Writing for me forces a constant struggle between a kind of “in the beginning” kitchen-sink narrative and surface banality. Striking that natural balance that reveals who I am without sounding pompous and/or pretentious is a tightrope where I always find myself tripping.Reading Bill Bryson, Erasmus, Voltaire or even my beloved Mark Twain — I glimpse them through their prose. Bloggers such as Bev, Harry and Jessica are having a conversation with their readers — one in which I get to join. For me, that’s a goal — how to encourage my writing to be more accessible and let myself peel back the self-protection.Like the old saw by the much lamented Southern troubadour, Lewis Grizzard, “nude is to be without clothing, while ‘nekkid’ is without clothing and up to something.” I want to write openly enough so that the reader finds themselves sitting around later wondering what I was up to — and then asks! Two books that do this incredibly well (and fit into this arbitrary framework) are Irene Nemirovsky’s “Suite Francaise,” and “Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War” by Nicholas Lemann. While “Suite” is historical fiction and “Redemption” is non-fiction, each stays with you and twists itself into those other experiences that shape how you think, question and understand. They are the dearest sort of ‘nekkid’ arousing brain and heart!Music that reveals itself: Neville Brothers, Natalie Merchant (at her best, not trying too hard), Nancy Wilson, Neko Case, and None of the Above (a bluegrass band from NC). “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” –> Anais Nin Take care,Aly
What in the heck are you getting at?
I like that nude/nekkid quote. When I write CNF, I strive to find the events/actions that vex and/or pain me the most and write as rawly as I can about them. Pretty, it ain’t, but it’s good for my integrity as a writer. Could I use more slashes in one comment/response????
Harry, reading your blog is like talking to you — I can hear your voice come through the computer all growly and earnest — that’s a good thing (or maybe just something I need to see a doctor about)!
Think about it — when you read Shelby Foote, you hear that drawl leap off the page through the way he phrases his prose. It makes it a more intimate experience.
But great writers can do that even if you don’t know them/haven’t heard them. Irene Nemirovsky, noted above, was killed by the Nazis in WWII — but she’s talking to the reader in her final novel. The venality, the fear, the small moments of love and joy are raw on the pages.
If I can do that, even a little, then my writing works.
I like slashes, em dashes even more. Chris is always x-ing them out of my writing!
Tonight, I’m kicking back with a limoncello and randomly squashing the 6 girls downstairs drooling over a Jonas Brothers DVD (Abby’s birthday slumber party).
You’re right though, the more raw the experience the better the output. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to translate that to history. I love my little old men (what the girls call the veterans I’m writing about) — but pushing past the archival barrier to make it more flesh & blood sometimes feels Mt. Everest-ish.
Yet, I keep plugging!
I had to ask. Well, I didn’t HAVE to ask, but you said you wanted us to ask.
“Growly and earnest”! So what, I’m Nick Nolte now?
Yes, your “voice” comes through in what you write. Kinda like Brenda on “The Closer”: I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop! Kidding…mostly.
I like dashes, colons and parentheses – but I prefer dashes when I want to emphasize. Have you read “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”? Fun with punctuation.
Keep up the good work.