Archive for March, 2009
Any Which Wall has received its first REVIEW, and the review is GOOD. But it’s not from Kirkus, or PW, or SLJ, or Horn Book, or any of the usual suspects…
It’s from Jade Newton, a kid in Vermont, who says:
Although this book’s theme is magic, there is a sense of reality to it. The characters are normal kids with normal lives, and even Merlin is portrayed as the person he most likely was rather than a storybook version of someone whose powers are “supernatural.” This helps us to believe that the “impossible” might be more possible, than we may think.
This is exactly how I want the book to be read, and it means even more coming from an actual human kid-person, an actual reader. Yay, JADE!Â Thank you!
I’ve been reading Sebastian Matthews’ memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps.
It is a very strange book, honest beyond what usually passes for honesty.Â Earnest and real, it owns its faults, its human weakness, its entitlement and indulgence and intelligence. Self-aware without ever stumbling into irony. No small feat.
It feels a little like a run-on sentence.Â Each moment and memory bleeding into the next.Â I guess that comes of poets writing prose.Â Or of people living at high speeds.
Sebastian, though himself quite a writer, is the son of another poet–Bill Matthews.Â Bill passed away in 1997, after I’d graduated from college, but while I was still living in Chattanooga.Â And it was in Chattanooga that I met Bill, and then re-met Sebastian.Â Small world, our poetry universe.Â I have sat in the same house with each man, in different years, drinking the same vintage on the same rainy porch, in several Tennessee springs.
Bill always in a centrally locatedchair, surrounded by people, one leg crossed over the other.
Sebastian standing, leaning, listening closely to a few friends. Often on the edges.
But both, almost always, smiling.
This book gave me a sense of each man as a more complete/real/flawed human. But it also made me love each of them, and their work, a little more.
This year, for Purim, I rewrote the Book of Esther, for Mose and his three-year-old buddies.
It begins thusly:
One fine day, King Ahasuerus threw a gigantic party. He invited all this best friends, made guacamole, set up a chocolate fountain, and ordered too much wine…
And it ends thusly:
And as for what happened to Haman– well, let’s just sayÂ Karma’s a bitch. Â And if you want to know any more than that, you’ll have to come back next year, for all the gory details.
Because then you’ll be four, and all growed up.
I’m not opposed to writers who happen to prefer a shorter (orÂ more irregular) line, or who like to avoid the use of traditional paragraphs. More power to ‘em.Â But I do not see why on earth these books are considered “poetry.”
Poetry is when every word counts. Poetry has many levels, pays careful attention to language, to sound and rhythm. Poetry places language before narrative, character, the “about.”
I overheard someone, recently, saying that they were trying out their novel “in verse”.Â Because it was “shorter” that way and might sell to reluctant readers in such a format.
“It will be easier than writing a whole novel” they said.
And I was reminded of the poet James Tate, explaining that when he works, he sits down at a piece of paper. And if, after an hour, he hasn’t got a first line, he lets himself leave the desk.Â If he does have a first line, he gives himself an hour… for the second.
Now, I don’t do that. I’m not that serious about anything.Â But it’s a good story, and it says something about time, attention, care.
There are plenty of novelists who write (in my opinion) poetry.Â But it isn’t line-breaks, or the “appearance of poetry” that makes them poets.
It’s their care.
All in one day (Friday) I hit Ess-A-Bagel (I like scallion cream cheese and tomato on sesame), AQUAVIT for vodka-lunch (I found the cucumber best, but the mango chile was good too), a quick vodka-induced chat with Patience and Fortitude (followed by a more lengthy chat with some supersmartÂ NYTimes reviewers, convened by the always-awesome Mizz Bird), Enids for a “cool” drink, and BAM (for the astounding Batsheva).Â I also ate mediocre Thai food, saw good friends, watchedÂ a movie, and snuggled a new baby in Brooklyn.
The following day I spent in a conference I’m not going to tell you much about, since I’m not sure I’m allowed, and also it was a conflicting (though meaningful) experience for me, one I have yet to unpack.Â Then I crashed at my best friend’s apartment, with wine and take-out Italian food.Â We fell asleep to Fred and Ginger.
Then on Monday, I headed uptown to meet a co-conspirator and her awesome husband for ginger coffee and good conversation.Â And after that the aforementioned conspirator and IÂ went to meet the fabulous Tina Wexler (agent-to-the-stars but also to little old me) at her fancy office.Â Where I resisted the temptation to sneak around the building, looking for movie stars and rappers.
Steak and eggs followed, and then… home home home… to a fast approaching deadline and my BABIES!Â Who beat even wonderful NYC all hollow.
Funny, how the PB&J tastes better after a few days of “adult” living.
Oh, and did I mention I only have 8 hours of childcare a week?
So forgive the lack of blogginess.