Friday, July 14, 2006

Rereading The Corrections

I'm not a rereader by nature, even though I give my students the assignment to reread a book that had a strong influence on them and write about the experience. Most people, it seems, are rereaders, so there must be something to learn from that. Anyway I have almost finished my second reading of The Corrections, and I'm surprised to notice that I'm having exactly the same response as the first time through. I was completely absorbed in the Enid/Alfred, Chip, and Gary stories, but when it came to Denise, the youngest child, I felt very much like both I and Franzen just wanted to get through it. While it's technically brilliant--shows detailed research into the world of professional cooking and a thorough thinking-through of the character's attributes--it just feels like a summary. It feels like Franzen doesn't deeply know this character or care to know her in the ways he does the others. A lot is done in semi-scenes, summaries that are vivid but not quite full scenes. It's perfunctory. I'm not sure I can finish because I need to get through Denise to get to the death of Alfred, and I don't want to see Alfred die again.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cody's on Telegraph Avenue closes

Just after its 50th anniversary, Cody's bookstore on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley has closed. It looks so far like there will be no Kepler's-style saviors. At least their two smaller stores will stay open.

Ross computerized the business and saw it boom in the 1980s. But even as online sales of books became a major revenue source for bookstores, Ross resisted the trend.

It ran counter to Cody's founding philosophy -- books were meant to be browsed in person and knowledge discovered, he said Sunday.

"Students today, they use the Internet. They read their textbooks," Ross said. "In the '70s, they had wide-ranging intellect."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The intensive writing workshop last week was wonderful. It was exhausting, but at the end it seemed like no one wanted to leave. People did the evaluations and then just sat there at the tables, expecting something.

I learned that I overwrite. I knew this, but I became conscious of how I feel when I'm in danger of overwriting--that is, anxious as opposed to excited, and pressured to "make this beautiful." At this point "show don't tell" has become oppressive to me. "Showing" is an invitation, to me, to overwrite, because I feel like every sentence has to create this luminous and unusual image. I'm going to try to tell as much as possible instead, and make do with fewer images and metaphors. I'm also going to try to write as I do when I'm doing an in-class exercise, fast and with a sense of discovery.

We'll see how this goes.