Monday, March 22, 2010

The Reading Life: The Thirteenth Tale

Shouldn't be blogging today(so much work!) but using my dinner break to read and write a little because, well, I don't like days without any of that at all.

The reading continues apace. This nerd took herself off to the library on Friday and gulped down a gorgeously rich book over the weekend. It's been a long long time since I read any gothic suspense novels and I hadn't realized I was quite so tired of the lean modern prose style until I picked up Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale.

"My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don't expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie."

Someone once told me that good writers write short crisp sentences, neat and concise. I disagreed vehemently.

Maybe good writing for a workaday news article or a management/marketing report requires short sharp writing and I agree that there is a place for deft sharp stories - knife sharp and honed to a fine point - all the better for piercing through the fog of life that surrounds us most of the time.

But ask any fiction lover who has ever read Dickens, Angela Carter, A S Byatt or Du Maurier and they'll tell you that there is nothing on earth that comes close to the experience of plunging into a sea of words, only to surface hours later, metaphors and dreams clinging to the skin like so many fronds of seaweed.

The Thirteenth Tale was as rich and dark as the best kind of brandied fruit cake, filled with interesting and aromatic little nuggets of lyric and metaphor. The perfect antidote to the driven, spare prose that dominates so much of modern literature and a perfect luxurious companion for the grey, rain filled weekend.

"For I was spellbound. There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic. When I at last woke up to myself, I could only guess what had been going on in the darkness of my unconsciousness."

Oh books. I've read a love letter to all of you old friends over the weekend and I must buckle down and write my own love letter(s) to you one day. Have been reading so much fact and study material lately, I'm just utterly craving some story.

Note to self - to borrow and read some Jeanette Winterson books soon. Love the blog, love the articles, need to get my grubby little fingers on some of her books.

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