Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dog Ears #14: On Writing

I'd planned to take a break from Dog Ear-ing for a while, and had skipped the last book I read (Chip Kidd's The Learners- good, but not great). The next book on my stack was Stephen King's nonfiction On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a book I'd picked from an assortment of giveaways in the basement of AB and UM over the holidays. When I began I wasn't planning on Dog Ear-ing it either, but there were just too many plums I couldn't resist picking... et voila.

It's always a pleasure when Mr. King leads you down into the cellar

Including On Writing I've now read 22 books written by King, far and away the largest number by any one author. In scanning his chronological bibliography, I also realized that I hadn't read any King since 1997's Wizard and Glass, the fourth installment of the frustratingly ambitious Dark Tower series. I'm not sure why I stopped reading King for so long, but my best guess is that he was just so damn prolific that I stopped trying to keep up and, kind of like a favorite band you veer away from after years of faithful devotion, I realized that I needed a break.

Even though On Writing is nonfiction, it's written in King's instantly recognizable voice, and I realized how much I'd missed it after such a long break. The book's more or less broken up into three sections- King's own personal history and evolution as a writer, his advice on how to manage the art and craft of writing itself, and finally a harrowing chapter on his near-fatal encounter with a


Above, I stopped writing mid-sentence when Mrs. Word Player walked in the door. We decided to go out and grab some lunch, so I walked away from the computer and this post. What I had been about to write was that King, as a pedestrian, was struck by a car in a horrible accident near his home in the middle of writing On Writing, and didn't finish it for months.

In true, eerie King fashion, we got in the car to drive to lunch today and got in a car accident in an intersection not far from our home. We were both shaken up but uninjured and the other driver (also uninjured) was clearly at fault. As I was driving the rental car home after dropping our car off to get fixed the weird synchronicity struck me, and oddly made me feel a little better about the whole thing. At least no one had to be evacuated by helicopter for emergency surgery...

Fortunately, the other driver didn't hiss "Thinner!" at me while exchanging insurance information

That said, I'm a touch freaked out.

Anyway, here are some of the best Dog Ears from On Writing.

p37 "Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up."

p163 "... stories are found things, like fossils in the ground. ... Stories aren't souvenir tee-shirts or GameBoys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible."

p249 logrolling: |ˈlôgˌrōli ng; ˈläg-|
1 informal the practice of exchanging favors, esp. in politics by reciprocal voting for each other's proposed legislation. [ORIGIN: from the phrase you roll my log and I'll roll yours.]
2 a sport in which two contestants stand on a floating log and try to knock each other off by spinning it with their feet.

The boy that launched a million nightmares

Well, it seems that after I cut a few DE's that didn't seem as compelling as I thought they were laying in bed, this installment is a little thin. Let's insert the two DE's I couldn't resist making in The Learners to beef the piece up, yes?

p160 "'Lars once said there are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and everyone else.'"

p175. "Miss Preech: 'Your five o'clock is here. The respondent to the shoe ad. A Mr. Harshbarger.'
'Send him up.' Tip rubbed his hands listlessly. 'Oh, I'm just filled with antisappointment.'
'Antisappointment. Anticipation colliding head-on with the certainty of its own doom."

I think we've all experienced our fair share of antisappointment, yes?

One final note- tomorrow is the one year anniversary of this blog. Feel free to take the day off from work and celebrate with me. To borrow once more from Stephen King, thank you Faithful Reader.


Josh Winter said...

whoa. cool. and also not cool. both. glad you guys are ok.

Anonymous said...

my brother loved to read Stephen King. I never did. Maybe I'll check him out one of these days.


dwr said...

ON WRITING is the only book i've ever read more than twice. It's a good biannual kick in the seat of the pants for any "antissapointed" scribbler.