The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Am trying to settle into writing. I want to write, but I have been stricken by a heavy certainty that everything I'm doing right now is smarmy. It's supposed to be evocative. There is a fine line between smarmy and evocative, and today I must labor on through the leaden knowledge that I am writing smarmily.

Sometimes YA writers claim to be influenced by their all-time favorite authors, who always seem to be on the intellectually classy end of the scale: Shakespeare, Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc. I can't figure out if they're lying or not. But I'm telling you, I have this huge smarmy streak that's been fed over the years by Victoria Holt, Margaret Mitchell, Celeste DeBlasis, Loula Grace Erdman, Phyllis Whitney, Barbara Michaels. While other people were apparently savoring Whitman and Eliot, I was tearing through V.C. Andrews. I was talking about this with some writer friends the other day; when I was a teen I did like to be able to tell people I'd read some smart book, so I'd give it a go and if it held me I'd finish it. If not, it remained unread. I think I read For Whom the Bells Tolls but it's mostly gone from my head now. Never made it completely through any Faulkner. I ate up the first part of Sound and Fury but when it switched povs, I was like WTF? and lost interest. I wanted to stay in Benjy's pov. No Steinbeck. I remember I read Gatsby and finished it, but I have no idea why because it was no fun. I don't recall much else about it, but I distinctly remember it being no fun.

I know I read a bunch of classics for school, and a few on my own--but I can't remember anything about a lot of them. I know I read all of Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man for fun--but haven't a clue what happened in it, if anything. But--and I'm not googling on this, so I might be wrong--I'm pretty sure the love interest in Victoria Holt's Legend of the Seventh Virgin was named Kim (of all things) and that he ended up with the sweet best friend Mellyora rather than the feisty lowborn heroine. I remember because he was a love interest, dammit, and he was supposed to end up with the MC! (note to self: get that book somewhere and reread it).

I did read YA as a teen, but in a skulking sort of way, sneaking into the section when nobody was looking, and hiding the books at the bottom of my pile because they were so uncool. YA covers are great now--not embarrassing to be seen with. Nowadays a good YA cover can stand up with the adult covers and nobody will know it's got "ages 12-up" on the back.

So what happens is now I write stuff that sounds good and feels good, and I go back and suddenly see that it's in that gray area between evocative and smarmy, and maybe heading toward smarmy because I have this lifelong love of the sweepingly romantic and over-the-top.

That reminds me, I've got to read the Iliad. Have to--for research. I've got a copy that I bought because it's the George Chapman translation, and I thought, "That's the one Keats wrote about in that poem, 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.'"* I thought it would preserve some of the feel of the original better because it's in verse form and it's an older style of language, and sometimes the images in that kind of translation are much stronger. But my g*d, it's freakin' unreadable. I've got to get something more modern. I can't even bring myself to start this. It's been sitting around my house unread for probably over a year, so I think I can say it's toast.

I liked Seamus Heaney's Beowulf. I had never been able to read Beowulf till I got that. Too bad he didn't do the Iliad, too.

*Which I don't remember anything about, either, except that it's the poem where Keats named the wrong explorer discovering the wrong thing, and the idea is that Chapman's Homer was as inspiring to Keats as discovering an ocean for the first time. Well, Keats can have his stupid Chapman. I apparently need somebody more mass-market, thank you very much.

And the fact that somebody's an immortal literary genius although they didn't even bother to look up the right explorer says something, too--although I'm not sure what.

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