Archive | November 2012

Reality in Fiction

I let myself get persuaded into watching an old John Wayne/Katherine Hepburn flick last night–Rooster Cogburn and the Lady. The horses and landscape in the lead-in were both spectacular, so I just shrugged when Corrie, knowing my obsession with accuracy, told me not to fret the details too much. “You just have to ignore that they’re hauling nitroglycerin,” she says. So I was prepared not to worry about the raft not blowing up as it crashed into cliffs and boulders along the river. Still, though the story never specifies its location, the dense spruce forest and high mountains set me up to cringe when someone mentioned catfish, and I snorted when the young ‘Indian’ (tribal affiliation undisclosed) brought in a possum for dinner. When the credits rolled, I saw the movie was filmed along the Rogue River in Oregon, which wasn’t far from my guess, after following the story, of western Montana or Idaho. No possum there, and no catfish. Didn’t faze Corrie a bit. But that sort of dissonance can throw a person, if they happen to know those kinds of things.

Since I know next to nothing about UFO conspiracies, or theories about bird migration and electromagnetism, I didn’t have any problem suspending my disbelief for the much more in-credible happenings in Malinda Lo’s new book, Adaptation.  Maybe there’s a twinge here and there when the writing dwells on articles of clothing or flavors of doughnut that don’t seem to have any bearing on plot or character. But the layers of both character and plot that do build together are so convincing that I eagerly recommend this story to anyone who doesn’t mind waiting for the sequel (not due out until late 2013). I’m not at all worried about looking up alien research in Nevada. I really like these characters, and I really am curious where Lo will take this fiction next. That’s the truth that counts.

Ambiguous Ending

Oooo–I’ve been toying with the idea of an indeterminate end for my next story, and I just fell into a disturbing example when I finished Tim Tharp’s 2008 novel The Spectacular Now. The technique certainly got my attention, and not just as a writer but first as a reader. It requires re-reading:  the last paragraph, the last page, the last scene. That increases the pressure, I’d say, for a writer to pull something strong into the finale’. How rewarding though, in this case, when Tharp fully succeeds. The re-readings are beautiful, transcendent, still boldly cryptic–which is what keeps the “preach” stunningly at bay. This is a book that will stay on my shelf.