Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book report

Today I took back to the library a wonderful book I'd barely begun: Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. When I went to hear her talk at the library a few months ago, she said this is the most autobiographical of her books so far. So I got it out and started to read. She's a terrific writer, vivid and imaginative, and I marvelled as I read the few pages I read about the depth of her research, how she came to know all those arcane facts - the jargon of policemen in L.A., for example. And how richly she inhabits the inner lives of her characters.

But then I realized - I am just not interested in a fictionalization of her true life experience. In how a writer takes her own life and transforms it, weaves it fancifully into fiction. Life is too short; there isn't time for me to follow the made-up journey of her made-up characters, no matter how well they're written. I want to read the truth, written as the truth.

So I took it back and instead got out the two books the library was holding for me: All the single ladies, by Rebecca Traister, and So Sad Today, essays by Melissa Broder. I don't know if I'll finish these either, but they're my speed. My thing. A voice speaking directly to me, as herself, about her life and thoughts. If I don't finish these, and even if I do, I'll also finish The Hidden Life of Trees and wait for two more compilations of essays I've ordered from the library that are on their way - Upstream, by the wonderful Mary Oliver, and a Christmas book by Jeanette Winterson - plus the others below.

 TitlePositionPickup atExpiresStatus
Select All
300 reasons to love New York1 of 6Parliament Street1/12/2018Active
Frantumaglia : a writer's journey123 of 131Parliament Street1/12/2018Active
Hot milk46 of 74Parliament Street1/12/2018Active
The lonely city : adventures in the art of being alone85 of 121Parliament Street11/12/2018Active
Medical medium life-changing foods : save yourself and the ones you love with the hidden healing powers of fruits and vegetables58 of 63Parliament Street12/12/2018Active
Moonglow100 of 334Par

Treasure, no?

Spent my morning delving into my diaries for material for my own truth. As I've written before, it's a kind of horrifying gift to be able to hear and see your own very young self so clearly. When I was 16, I was raging because I hated how my father, whom I called Generalissimo, ordered me around and was condescending and authoritarian. And then I read how, at 24, I hate the director I'm working for because he orders me around and is condescending and authoritarian.

Could it be any clearer?

Very cold and icy here. Hunkering is called for, and hunkering I shall do. With books.

Doing the dishes two Christmasses ago:
P.S. I just opened today's mail, to find that one of my oldest friends, Patsy, just sent me an article from the Guardian, "Fiction v non: an English affliction?" - about how there is no division between fiction and non-fiction,  for example, in Bosnian. In German, book are classified according to style: literary work - belles lettres - and work to convey information, fact-based. 

Why does such an arbitrary division between true and imagined matter so much to me? I don't know. But I read once a non-fiction aficionado (say that quickly!) like myself diving into a novel, reading a line like, "Charles smiled to himself as he jogged down the road," and thinking, "No he didn't! There's no Charles, no smile, no road. You made that up." And that's how I feel about fiction. Though I know there's always an element of fiction in memoir. 

This is confusing. More wine is needed.

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