With another semester coming to an end, I found some time on my hands. I wasn’t able to read as much as I’m used to—usually eight to ten books a month—but I also got a lot of reading, planning, and rewriting done. I’m very happy with where I’m at right now—though I wish the story is a bit more solid.
Of the few books I’ve read, the first was a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time—Devil in the White City. It’s based on the true story of the Chicago World Fair, the invention of the Ferris Wheel, and the murders of Dr. H H Holmes. At first, I thought the Holmes part was going to play up as a much bigger part. It doesn’t, but his role as one of the first modern day psychopaths is interesting. I understand the difficulty the author had regarding Holmes as little can be inferred from his autobiographies and confessions. He was a chronic liar and manipulator. In that way, the author did well. Recommend only if you can stand immense detail.
Then I did an audio book, Sapiens. I don’t like fiction while I’m driving so I got this to try. The scope and the size of the book are immense. It encapsulates everything in human existence and breaks it down. Certain things were old news to me, but a lot had very interesting, objective perspectives to it. Some complained that this author is running an agenda, skewed with little evidence. I don’t see that. I thought it was awesome, and many times left me thinking about who and what we are.
Martian was huge when it came out, even if I thought it became redundant by the end. Still I liked it, so I picked up his new book—Artemis. Sadly, I can’t say the same for this one. Where Martian grabs you quickly—I read the whole 400 page book in one day—this one dragged a bit before the action starts around page 100 and then finishes at 300. On top of this, the character—a girl, which I didn’t find out until 13 pages in—has the same snarky tone as Matt from Martian. So in a way, it’s the girl form of the Martian’s main character. Definitely a flat sophomore work.
I found this next book on another author’s goodreads list: The Girl at the Baggage Claim. It looked interesting, so I decided to pick it up. Although I like a lot of the situations she describes, showing how strangely different these two parts of the world work—the West and the East—ultimately, I found the evidence haphazardly organized and sometimes too anecdotal. A lot of it I liked, and it was an easy read, but I did roll my eyes sometimes at the ideas they were drawing from very scant environmental references.
Then I finished On Writing Well. I saw quite a few people disliked his outlook on this, claiming—as some may—that writing is subjective, and his claims are dismissable for these reasons. I disagree. He is pointed in what he believes—yes. But in no way does that detract from what he has to say. Writing well means to do it over and over, rewriting, and avoid those easily grasped structures in our language. Even his example—a piece he wrote—got slammed, when I personally enjoyed seeing the step-by-step commentary he provided to show his process. Does that process work for everyone? No, and he never claims that, but when there are so many useless writing books out there that preach the same well-worn tidbits, to get a book that actual illuminates the inner workings of a real writer’s head, it’s awakening to say the least.
Finally, I got to a book that has haunted me for a while and at last finding it on sale, I bought it. The Master and Margarita. Immediately, it kicks you in the face with all of its Russian-like semantics and banter. This is definitely a Russian book by a Russian writer—eeriely reminding you of the best of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky while still updating it for the Soviet era. The biggest problem, that a few have noted, is that a main character doesn’t pop up for a while. Eventually, it is Margarita, but Woland weaves in and out, manipulating the landscape in order to set everything up for what happens. Plus, there’s Russian orthodoxy tossed in, so, you know, it’s a plus.
Progress on 2018 goals
1) Finish Brief Lives / Query / Synopsis: Done / 2 letters / halfway: Done
2) Chewy Noh (graphic novel): Done
3) Student workbook: Done
4) Spring Reading:
Quixote: Not started
5) Read 75 books: 64 (Almost there and only six months in!)
6) American Snowflakes: 40,000 words done
Next Month’s Agenda
This part is going to be hard. With a month in USA coming up, I may not get much of anything done. I expect to finish 3 books in the next couple weeks to add to the total. That might be it, though. As for my writing, I will probably—or rather hopefully—drop down another ten to twenty thousand words, landing at around the 60,000 word mark. That should set me up to finish this new book by the end of September, maybe. This story is going to be one of my longest, with a target word count of 120,000 words, so I’m almost halfway through.