get enough of words, can’t get enough of writing. 

Hence, the blog, which will not only serve as a forum to produce more words but hopefully provoke comment.  Because another one of my firmly held beliefs is that writing is communication, and communication is a loop.  If any part of the loop is broken, something is missing, which is why writers whine a lot about how hard it is to get published.    So I am casting my words into the circle and you can keep the circle unbroken by writing back with comments.

Until then, as always, I’ll just be here writing.