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January 03, 2008

Writing & Reading Update

859 words of a new ... story? Wendy Bradley's exercise with starting with the first line of a novel as a trigger. Mine was Maugham's The Moon & Sixpence, which I picked at random from classics in Google books. The first line was "I confess that when I first made acquaintance ..."

There. I'm satisfied with this amount of movement. After not writing for so long I have to build up my muscles again.

My first book of 2008 is a hangover from YA 2007: Christopher Barzak's One For Sorrow. Pretty damned good. A bit of a throwback to late seventies gritty, depressing YA, but there's nothing wrong with that.

The book handles an Ohioan working class family of a type that I thought had disappeared with all the outsourced factory jobs the midwest once had in such abundance. Barzak actually deals with this issue in a particularly effectively creepy way--abandoned industrial sectors of Youngstown literally haunted by the ghosts of workers who were killed, or also abandoned, there.

The younger son, 15 and sensitive, completes the bonding he started with a classmate, but after the classmate is murdered. I.e. he bonds with the classmate's ghost. It's partly a response to the fucked-up-ness of his family, where his grandmother has recently died, his father has lost his spirit and spends his time belittling his family, his mother has been paralyzed in a car accident, and the drunk driver who paralyzed her has moved into their house. But it's also just that great divide all teenagers have to cross, the promontory from which you can start to glimpse the actual life ahead of you and decide if you're going to buy in.

The protag, being particularly far-seeing, almost decides that he doesn't have the stomach for it. The book is mostly right on the mark with this process, but it does drag a bit in several places, the places where the boy's own runaway life is rather dragging. It's hard to make these scenes interesting.

Highly recommended.

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