Reading & Writing

I’m Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking

30316233My first thought upon seeing Leyna is that she’s taller. Not that it’s physically possible–when I knew her in grad school we were both in our mid twenties and we’re in our early thirties now, and people don’t tend to grow at our age–but perhaps she stands straighter than the girl I knew: this woman in a soft black blouse instead of a Ramones t-shirt (though I’m sure that shirt is at home). This woman who has penned some of the best short stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and who is on the last stop of her first book tour. Her first of many, I hope.

The stories in I’m Fine, But You Appear to Be Sinking deal with a world not quite level with our own, but not so magical that any plot point seems impossible. Strange happenings abound. A tiger is being kept in a suburban neighborhood; a giant squid haunts a wayward trimaran; sea life does its best to escape the sea. The end of the world, we are told, will begin with a series of beeps. Continue reading “I’m Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking”

Reading & Writing

Making Time to Write: Five Minute Bursts (A Plan)

angry owl writeOnce, in grad school, a friend and I had planned to go out for a beer (or, in his case, a Diet Coke–he didn’t drink). He met me at my apartment and we went to the bar across the street, but first I had to finish a paragraph in a story I was writing. When I told him this, he was taken aback: “You can write at night?” he said. “I can write any time. Especially if I’m inspired.” “I can only write in the morning,” he said. “And even then it’s a struggle.”

Or something like that. (You know, in nonfiction, you can use dialog that isn’t verbatim.)

So I finished the paragraph and we got our drinks and we talked some more about our writing processes. He was a very structured writer who like to research his work extensively and used very specific ideas and themes to jump start his stories. He took joy in having finished writing, but not necessarily the writing itself–a position that all writers find themselves in at least some of the time. But I found it interesting that he had such strong ideas about when he could and couldn’t write. At the time, I found myself writing whenever I had a free moment; grad school provided masses of inspiration and time frames in which to complete stories.

Nowadays, however, I relate to my friend. Continue reading “Making Time to Write: Five Minute Bursts (A Plan)”

Reading & Writing

Among the Dead and Dreaming by Samuel Ligon

dreaming

I recently finished reading an exciting, sharply written novel that made me remember, even in my five-month postpartum, sleep-deprived and mommy-brained state, just how much I love reading. It’s called Among the Dead and Dreaming, it’s by Samuel Ligon, and you should go buy a copy immediately.

(Before I continue with my recommendation, I should tell you: Sam Ligon was my professor in grad school. My thesis adviser, actually. One of my favorite teachers of all time and a super-cool human being who would hate the fact that I just hyphenated “super-cool.” You might think that this–except, perhaps, for his hatred of hyphens–would mean that my reading of his book is completely biased and that you shouldn’t listen to anything I say about his work. You would be wrong. Because I respect him too much to lie about his work. If I didn’t like this novel, I would simply refrain from writing about it.)

So. Among the Dead and Dreaming.

I think what impressed me most about this book is the incredible balance between prose and plot. The story is told by a large number of first-person narrators, each of whom maintains a distinctive voice whether he or she is a central character or only chimes in once. It begins with the deaths of Kyle and Cynthia, and follows the aftermath of their passing alongside the story of Nikki (Kyle’s girlfriend at the time of his demise) and Burke, the psychotic brother of her long-dead ex. At times the narrative style, broken into so many monologues, is downright poetic, with input from characters such as Nikki’s dead mother and Cynthia’s unborn fetus. Then again, as the tension heightens, it’s almost pulp fiction–really really really well-written pulp fiction. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, so I’ll just tell you that it will pull you through it, and you might be impressed by some of Sam’s syntactical footwork along the way.

If you’re looking to read something intense and darkly romantic, read this book. If you enjoy smart prose, read this book. If you don’t mind reading a book by someone who eschews hyphenation whenever possible, even though certain phrases obviously benefit from a hyphen, read this book.

You should probably buy it, too. Give my professor his royalties, you know?