While I wait to hear something about my manuscript, I've been at loose ends as far as writing goes. I've started a story, but it languishes, needing research. Instead I've been reading. On my bookshelf, I found Andrea Barrett's story collection, Servants of the Map, and enjoyed it very much. I like the way she interweaves related characters over a long span of time, although I wish I'd kept a note on which ones belonged to which story. By the end, I discovered that the characters were surprisingly interchangeable, except for the one named Nora. I don't usually consider that a plus, but it was shortlisted for the Pulitzer in 2003, so my cavil is a minority vote, I think. The tone is wonderfully sustained throughout, a thoughtful acceptance of life, tinged with sadness.
Next I started Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence, to which I found myself curiously immune. There are some fine elements, but the author wears a perpetual smirk that irritates me so much, I don't appreciate all the pyrotechnics going on. (Sigh.)
Earlier today, I finished Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro and am still trying to shake off the mood created by the eponymous last story. Really fine, I thought.
I've picked up Let the Great World Spin for bedtime reading and have completed the first two stories. Will take it nice and slow. Reading prose written by Irish writers always seduces my ear with the music, and does not help me write. Imitate, maybe, even though I don't want to. But not use my own voice, such as it may be.
I can hope that I will hear something positive about my venture into these waters. I realize that they are choppy for anything realistic and it's interesting to speculate about why. I would suggest that it isn't because there are no fine realistic writers working. Instead, it's we, the reader, who are responsible. We do not find that the real world possesses sufficient mystery or hope. We have discovered ourselves devoid of wonder in the face of all we have learned about ourselves, our country, the earth. We want an escape from these realizations, even if that requires flying brooms and apocalyptic vampires, or invented enchantresses of Florence (at the very least a great title).