Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Draft and Thaw

“My Life in Sentences” by Jhumpa Lahiri is the first article in Draft, a new series on the art and craft of writing in The New York Times. Lahiri is one of my favorite authors for both style and content. Her first story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer in 2000. I also loved The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth. She writes exquisitely about writing too:  
“But only certain sentences breathe and shift about, like live matter in soil. The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace.”
Don’t you love her metaphors? Lahiri’s experience with writing, of waking in the night to scribble sentences on scraps of paper and having the story come to her like “pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,” is how I go about writing first drafts too. It was encouraging to find parallels. 

I just looked back at my review of Lahiri’s last book and was amused to see that I read those stories in Cornwall. That trip to the West Country was meant to be a vacation from writing, but it inspired me to shift the setting of a novel I was researching in England. I’m revising that manuscript right now.

Lately it’s been a challenge to sit inside writing. As I noted in an earlier post this month, March is usually still winter in Maine.  April is mud season, a time of melting snow and thawing mud. True spring, with everything blooming all at once, doesn’t normally kick in until May. Last weekend temperatures soared to the 60’s, and we’re due to hit 80 today! The last patch of icy snow in my woods vanished yesterday. Nothing is blooming yet and the grass is more dun than green, but I’m soaking in this warm sunshine with delight. More seasonal 40 degree temps are due at the end of the week.

Happy Spring!


Rose said...

I rarely read short stories anymore, but I agree Lahiri's sentence about writing is so eloquent. It's the kind of sentence you re-read and savor. Her metaphors seem effortless, but it takes so much talent to write such effective ones.

Glad to hear spring is reaching you, too; I suspect the grass will be green soon and you'll have some blooms popping up before you know it. Everything is at least a month ahead of schedule here in the Midwest.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, thinking of the first sentence as a handshake or embrace is an eye-opener.
Enjoy your warm days, and happy spring to you, too!

Anonymous said...

I loved "The Interpreter of Maladies". That first story about the couple in New York who find themselves in a powercut (if my memory serves me correctly) is one o fmyf avourite short stories ever. I haven't read her other two books.

On a different note, your post made me think of the value we accord to short-story writers. Not much, in my opinion. And yet, it's such a fine art, short-story writing, it is.

Great post. I followed the link and was mesmerised for ten minutes of my life. Thank you very much.

Happy Spring to you, too!

Greetings from London.

PS: This is A Cuban In London, just in case the system plays up again and puts me as anonymous.:-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's done it again! I don't know, there's something about blogger lately that doesn't quite feel right. A certain naughtiness of the worst kind. Ever since they changed the word check, it's all gone a bit pear-shaped.

Rant over. Now back to being "Anonymous"! :-)

Greetings from London.

septembermom said...

I love the thought of a first sentence as a handshake or embrace. Happy Spring to you too! Lovely picture :)

troutbirder said...

I love good writing. Clear, concise and memorable works for me. I wish... No, actually I loved teaching. Still, being arund books as a librarian or even writing them might have been good too.... :)

Booksnyc said...

Jhumpa Lahiri writes short stories so well - I used to read only novels until I read Interpreter of Maladies and realized what an art form the short story can be.

Spring has sprung here too - it was 75 today in the city!

Amanda Summer said...

this first sentence of a book is a handshake....

as a writer that speaks volumes to me. it may go even deeper, as lahiri says, an embrace. it most certainly is a deeply emotional agreement that connects reader and writer.

lovely image of the tulips - red and green on soft yellow.

David Cranmer said...

"The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace.” Nice. I won't forget that, Sarah.

Donna said...

We had a really nice stretch of warm, unseasonable temps recently, but today it's in the high 40s again, which is typical for March, but it's harder to deal with once you've experienced the warmth for days and everything is starting to bloom!
I hope you're doing well and that your revisions are going well!

Carol said...

Sarah, Your tulip photo is fabulous!
I loved 'The Namesake' and wow to 'My life in Sentences' . . . yes, yes, love those metaphors! Visiting you is always an inspiration!