Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WIP Wednesday: Reading Well and (Hopefully) Being Read Well

It's been a long week at my house. Poor Owen has struggled with asthma, allergies, and now a "secondary" infection (bronchitis). He coughs most of the night, keeps his parents up with worry, and looks as pale as a the back of a pre-licked postage stamp.

Thus, my biggest work in progress has been reading from Ellen Datlow's new anthology, Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror, in the wee hours of the night. This book, in many ways, was the inspiration for yesterday's post.

Some may remember my thoughts upon reading Peter Straub's lost boy, lost girl. All in all, I was unimpressed. Straub's entry in Darkness, "The Juniper Tree", is nothing short of brilliant. The prose is tighter in the short story, the imagery more startling, the narrative voice dead on. I felt more uncomfortable reading "The Juniper Tree" than any bit of lost boy, lost girl. (When one reads dark fiction, one should feel at least a little uncomfortable, right?)

"The Pear-Shaped Man" by George R.R. Martin is also a stunning short piece of horror (winning the Stoker Award back in the day). Some stories in the book are less inspiring--maybe just a matter of taste. I don't always agree with Datlow's definition of "horror", but maybe it's the word "horror" which sells books. The writing is all solid. And that's just it. One doesn't find prose like that of "The Juniper Tree" in novels very often. From my limited experience (having just read two of his novels), Straub doesn't write his books with the same pen.

When I titled yesterday's post "Why I Will Never Earn a Living as a Writer", I didn't intend it as a bleak surrender. Quite the opposite: I meant it as a rallying cry around the art of writing, even in "horror". If I could write one story, just one, with the brilliance and efficiency of "The Juniper Tree", I'd die a happy writer. That's my goal, folks. That's the dream I will not surrender. It may not make much money or even be read all that widely (compared with the oft-mentioned in yesterday's comments section Twilight)--but I will gladly die trying.


On another, semi-related note, Necrotic Tissue #10 landed in my mailbox yesterday. There's a delightful little ditty ("Hostile Takeover") by KV Taylor, a short-short by Jeff Strand, and yes, "The Distillery" by yours truly. Hop on over and grab a copy (or subscription). Happy reading.

18 comments:

Akasha Savage. said...

I agree with what you say about Peter Straub, I find most of his work hard to read. About twenty years or so ago I read his book Ghost Story, I can remember I enjoyed it at the time. When I tried to re-read it recently, I just couldn't, his style of writing put me off. However, I do like the two novels he co-wrote with Stephen King : The Talisman and The Black House.

Brendan said...

I've never once thought of writing (mine or anyone else's) as "art." All I wanna do as a writer is to entertain, and as a reader, be entertained. I want art, I'll go to a museum.

If anything I write ever resembles "art," it will be no more than a happy coincidence, a case of that thousandth monkey on that thousandth typewriter . . .

Congrats on NT! That's awesome, man.

Happy writing! And forget all that art crap . . .

Aaron Polson said...

Akasha - I need to check out those collaborations...usually they tend to bring out the best in both.

Brendan - Blame it on being a lit major and English teacher. If I don't get the "good" challenge from reading something, I usually stop reading. On the flip side, if I want to be entertained, I'll play Mario Kart. ;)

Doug Murano said...

Way to go, Aaron--#10 looks like a great issue.

Just purchased my one-year NT subscription yesterday. Looking forward to digging in.

Natalie L. Sin said...

Mine got here yesterday : )

Demon Hunter said...

Congrats, Aaron. Can't wait to read it. I'm still waiting on my copy. :-/

I may pick up Darkness. :-D

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks, Doug. Nifty cover, at least.

Natalie - Huzzah!

Tyhitia - Darkness is a nice "sampler" of the past 20 or so years. Not "complete", but a taste.

katey said...

I flipped straight to "The Distillery" when I unwrapped mine today, you'd better believe. A brilliant cocktail of heart-pounding grab-me-by-the-throat and beautiful description, sir. I needed a drink after, you'd better believe!

Danielle Ferries said...

Congrats on NT. Am adding it to my "to buy" list. I think I'll be adding Darkness too.

Andrea Allison said...

I haven't read much Straub. Maybe I'm better off. I don't know.

Congrats on NT!

Cate Gardner said...

I haven't got my copy of NT yet unless... I think I may have just figured out what parcel has arrived for me at home. 'Twas a mystery. :D

Cathy Olliffe said...

Nice going, Aaron. You are a worker-dude, no doubt about it.
And sorry to hear about Owen. Hope he's feeling better soon.
(Did you ever read the book about Owen Meaney?)

Darlyn said...

Except for his collaboration with Stephen King (The Black House), I've never actually read any of Peter Straub's work. I might pick up a copy just to see what you mean.

Hope Owen feels better. :)

Gay Degani said...

Aaron, thanks for posting about this book. Looks like something I should read.

Gay Degani said...

Aaron, thanks for posting about this book. Looks like something I should read.

Gay Degani said...

Aaron, thanks for posting about this book. Looks like something I should read.

Barry Napier said...

I need to pick this one up. I am reading lost boy/lost girl right now and I am actually enjoying it quite a bit. I am right around the "reveal" at the end and THAT has been quite disappointing, but reading Straub reminds me that there IS still such a thing as literary horror.

Steve said...

Just read "The Distillery" and was impressed enough to look up your blog and make a comment - hey, this is it!. Really nice, tight story. Thanks for the read.