Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Morning Page: Writing it Out ~ Books

There is a nervous buzz of energy and at the same time there is an excited, eager energy waiting to see what I decide. Don’t stop. Don’t look at the words on the page. Let them out of their own accord. Look away. Tap away. Type it out.

I don’t know why there is hesitation at taking a short story writing course in the Fall. I think there will be room, but I’m not sure. I won’t be sure until my registration date. I’m surprised I’m still in the system, since it’s been a while since I’ve taken a course. I’ve taken the creative writing course and that included a good amount of short story writing. It seems the teacher thought I was best on my darker stories, but that was a different time. I don’t find the short story to be a natural container for me. It is a challenge and that may be why I would like to take this course.

I recently pulled one of my old journals. Just as I often leave books unread, it seems I’ve also left a few journals unwritten in with many blank pages. In this journal from 2002 I found a few entries where I had written my reactions to books that I was reading. The one that made me go looking for the book in my shelves is Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel. I read my notes and then I tried to find it on my shelves, but it looks like I gave it up during my move. In the process of searching for this book, I found Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers. It’s a collection of her lectures as is Kundera’s. I pulled that book from my shelf and I began reading. I had never finished it, but remember that it got my head spinning and it had the same affect this time. I took my pencil in hand and underlined passages that especially spoke to me or that I wanted to come back to later. I adore her absolute confidence as a writer: “In regard to precision of language, I think myself am the best writer today” (pg. 10). She made this statement sometime in 1958.

While searching the library catalog for Kundera’s The Art of the Novel, I came across Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. I recognized it. I had it in my possession at some point—again another unfinished book. I wasn’t ready for it at the time is the only explanation I can think of. I put a hold on it, so that I could check it out of the library. I then placed an order through Amazon for Kundera’s book. The moment I started reading Bradbury’s book of essays, I was in love instantly with his writing and how he expressed himself. I am almost done and am savoring every single word, not wanting to reach the end. Besides reading fiction, I absolutely love reading writers sharing their process. I’m glad that I have rediscovered Bradbury. Since getting this book of his essays, I have checked out a couple of his short story collections and read a few of his short stories and plan to read more. He is an amazing storyteller and his imagination and inspiration seems never ending. I have since also picked up a copy of Fahrenheit 451 because I never did read it.

What’s interesting to me is that it took the authors themselves, to discuss their own works, to bring me to their fiction. With Milan Kundera, I had read his fiction first. With Rand and Bradbury, it was their non-fiction that I read first. And it was Rand’s own words that finally convinced me that I needed to read Atlas Shrugged and that I would not regret it. I tried to read it a long time ago. I was daunted by its massiveness and I wasn’t able to get into the story right away. I downloaded it to my Kindle last week and I started reading it slowly, taking in her precision of language. I was able to enter the story with more interest partially because my grandfather worked on the railroads. I had to find an in. My interest was also galvanized when she said, “A sentence in Atlas Shrugged that is applicable to all rational people, but particularly to writers, is the one where I say that Dagny ‘regarded language as a tool of honor, always to be used as if one were under oath—an oath of allegiance to reality.’ In regard to words, this should be the motto of every writer” (pg. 10). She sealed it for me and my decision was made that I would read Atlas Shrugged when she said, “For instance, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is ‘the importance of reason’—a wide abstraction…Every chapter and paragraph of Atlas Shrugged is set up on the same principle: What abstraction do I want to convey—and what concretes will convey it?” (Pg. 13). I am fully absorbed this time while reading Atlas Shrugged and I will allow myself at least three month’s to finish it while still trying to read other books. I seem to do best when I have too many books to choose from. I cannot stick with one book at a time.

I’m still thinking about Rand’s words and that’s one of the aspects of reading that I hunger for. Sometimes I want to read for pure enjoyment, but mostly I want to read a piece of fiction that will push my mind—that will make me think and plant seeds that I add to my conscious and subconscious garden and that will blend with other seeds along the way, storing these seeds in my mind for later use—for continued connections and patterns.

This morning I drew one Tarot card for guidance for the day and also with regard to the short story writing course that I want to take—the hesitation. I pulled a trump card: The Universe. The card helped me come to the page. I feel grateful that my soul gravitated to this card and not seeing any of the cards while I chose with cards face down and my eyes closed, taking my hand and going back and forth until I felt ready. The Universe: The principal of totality, individuation/wholeness.

I do feel at one with the Universe, and I am grateful for that. And I am grateful for my inner guidance, for writing, for reading, for love—and even for sadness, for I can’t feel without it—grateful for being able to feel and express.


Vincent said...

Rebb, you are going places! I've got a book by Ayn Rand on order, it must have been your inspiration, I forget. it is her first novel. If I like that, I might consider Atlas Shrugged. I'm taking the opposite strategy, looking at a writer's fiction first.

Rebb said...

Vincent, I feel that I can’t keep up, but I’m trying. Her first novel—We the Living? I left off half way on that one and plan to hopefully finish it this year—after Atlas Shrugged, of course. Another one that I left with a bookmark and I think of it often and the scene I left off at is William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I feel like the book calls to me often and I will answer soon. I only have a pinch of pages left. There are certain books that I do this with. Same with The Plague. I like having them there to come back to.

I enjoyed listening to your black bird. I wish that I knew the names of the birds that sing certain songs. I don’t. There is one that will always haunt me and I only heard it in the old place I used to live. It was the most lovely, lovely, song. I would go out some mornings and try to sing along. I’ve just about forgotten the melody.

Rebb said...

p.s. as usual, I can't wait to hear your report when you've read her book! I always enjoy reading and digesting your insights.

Vincent said...

Hi Rebb, the book came. I can't read it! I feel a strong dislike for its author, without even having read enough to explain why. Though it is a novel, I feel that the author is trying to preach something to the reader about the rightness of her point of view and how wonderful she is. Or perhaps I feel that she has a lack of compassion and empathy bordering on the pathological.

I had of course suspected something of this kind from her reputation, but I thought that in a first novel I might see someone less dominatingly, boringly sure of herself.

Now of course I want to know, if you want to tell, what you see in her!

I ought to add that right in the middle of this paperback there's a tear-out pre-paid postcard for more information about Objectivism (the book published in 1983, before the Web!) And it says, "If you take the ideas in this book seriously, and want to find out more about Ayn Rand's philosophy, write to Objectivism, Box 177 ..."

So it is not really a novel at all but part of a propaganda campaign.

Rebb, I want to destroy this book, lest anyone else read it.

Rebb said...

Vincent, Sorry to hear the book has left quite a negative impression upon you. Yes, I believe with all of her works, she has wrapped her philosophy around them, to show it in action.

With her first novel, though I need to finish reading it, I was whisked into the story. Yes, she comes across as cold, and I don't agree entirely with what little I know of her philosophy, but I feel that she is a good writer, so the writing, story, and conflict keeps me there. I am able to enjoy the story, even if I don't agree with her philosophy.

I'm not sure where I read this or if it's true, but I think her followers wanted her to try to show and explain her philosophy through fiction. Maybe she got carried away!

I am still very much enjoying Atlas Shrugged, which by your reactions here, I'm pretty confident you would not. It's more of the same, but with a different story and characters. I don't know enough about Rand to say I am a fan. I can say that I appreciate her ability to hold my attention with her vivid descriptions, to create tension, and suspense, and to even show a softer side to her protagonist, Dagny. It's rare for me to stick with a book that is a little over 1000 Kindle pages. I've reached page 665 and it has been a great ride for me and I'm eager to see how it ends.

I am never about telling a person, they should read this or that. I only share what my experience with a book is. We all have certain tolerance levels and likings. I may have felt similar to you first time I tried to read Atlas Shrugged, but as I wrote there was something about Rand's own words about her works--which I had to set aside until I finish Atlas--but something inside of me clicked at that particular moment. Whether I agree fully with her philosophy or not I wanted to read a book about ideas and read how this woman, Ayn Rand, just how she supposed to do that--how did she suppose to keep my attention? Would gain something? Would I even get past page 100? There's too. Uh in the book, but one such theme is of the mind going on strike. It makes me appreciate the country that I live in and that I do have a free mind and in some ways it directly relates to jobs I've had where the minds of the workers are used and appreciated to their potential; and other jobs where minds are not used to their full potentials and where mediocrity seems to prevail. Her work was written for a certain time, but it feels that we still deal with these issues--political and individually.

Recently our Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco celebrated it's 75th year. I watched a small clip on the tele and saw the troubles the architect went through with decision makers that did not see the possibilities. Here a mind that saw something and knew it to be possible had to fight for his idea, for what he knew to be true in his mind. It's this type of theme that stands out for me and actually one which I think she explores still more with her architect protagonist in The Fountainhead, which I hope to read.

Thank you, Vincent, for sharing your reaction. Hopefully your book finds a better home than the trash heap! Just because you don't agree with it does not mean that someone else will not gain something from it. Just think of what your gesture means in a larger context. Haven't we already had too many try to censure what we read? The beauty is having a choice and a mind to make a decision. I suppose that then your decision is to keep another from reading something you don't agree with.

Ah, the joys of reading! Each book a mystery unto ourselves, never knowing where they will fall within our psyches. : )

Rebb said...

Please forgive my typos. I wish it were easier to make corrections to comments after posting!

Vincent said...

Never mind the typos, I see you have already forgiven my harsh and impulsive reaction, esp. the idea of throwing the book away. It is not right to get between an author and her audience, particularly as you have got something from her. But you had asked my reaction and I was obliged to give the feedback. It's only when I respect the other person highly that I'd even bother. I read someone saying the other day that Edward Bulwer-Lytton was a bad & unreadable author, which led me to have a look for myself, and I could not understand such a judgement. Wikipedia refers to "best-selling dime novels": he was certainly a highly skilled author. I wanted to reply, but why bother? One does not engage with those one cannot respect.

De gustibus non est disputandum!

Rebb said...

Thank you for your comments, Vincent. There was nothing to forgive, except maybe throwing a book away. ; ) I’m very glad that you came back here to tell me what you thought of the book. Whatever your opinion is, I value and appreciate it.

De gustibus non est disputandum! Here, here!