[I’m posting this a day early, since we’re going to be gone all weekend.]
An exchange with Leah on another lesson in this forum has prompted me to write this lesson that’s a bit different from the usual. I’ll admit that this one isn’t much work for me—it’s been a particularly busy few months with a few pressing part-time jobs, some out-of-town travel, and some family issues that have needed my attention.
Nevertheless, if several of you will participate, this has the potential of being a very helpful lesson.
It starts with a simple question:
1. What are you reading?
The follow-up question:
2. What is it about this book that says to you, This is good writing?
3. What is it about this book that says to you, This is not good writing?
In your answer, you could mention any of several things, and I’ll list just a few. Please feel free to mention things that are not on this list, however:
The writer’s unique voice—maybe some specific way that he or she uses words, sentences, punctuation, or something else to create a recognizable and distinct style.
Unique and unpredictable plot
Handling of subject matter in an interesting or fresh way
Please be very specific in your answer—not just “I really like this book, because I enjoy reading it and I didn’t want to put it down” or something like that.
It would be very helpful if you’d include a short passage that illustrates what you said in #2 or #3.
Be sure to include the title and the author.
If we get several participants, we may end up with a great summer reading list—and I’ll be happy to start out the list.
I’m reading (for the umpteenth time) Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger. I love it because of its easy narrative style—it’s told in the voice of a young (12-ish) boy, but it’s not a child’s book. Ruben, the narrator, has a unique family, including Swede, the best little girl in a novel since Scout Finch, and a father who occasionally performs miracles. Here’s a short passage that breaks almost every rule in the book, but the writing is so good that it makes me despair:
…[the goose] shuddered, went graceless, and made a controlled fall to the ground some eighty yards away. “You did it,” Davy said. “Good shot—you took him the hard way, buddy. Better go finish him.”
But as I handed him the gun, almost sobbing with relief, Swede streaked past in her corduroy coat yelling, “I’ll get ‘im, I’ll get ‘im!” and Davy said, “Aw, let her chase the old bird down,” so I watched her go, yellow hair bouncing behind her stocking cap.
Downfield, though, the goose seemed to have recovered its wits. It stood upright, taking stock, its head so high and perky I feared it might take off and fly after all. When it saw Swede coming it turned and sprinted away.
I’m telling you that goose could run.
Seeing this Swede lowered her head and went full steam, mud and chaff raining off her bootsoles. Dad started laughing, whipping off his cap and whacking it on his leg, while the goose stretched out its neck and bolted across the barley. Reaching the end of the field it encountered a barbwire fence. It stopped and turned as Swede closed in.
That passage has at least six things “wrong” with it—but it works, beautifully, especially in starting to establish the character of Swede, who is the most important one in the novel (this is from the first chapter).
So…who’ll go next? What are you reading? Why do you like it? Tell us about it!