Friday, July 14, 2006

graphophobia? logophobia? oatesophobia?

I'm actually feeling a little afraid of writing.

My writer's meeting is scheduled for Saturday, after being rescheduled because a couple of people couldn't make it. I haven't been to a meeting since... March? February? although I saw some of them at the Con in May. I haven't written anything since February, either, although I've done some light editing, a little brainstorming, and been reading a good bit.

Today I have some downtime. Now would be the ideal time to open up a Trace file, or a blank document, and go to town. But the whole thing sounds draining, dangerous. As if it will get hold of me and drag me down, and I don't have time for that right now.

I've had this feeling before. Rather frequently, the last couple years. Probably means I've got too much on my plate. Looking forward to seeing the group tomorrow, though. Be nice to see some different faces, think about something other than tai chi for a bit. (My tai chi is somewhat less sucky today, but we'll talk about that later.)

I finished the Oates book yesterday. Pretty much skimmed the last third of it. My question is, if this is autobiographical, as she admits, why on earth would she want to portray herself in such a negative light? It's a vaguely picaresque structure, as nothing really adds up and there is no plot arc, only a series of incidents that I suppose are meant to shape the heroine's life, but I can't see any cause-and-effect, particularly because she tends to end chapters with shocking scenes, and then pick up in the next chapter, several months or years later, with no follow-up. Her very failure to reexamine or impose meaning upon these incidents nullifies any point or value they might have otherwise implied. The only thing I took away from this book was the heroine's apparent sense of worthlessness, from being abandoned as a child, contributing directly to her spitefulness, coldness, and willingness to prostitute herself in the name of literary advancement as an adult.

What made it particularly horrifying to me was, I could identify with a lot of it. Not the abandonment parts, but the literary bent of mind, the schizoid simultaneous superiority/inferiority complexes (I think all artists suffer from that), the detachment from peers who aren't really. So it made it all the more repugnant when I was reading along, nodding in empathy, and suddenly the woman leaps into an affair with her graduate professor. I mean, ew. And on top of that, Oates has a strong, distinctive style, which has left an aftertaste on my brain and might be useful if I were working on something contemporary and nihilistic (maybe I should dig out "Skinpatch" again?) but would be highly detrimental to my mellerdramatic (and defiantly optimistic) everyday escapist fare.

I think I'll go find a nice Dean Koontz novel to wash my brain out.


Anonymous said...

What with the dearth of entries in Sabine's journal, I took the time to read a Stephen King novel, "The Gunslinger." I really hope that it is one of his lesser efforts. I gather from things you've said that you set great store by King, so I'll not be hasty in passing any judgment. One novel does not a career make.

It is the opinion of this gentle reader that your Trace and Boz stories are better than those found in this one novel. TG is set in a dreary Southwest of the not too distant future; much of it is spun purely from King's imagination. Your tales are more thoroughly researched, more grounded in reality. They do not stun one's senses with too much incredibility. You limit each story to one fantasy feature, and from there the narrative flows. King's narrative flows well enough, but the unbelievables are stacked too high in this novel.

Mr. King sold these stories to Ed Ferman of "Fantasy and Science Fiction" from twenty-five to thirty years ago. I wonder how they might have fared had his name not been Stephen King.


Holly said...

My take on "The Gunslinger" and the rest of the Dark Tower series is that King stepped too far outside of his comfort zone. If you read far enough in that series you actually come to realize that the Gunslinger's world is a parallel version of our universe, one which is older and "winding" down. It's a lengthy treatment of the idea that time and reality has to break down and be reborn.

I've seen the concept handled better, elsewhere. I think King's strength was always in his ability to place incredible elements in a familiar setting and make them seem plausible. In the Dark Tower, there's nothing real or familiar to grasp. I don't think he does sufficient worldbuilding to really ground the reader in his vision; perhaps his vision isn't well-developed enough.

If you'd like an example of where he's done it better, I recommend "Eyes of the Dragon." It's a pretty straight fantasy, with a real Grimm's fairy-tale flavor. And the characters are much more engaging.

I can't think much of Roland as a hero, either. So I don't think I'll ever finish the Dark Tower series. In the early days of writing Trace, I worried that people might say I was ripping off the Gunslinger, but once I reread the book, I rather doubt anyone will. I'll more likely be compared to the graphic novel, "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

Anonymous said...

Weirdly enough, I am into Book II of the Dark Tower series. My interest may wind down as I go along. I don't think that much of Roland as a hero either. The situation reminds me of Thomas Covenant, the protagonist of Steven R. Donaldson's six book series. He was no hero, not in all truth. I read all six books twenty-one years ago; I have no desire to ever read them again.

I shall keep a weather eye out for "Eyes of the Dragon" and "The Shawshank Redemption."

Trace doesn't strike me as anyone at all like the Gunslinger.