Deciphered from my scribbled reading notes

{ Tuesday, November 27, 2007 }

Margaret Atwood, The Tent:

One thing about Margaret Atwood, she doesn't spend energy on dulled characters, people who are interested in nothing. Her narrators are awake and want something, even if it's not specified in the story. These stories want something: to make connections, to find patterns from the inside to the outside of the story.

These miniskirt-short stories are not palate cleansers; they are not bon-bons; they are not gnats flying down the throat. Picking a favorite from them is like trying to choose a favorite stone in a wall, a favorite feather on a bird.

Also I like that her voice is a little salty. Like a margarita.

James Dickey, Deliverance:

By the end of 12 pages, you will know the characters and the relationships and the land and the scope of time that lies ahead, the way you can infer a leg from a foot, an arm from a hand. Once the map is unrolled, each noun that follows seems inevitable. And I couldn't stop reading.

The narrator, Ed, gives us navigational narrative. He wants us to do more than picture. He wants us to be able to retrace our steps. He wants us to forget we are reading and to navigate the geography. And so the river is a real place, and the woods are real woods, and all the objects are real, and only Ed and his friends are fiction in them.

The difference between tale and story: The tale is that one man was raped and two men were killed. The story is that a lie was told.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

C'mon. Did you ever pretend you had read or that you remembered this book? Use it as a cultural reference to mean something dark and inescapably depressing? Did nobody tell you how funny this book's narrator is? "The color scheme of the whole sanatorium seemed to be based on liver." Indeed.

It's no longer, if it ever really was, a definitive creative text on madness. In a confessional age, Plath's Esther seems detached and observant rather than lost. She never loses herself with the loss of self-knowledge that has become the puppet image of creative madness.

Esther understands her own weaknesses and talks about them as though discussing a loved but naive and narcissistic friend who thinks of herself as more clever than she is. She doesn't let herself off the hook.

Does anybody remember that she doesn't kill herself at the end of this book? She wants to laugh, not the jaded laugh that she has laughed but a pioneer laugh. She wants that among the other things. "I took a deep breath," she says, "and listened to the old brag of my heart."

See if you can find the edition with Plath's ink sketches.

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