The Green Road

IMG_1954It’s Man book Prize longlist time and The Green Road is my first official read from the 13 books.  Technically I attempted to read A Little Life a few months ago.  I got to page 200 and got side tracked by other books and life and quit reading it.  This is what can happen when I read more than one book at a time and when a story isn’t grabbing me.  No worries I’ll surely get back to it eventually.

I was away in the south of France with no internet and poor network connection for my smart phone so of course that allowed me to fully concentrate on reading.  And boy did I read.  I read four books in a week.  That’s a record for me.  You’ll hear about what I read in another post.  I’m back today to talk to you about what I thought of The Green Road by Anne Enright.

The story is split up into two parts.  The first part is composed of five view points from the Madigan family – from the children, Dan, Emmet, Constance, Hanna, and the last viewpoint is from the mother, Rosaleen.  Part one is called Leaving and part two is called Coming Home.

Part two is a series of episodes that tie up or make clear how each person fits into the Madigan family.  “This is how they knew each other, the Madigans, they knew the timber of a voice, the rhythm of fingers tapping on a tabletop, and they didn’t know each other at all.  Not really.  But they liked each other well enough. Apparently.” ‘The Green Road, p. 254)  Each point of view in Part one is told from the third person, making the characters difficult to care about.  Not to mention their voices don’t show enough of who they are individually, much less how they fit together in the family.  I think I would have preferred their points of view to be told in first person to really get into their heads.  In spite of this, Enright does paint an intricate picture of family.  She writes those touches of language that make The Green Road a type of classic tale of an Irish family, while at the same time trying to give the Madigan family specificities.

The structure of the novel is what it has going for it.  The writing is good, but not brilliant and the reader must piece together the family story.  That seems to be a metaphor for this family’s lack of togetherness.  The family is in pieces in the same deconstructed manner of the storytelling.  As we meet each member we are trying to figure out what’s gone wrong and why.  That is the difficulty of the book, which may put some readers off.  Through each section the reader is bombarded with a lot of information about that family member and themes from alcoholism, homosexuality, illness, etc.  We learn about each family member at different time periods and their relationships to their husbands, children, girlfriends, etc..  I believe Enright complicated the story of the Madigans, henceforth rendering it uninteresting.  Moreover, I would be very surprised if this novel makes it on to the shortlist.  I didn’t give a  hoot about any of the people I was reading about and the ending fizzled out into something that seemed to be thrown together to round the story off to a complete finish, making for a really dry ending.  I’ll be extremely surprised if The Green Road makes it further.  I’m not sad that I read it because now I’m interested in picking up The Gathering, for which Enright won the 2007 Man Booker prize. Hoping that I’ll enjoy that one more.  I’d like to see what a winner from her is really like.

It seems that there is a strong theme around family in this year’s Man Booker 2015 longlist.  I still have 2 others that treat the subject of family left to read on my wish list – Did You Ever Have a Family and A Spool of Blue Thread (unfortunately I hear this one is uneventful)  I won’t be reading the entire longlist because there are some I’m not interested in at all.  I hope they will be more interesting than The Green Road.   .  Could it be for The Green Road that I’ve missed some extremely important Irish references?  Possibly.  So have you read anything from the Man Booker 2015 longest?  If so what?  Have you read The Green Road?  What did you think of it?

The Blogger Recognition Award

I was totally surprised when I was nominated last month for The Blogger Recognition award by Sam from Taking on a World of Words!  This really came at the right moment because I was having one of those days you know, should I keep blogging and doing videos, etc.  This made me realize that I am doing something right.  Thanks again Sam!BR_Award  This is much appreciated.  You should all go and check out Sam’s blog.  She writes reviews, www Wednesday posts, NaNoWriMo posts, book club reflections, and much more….

Eve over at Edge of the Night is the creator of this award, which introduces and praises enthusiastically bloggers and the blogging community.  Thanks Eve for this wonderful initiative!

So here’s how it works:

1.  Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to. Do some digging if you must! Find those blogs. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.

2.  Write a post to show off your award! Give a brief story of how your blog got started, and give a piece or two of advice to new bloggers. Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog. List who you’ve nominated in the post.  Make sure to also attach the award itself! (You can do this by right-clicking, saving, and uploading the image above).

3.  Comment on each blog and let them know you’ve nominated them. Provide a link to the award post you created.

4.  Provide a link to the original post on Edge of Night. That way, anyone can find the original guidelines and post if needed, and we can keep it from mutating and becoming confusing!

 

My Beginnings….

Well I have been an avid reader since I can remember.  However since I entered my 40s, I’ve become increasingly interested in writing.  Journaling is something I do but it wasn’t giving me that extra push I needed to really embark on writing.  So I tried to think of the best way to combine my old/constant love reading with my new love writing and that’s how Brown Girl Reading was born.  The first year was a bit of a bust but by the second year I was consistently writing and enjoying blogging and discovering other blogs.  Being laid up with a torn tendon also pushed me further into writing since I had to spend 3,5 months sitting down, stuck at home.  That horrible experience transformed me in many ways good and bad.  The writing and propulsion in my reading has been the best change.  I started my blog  with a different name but Brown Girl Reading came into being January 1,2015. The name suits me and my blog perfectly.

Advice…

Love writing and reading in the case of book bloggers.  Other bloggers just love what you’re writing about.

Blog consistently, whatever consistently is for you.

If things don’t look or aren’t like you want them, change them. You are the mistress/master of your blog.

Search out new bloggers to broaden your horizons and to connect with them.

Enjoy yourself!

 

I nominate:

Reading Has Purpose

Word By Word

Estella’s Revenge

My Bookish Reveries

Madame Bibi Lophile Recommends

Madhuri Blaylock Writes

Inklingstime

The Reading Refugee

Fleur De Curl

A Little Blog of Books

Reading in Bed

Folklore & Literacy

Mary Okeke Reviews

Les Reveries de Rowena

Highly Textured Librarian

Much continued, excellent blogging to you all!

 

Final thoughts on Faber Academy Online Writing Course

It’s been almost three months since my Faber Academy Online Writing course (Getting Started (Intensive) Spring 2015) has ended and I have had time to really think things over.  Many people have asked for my opinion on how it was.  So here it is….

PROS:IMG_1801

1. The syllabus is concise and well-organized for the 8-week course.

Week 1:  Beginning to Write

Week 2:  Point of View

Week 3:  Character

Week 4:  Setting

Week 5:  Time

Week 6:  Structure

Week 7:  Writing Development Time

Week 8:  Writing Development Time

2.  The basis of the course is to write as much as possible during the 8 weeks. The writing exercises (videos and reading material) will slowly but surely bring you to an understanding of your writing and where you have difficulty.

3.  There is a big assignment to finish and upload on the forum every Saturday.  The practice exercises help you improve your writing and to focus on what is asked for in the big writing assignment at the end of the week.

4.  Reading and critiquing your peers’ writing will encourage you to try different things and motivate you to improve where you need to.  Each participant is supposed to critique at least two pieces of writing each Saturday.  The critiquing is meant to be based on the following criteria which is excellent (the following criteria was written by Faber Academy in the Taking it Further: Reading for Writers file of the course.  All of the critiquing must be done constructively and politely of course:

Clarity: How has the writer made sure the narrative is clear and the reader can follow the plot? If it’s tricky to follow the story line, is the author withholding information for a reason?
Point-of-view: Who is telling the story? Why might the author have chosen to use this viewpoint rather than another?
Pace: Is the writing energetic and absorbing? Does the pace vary or even flag at times?
Characters: How does the author engage us in these characters’ lives and bring them to life?
Setting: How much information are we given about where the action is taking place? Does the setting play the role of a character in the plot? What would the effect be of moving the story to a different place?

5.  Communication among participants is allowed throughout the course either through private messaging or online class forum.

6.  The Alumni section gives you a step-by-step plan on how to continue your writing for the next six months and allows you to exchange with other participants from your class and other classes.

7.  The price of the course was very reasonable compared to other courses I’d checked out online.  The fee for this 8-week course was approximately 430€.

 

CONS:

1.  There are only general comments from the tutor on the writing of the class as a whole. No personal critiques are given.  I was a little disappointed with this but I quickly adjusted to the general critique that was given by the tutor.  However, I tried to read as many pieces from the participants that I could on the weekend so that Wednesdays’ commentaries from the tutor made more sense.  I did enjoy getting critiques from other participants because when people noticed similar problems or similar good things about my writing I felt reinforced.

2.  Since this is an online course some participants aren’t always active.  The list of participants of the course was 15 names long at the beginning, but in fact less than 10 were actually active.  So it took a while to get used to who was really in the class because some never added pictures to their profiles.

3.  The examples of writing styles and authors centralized mostly around British authors.  I found that limiting and lacking in variety.  A list of authors was given to check out to expand our writing possibilities at the beginning of the course and Toni Morrison wasn’t even on it.  That really surprised me.

4.  Towards the end of the course, they propose an alumni section which costs 70€ to keep in touch with participants in our class and to have access to our course work for the next year.  It allows access to live chats with authors.  We also get regular updates on alumni members who have won writing contests or have been lucky enough to get published.  We can even post to the online alumni forum the writing we’re working on for critique.  The downside to this is that we are only three to join this alumni group from our class.  I don’t know if the others just went on about their business or if some joined the next course which is 28 weeks called Writing a Novel:  the First 15,000.  It’s an advanced course and I’m definitely not ready for that.  So the 70€ for the alumni section isn’t really worth it.  I have spoken to the other 2 ladies only once since the course ended.

5.  The last two weeks are spent writing the final assignment which is the first 3,000 words of Chapter One of our respective novels.  Now I was really excited about that until I realized we wouldn’t get any personal tutor critique unless we paid a little over 200€!  Needless to say, at least half the class didn’t even do the assignment.  I think there were only 5 of us that did it on time.  Oh well it’s to be expected because the writing assignments got harder each week and maybe were still too fast for some people to feel comfortable writing the first 3,000, words to their novels.

All in all despite the cons, the course has got me back to writing regularly and reading differently.  It has made me realize I have more of an aptitude for writing short stories, which is odd because you now how much I wasn’t in love with them before.  Happily, that has changed.  Moreover, descriptive writing is what I do best.  So, there are a few significant positive outcomes.  Now it’s up to me to keep at it until I can finally write something that one day can be published.  Honing good creative writing skills takes time, perseverance, continual writing, reading, and observation.

 

 

Meeting Zadie Again

It was a breezy evening in Paris.  Shakespeare & Co was filled with its normal charm and groups of anxious, excited bibliophile tourists.  The ka-ching of the cash register couldn’t be missed from outside, which was filling up with hopefuls who wanted to catch a glimpse of or hear a few words from the illustrious Zadie Smith.  This would be her second visit to the famous Shakespeare & Co. in Paris – almost exactly one year since her first visit, which I was equally IMG_1750lucky to attend.  I waited with three friends hoping that arriving early would equate to available seating.  However that wasn’t so easy since this meeting was set up by New York University(where Zadie Smith teaches creative writing) for students and staff.  They paid so they got ninety percent of the seating.

All the festivities took place outside and that led to a different, noisier atmosphere.  Last year it took place inside Shakespeare & Co, where the staff lined tiny little stools among all the available space inside the less than spacious bookstore.  It was a tight squeeze but we all made the best of it because we were going to see Zadie.

Once all the chairs were lined up outside.  We finally grabbed four available seats and just prayed nobody would ask us to give them up. Whew! 7pm came and we were still seated. By this time there was an extremely thick crowd that surrounded the seating making for an impressive turnout.  Since I was in the back row i could feel people just behind my chair.

The festivities took off right on schedule.  Zadie’s opening act was none other than her husband Nick Laird, Irish novelist poet.  I had no idea he was going to be there.  He was a nice surprise though.  His rich Irish accent and his humorous, straightforward poems were refreshing.  I’m looking forward to picking up one of his collections.  He seemed a little nervous in the beginning but he soon warmed up to the crowd that was obviously mostly there to see his wife.  His poetry got lots of laughs and smiles and was an excellent debut before Zadie Smith.

At last Zadie started to speak and the silence from the audience contrasted hugely from the cars, trucks, buses and blaring horns that seemed to surround us.  Nevertheless, we all had our ears perked up for the story she read us which was a bit of the new novel she’s working on, that she called Swingtime.  Love the title and adored what she read.  It was about two little black girls and their meeting for the first time and recounting a birthday party they attended.  It was all IMG_1796very Zadie Smith – race and class conscious, sensitive, a strong first person voice.  It was everything I love about her books.  I could see that they inspire each other.  The strong first person voice is present in both their work.

After her reading quite a few pages :D to us the book buying recommenced and the lines for book signing lengthened quickly.  It didn’t take too long before I found myself in front of Zadie again.  She signed my three books that I didn’t get signed last time – The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and Changing My Mind:  Occasional Essays.  She was very pretty and dressed in a cute dress which looked thrifted.  Her brown turban was covering her hair as usual  but making her bright wide eyes stand out on her beautifully freckled face.  She was smiling but not nearly as much as the first time I saw her.  She seemed tired.  All in all I was happy to see her for a second time and hear a bit of the new book she’s working on, which I can’t wait to read.  Apparently she’s been working on a film with her husband but not sure when it’s coming out or what it’s about.

 

 

A Piece of Mine

IMG_1725I’m slowly but surely working my way through J. California Cooper’s work and enjoying each one.  I’m marveled at her mastery to tell a story.  Anyone out there who is attempting to write short stories should absolutely read her.  All the ingredients in her stories are carefully chosen and used to depict well-rounded characters placed in common life situations.  All of her stories have a moral.  She isn’t preachy but she definitely tries to favor the positive side of life, even in the most burdensome situations.

A Piece of Mine is only 124 pages and can be read in one sitting.  It contains twelve short stories, each as interesting from one to the other.  They all revolve around  the central theme from the catchy title, A Piece of Mine.  Cooper was very good at giving her short story collections titles.  All the titles are memorable puns chosen to accompany her perfect stories.  Cooper’s simple yet direct writing style shines through these relevant stories.  “Her stories, parables, and monologues take flight with truths about being alive, rhythm of folks at ease by the creek and the pool table, songs of love and remorse, syncopated, galloping, and beguilingly, genuine.” Ntosake Shange (back cover of Anchor Books edition)  “Ms. Cooper is as  down-home as Zora Neale Hurston, thank you, and blooming into as skilled a storyteller.  Cooper’s characters are the folk heroes of Black culture…Tales of triumph that give you reason to keep reading.” Essence (back cover of Anchor Books edition)