Monday, December 13, 2010

She always had that same look in her eyes.

Ladies, 2010

I had fallen deeply into another of her books. Her writing was not what I usually gravitated toward, yet each of her novels had grabbed hold of me and would not let me go. They haunted me more than I looked forward to them.

I woke thinking of the current novel and knew I'd begin reading it before coffee or breakfast. It rested upside down, on the top of the stack beside my bed, her small passport sized author photograph looking up at me. She always had that same look in her eyes. In each photograph I'd seen of her -- similarly placed on her other books, on her publisher's website, and accompanying articles about her and her writing -- she always looked out with that same sexy squint. It looked good on her. I stood and looked into the mirror. My eyes were effortlessly wide open, even when I was tired. I tried her squint. I looked as if I'd been pinched.

She seemed one of those pretty girls who do not know they are pretty, but really do. Not unlike the main characters in her novels, but she was more sophisticated, more poised.

Now gripped by her third novel, I started to want to know more about her. How was she able to exert this power over me? I wanted to exert some power. I found video and written interviews, reviews of her books, and read her biography on the site linked to her teaching. I learned a little bit about her process and confirmed her sexy squint was de rigueur, at least it seemed so.

I resolved to try writing more like her -- to create characters removed from my own experiences, their emotions imagined versus linked to something I'd felt. There would be less weight attached to the work. Less worry about exposing myself or someone in my past or present. No fear of the moment so and so will approach me and ask "Is so and so character based on me?" I could stand taller, shoulders back, because there would be no secrets to cradle. So I tried.

It wasn't me. I knew after one page. I decided it wasn't her either. Her characters were not solely imagined. They were various incarnations of herself.


  1. I kept reading every line so intensely, wondering just who it is you're talking about. Then I looked at what's on your pile of books and realised it must be Nicole Krauss. I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard of her before but your post makes oh so curious to get my hands on a book of hers. Would you recommend that I start with the first one? Whenever I read an author I adore, I tell myself I'm going to copy their style and characters but that's almost impossible because it has to be an expression of you and your world, not just a combination of words and syntax. I love your passion for books and the other day found Tinkers and was so pleased but your own writing is so wonderful that it would be shame to lose that.

  2. Hi Vanessa,
    Actually, I have finished the book I mention and it's not on my list any longer. The author I'm referencing is not Nicole Krauss. I did really like her novel, The History of Love, and highly recommend it. I am just at the very beginning of Great House. It's too soon to recommend, but I like it so far. Happy reading.

  3. I was just about to ask who as well, but I read your comment. I love a good book! Thanks!

  4. Ladybugs and beautiful writing! I'd love to know who the author is, but I'll understand if you wish to keep that part quiet.

    I recently bought The History of Love, but have yet to dive into it. I'll be curious to hear what you think of her 2nd book as well.

  5. redmenace, I did really like The History of Love. I hope you enjoy it too. Just to confirm, Nicole Krauss is not the author I reference in this post.

    alexandria, In November I stayed in a cottage with an abundance of ladybugs. This image is from that trip. I'll be curious to see what you think of The History of Love. I think I'll keep the author in this post a secret here, for now. I wasn't really intending to enjoy the mystery so much, but it's kind of fun.

  6. i can empathize with this post so much and really enjoyed your ruminations on how a certain author can just get in your head until you're forced to find out all you can about them and their process...

  7. Hmmm, I can bond with what you are writing about because I sometimes try to do the same with photography. I get inspired by someone and try and take similar photos and realize their photos are a manifestation of who they are...and so I can't reproduce that.

  8. Chez,

    I'll make you a deal -- you do that sexy squint for me when I get home from work and I won't tell your friends what author you are describing.


  9. Thanks, Jenn. I'm almost as bad with wanting to learn about the creative process of others as I am with constantly peeking over shoulders to see what other people are reading.

    Raina, It's clearly best to just be ourselves, but hey, we all need to stretch and experiment every once in a while, right?

    Chris, Okay, deal. And guess what else will be here when you get home from work... Rachel's anchovy crumbs. Yes!

  10. And then there are those who resolve to write like you, Denise. What a voice.

  11. Lovely, Denise. I'd like to know who you are posting about, too.

  12. Lovely, Denise. I'd like to know which author you are posting about, too.

  13. Tracy, All I can do is smile now, this might go on all day.

    Bethany, Well, since you asked twice...

  14. I also am very curious... and who knows if this is an authoress translated into Italian...
    I'm currently reading The Clan of the Cave Bea by
    Jean Aue. it's an unusual book for me, I was surprise when i choose it in library.
    yet somehow It is charming, and today I tried a lot of news about Neanderthal people.
    good night dear denise,

  15. hmmmm...i'm so curious and want to know. must know. i'm going to make a guess...but have to think on it a bit. i have a blog out there somewhere about what other people are reading. i need to revive was fun!

  16. interesting....who could the author be? I wonder if she is perhaps more of a.... rather than a... hmm maybe not.... let me think some more....
    How is The Great House? I've stashed it in my bag for holiday reading...

  17. I just read Chris's comment. BWHAHAHA..! Just the kind of thing Bill would say! :)

    I've never known how people write fiction, first of all (it's a gift well beyond my capabilities), but I always feel like you must have to draw from your own life regardless... otherwise I would think the writing would be...well, hollow.

    I love your thoughts and how you played with this piece - the writing itself was a little flirty, mirroring that sexy squint. You've definitely got it.


  18. Tiziana, I looked up The Clan of the Cave Bear and it is a very intriguing concept. I've added it to my very long list of books I'd like to read.

    countingdandelions, A blog about what other people are reading. Oh, I know I'd be a fan.

    Annie, I'm not terribly far into Great House yet, but I'm really enjoying it so far.

    Maria, Chris likes to chime in every so often. He enjoys making me laugh. Gotta love the guy. I think I'd like Bill. I don't think fiction is beyond your reach at all. You write about emotion beautifully. I know I'd like to read your fiction.

  19. GREAT thought pattern.
    i actually quite like you keep schtumm on the author.
    for now, right.

  20. This post shows just how powerful your writing is...I too, would love to know which author you are speaking of and scoured the comments to know if you gave a hint. Hopefully at some point?

    I don't feel as if imitation is what we should strive for, yet I feel that imitation sometimes allows us to evolve into our own person. Sometimes it is how we know what we are or are not.

  21. woolf, Thank you.

    Rachel, I think we are always absorbing things we experience and then incorporating them into who we are. I'm rarely inspired to imitate, but I was tempted to experiment with another style, for about a minute. Live and learn, right? As you referenced, I guess I learned what I'm not.