Friday, May 23, 2008

Making A Literary Life Friday: Passages

Most people join or create writers' groups when we are ready for work to be critiqued; there is a sense that outside hands can push us along the path we have chosen a little faster than we might get there on our own. A side benefit to a writers' group, however, is learning from reading other work critically, watching how a passage, a page, or an entire story shifts as the writer explores new territory, then deepens and strengthens it.

As stronger readers, we then take even greater delight in a phrase or a passage that stops us cold for all the right reasons, when we have to pause simply to appreciate the gorgeous simplicity of a story well told. Here are a few bits that have struck us most of late.

Lisa Marnell
I'm drawing from an old read, I was looking at recently: Sarah Dunant's novel, The Birth of Venus.

"It wasn't as if Florence didn't have artists enough of her own. The city was filled with the smell of paint and the scratch of ink on the contracts. There were times when you couldn't walk the streets for fear of falling into some pit or mire left by constant building."

Amy MacKinnon
Ian McEwan's ATONEMENT is a favorite novel. This line is among the most memorable, the most gorgeous I've ever read:

"Another mole, the size of a farthling on her thigh and something purplish on her calf -- a strawberry mark, a scar. Not blemishes. Adornments."

Hannah Roveto
Scott Heim's We Disappear is stunning. In this particular paragraph, Heim captures mood, pace and scene in three simple sentences as two people hesitate, and I love the use of dissolve:

"She closed her eyes, pausing to arrange the memories. The TV's light wavered sleepily over her face; from outside, the echo of a church bell, reminding me of the bell above the Haven Cafe door, and of Mr. Wyler, weeping soundlessly at his booth. I listened as the low tolling dissolved and the town went silent."

Lynne Griffin
Ronlyn Domingue's, Mercy of Thin Air is a elegant as her novel's title. This book is rich in everything that matters. Character, plot, setting--and prose. Here is the first lovely passage I came to by merely opening the novel and pointing to a page.

"Andrew's essence drew outward, then stalled. The particles suspended in a dense concentration of cold, still air. I held the salty tinge within me for the length of a breath, before anything more could make an escape, before I could on the question, What happened to him?"

On a side note, Ronlyn is a generous writer who's written some advice well worth reading. Check out her website.


Anonymous said...

In honor of the long Spring weekend, when I'll be planting a flower garden with my daughters, I'd like to offer the following:

"Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock...As Samuel Spaulding, Esquire once said, "Dig in the earth, delve in the soul."
Excerpt from Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Line.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

I firmly believe my fellow authors are my best teachers. Just last night, at a reading by Ann Hood and Elizabeth Berg, Ann said something about opening lines that so resonated with me it's the focus of my own blog post today!

Eileen said...

I love those lines. I've started to become a book marker-upper, underlining certain passages.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I really want to read Mercy of Thin Air! Such a great title. I loved Atonement. These are great lines that make me want to read all these books.

On another issue, Wednesday, May 28th, 2008, Dr. Gigi Durham, the author of a new groundbreaking book entitled The Lolita Effect, The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What we can Do About It, will be here for a Q&A session to talk about her new book on my blog. I hope you will come by and I hope you will tell others to come and interact with Dr. Durham who will be answering questions all day and night long!