The sisters brothers, by Patrick DeWitt

I became interested in reading DeWitt’s work after hearing an interview of CBC radio. He said that his novel, According to CBC radio, the sisters brothers was a hit with folks in prison. He also said that he didn’t think people should have a college degree to be able to appreciate fine literature. I agree.

The intelligence of a great writer shouldn’t be showy, it should be baked deep into the prose. When the writing is great, then the reader, in my opinion of course, has two feelings about it: 1) that’s exactly how it should be… (i.e. described or written), and 2) I could’ve/could’ve almost written this myself.

I saw in DeWitt’s writing something that reminded me of George Saunders, who might be my favorite author, is a seeming simplicity in the writing. The writing is not simple, of course. It’s just brilliant. Just the right word, the right verb, the image that really gets you and you think, ‘that’s exactly how it is, or should be.’ That’s the hallmark of fine writing.

Cataract city, by Craig Davidson

This novel is the unexpected. I mean, if I told my friends that the novel I was writing starts with two friends who go to a wresling match with their dads, who get into a fight, then the boys are left alone, and are taken into the woods by their wrestling hero, I don’t know what they would’ve said. It sounds nothing like what you expect in the literary isle of the bookstore.

Davidson taught me about writing action and setting. The action is so easily visualized, it just plain works. It’s exciting, readable, and times the thing gallops. The setting is well researched but not overdone. He doesn’t bury the reader in all the sublties of nature, as the two boys, or later as men, proceed on their adventures.

Better living through plastic explosives, by Zsuzsi Gartner

I loved this collection of short stories. They are edgy, unique, bold, and lovely. I don’t have a writing element I want to pinpoint because I think I’m still processing her writing.

If someone asked why they should read her stories, I’d say the language is amazing. It’s imbedded in characterization of course, and she must understand her characters through and through. Yet, on top of that, it lifts you up and out of what you expect from great writing, and if you’re like me, you struggle to say what that new, impressive element is exactly.

My takeaway, vague as it is, is to get out of my own head as much as possible. Find new ways of randomization so that I can produce something as distinct as her work. It’s just sharp as hell and worth a read.