Monday, May 4, 2009

BIG FAT BOOKS

I always liked sagas ... lots of people to get to know, a long story that involved me for hours and hours, days. even a week.

Back in the days when I went to the library and took out six or eight books at a time, and read them in my sheet tent with a flashlight turned on after we were told "lights out," the fatter the book, the better. Short stories were over and done with too quickly. I loved being in my tent, breaking the rules till my parents turned off all the lights in the house and retired for the night.

Time swirls, and blends your youngest years into the pudding of when you were almost an adult. It's a gelled bowlful of memories that don't belong to early adolescence, or the scary days when I was for the first time on my own – that summer I was lonely alone in a boarding house, reading/skimming whatever readable material I found in a stranger's shelf. And later, there was a summer when I tried to give up dancing. Though I was still in high school, I went to Antioch College, stayed with my sister who was a senior there, and developed my intellect.

Did I stop reading altogether? At Antioch College I didn't read, I mended books part time, earning money so I could join in with a crowd who didn't want me in the crowd because I was too young. But I fell in love. And later, enrolled and went to the University of Chicago because he was there.

It seemed like a great place to develop my intellect, but I was overcome by the load of books I was supposed to read.The brochures said an average student dedicated 53 hours a week to reading. I remember the University's famous Great Books List. Most of the good fiction I'd already read, and the non-fiction were books like "Herodotus," which I tried to read on the train heading east on my first Christmas Vacation, deciding, spur of the moment, no more college. And began my life as a going to be great dancer person in Manhattan, New York.

I'm blurring over the reasons behind the reasons, other than dancing that I came to the city. My brilliant Antioch College man (we were both 16) was transferring to NYU, or was it MIT? Can't remember because I don't want to remember this seriously unrequited love phase of my life. it belongs in a book, not a blog.

The next time books came into my life, they were my constant companion, my entree, my dessert whenever I was on tour. All the tours, all the miles I've traveled in transcontinental tours of the US ... and then all over the world, I read books, books, books, paperbacks, hard covers on trains, planes, busses and cars ... dancing and reading before and after my barre, those hundreds of barres I took in hotel rooms, those hundreds of books -- always, the bigger the better.

It's probably why, after my accident and rehabilitation, I wanted to dance to Mahler, and did dance all seventy minutes of Mahler's "Fifth Symphony" at Lincoln Center.

Well, that hunger for big and bigger projects affects me even now. I like to evolve plots over time, not over one event. I don't want a character I've invented to disappear, say goodbye, be gone after a mere 300 pages.

Re my big fat long book -- I didn't just re-vise it, I re-conceived it. "The Woman" (her birth in 1900 to age 86) became "Cordelia," birth till age 70; turned into "Woman of the Century" (1900 till age 99), which became "Dressed in Mama's Dreams" (same age span), then "Cordelia's Almanac" (more emphasis on history), and now, with less emphasis, "Somebody."

Doing the last two revisions, I went into my mystery book phase, reading myself to sleep with Robert Parker, Elmore Leonard, and Nelson DeMille -- the plots, old and new of Cordelia's story, every night seemed to unravel and need rewinding at bed time.

I was hooked on those three master mystery writers, read everything I could buy, new and old paperbacks. Thank you, Ebay Half.com, but it wasn't just cheapskate, practicality. Hardcovers are hard to hold when you're reading in bed. Furthermore, there was no more shelf space left in my home. And no more room in my mind for big fat long stories.

Yes ... the big fat long size of "Somebody" is one of the reasons why it hasn't been published, and why "Somebody," Book I, and Book II is sitting on the shelf in my virtual library at The Readery.

Yes ... blogging is educating me, though it often feels as if I'm working in a wrong style, wrong form. I keep thinking I'm rambling. I ought to confine each post to one idea, and not jump from my past to the present.

Yes ... there's more to say, but not now. Not in one post, not if you're a recovering writoholic, not sure, when I work on my next book, if I really want to sober up and write about one year in a person's life, not ninety-nine, not the whole shebang.

1 comment:

Carola said...

I love it when you write about your past, your girlhood, and your young adulthood.

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