Thursday, March 31, 2011

transitions and tony hillerman

I have given myself two weeks to do nothing but sleep, eat, read and write. Ten days in, three out of four isn't bad. The writing will come. It always comes. And until then, I will continue to refill the well. I have plenty of books to read for class, but have found myself more drawn to one of the Southwest's most beloved and well known novelist: Tony Hillerman. I'm not a huge fan of mysteries, but I love his books. The care he takes with cultures and characters. His spare, accessible style.

I love the idea of picking an author who speaks to you and reading everything they've written. I've done it only twice (JD Salinger and Herman Hesse) and have several others I'm working on (Natalie Goldberg, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan and Mark Salzman). But here, in this place, Hillerman begs to take precedence. And so I have started collecting his books as I find them in used bookstores (of which Santa Fe has many) -- 18 Leaphorn & Chee mysteries, 4 other novels (including two for children),  12 works of non-fiction, and 5 books of photography. Five of his novels were made into films.

I've heard that Tony Hillerman considered Finding Moon his favorite and best book and it was definitely good, but for me it lacked the very things that I love so much about his Leaphorn & Chee mysteries -- his deep and compelling insights into the land and his characters. In those books it's like traveling with an anthropologist, not simply hearing a story about a friend's adventures. In Finding Moon, the primary character's growth (Moon Mathiason) was more about him realizing what everyone else knew about him -- it wasn't so much about change or growth as it was about accepting who he already was, which makes the title very apt, but the story slightly less engaging.

As always Hillerman's descriptions of the locations were gorgeous and his story had the ending the reader hopes for. But I am looking forward to getting back to the books that split open the soul of the southwest and the people who live here. I just need to find a copy of the first in the series: The Blessing Way. Because as with most series books, it's always best to start from the beginning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

fresh ink book review: old man and the sea

Okay, I'll admit it: I've never been a big fan of Hemingway. With the exception of one chapter from The Sun Also Rises, I've just never connected with anything he's written. Not so this book. It was spare and beautiful and free of so many of the things that make it hard to like Hemingway's work (especially as a woman). The story was so focused, so clean and so raw. I rooted for the man and the boy and the fish and the last line put me right over the edge. There was so much emotion in those 127 pages, all of it achieved without actually talking about it in the book. He merely showed the action and left the reaction up to the reader. Man, my writing teacher sure can choose a book.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

new directions

It's been a while since I've posted here. Some of it was frustration at having so many things I wanted to do fall through. Some of it was business at work and at home. Some of it was pure laziness. And some of it was time spent working on a new plan. The good news is, with the possible exception of laziness, all of the other excuses have been resolved. Sometimes you need the rug pulled out from under you in order to get a new perspective. Thanks to that and some very synchronistic events, I am finally in the process of completely remaking my life, at least for the short term. Here's the plan:

- Take 6 months off work (leave of absence approved)
- Put possessions in storage, purge what I can
- Move to Santa Fe (I've got a great 6-month house/pet-sitting gig lined up)
- Attend Natalie Goldberg's year-long writing intensive (part one just finished)
- Write (do daily writing practice, finish my november novel and get to work on my next project)
- Get healthy (cook, exercise, sleep, breathe clean air, stay away from coyotes and centipedes)
- Reinvigorate my creativity (365 project, sewing, painting, etc.)
- Read good books
- Figure out what I want to do next with my life and where I might want to do it

I'm currently working out new daily routines to be put in place once I reach my destination (some time in late March) and will post that and more soon. Until then, enjoy a little taste of my soon-to-be sanctuary.