I’ve just heard from two of the editors reading my memoir manuscript – both excellent minds, sharp, skilled and to the point. They said the same thing in different ways. What they said is that lots works, the humour, flow, characters and story. Just about perfect. Just a few small issues.
1. Who is telling the story and why?
2. What is the story?
Otherwise, we’re good to go.
Oh, the issue of voice and POV that has dogged this work from the beginning. If it’s told only in the child voice, it risks being limited and cloying. But in the adult voice, it’s distant and loses the immediacy of the adolescent. This is something we discuss endlessly in class – how to blend the two voices, the child and the adult, so that the child has the perspective and insight of the grown-up, and the adult has the freshness and energy of the child. HOW?
Work to be done.
As I said to Elke, after re-reading To kill a mockingbird, which is ostensibly told in the voice of a 7 or 8 year old but which launches into learned dissertations on architecture and the history of the state, among other things – well, if she can do it, why can’t I? I guess the answer is that Scout’s voice is so compelling and vivid that we forgive the lapses into Harper Lee’s. Whereas 13-year old Beth isn’t there yet.
And then there’s the small matter of all the things the piece is about. So – floundering a bit. But what’s heartening is the laugh out loud stuff. I wasn’t sure that worked, and it does. So now, to begin to figure out how to fix what doesn’t work. But first, a large glass of wine. And a trip to Mexico.
Not a joke. I’m flying to Mexico City next Monday, for ten days. My dear Annie has a friend with a big house in St. Miguel de Allende; he has been begging her to visit for years, and finally she decided to go – and take me! I’m travelling on points, so aside from a cheap hotel in Mexico City for a few days, will be spending very little. Annie speaks good Spanish. My tenant Carol will keep the garden and cat alive. It all sounds divine. And getting away will be good, for a bit. I may see the book more clearly. I may see the book through a glass of tequila. No, I don’t drink tequila. Sangria. That’ll work.
I am going to take apart the editorial words and begin to figure out how to fix it, right now. There is no time to waste. But I will do so with a large glass of wine in hand. Onward and upward. Or as I will be saying next week, arriba y adelante.
PS. If you can, download last night’s Colbert Report. Daft Punk were supposed to sing and cancelled at the last minute, so Stephen does a wonderful dance himself with all kinds of people, including the Rockettes, Jon Stewart via Skype, Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Fallon and, of course, Henry Kissinger. Hilarious.
Before that, I watched some of Robert Lepage’s “Ring” Cycle from the Met, on PBS. Mon dieu. Wagner. I saw the Ride of the Valkyries last night, that was something, all those forceful women singing at the top of their lungs. But mon dieu. They all just sing and sing at each other, on and on. I’ll take Stephen any time.