aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Reading out of character

Sometimes I read books I can imagine myself writing. Other times the author's approach is so different than my own there would be no way I could write it. But I think it still helps me stretch.

One such book is Meg Wolitzer's
The Ten Year Nap.

It follows a cast of characters, some of whom appear only for two pages. In a way, this works - it's a book about women and work and parenthood and change, so by dipping into the head of Margaret Thatcher's imaginary assistant or George Magritte's wife and model as well as more modern women, she can create a mosaic of the dilemmas and challenges facing women.

In another way, it doesn't work, because it's hard to get traction with a single character or even a pair of characters. You think you understand what the book is about: Amy's and Jill's foundering friendship, or Amy trying to figure out her life, but then come a string of chapters from many other points of view.

Wolitzer is often dryly funny. "Nathaniel was older than anyone else Roberta [in her 20s] knew and possessed a slightly bitter manner that was appealing to her, because she did not yet know many older people and did not understand that this was a fairly common feature of them."

The POV is often third person plural: "In the night, just before husbands called out wives during sleep and children called out to mothers, the women were often already awake." I couldn't write that, and it doesn't even interest me that much, because it's about women, not a woman. Except that's the point Wolitzer is trying to make. Sometimes it's second person: "Suddenly you, who had once been youthful and golden and special, were now treated as just another customer waiting in line for something."

This book is stretching my writing muscles.

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Tags: wolitzer
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