Sunday, January 02, 2011

What I read -- December 2010

“The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” by Jesse Bullington. The good bits seemed to have been in the first third of the book, and the middle was a bit of a slog. I read it because of Jeff Vandermeer. I did finish, and it was good fun. Any book that name-checks the white company is worth reading (big Hawkwood fan here).

“Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. My sister asked for it for Christmas, and the tradition is, when you give a book in my family, the other person asks “How was it?” I wondered, am I hostile to this book because of who asked for it, or does it really smack of the Grades 4-8 writing exercises I had no problem with? Maybe it seemed dated, or maybe I just didn’t connect with it. Or maybe I use Caitlin Kiernan and Elizabeth Bear as my writing role-models, and a bipolar person and a depressed person who have to write or they starve may not be the best role-models. The book is about forcing yourself to write. I wondered as I read, why do people do this? Why force it? What about deliberate practice? There were about four pages about editing. I may not be the audience for this book.

Also, she apparently writes memoir, and there seemed to be precious little *real* reveal. I felt like I got to know only the part of Natalie that she was willing to share, and at that time it wasn't everything, she was saving it for later. I hate that.

“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. Another one my sister asked for. Also, my former (day job) team leader recommended this once when I was telling a story about hiking in New England. Wow, this book had a lot of adverbs in it. It really made me want to climb Mount Moosilauke (also mentioned to me by a coworker’s brother-in-law, which is why it stuck out). A fun read that compelled me to write a short story about our hike up Imp Face.

“On Writing” by Stephen King. My sister asked for this, too. This was way more the book for me, seeing as it was half memoir and half about editing, really. He didn't get into the nuts-and-bolts of how to do a first draft, but a lot of the editing advice reinforced things I've heard before: meaning is at the sentence level, adverbs are not your friend, the first draft is for you but the second draft is for your reader (he called this closed door and open door), make your second draft 10% shorter than your first.

“HTO” from Coach House Press. A library book of essays about water in Toronto, from, as the sub-title says, Lake Iroquois to low-flow toilets. I loved this book, but probably someone who has never lived here would find it deadly dull. It's totally about place, which for me is amazing because I love the ravines etc. around here. There were a couple of chapters that name-checked the park I went walking in yesterday! The essay about low-flow toilets was actually entertaining, though some of the others were less so. I quite liked the one that said you can't write a novel set in Toronto without dealing with the ravines, but the one about High Park irked me.

I read it because Leah Bobet mentioned the uTOpia series, which caused me to seek it out. I suspect this is the second book from this series that I have read; the design of Concrete Toronto was similar.

I finished it Jan 2, but my rule is if I read it before I wrote the post, it goes in the month I wrote about. Otherwise, my memory gets too full of junk.

No comments: