Friday, February 26, 2010

Austen versus Kingsolver

This isn't a competition--just finished reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver in the same week. Which set me to thinking of their similarities. Both have protagonists that are poor orphans of sorts, who are brought in to grand houses (of sorts) and taken under the wing of sophisticated patrons. Both of these main characters are shy and shrink from notice and from any show of temper. Both are basically celibate throughout the narrative, and both have wonderfully romantic and rich inner lives.
The most striking similarity, though, is at the end of the book--in the way the ending is written. Both novelists choose to wrap things up rather quickly, and cooly, without big emotion, and without the main characters voice being heard at all. In the last chapter of Mansfield Park you get a "report" in Austen's omniscient writer voice: this and that happened, and oh, yeah, they did get married after all--a real "cop out" as we Boomers all used to say.
The Lacuna wraps up more organically, since Kingsolver introduces another character in the last part of the book who ends up doing the same kind of "report," but she's someone you've come to like and trust. Another literary device, but one that works.
The oddest thing of all was reading these two novels, written two hundred years apart, and finding myself just as concerned about Fanny Price, eventually, as I was about Harrison Shepard...And reading both of the books as e-books on my ipod! What would Austen think?
hasta pronto!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Writing is Theater, Theater is Life

Monday night's launch for the latest anthology from San Diego Writers, Ink, A Year in Ink, vol 3 was a surprisingly good time.
Why surprising? Because book events tend to be quiet, intellectual pleasures--an eager-to-please author drones on too long, to a score of "bookstore" music and quiet snores. This event was both lively and enlivening. The venue was a local theater, and the readings took place on stage, with the audience in their place, watching and listening. Judy Reeves introduced Roger and I, we both said a few words, and the entertainment began.
What a night of theater--better than any night of one-acts in memory. (Why did not any theater producer think of 5 minute one-acts? One is instantly intrigued, and never bored.) Each voice seemed an ambassador from another world--mothers, students, husbands, widows, teachers, children, robbers and con men...The range of world-views, races, and ages was wonderfully unsettling, unlike most plays where people who look and sound alike discuss a difference of opinion in strained tones.
Last week, I saw a high school play (my niece Emma gave an excellent performance in a forgettable musical) and was reminded of why we go to the theater. Everyone in the audience was rooting for the performers. Not a cynic in the house.
The anthology reading created the same result--all of us cheering our fellow writers on, waiting with held breath for the final word of the story. Find A Year in Ink here on Amazon, or explore the SDWI website to hear about classes and workshops.
I sit in my cozy boat this morning as the masts of neighboring boats, barely visible out my porthole, wave lazily against blue sky. Sunshine is welcome today: We're off to a binational communications meeting over in Tijuana today--hasta manana!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Readers Are Everywhere

Today I was talking with a woman in the locker room at my health club, when the conversation turned to books. She asked what I had read recently and liked, and I mentioned a few titles (I won't repeat them here, check out the sidebar). She told me she hadn't liked The Help as much as she'd expected to, with all she'd heard and read. When I asked what one of her favorite novels was, she said Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie, one of my favorite novels.
Surprising--mainly, because I assume (silly me!) that nice little older ladies don't read/like Rushdie, but also it's just surprising to meet readers of literary fiction at all...Or writers, for that matter...
This weekend at SCWC was a love-fest of both the above. Though there are always lots of authors (and wannabe authors) of genre fiction at writing conferences, there were quite a few literary authors, and new books, as well. I picked up Midge Raymond's new collection of short stories, Forgetting English , and devoured two of the deliciously evocative tales already.
Not to diss genre fiction, because I also saw some fine writers from that camp--like Ken Kulken, author of the Vagabond Virgins, which is an excellent example of how a genre novel can transcend its category. Set partly in Baja, Mexico, that book is full of history and culture as well as an intricate, thrilling plot.
There was a new literary review out too--the Hummingbird Review--in its premiere volume, so I have enough stories to last me a while.
Speaking of story collections, tonight is the launch for the new San Diego Writers, Ink, anthology, A Year in Ink, vol 3, so that will end up the weekend with a bang. All the contributors, save a few, will attend and read--an exhilerating experience for all, no doubt.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Creation and Creating

The film "Creation" premiered here last night at the San Diego Natural History Museum--playing to an appreciative full house (including the Redbugs). Based on the book, Creation by Randal Keynes, the story was one that is familiar to many by now, but the movie was much more than the usual bio-pic. It was about the struggle between change and the status quo; about how people, and societies, try to squelch new thought in favor of old dogma. Couldn't be more timely. Now we're looking forward to seeing the Museum's Darwin Exhibit --it's only here for a couple more weeks.
The SCWC begins today, as mentioned in the previous post--tonight is the meet and greet Happy Hour and tomorrow will be chock-full of meetings and sessions, so I'm reading the last of my advance submissions today. Speaking of writers conferences, I ran into my old friend Antoinette Kuritz online the other day--she runs the La Jolla Writers Conference which gets great press, too. I have yet to appear at that event--so maybe this is the year.
Just started reading Barbara Kingsolver's much-recommended-to-me The Lacuna and I can already tell I'm going to love it. On an early page this line followed a description of the Mexican town's plaza at night: "The little cathedral looked taller than it was, and menacing, like a person who comes into the bedroom carrying a candle." What's not to love in that kind of writing?
Hasta pronto!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's Day--and weekend--coming up

This weekend promises to be exciting, and busy...First is the Southern California Writer's Conference, beginning Friday, which is always a fun and irreverent couple of days, and a great spot for connecting in the world of publishing, and writing. I'll be on a couple of panels, as well as meeting with writers to discuss their works-in-progress, which is usually my favorite part of the weekend.
On Valentine's Day Sunday, right after a round-table discussion with other editors and publishers, I'll try to get up to Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in time to see my friend Joan Brady, who will be signing her newest book, The Ghost of Mt Soledad
Monday evening is the launch of the new anthology from San Diego Writers, Ink, which I co-edited with Roger Aplon, A Year in Ink, volume 3
A movie I've been anticipating also opens this week: Creation, about the life and work of Charles Darwin. I was afraid I wouldn't get the chance to see it here in San Diego (isn't it amazing that modern politics could make a 150 year old idea controversial?), but it opens Friday at the Landmark Theaters in La Jolla.
That's without even mentioning my own Valentine, my wonderful husband Russel--who will be busy with teaching and boatwork--somehow we'll find time for a romantic dinner!