Veronique Darwin

Thoughtless Book Reviews #3

In Book Club, Literature on July 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm

This is my third in a series of book reviews I’ve written into a Moleskine notebook and feel I should share with you because of their concise honesty, scrawled as I was falling asleep or years later after having realized I never wrote a review.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

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One of those books where you don’t really know what it’s about until the very last page. You are just led to believe it’s bad and somehow it turns out to be bad enough to fulfill all the bad ideas you thought up.

The Little Washer of Sorrows by Katherine Fawcett

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Surprisingly good surprising stories about both supernatural and normal things. They never get too deep or tragic or gross or long but are always a good combination of those things and FUNNY!

Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood

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I thought about a lot while reading this book, but was rarely moved by the book itself. I wonder if it’s because my mind is different from Margaret Atwood’s?

The Pleasure of Reading by Antonia Fraser

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This is a book of essays I haven’t gotten to yet but love to look at on the shelf.

Dead Girls by Nancy Lee

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So gross! Put down the book and swore to petition against reading it at three separate points. Sexually gross, murdery gross. Okay – this was obviously the intended effect, but I fell for it.

The Riders by Tim Winton

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Ghosty, shadowy soap opera written by a man. No real payoff but lots of lead up. Leaves you asking the question, “Why’s that lady such a jerk?” and also, “Why does that nice man with the hard face like her so much?”

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

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This book follows the style I love from The Flying Troutmans: humour in the face of everything sad and tragic. I love that the book never slows, never lies, never breaks character or style. I love that everyone is witty, and that people speaking in their second language are so loveable. Irma is the ubiquitous Toews character, like Hemingway.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

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The language pulls me in like no other book. I love it not really because of its story but its writing and its moments.

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

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I liked it but didn’t always connect with it. My dad did and this is his favourite book, so that’s how humour works.

Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook

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I had no idea that I could like biographies, especially when I hadn’t read any Anne Sexton but I read it like a novel and that worked. A life is a story.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

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This book was SO LONG but I continued reading it because of a feeling it gave me: boredom, but also some form of being haunted, like if I stopped reading it the book would follow me home. Somehow this book surprised me on like, page 800, but maybe it was because I hadn’t been paying attention.

Photos from: theneuroticblonde.wordpress.comwww.npr.orgwww.goodreads.com

www.abebooks.co.ukwww.amazon.cawww.kirkusreviews.comwww.cbc.capicklemethis.com

www.amazon.cawww.goodreads.comthewritesofwoman.wordpress.com

Writing Through The Detail

In Language, Thoughts on Writing on June 22, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Not with the detail, or by the detail, but through the detail, as though the detail is the target and the tree on which it stands the thing you are describing.

Don’t write about her honey hair or the way the sunlight hit it. Write instead the ant who climbed up the yolk, the scarecrow wig. That way they’ll see the woman standing there in the fading summer light.

Don’t write about the boy who held his hands to the waist of his pants, about his pee dance — don’t even describe the shuffling feet! Write instead the sounds of compression you hear reverberating in the back of his larynx, the uneasiness of the couch cushion under his bottom.

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Don’t even let them know what you’re describing! Just do the detail thing and they’ll see and hear the world that, even though you haven’t lived in, you’ve made up with words, which is better. You’re passing on that world to them, so you better do it in juicy words and turns of phrases that will make it worth their money. Why say someone is dancing when you can describe the way they move the air? Why tell the reader that someone is talking if you can move their mouth and make the sounds? It’s through detail that you realize that you are the boss of a world and the detail your servant.

Write as though no one is watching, and then make them watch. Make them live through every little gasp or sigh or release of breath, but don’t use those words. Be like Karl Ove, who can make you do dishes for dozens of pages without realizing you are learning nothing, that you hate doing dishes, because you’re so present in the moment that doing dishes is simply what you have to do, as a part of this new life you’ve found yourself in inside of a book.

I’m trying to revisit my novel but it is so painful to see someone who was trying to tell a story. Just give up on the story and realize that life wouldn’t exist if you didn’t take a shit every morning, and that even though high literary art is not there yet, it’s on its way.

Accidentally Writing Songs

In Inspiration, My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on May 11, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Writing songs is a very easy process if you don’t know what songs should sound like, which is where I feel I am at in my musical journey. I listen to songs, and I like them, but do I really know what a chord is? A key? I wrote a song a few weekends ago for a songwriting workshop I casually took, no big deal, and they asked me what artist I pictured would sing that song. I still don’t know. I can’t figure it out because the song doesn’t actually seem like a real song.

Wondering if a song I wrote is really a song is the same issue I ran into when I started writing short stories: does what I just did count? It wasn’t until a few stories in that I noticed that it did, not because I read a book about the short story structure or because I analyzed anything, but because I knew innately from reading them what a short story feels like. What I’d written felt like a story, and whether it stood up or not in terms of language and structure and characters didn’t matter. Having gone through the process of writing and enjoying writing a story was enough to let me sleep at night. Even if the feeling wasn’t there, I would probably still have slept at night, though.

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Isn’t that the first step, really, to writing a song? Making sure the song is a song? I don’t mean it needs to have a bridge, or rhyme, but just that it is musical in some way that is familiar, just that it has some sort of art to it. And I can’t expect it to be any good, but if it feels creative and expressive and I had fun and surprise doing it, then that is enough for me right now in my writing. I love writing a sentence in a story that I don’t recognize. And when I sing something and play on my ukulele a series of chords that goes with that thing I just sang, that feels insanely creative and out of the limits of what I thought I could do. So that is a song. That is creativity expressed in music.

When the songwriting class asked who it was that I pictured singing the song I’d written, I really wanted to say Taylor Swift. Or I kind of wanted to have written an indie ballad or one of those build-up songs that gets louder as it goes. But I hadn’t written anything like that. I’d written a hokey song about crabs. Then I wanted to tell the group that I pictured myself singing the song, but not in public, because this is the first song I’ve ever written, so no one – not any artist alive, even myself – should be forced to sing this song, not even in the recesses of my mind. Then I sang it to them, in public, and I realized that answer was okay. I couldn’t picture a musical artist singing it because it was very much my song, a song I needed to write and sing. And I wondered how that could possibly be, that I could have just written a song that felt like me. And though I don’t really know the answer, I’m going to keep asking it, and by doing so, I’m going to keep sleeping at night.

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