A book arrived in the mail yesterday from Amazon. Hardcopy book; real mail. I hope the texture, heft, and aroma of a book will never stop bringing my day to a halt so that I can imbibe the sumptiousness of a new one.
This one is an odd duck of a book. It is a reprint of a book from the late 20s, and it is a Mechanical Turk for plot construction.
I’ve always been skeptical about learn-to-write books and software. Maybe it’s the too-good-to-be-true sense I get for the effort of writing. Maybe it’s the instinctual knowledge that writing is a gifted art. But since I still struggle with unloosening that gift from the packaging and finding the batteries, I rubber-neck these types of books. I’m sure all these books have at least one morsel of value, but the good books are the ones which have more morsels than gristle. I’ve read a few of those.
I think this new book, Plotto by William Wallace Cook, out-gimmicks all the gimmick riddled how-to-write books. The intriguing part, the characteristic which brings the value, though is that it is the grandaddy of such books. It is the how-to-write book that this generation of books forgot existed. I’m looking forward to finding out how this genre read for our grandparents.
So far, it seems genuine and lacking of self-awareness. And complicated.
229 words on day 935
I went to the bookstore alone last night. Instead of lighting on the computer section first then gravitating inexorably to Science Fiction & Fantasy I figured out where the regular book are kept.
They call this section Fiction. In it the shopkeepers are allowed to mix Clive Cussler with John Steinbeck. Patricia Cornwell with Emily Bronte. And Stephen King with anyone else. Seems like they could easily split this large section into Fiction You Read in School and Fiction You Read at the Beach. They don’t.
Normally I scan the covers looking for dragons or swords or cityscapes or spaceships. Then I glance to the title and author to see if either sounds like a dumb name. In this sense, dumb is a little hard to quantify because some some names are dumb but don’t sound so it the right context. Other names don’t sound dumb right away, but still are. With genre fiction you can just about judge a book by it’s cover. The traditional alphabetizing by the author’s last name isn’t an encumbrance for finding what you like. Not so in the fiction section where Lewis Carrol the author of the first book I selected and Ernest Hemingway, the author of the second, are separated by two aisles of other folks and you struggle to remember what you were after by the time you’ve worked through all the Ds and Es and Fs and Gs.
There existed the off chance I’d buy Atlas Shrugged as well–I didn’t. By the time I got three more aisles over from Hemingway to Rand I’d forgotten I my intentions. The shock of seeing that phonebook like mass of pulp spine-faced next to it’s brother The Fountainhead almost kept me from sliding it out and looking for the price. Nearly thirty dollars for that book made it easy to gently wedge it back into the void. Some other budding hater of industry–or whatever it is Ayn Rand loathes (or does she love something? Is that it?)–can plop down her cash for that one. Me I’m scanning the Gutenberg Project later today. Or maybe Scribd.
So I’m going to ground. Retreating. Getting some lessons from the masters by reading in order to drive up the quality of writing around here. You know, now that four days of writing proves I’m back.
You may still suggest you favorite classic for me to read in the comments below or from yesterday, but I doubt I’ll get to it soon. I need to wrap on A Wizard of Earthsea then dig into all of Papa’s short stories while simultaneously reading Alice in Wonderland to my oldest daughter each day.
Wrote about nothing on Tuesday. Wrote about a camera on Wednesday. I predict third day slump.
Last night a friend encouraged me to read or possibly reread some of the classics. She suggested I sit with my oldest daughter and we read Alice in Wonderland together. I’ve never read this story. I’ve seen the Disney movie adaptation in full as a child–I think–and then again in parts and pieces while my kids watch it in pieces and parts on the DVD player in our living room. What I recall and what I’ve seen scare me two ways.
First, it raises an discomforting shiver up from my defenseless underarms like the threat of a tickle that quickly attacks my core. I shake it off of course–it’s just a movie–but the light ting of fear lingers.
Second, the story presented by Disney makes no sense. Disappearing cats, a deck of cards, and commands to drink or eat me? How could such nonsense flow sensibly if only I read the book?
Next up was some light brain candy for me: Atlas Shrugged. I gagged down most of The Fountainhead before I gave up on Rourke as some Bartlbyesqe prick come architect well before a plot of any kind emerged but not before I read more than half of the book. It’s been a while so I don’t recall the details, but ambling through life don’t a plot make. I’ll pick up Atlas–eventually–but I’m not expecting it to do much for me. Right now I don’t need books with a point.
Maybe I could fire up Hemingway, I hear he’s good. Please leave your classic recommendations in the comments below.