Veronique Darwin

Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

Virginia Woolf’s Exclamation Marks

In Book Club, Literature on August 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm

“In love!” she said

He was in love!

And there’s no flesh on his neck; his hands are red; and he’s six months older than I am!

“She is beneath this roof … She is beneath this roof!”

“Good morning to you, Clarissa!” said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children.”

The way she said “Here is my Elizabeth!” – that annoyed him. Why not “Here’s Elizabeth” simply? It was insincere.

He had escaped!

I haven’t felt so young in years!

“Well, and what’s happened to you?” “Millions of things!” he exclaimed.

But it was delicious to hear her say that – my dear Peter!

“How heavenly it is to see you again!” she exclaimed. He had his knife out. That’s so like him, she thought.

Mrs._Dalloway_cover(from en.wikipedia.org)

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Phoniness

In My Writing on July 7, 2013 at 11:24 am

It’s what makes The Catcher in the Rye so good: a teenager can so clearly see the inauthenticity in everyone around him. I realized today, when looking up the spelling, that phoniness is also a big part of my novel. Who are you if you’re born in a place you should not have been born? What if someone else made the mistake – how do you fix it?

I’m a phony when I go to a bar and I dance and my arms don’t know what to do. I’m a phony when I stand in front of a classroom and talk about historical events (or current ones!) I’m a phony when I put exclamation marks in my text messages and when I wear a small bikini on the beach and when I drive with my arm hanging out the window.

Phoniness is everything that feels wrong but you find yourself doing because we’re monkeys and we mimic. A good formula to stop being a phony is to close your eyes and start dancing.

My dad loves a quote by Thoreau:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

I like that. Your music could be so far away that you haven’t heard it yet, but somewhere out there it’s playing. Maybe you have to go back to where you came from or maybe you have to find the place where you are going, and it is there that the music will be playing.

walden-pond

(Photo of Walden Pond in the fall, taken from http://www.shutterfeet.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/walden-pond.jpg)

Take Me Out

In Literature, Thoughts on Writing on June 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm

I let books do partying for me. They teach me the ways of the young and the damned so I don’t have to get too close to real life. I love books for how they make me feel: wild, traumatised, lovely, like I just woke up and someone made me coffee. Words let me feel things that life doesn’t. I get something more from them, something sweeter and more personal. I let my books do my living for me.

When I think of all the books I haven’t read and want to read I begin to feel panicked but excited at the possibilities. I can imagine all the life I have yet to live in them. I focus on the books I have yet to read instead of the places I have yet to go or the people I have yet to meet. Books replace all the houses I won’t be able to afford and all the men I should have married but turned my back to. Books are easy – they can be put aside, bookmarked or given as a gift. Life doesn’t have a front and back cover.

book-9066

(photo from adoptanegotiator.org)

Now I get this one specific feeling from books that rarely comes in real life. The times I have felt it have been first dates, summer nights driving with windows open, and after a first beer at a bar with friends. It’s a distinct feeling of possibility. It smells like something; it makes me smile a certain way.

If you’ve never tried writing, then you don’t know that you get this same feeling when the words are coming together. You get it even when they’re not. And I realized lately what this feeling is. It’s the feeling of making something.

Making something is what is so valuable about reading instead of viewing stories on TV or in movies. When you read, you need to invent. You need to fill things in so you can see. Writing is then just a more advanced invention. There you start with nothing and you make everything. With reading you start with some things and you make more things (you can never make everything). Reading and writing and driving with windows open on summer nights are all about putting things in motion. You feel it in the tips of fingers that things are happening.

I ask books to do my living for me so I can learn to better live. I can live better if I remember that everything I am doing is a product of me doing it. I make things happen by rolling down the windows and picking up the pen. There is nothing happening unless I fill things in so I can see. I am reading and I am writing everywhere everyday. If I’m standing alone at a party it’s not because I’d rather be reading, it’s because I’m taking it all in, trying to make something of it.

The Shortest Story

In Literature, Thoughts on Writing on May 19, 2013 at 10:50 pm

It seems that if we all had the choice, we would choose to read the shortest story possible. We’re lazy and we’re losing our attention span on words. Fewer are better. If that short story has the same impact on us as the longest novel ever (Atlas Shrugged felt like it; I skipped a 100-page speech) then wouldn’t we always choose it?

I had a conversation with a friend last night who told me she only reads short stories. She reads one novel in the summer. I thought this odd, that one could like reading but simply ignore what I like to read. As I am easily influenced by others’ reading choices (the mark of all good readers, who want to be reading everything), I immediately started naming the merits of the short story in the face of the novel.

hemingway1

(Heminway, photo from reinhardkargl.com)

Short stories are never boring. They don’t have time to be. Short stories are always finishable in one sitting, giving them a mood that is influenced by the mood you come at them with. Short stories must have strong characters, and you must know only key things about that character. You are given room, then, to imagine and create from what is given, and the text must give you hints in order for you to do so. Most importantly, short stories are about moments. The more striking the moment, the more the story will stay with you. It’s hard for a novel to have a striking moment without it being cheesy, without it seeming too climactic and overbearing for the rest of the story. The novel is a story about time; the short story is about a moment.

When I read I want details. I want to feel them, not live through them. I’m living already – I want to feel.

Challenging the Challenge

In Book Club on July 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Noticing that the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is entirely American, and that I am not, I decided to challenge the challenge by also reading a Governor General Literary Prize winning book from each decade. I won’t read one for the 1920s because the award was first given out in 1936. Below is the list I will choose from. Once again, please give me any recommendations from any decade, and also any recommendations on Pulitzer books too.

The beauty is that I could one day be eligible for this one. The beauty is also that I can compare decades in America and Canada. The beauty is also Canada itself.

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

Dismissing the Adjectives

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on June 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I took out all the adjectives. No longer do my characters smile a certain way, or say something other than how they say it. When I find an adjective I think I need, I find a way of squishing it together with the noun that it modifies. I have created such hybrids as wiseman and redcar.

A book called The First Five Pages told me to do it. It’s on the list of bestsellers at Indigo, so I initially didn’t want to read it. I’m not going to be that person carrying around three copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. But I knew it was what I needed. I borrowed it from the library.


I’m near to being done my book. I need now to make my sentences flow so that agents will read it, so that I can read it. I need to start new paragraphs with tabs, and I need to get rid of fluff and other stuff. I was warned that rhymes in prose are the worst. I love it when I find one; it makes me feel that my writing is magical.

And then, of course, adjectives and adverbs must be removed.

“I heard a few small whines”? Really? How big can your whines really be, Gil?

“The first time I met Gil”? Oh yeah? Did you meet him a bunch of times?

Story telling became storytelling.

Lobster tail became lobstertail (I need to say whose tail).

And then I started changing other things too. Hey Mr. Lukeman, why do your interns have to be “angry” and “overworked” when they’re reading my manuscripts? Wouldn’t being overworked make them angry? And “the next five thousand manuscripts” – isn’t that a bit wordy, not to mention unrealistic? And an editorial assistant, couldn’t that just be an editorialassistant?

Red scrawls and editorial loops on more than just the First Five Pages of this book suggest that maybe I should have actually bought it… no, that I should have bought it.

Swedish Translation

In Literature, My Writing on May 24, 2012 at 12:22 am

“Du Fick Aldrig Veta” by Bruno K. Öijer

you may have never known

that when you left I sat still

by the print in the grass where you lay

I dragged my hand

over that pressed down grass and it was

as if I needed and took care of your absence more

than I needed and took care of you

it was as if nothing might have come back

if you returned

had you trespassed

you would have interrupted grief’s advance

and you may have never known how tender and strong I

spoke to your shadow in the grass

it was as if I already mourned you

as if I tried to accustom myself to

what awaits us all

and the price for a person’s insight

is a feeling of abandonment

which already from the start eliminated and destroyed the belief

of a lasting love

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