Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Report

Mentor: a memoir by Tom Grimes
A teacher/pupil relationship between writers that became a friendship and a father/son affection.  Touching.  Sometimes sad.  But what interested me was the insight into a writer's life... including, maybe, aspects the author might not have thought striking...  

Like the competitiveness and snobbery of the "literary" writing world: the pecking order of prestigious publishers, the best seller lists, and the snob-value of various reviewers and publications.  Similar snobbery in higher education and/or states (Texas doesn't get many snob points).  The purely writing sections tend to remind me why I don't read more "literary" fiction - discussion about choice language and sensory description, descriptions of sad sad childhoods, character development... but little story (or for that matter reader enjoyment).  

Overall, there is an Iowa Writers' Workshop sort of detachment that may be the real reason I don't find lit-fic engaging.  Early on (pages 11-12) the author gives a description of The Phone Call - the one that brings the starving artist his first fame and fortune - self-consciously given cool detachment.  It's a style thing.  Contrast this with an almost identical description in Stephen King's On Writing:  the reader's heart pounds, knowing how important this moment is.  There is blood and feeling in King's moment that must have existed in Grimes's too... but it was flattened out.  Why?  

Djbouti by Elmore Leonard
Somali pirates, al Qaeda terrorists, and documentary filmakers with style and verve.  Great dialogue.  A finale!  Lit-fic writers should read more Elmore Leonard.  Going to re-watch Get Shorty.

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