As a writer, one of the things it’s easy to do (at least for me) is to get caught up in reading everything I can in whatever genre I’m writing in. Working on crime? Read crime novels. Writing horror? Read horror. Fortunately, these are genres I happen to like anyway, so it’s not such a big deal, but I also really, really, REALLY like literary fiction. I like the character development that happens in a quiet novel. I like the subtleties of dialog and the lyricism of the prose. The problem is this: I tend to be heavily influenced by what I’m reading. If I read Stephen King, I sound like him. If I read Jane Austen, I sound like her, with lots of henceforths, and wherewithalls. I can’t blame readers for wondering, “who the hell does she think she is?” because I wonder it myself. I’m like a kid going to the south for the first time. I hear that soft southern accent and in no time, I sound just like a Georgia belle.
Take Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. An excellent novel. Sort of supernatural, sort of mysterious, sort of romantic. Definitely literary. Not my usual schtick. But damn, it’s good. It’s basically about a guy who wrecks his car and meets a woman he may have met in previous lives. Of course, it’s about a lot more than that, about self acceptance, love, devotion, being true to yourself, etc. But what I LOVE about it is the prose. Just how damn well it’s written.
Atonement by Ian McEwan is another one. I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t really feel the need, to be honest. The book is beautiful. Hard to read due to the content and the conflict, but beautiful.
I was reading this while I was working on a horror piece of sorts. At my writer’s group awhile back, I read the latest death scene. A man is accidentally shot. He falls to the ground. Rain has started falling, landing in the dirt and sending up little puffs of dust. The blood mixes with the rain and dust, eddying in swirling rivulets down a small incline. The man falls dead. It was very lyrical and dramatic and, for lack of a better work, hilarious. It got a few chuckles. “Wow, Jen, that’s really, poetic. There’s blood dripping in the dirt and somehow it’s beautiful, but not in a good way.”
Yeah, well, whatever, dammit.
So here’s the thing . . . I still want to read for pleasure. Right now I’m reading House of Leaves . . . and God help us all as I continue to write — who knows what will spill from my fingertips onto my keyboard. But I’m reading it. It’s a schizophrenic, basket case of brilliance and it is really, really heavy — as in it weighs a lot size-wise– so I only read a few pages at a time and you lose something in e-format with a book like this– if you don’t believe me, read it.
OMG! See? I’m doing it now. I’m flaking out. I’m House of Leaving all over you. If only this were in typewriter font – – Pica 10 spaces – – then you’d see.
And with that, I will House of Leave you. Because there’s really nothing more I can say. I gotta see a man about a book.
Until next time, I will continue to read for pleasure. I will continue to battle my mimicry. The ideas are my own even if I sound like the Monkeys did when they first came along like a side-step rendition of The Beatles . . . hey, I like the Monkeys, so back off if you find my statement offensive.
I gotta go.