Monday, October 22, 2012

Proust and Dumas

So I'm reading The Count of Monte Cristo for the first time, and have signed up on Goodreads to read the full  À la recherche du temps perdu, (Davis translation for Swann's Way, and Moncrieff for the rest).

Intending to read only a short portion of Swann's Way, I got pulled into the world of Proust, sucked down into the meander and flow of his marvelous phrasings, and carried away by long descriptions of memories. The writing is unbelievably good. I understand the aversion to such purple prose and endless sentences, but by gosh it is gorgeous.

And it reminds me how crappy my own writing is.

Sure, the classics are part of my bizarro work, but each read of those great works has really been selfish, to be honest. I'm using well-known literature to promote my own misguided stories. It's probably OK, since nobody reads bizarro, but it's still a little icky.

So to read Proust, purely for edification and enlightenment, is a moving experience. One realizes that there have been giants that have paved a path, giants whose footprints dwarf our own, and whose quality of work we may only fumble at. I've always been a reader, true, but having gone over to the author's world had stunted my outlook somewhat. At one point, I selfishly thought that my work was on par with modern-day masters, and maybe even thought I could challenge the ancient heros of the written word.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Though halfway through Cristo, and partway through Swann's Way, this experience has been humbling to the point of paralysis (as far as writing goes). What is the point in continuing? Why bother to put pixels to screen when you will never touch such greatness?

But that is also folly.

As writers, we should always strive to be better. Practice is one avenue. I believe that reading a very powerful tool for the writer. For me, reading the masters of the craft--those who have gone hundreds of years before--is the way to go. They have laid a foundation atop which most modern literature stands, and to ignore them and bask in our own self-imposed glory is silly.

What in the Sam Hill am I talking about?

Read. Read Proust, Joyce, Tennyson, Dumas... Authors, take off your writing hat and read. I'd encourage you to take a long hard look at your own craft. There are days when I feel like pulling the plug on all that I have out there and starting fresh... I'd like to blame Proust on that, but I also had to set aside ego and the "business" of writing and examine past and future. It is both terrifying and therapeutic to look at oneself and realize that you aren't the next Robert Jordan. Can you get there? That is up to you and what you put into it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Following Yonder Star

New Book coming this Christmas!

Excerpt from the Prologue:
He felt as old as the hill he climbed. The vaunted, once-strategic, and impossibly high Hill of Vaws challenged him daily to climb its height and worship at the temple atop its craggy summit. The mound in the desert had once been relevant; now it looked out over a wide, empty and sere desert. Atop the hill’s scrub-covered crust, an equally ancient temple clung barely to live, kept going only by the priest and his four apprentices. A joint popped and he reflected again on retiring. But a glance at the gilded star atop the shrine, its glittering outline and the shadow it cast upon the hill, reminded him of his purpose here. Chapped lips creaked open in a half smile.

A joint popped and he reflected again on retiring. But a glance at the gilded star atop the shrine, its glittering outline and the shadow it cast upon the hill, reminded him of his purpose here. Chapped lips creaked open in a half smile.

The golden star was a beacon of sorts, a thing by which to herald the Liberator, Savior, Redeemer, or Protector as He was wont to be named. Though the star reflected light, it was said that it would glow like the sun should the Liberator come. The priest, the star, the pillar, the chapel, and even the hill itself waited patiently for the Son of Man. “Glow like the sun,” the priest panted.

At one time, twelve wise men had kept constant vigil inside the chapel; they had long since passed on, leaving only the old priest and his apprentices. Finding young men to devote their lives to a run-down building atop a barren hillside in the middle of nowhere was almost impossible—and he wasn’t sure how long these men would remain. The perils of youth.

The ancient priest put his head down and trudged the remaining feet to the top of the hill. He was bent over with exhaustion and sore, tired muscles. It took an effort to straighten his frame, and a chorus of pops and snaps sounded. The priest grimaced and gazed out at the brown and dusty desert that stretched on in seemingly endless directions all around the hill.

A few scrubby trees near the chapel provided shade and aromatic herb bushes imparted the area with a sweet and heady fragrance. Being the highest point in the area, the vantage provided a vast overview of... nothing. Far beyond his vision, behind a cloud of dust, the large city of Jerusalem hulked in its teeming of humanity. Jerusalem... the old priest sniffed at that word—he called it by another name entirely, Urušalimum, an ancient name for an ancient settlement.