The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

23 June 2015

Of heads bursting and camping

I may have shared this already. I've just come across it again in a shockingly unorganized bundle of notes written on random scraps of paper and schtuffed in a notebook.
The book it came from is, "Letter to a future lover: marginalia, irrata, secrets, inscriptions & other ephemera found in libraries." by Ander Monson.

The quote is this:
"Who burst your head wide open with a sentence? Whose linguistic tics have you ingested?"

Don't you love that?  I do.  I love both questions. I love that a gifted writer has the ability to burst open the head of a reader.  I've had that happen. The sentence starts soft and malleable in my mind, then expands as I examine it from all sides and delight in its construction, its sounds, the imagery, the feeling of it.

Years and years ago I read "Away" by Jane Urquhart. I don't remember all that much about the plot, but I remember pausing to savour phrases and being in awe that someone could put words together in just that way.

Years after that I discovered Adriana Trigiani who, while writing more lighthearted novels than Urquhart, has the wonderful gift of painting a scene, infusing the story with humour, and portraying complex characters.  She delights in, and plays with words - a talent I enjoy in writers.

A few years ago I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. The book as a whole moved me, not for specific phrasing but for the way plot, character, and emotion were conveyed entirely through letters written between the characters. The skill required to create fully realized characters and ensure the reader is fully invested in the story using such a format is prodigious.  That blows my head open.

More recently there has been Marisa de los Santos and her book, "The Precious one". Her turns of phrase would leave me giddy... I truly became drunk on her words.

And so, thinking of my own writing, I discover I have a kernel of determination to begin serious work on my own story.  I've played with several ideas over the past year and more, but while they intrigued me, are not true to me so I was utterly defeated by them.  I have instead surrendered to the snippet I began quite a long time ago, called Gamel, about a little man who lives in the woods.  I have been working on ideas to develop it further, and am also trying to work ahead on the other writerly obligations I have to complete so I can take all of July off in order to spend time with Gamel.  I'm going to try Camp NaNoWriMo, and see if that helps or hinders the process.

I'll try to post updates periodically through the month.  Wish me luck!


  1. Luck! Lots and lots of good, good luck!

    Two years ago, my sister in law told me I MUST get "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." And so I did. But I've been too busy with other books to begin it. Thanks to what you wrote, I think it's time I settle in to read.

    1. Oh, yes, Nancy, do try it! It might be that summer is the perfect time to give it a go. I do hope you end up enjoying it. Honestly, it's the first book I mention when a library patron asks for a recommendation, and it's only ever failed to please once.

      Thanks for the luck!

    2. Hooray!
      Doesn't it begin well?

  2. I remember Gamel from a post long ago! Good to know the little fellow is alive and kicking!

  3. He is, and I can't wait to spend time with him.

  4. I remember "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" as a movie not a novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I too had my head opened wide not only for the plot and the characters portrayed but also in the manner in which the whole story was told; letters between characters. I do need to pick up the book and read it. As we all know, the book is always better than the movie. ;)


    1. A movie? It was a movie, too? I had no idea, but all is now right with the world.
      Thanks, Bobby - and yes, you must read the book!