I’ve gotten a surprising amount of reading done this month; it is only June 11th, thank goodness! I have huge anxiety about the summer months disappearing before I get anything done and I have to go back to full-time teaching in the fall. I’m coming to realize, as I always do, that my word count goals are unrealistic and that I have so much more to figure out about my characters’ temperaments, relationships, obsessions. When I’m stuck in a vague place, say the middle of This Novel, I take a break to read, to immerse myself in other stories.
I’m thinking about how to create and maintain a gothic atmosphere throughout This Novel, how to create darkness in a love story, how to balance desire and control in my characters’ relationships.
When my son and I made our first summer pilgrimage to the library, I came away with books by only one author: Joyce Carol Oates. I’d wanted to pick up some of Oates’ novels anyway, but the books I chose were also influenced by the fact that my son was standing there waiting, having already chosen eight children’s books, which he so patiently held in his little arms. So I grabbed what looked good, what I hadn’t already read; there was no time to browse. This month of June:
Each of these works has been wonderful. I forgot how quickly I could move through some novels (this must be Pynchon’s fault). First Love and Beasts had a great effect on me; I’ll give them their own post later, as I’m still thinking about the connections they have to one another. I grabbed The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis off of the New Titles shelf; I remember liking her in grad school and I have not been disappointed. I always look forward to Tin House. Tinkers was an impulse buy on Amazon; I was drawn in by the idea of the New England home the protagonist built himself, the idea of channeling the dead, and the Pulitzer win never hurts. One Amazon reviewer discusses a connection between Paul Harding and Marilynne Robinson, at Iowa. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I loved Robinson’s Housekeeping.
All of these Oates books are great ‘summer reads,’ whatever that seems to mean to people these days. Go read!
So here I am, embarking on the summer of Finishing This Novel. Finals are over, grades are entered, and now I have a reprieve from one kind of work; now it is time to push myself through the Other Work. I want a finished manuscript by August. But things keep getting more and more complicated: history, architecture, plot threads, character’s emotions yet to be discovered.
I’m taking inspiration from my friend Stephanie; her first novel is coming out this December. I am so proud of her. I know she has called herself lazy before, but truly she has remarkable self-discipline. I am going to mooch off her and give you a great list of links and books On Writing.
I’m deep in research, as I have been. I have a very lengthy list of Facts to Check and Details to Figure Out. The main part of This Novel takes place in 1988, a chunk in 1966, 1972, and 1945. We are on a grand estate on a icy New England Island, just barely pre-MilliVanilli.
Please help me with 1945. I’d appreciate any book and website recommendations, as well as any other information. What type of medication(s) would be prescribed for respiratory problems/distress in 1945—did they have inhalers back then? Pills? What kind of wedding cake was popular in 1945? What were some popular party foods from the 40s?
Drowning in Details