Thursday, August 23, 2007

What! No further?

I confess I've gotten a little weird about the order in which I'm reading books. I seem to have a lot going on concurrently. It's not that I've given up on Tolstoy, it's just that I've realized I need to temper his density with easier reads. Tolstoy's become my afternoon commute read (mornings I'm too tired), although I'm really going to try to make it a goal to at least get through 50 pages a week, to hopefully finish the book by the end of September. It's just a slow slow process.

Haven't been in a short story mood as of late, so Carver sits on my bedside table, getting a little dusty after I've only read two of the stories.

Francine Prose -- well I just haven't been in an academic mood either.

But my newest addition to the list is Annie Dillard's The Writing Life. It's short (which will help that book goal along), it's light, and it's all about writing, which I probably need right now as I enter into the long process of MFA applications. I was first introduced to this book half a year back, in one of my fiction workshops, and immediately liked the passages we read. I think it's because it explains, in metaphor, so clearly the process that the writer goes through, and it's so easy to identify with. You read it and you think, "Yes! Exactly!" I find it overly anecdotal and/or metaphorical at points, but I think it's so spot-on most of the time, not to mention funny in this heartwarming way, that I can't help but like it. Granted, I'm only on chapter one. There's so many passages I like already though, that I don't even know where to start. But okay, let's just put up this section that I just thought so cute and funny, I was grinning on the subway reading it.

Few sights are so absurd as that of an inchworm leading its dimwit life. Inchworms are the caterpillar larvae of several moths or butterflies. The cabbage looper, for example, is an inchworm. I often see an inchworm: it is a skinny bright thing, pale and thin as a vein, an inch long, and apparently totally unfit for life in this world. It wears out its days in constant panic.

Every inchworm I have seen was stuck in long grasses. The wretched inchworm hangs from the side of a grassblade and throws its head around from side to side, seeming to wail. What! No further? Its back pair of nubby feet clasps the grass stem; its front three pairs of nubs rear back and flail in the air, apparently in search of a footing. What! No further? What? It searches everywhere in the wide world for the rest of the grass, which is right under its nose. By dumb luck it touches the grass. Its front legs hang on; it lifts and buckles its green inch, and places its hind legs just behind its front legs. Its body makes a loop, a bight. All it has to do now is slide its front legs up the grass stem. Instead it gets lost. It throws up its head and front legs, flings its upper body out into the void, and panics again. What! No further? End of world? And so forth, until it actually reaches the grasshead's tip. By then its wee weight may be bending the grass toward some other grass plant. Its davening, apocalyptic prayers sway the grasshead and bump it into something. I have seen it many times. The blind and frantic numbskull makes it off one grassblade and onto another one, which it will climb in virtual hysteria for several hours. Every step brings it to the universe's rim. And now - What! No further? End of world? Ah, here's ground. What! No further? Yike!

"Why don't you just jump?" I tell it, disgusted. "Put yourself out of your misery."
--[pg. 7-8, The Writing Life]

Tee hee!!! It's just cute because you totally know what she's talking about, those cute fuzzy green catepillars that have no idea what they're doing. Hee hee hee!!

Okay, I'll post up more relevant passages up later (like when I'm not at work). I haven't read any other Dillard yet - though I do mean to pick up The Maytrees when it's out on paperback, but I think this is a good light read to intersperse with Tolstoy for now.

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