2/26/01 8:06 PM
Long, difficult sentences requiring concerted and sustained effort.
I’m reading The Best American Short Stories 2000. The story I’ve just finished contained long, difficult sentences requiring concerted and sustained effort. I got the book from the Public Library earlier today. Now it is 8 pm. I’ve taken a break to let the story sink in. I decided to skip the usual Monday night AA meeting. I’ve been to four meetings in as many days – it just worked out that way. I think it is important to cultivate reading again. It’s been so long . . .
Reading, at its best, inspires writing. That’s what this is all about. Those long, difficult sentences, they invoked some history in me. Some notions of time and effort. Some idea that I have something to somehow say.
Of course, I can’t expect to write as well as the authors in the book. I mean, I haven’t written as much or as long as they. I did earn a BA in English nearly thirty years ago. I don’t remember a lot after that. Well, I remember the main things, some major pieces and places, some of the people. But I don’t remember too much about literature. I wrote a couple of short stories last year for two creative writing classes that I took. They were both rooted in my experience. Some powerful moments. The word I heard most in the critiques was “bleak.” Most of my classmates liked the stories, but thought them bleak. Bleak. I think back on what I remember of my life and I don’t know what adjective I would use . . .
The whole thing, my life, the whole thing seems kind of flat to me. Maybe that’s the same as bleak. It is pretty twisted and unconventional, pretty hairy, but flat. Maybe because I’ve lived it, maybe because it just is what it is to me, it doesn’t strike me as remarkable. I mean, once you accept the premises, it just kind of unfolds of its own accord. My professor in class said, “I bet you have stories to tell.” I was flattered by that, but a little afraid, too. Like I should write these great bleak stories about a lot of things I don’t remember.
Maybe I’m just too old. Too old to be doing this.
Or maybe I should be naming my characters and running them around ragged, lurching from plot twist to plot twist. Subtly drawing the outlines of character, infusing them with inference and dusky undertones. Pasting them onto the hot, bloody sidewalks of large cities. Making them collide, conjugate, collapse and resurrect. Maybe I could make them a little less bleak. Or more.
Those two stories I wrote, one was very specific, and one was very general. And now I seem tapped out. As if those two stories said it all. I’ve been able to write quick pieces on my current experience (not unlike this one), and the occasional poem, but I haven’t been able to even start another story. I keep thinking that the inspiration will strike when the time is right. And then I think that only a fool thinks like that; if I don’t get going, I will be gone. So I borrowed some books from the library today, partially in the hopes of inspiring some writing. But mostly for the sheer joy of reading again.