Monday, June 25, 2012

The Brain-Dead Blogger

I tend to try to summon chameleon genes to make me fade into landscapes when in a crowd. Our minister who's known me for 35 years described me to a new church member who'd never met me as someone who walked around trying to make herself invisible. 

In conversations, I don't talk a lot, I mainly listen. Not to judge, not to get dialogue for a  new book, just to listen. (I already know what I know--if I want to learn anything, I have to let others talk.)

So, what does a wannabe chameleon, who can't think of a blog topic, do?

She asks readers to tell her what they are currently reading, and to kindly share a passage that has impressed them and say why.

(You don't want to know what I'm reading-- The Oresteia by Aeschylus, in preparation for teaching it :)

Soooo--- as the other Novel Matters ladies always say, Do tell!


S. F. Foxfire said...

I've been reading a lot lately (summer break!), and I have yet to come across a REALLY good book. You know, that gem that makes you sit back and go, "Wow. That was GOOD."

Anyway, I have read two books recently that both had passages that impressed me. I don't have one on hand (I lent it out) but I can remember the last line.

It's from "Illusion" by Frank Peretti. His main characters are professional illusionists, and one's teaching the other about sleight of hand. He states very deftly, "The magic is in the magician." That stuck with me, and it will be going in my quote-book.

Another is from "Blue Hole Back Home" by Jay Jordan-Lake. It's the part at the end where Farsanna's family is under fire. Turtle says, "You want to know what I did to help? I threw up. That's how I helped." I thought it was just such an amazing insight into Turtle's real character, such a human reaction, such a relatable occurence . . . I don't know, but it's stuck in my head now.

Currently I'm reading "The Best of Evil" by Eric Wilson, a mystery. So far it's got me by the ears and tugging me further in. :)

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I confess that I like to cruise the Dollar Store to see what books they have. Sometimes I recognize an author's name and realize there was probably just an overstock somewhere. But often there's a very good reason why they landed at the Dollar Store. Occasionally I pick up a book that keeps me engaged. This time I found a hardback titled 'The Romanov Bride' by Robert Alexander which is a fictionalized biography of a Duchess who establishes a convent/hospital for the poor during the Russian revolution. I am appreciative of the author's treatment of her spiritual awakening and devotion to God.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Currently I am working REALLY hard to get through Wally Lamb's "The Hour I First Believed". It's interesting and engaging. But I think there is just too much of it. It has, however, caused my mind to wander around the idea of incarceration. I'm nearly done and so excited to get started on reading more of the books on my summer list!

Patti Hill said...

I'm reading up a storm too. I just finished Lisa See's Shanghai Girls about two sisters who live in Shanghai when the Japanese invade in the late 30s. They make their way to America for arranged marriages. See does an amazing job providing an informed look into Chinese culture, American-Chinese culture, and the pressures they face to be more Western. There is a seen of extreme violence that is written so beautifully and with such a connection between the mother and daughter that I didn't skim over it. I'm reading the sequel now, Finding Joy.

Earlier this summer, I read Restorer's Son by Sharon Hinck, the second of a trilogy. In this story, a warrior who doesn't have much use for the One--the Christ figure in this speculative fiction. Hinck has the warrior, Kiernan, battle the One. It's a powerful picture of our struggles to surrender. Took my breath away.

V. Gingerich said...

I’m almost finished with The Man in the Rockefeller Suit; the Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor, by Mark Seal. It’s not the sort of book I usually read but I’m enjoying it. The main character makes me want to spit nails; I’ve seldom met such arrogance in fiction, let alone nonfiction.

Just finished Lord of the Flies- first time reading it, actually- and it scared me silly with its too-honest human nature. This quote came toward the beginning of the book, and it might have been then that I first felt the dread of what might happen in the pages to come:

“Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed and threw it at Henry-threw it to miss. The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounced five yards to Henry's right and fell in the water. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.”

And finally, nothing profound, but this quote from The Secret Life of Bees gave me a good laugh, right when I needed it.

“Sometimes I didn't even feel like getting out of bed. I took to wearing my days-of-the-week panties out of order. It could be Monday and I'd have on underwear saying Thursday. I just didn't care.”

Anonymous said...

This summer I've read several secular stories to analyze their style and success: Mariana, The Winter Sea, and The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley and The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. The authors write differently in every possible way, but both are very engaging.

Currently, though, I am reading a new CBA publication by a very successful author. By comparison to the others I've read recently, I'm finding the style very distant with much narrative "telling," and the pace is slow. I feel flogged with the message, as if I could not discern it from the story.

I understand that this is only one sample by one author. I have read MANY excellent CBA novels. But if I were new to Christian literature and this were the first I'd read, I would perhaps share some of the stereotypes and misunderstandings that cling to the genre.

I've hesitated to comment. My Mama always said if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. So please let me emphasize that this author has a large following with whom she has earned an enviable degree of success. My opinion is almost certainly in the minority, and I WILL finish the book for what it can teach me. My point is only that it's important, I think, to read a wide variety of styles to learn what works "for me" and what doesn't so much.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, 'nuff said. I/we understand. Completely.

I just finished Charles Martin's latest, Thunder and Rain. There was a passage in the middle that I actually tabbed because I liked it so much:

(The protag is talking about a local banker who was trying to call in the note on his ranch)"I may have owed Mike money, and a lot of money, but that didn't make him a bad guy. He didn't drive a truck, he didn't wear a hat, he didn't look like what I thought a banker in Texas ought to look like. He was just different. But different ain't wrong. It's just different. I tried to remember that as I walked to the barn.

I want to remember that too: "Different ain't wrong. It's just different."

Lori Benton said...

I love these kinds of threads. Thanks, Latayne (also for the great idea, from one brain dead blogger to another).

From a recent read, LONG KNIFE by James Alexander Thom:

"George stood in the starlight and looked at this little group of dark forms scattered about on the ocean of smooth pale plain. Six hours of squirming through the forests this morning, he thought; six more racing along in that blazing sun, and now six more marching through the night. Eighteen hours on foot at this pace, and not one solitary straggler! He tipped up his flask and took a long pull of brandy, his eyes on the stars, the cool wind drying the sweat on his neck. He lowered the flask, continued to look up at the sky, thought of the eclipse that had so frightened the men a week ago on the Falls--a week it's been! he thought--and yet they had come on with him, overcoming the many fears they must be having, and still, even as he drove them on and on into this strange unfriendly country, they kept up, and kept up in good spirits. He listened to their sleep-breathing now, sighed, and looked at the high constellations and the stardust of the Milky Way. I thank Thee for bringing me men like these....

He was awakened to the sound of his flask dropping to the ground, and realized that he had fallen asleep on his feet in the middle of a prayer. Shaking his head and smiling, he stretched out on the grass, put his hat over his face, and, with a sensation like lying on a raft in a whirlpool, spun slowly off to oblivion."

This passage sings for me. It fills me with a breathless joy and the immediacy of being there. It brought me to tears. In the laundromat. There are many reason why I write, but this passage (and hundreds like it from Thom and other writers) is one of those reasons. It's the kind of writing I long to produce and what I'll keep striving for, God willing, for years to come.

@Anon: I adore Susanna Kearsley's writing. She's one of those writers that "sing" for me, make me stop and stare into space and turn a phrase over and over like a polished stone.

@Sharon: Charles Martin is another favorite. I've bought a copy of THUNDER AND RAIN but haven't read it yet, because I gave it to a friend for her birthday, seeing as she's a fan too. Soon though.

Latayne C Scott said...

S.F., your quotes made me want to read both the books you cited. I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't read Blue Hole Back Home (actually had it out to read when my husband became ill) but hope to soon.

Susie, I read I Know This Much is True by Lamb (actually, listened to it on tape) and was very moved by it. Perhaps the more linear plot line might make it more enjoyable for you?

Latayne C Scott said...

Debbie, I think we were separated at birth -- only I don't frequent the Dollar store but rather buy used cassette/CD books. I have read (listened to) many things I wouldn't have considered. (The Wally Lamb book was one of them.)

Patti, I didn't know you read speculative fiction. Did I know that? I guess I should have since Seeing Things has fantasy elements. Wouldn't you say so?

Latayne C Scott said...

Wanderer, your quote from LOTF reminds me of why I've been afraid to read it again after being assigned to do so in the eighth grade. Human nature is scary...

Also, if I had Thursday panties I'd wear them today. :)

Anonymous-- ouch. ouch. ouch. You have stepped on our sore toe. The reason why we NM authors take risks to write the way we do. You are welcome to say whatever you want here. You're among friends.

Latayne C Scott said...

Sharon, I love that quote. And since you and I are "different," it is affirming, right?

Lori, I loved that passage. Swept me up in the whirlpool too.

Latayne C Scott said...

Sharon, I love that quote. And since you and I are "different," it is affirming, right?

Lori, I loved that passage. Swept me up in the whirlpool too.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Latayne, I read "This Much I Know Is True" a few years ago. It changed my life. Broke me. Beat me up. Left me raw. Knowing that I needed to forgive someone.

But "The Hour I First Believed" is different. I wonder if there is just too much going on for me. Too much to keep track of. Maybe it's just this time of my life. I don't know...

Bonnie Grove said...

I feel as though it has been a forever since I read a novel that weakened me at the knees. I've read some remarkable stuff lately in terms of well written.

There are three novels on my bedside table: Home by Toni Morrison (no idea why they thought it a good idea to use this title--I immediately thought of Marilyn Robinson's excellent novel of the same title), Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye, and an old title by Madeleine L'Engle, A Wind in the Door.

Tyler's book starts rather dull, and I find the premise hard to believe. She hasn't grabbed my trust from the beginning. I'll keep at it, though. She is a masterful writer.

Here's a bit of how Toni Morrison's novel begins (really effective--but I can't say I'm captivated by the story yet):

"They rose up like men. We saw them. Like men they stood.

We should't have been anywhere near that place. Like most farmland outside Lotus, Georgia, this one here had plenty of scary warning signs. The threats hung from wire mesh fences with wooden stakes every fifty feet or so feet. But when we saw a crawl space that some animal had dug--a coyote maybe, or a coon dog--we couldn't resist. Just kids we were. The grass was shoulder high for her and waist high for me so, looking out for snakes, we crawled through it on our bellies. The reward was worth the harm grass juice and clouds of gnats did to our eyes, because there right in front of us, about fifty yards off, they stood like men. Their raised hooves crashing and striking, their manes tossing back from wild white eyes. They bit each other like dogs but when they stood, reared up on their hind legs, their forelegs around the withers of the other, we held our breath in wonder."

But it's not a story about a boy. So, there you go.

My kids have joined the library reading challenge for the summer, so I'm planning to spend lots of time checking out lots of books over the next couple of months (as well as working on a new one of my own). Happy reading!

Bonnie Grove said...

Re: Wally Lamb, I've only read She Come Undone (which I picked up because I immediately started humming the Burton Cummings song), enjoyed it. Still remember parts of it and it was ages ago I read it.

I'll add his others to my reading list. :)

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I really did enjoy "She's Come Undone", too.

Latayne C Scott said...

Bonnie, I loved that quotation from Toni Morrison!

Simple stories girl said...

I just finished Jocelyn Green's debut novel, "Wedded to War." Not only was it a thoroughly engaging read which kept my engaged until the very last word, but I also found the themes of grace, redemption and having the courage to following your calling incredibly encouraging. I highly recommend this book.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you, Simple stories girl, for the recommendation. NovelMatters readers depend on each other for good reading!