Reader, do you write? #IWSGFeb2017
How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader.
As I read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings I noticed that I was enjoying the book at two levels. I was a child who loves adventure, new stories and new places impatient for the story to unfold, restlessly eager to know the characters better, drinking in the descriptions of the setting, the clothes, the rooms and the emotions that coursed through them.
At another level I noticed the writing. I found my critical faculties thought that some of the answers were too pat. The problem was presented to you and before you could worry about it’s repercussions or try and figure out a solution for the character – the solution was presented to you by the writer. I was disappointed. I felt that more tension could have been created. And of course, I thought about how I would have done it, worried about whether I would have the skill to pace the writing better. After all Sue Monk Kidd is an award winning writer and this novel is described as a sweeping, historical novel – based as it is on the actual life of two abolitionist sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke. I don’t know if I can, but I do know that I will try because of my experience as a reader. Being a writer brought out a different, critical side of me that doesn’t criticize just for the sake of being clever but because I can see that something could have been written better.
The chapters alternated between Sarah Grimke and Hetty, her slave and were written in the first person. I thought alternating the chapters between the two characters was a lovely way to write but I felt, specially when Sarah and Hetty were both 11 years old and writing in first person that third person would have been a better choice.
After The Invention of Wings I read Manjula Padmanaban’s The Island of Lost Girls – another novel full of beautiful prose and striking descriptions but too dystopian for my liking. I didn’t think that I, the writer, could learn anything from reading this novel because I’m unlikely to write anything in that genre. I will not be inventing new worlds, new races, new clothes or languages. What I did pay attention to was how cleverly she has woven social commentary about feminism and misogyny into her story. It’s the reason behind the whole story. Now that was something I admired despite the brutality, the unnecessary cruelty and the problem with control. More than once I was reminded of the quote – “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” John Dalberg Acton
The balance of power and the struggle for it is a philosophical concept I find fascinating and repelling and I enjoyed that silent conversation that threads its way through the book, without moving into an actual discussion or only fleetingly. I noticed that the chapters were short keeping the action ever relevant. I decided the writer Kalpana would write short chapters.
I’ve just started reading Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and almost gasp out loud at the skillful way she manipulates the reader. I’m enjoying it thoroughly and I do believe that the writer Kalpana will come away from this book more skilful.
Provided I keep writing every day and not just reading.
Another way that writing has affected my reading is that I’m much more conscious of choosing good reading material. I try not to read Indian Newspapers because the good ones are written in a pompous didactic way and the bad ones are full of slang and typos. Online news sites that have a simpler style of writing that is direct, to the point and yet complex are more pleasurable for me and I don’t run the risk of ruining my writing style.
If I read a book that doesn’t have beautiful prose it must offer me something – in terms of exciting new ideas, a plot that propels one past the mediocre prose – because then I’m learning about plot in that. I’m referring specifically to the Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. It isn’t always possible to do it though. There must be a story in Vikas Swarup’s Slumdog Millionaire but I couldn’t read more than three pages of the book. I can always watch the movie to get an idea of the plot.
I am half German and do occasionally indulge my desire to read German. But my writing becomes long winded, pedantic with sentences meandering round about so that the scene is as specific as possible. Reading German ruins my writing, sadly. Has that ever happened to your writing – that you find the influence of another language on the cadences and choice of words to be ‘not so good’?
What really gets writing flowing though is reading poetry. There’s nothing better than poetry to get my imagination flowing, with lyrical prose streaming out of my pen like tears out of the eyes of someone overwhelmed by the beauty of full moon. Does poetry have this effect on you too? Is it a universal trigger for writers?
Has being a writer changed your approach to reading?
IWSG is the brainchild of our noble Ninja Captain and leader Alex J. Cavanaugh!