Monday, June 28, 2004

I wonder

Sometimes I wonder if high brow literature is beyond my grasp. I have Virginia Woolf and sometimes she seems incomprehensible or long winded. The sentences sometimes take up half a page and I end up going back. Then other times she is as clear as crystal. Could be my mind failing me, but I prefer to think she's a bit incomprehensible at times.

Because of one of my favorite movies, Bridget Jones's Diary, I have decided to check out Salman Rushdie at last. I got his Satanic Verses, but decided to start with Fury and it was a good choice. Fury is about a professor of philosophy who turns his back on the university's politics and dead ends to make dolls. One of his dolls, Little Brain, time travels and converses with the great philosophers. But she grows out of his control and becomes an international industry, to which he kept a financial interest, that has made him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He isn't happy. He is furious and begins to drink and walk until he finds himself over his sleeping wife and son with a carving knife in his hand. He stops himself and leaves the next morning to lose himself in America, that bastion of capitalism without the weight of a past or heritage, and into the midst of three murders by the Cement Murderer of three beautiful, talented, intelligent and obscenely wealthy young women. The cast of characters who provide the path of discovery to the roots of his fury and his salvation are an intricate and realistic group with agendas of their own.

The prose is rich and textured and the impotent fury that boils and seethes is as omnipresent as the national debt. I can hardly wait to finish this and go on to more of Rushdie's writing. If this book is any indication, I am definitely falling in love. This is the kind of writing that weaves history, language, ethnicity, and wisdom into a masterfully layered treat for mind and soul. Quite simply, Rushdie blows me away and makes me want to write better, richer, and a lot more.

It's strange that a man who looks like the embodiment of evil could write with such beauty and darkness and make it sublime.

But I have lots of writing of my own to do and I cannot spend another day and night dozing and reading like I did yesterday.

Despite being so tired and worn out from the 24-hour writing challenge (and I'm going to do another at the end of July -- I'm such a glutton for punishment), I didn't sleep much. I dozed and slept for a couple of hours and then laid awake, which gave me the perfect opportunity to read with a really good reason to lolligag in bed. I read To Kill a Mockingbird again. I love the simple straightforward prose and the unvarnished and uncompromising look at a small southern town before civil rights when cotton had been deposed as king and whites still ruled in all their naked contempt and loathing for men, women and children who were so much better than they. Harper Lee illustrates the clash of prejudice and decency and the traditions and old habits that maintained the fiction of who was better than whom with the simplicity of a child's vision.

I am surprised Harper Lee never wrote anything else but, as she said in an interview once, she never needed to write another book. She said all there was to be said. Harper Lee was cousin to Truman Capote who mourned the fact that he had written so much and had so much less acclaim, especially when his first novel was such a startling horrific tale. In Cold Blood was the first of book of its kind, a book that splashed blood on middle America, but like most shock, its value was devalued quickly into a sideshow freak. Truman was a competent writer, but he refused to dig too deeply into his heart or his past, except in short stories about his strange upbringing and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Truman Capote should have stuck to what he did best and forget the envy that stalked him in Harper Lee's literary wake.

I read both books in high school and still, even though there are bits and pieces of In Cold Blood I remember, it is To Kill a Mockingbird I return over and over, savoring the story as if reading it for the first time. I remember nearly all of Mockingbird because it continues to resonate in spite of how much time has passed between when it happened and now. I still see Atticus Finch pushing his wire rimmed glasses up on his head to sight the rifle with his one good eye and bring down a mad dog in the street in front of Boo Radley's worn and shadowed house. Everything from the book is etched forever in my mind the way some books do. There are few books I revisit so often or with such relish and I know there will be others. I am sure I will revisit Rushdie's Fury again, finding new and different nuances in the banquet of his prose.

Okay, enough of that. I need to forget about other writers and polish up a little Paradise Hell and move on to the next story. I could rhapsodize for hours about books and writers I have known and enjoyed, and even writers I hate and whose work is merely tripe, but I need to get to my own writing, to texture and shape my own prose. I am not conceited enough to believe what I write is great, but it is mine and I have stories to tell. One such story began nibbling at my mind yesterday when I woke up the first time and is now gnawing vigorously on my resolve to finish other tasks. But then I have always been fascinated by the difference between waking and dreaming realities.

Just curious, but have you ever awakened from a dream disoriented and unsure of where you were, not because you were tired but because your dreams were so real, so immediate and tactile you weren't sure which was more real? I still wonder which world I woke up into and which is real. I could still be dreaming, but somehow I know this is reality because my dreams are somehow more real, more solid, more.

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