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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Two Edges of the Writing Knife

It happens some times that when writing things begin to look so sharp one has to shade one's eyes. Hemingway used to starve himself almost to death in order to see things in a fresher, crispier light. I am not sure how much of that to take as fact, since most of "A Movable Feast" has been deemed fiction or half-invented lies. Can't hold that against Hemingway for too long; he was a first rate artist, and a fifth rate human being. At any rate, I was writing last night and trying hard not to fall asleep in order to complete the hour I proposed to do when, all of a sudden, I saw one of the characters' face staring back at me in my mind's eye. Many of my friends who know about my "clandestine novel writing" have asked me if I know what my characters look like (physically) and I can't say that I had given too much thought to this. It was strange because until it was mentioned to me, I hardly gave a thought to what John Purcell looked like (I mean his face and expressions). Last night, Parmita (the Indian girl he meets at Oxford) stared back at me as if in a tunnel. I saw the lines of her face clearly defined, and her bright eyes took a loving form. I wish I could see John as well, and perhaps I will. Perhaps soon.

It is final examinations week here at the Academy. The students are restless, and I suppose I am as well. We are not getting a holiday (at least not in the real definition), but three days can be a satisfying reprieve from these difficult days. It is snowing now--big, flopping flakes of snow coming down like missiles.

I was able to also read a bit of "Madame Bovary" last night. It is taking me far too long to finish, but I am enjoying every word. I am up to the part where she takes the poison and is now dying a slow, demented and torturous death. Charles, of course, next to her, losing his mind at his wife's death. He is, perhaps, dying of grief himself. I am not too far off the end, but I am expecting for Rodolphe or Leon to show up in the last minute... perhaps I am waiting or hoping for too much. Oh well, what is reading if not enjoying tremendously and getting lost in a world of words. More on Bovary later.

Update: I started this entry a couple of days ago and I haven't really done much with Madame Bovary. The last few pages feel as if I didn't want to let go of the book. I decided to read Billy Collins next and try to absorb as much poetry as possible to start the next semester because I won't be teaching poetry then.

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At 3:23 PM, Blogger Suzan Abrams said...

Sometimes, a novel tends to slow its reader down because it offers such a rich context, doesn't it. I experienced this recently with HV Morton's In Search of Ireland.
Clandestine novel writing and a multicultural one at that? :-)
I've closed my comments box for 2 months JCR as I am writing now seriously for publication and my creative writing does demand a lot of time. I wanted to let you know personally and also that I so enjoy your blog and will continue to read you as usual during this time.



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