Barbara Kingsolver, books, Colorado, Columbus Ohio, family, Kent Haruf, libraries, mysteries, reading, Writing
I’m trying to kick my addiction to mysteries. I’ve enjoyed the run but I think it’s time to go back to “better literature.” After all, the writing of Annie’s Odyssey (at least this version) is complete so I don’t have to concern myself with adopting someone else’s style in my own writing. (Not that that would have happened but it was a good excuse). No, it is definitely time to face my literary laziness. It was my intelligent, funny, well-read, Colorado-born sister-in-law, Carole, who finally got me out of the who-done-its and back to the fiction section of the library.
It all started with an innocent question: “What are you reading, Annie?” She and I had exchanged book lists over the years so it wasn’t an unexpected question.
“Mostly mysteries,” I mumbled in answer.
Her reaction startled me — it was instant and forceful. “What? What?” I sensed disappointment in her voice. “We have to break you of this — NOW.” It felt like an intervention was about to begin. I wanted to say to her that mysteries really were not the crack cocaine of reading material. (And, if she had been followng my blog, she’d have known how the addiction started and why it persisted.) And, truth be told, I had in fact mixed my cloak-and-dagger words with other books. Hadn’t I struggled my way through Barbara Kingsolver’s, Lacuna? Even after I had thrown it across the room in frustration of what I perceived as yet another gimmicky writing trick — I still read to the end. And … and there were others. At least one of those If-You-Love-Downton-Abbey-You’ll-Love this. (I do — but I didn’t.)
But, to be honest, to the few non-mysteries I had read there were ten mysteries on my library card. I didn’t tell Carole that. Instead, I asked for her recommendations. With a certain territorial pride, she gave me fellow-Coloradian, Kent Haruf’s, Plainsong. It was waiting for me at the library when I got back from Columbus. Perfect timing.
When you move out of one genre that has been your companion for — well, let’s just say a “good-long-while” — and into another, it takes a few pages to translate the rhythm of the writing to one that you understand. I started. “It’s awfully slow,” I thought. Read on. You have to at least tell Carole that you got through the first 50 pages. A day-and-a-half later I had finished. I was massaged with good characters, words, story — everything. It was good.
I even had Nozomi, the sweet, Japanese guy I’m helping with English, read a few pages. He got it, too. And, believe me, I wouldn’t have given him Mew is For Murder as an example of the kind of book this writer/tutor/friend was reading. He might never pick up Annie’s Odyssey or anything else I write.
I won’t say I have given up mysteries totally — after all, there may still be a few Inspector Lynley’s out there and how could I leave them unread?
Bill Faiella said:
I can see why the good dominican nun encouraged you to write.