Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creative Poison

Here’s the Catch-22 of the day: What to do with your own mediocre writing efforts when you read something of such great stature and storytelling that your own stuff pales in comparison?

That’s happening to me right now as I read Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s The Book of Sorrow, sequel to his equally lyric and spellbinding The Book of the Dun Cow.

I’ve read the first chapter, which contains passages like this:
The season is autumn, cool and clean. Beyond the willow, the land rises up into hills all covered in an evergreen thicket. The sun slants down behind the two Hens white, in a golden field. Blue, green, golden, and here a feathered white: it’s a lovely day altogether. And they have arrived below the willow.
So much detail and description packed into such a tight space. And such sentence structure variation: The complex joining of clauses. The fragments. The alliteration, subtle, yet present.

How can I hope to equal such majesty?

I am reading creative poison.

But I will continue to imbibe. I will self-administer the poison then put in on the shelf, next to the other vials of poison from which I have drunk deeply. There is no sipping of poison in this library. It is all taken in, to the last draught. Only to have the bottles fill again as they sit on the shelf, waiting for me to drink again.

Bottles like Felix Salten’s Bambi. Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Lowis Lowrey’s The Giver. And so many others.

My own poison is wan, weak, consumable by the gallon though you’d hardly think of anyone bothering to take a sip. Theirs come in small bottles, potent bottles, wicked bottles. I have many on my shelves. I find them at thrift stores. Dear ones mail new poisons to me. I continue to take them in.

The only antidote is crap writing. So much like my own.

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