Writing on Wednesday: Somehow It Works

412azisJy5LI’m leaving the beach this morning with little time to blog, but I wanted to share a treasure I’m late in discovering…. Peter Taylor’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Summons to Memphis, which I started reading just this week and can’t put down.

The prose is impeccable and the story line is fascinating…. Whether or not you live in Memphis (like me) or Nashville… or anywhere, for that matter.

Since I moved to Memphis in 1988, I didn’t know much of its history, which Taylor fills in nicely, with contrasts to Nashville, the city from which the protagonist and his family (including his son, the narrator, moved in the 1920s.)

As a writer I can’t help but read every book with a critical eye… wondering, for example, how Taylor, as narrator, was privy to conversations between his parents when he, as the narrator wasn’t there. It’s the old argument about third person omniscient point of view. But I wonder if I would have even noticed those issues if they hadn’t been beat into my brain at writing workshops. So I was interested in reading the review by my friend, the author Sonja Livingston on Goodreads:

Hardly any action/plot/scenes, lots of repeated info, a starchy male speaker with a rather straightforward ‘dry’ writer-to-reader delivery, yet, somehow this novel works. It would be easy to slam it as not worthy of its prize, but I choose to appreciate for the way it somehow entertains and informs, despite breaking almost every rule we’re taught about fiction writing.

thYes, somehow it “works.” And won a Pulitzer.

Makes me want to quit worrying about so many “rules” as I write….

 

One comment


  • I’m taking a Novel writing workshop class right now, and the first week, our teacher said, “There are a lot of rules for writing. But also, rules were made to be broken.” We’ve talked a lot about “rules” or craft should – dos, but our teacher also is open to breaking rules if it works for your narrative! Nice post!

    March 16, 2016

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