writing

Fairy Folk of Lewes

I.

 

Of all England’s towns, none are so beloved by the country’s fairies as Lewes in Sussex. The streets which wind and slope around the closely spaced houses provide many a hiding spot for magical folk, as-well-as ample opportunities to play nasty pranks on the humans who live and visit there. One evening, while stumbling from the Rights of Man pub, Roger Forster, a young man on holiday from London, found himself in the presence of a strikingly beautiful young lady, who had long, silky hair that flowed down her hair in honey-coloured waves, an angular face like a fox’s, and large, almond-shaped eyes that   seemed to glow electric blue in the darkness of midnight. In-spite of his intoxication, Roger heard the young lady with perfect clarity when she said: “Would you like some company for the night?” in a breathy, sensual voice. Roger nodded as a goofy smile spread across his face. The lady sauntered off into the night without another word, only smiling over her shoulder to beckon Roger along after her. He followed the woman through the twisting streets and dark corners, always at a distance, never quite able to catch up to her. Eventually, they came to the bridge, where the young woman stopped to lean against the railing. “Give us a kiss,” she smiled as Roger approached. He leaned in, but as he was just about to touch her lips, the young woman ceased to be solid, and Roger fell through her, plummeting some ten feet or so, landing in the river with a crash. He managed to break the surface, and as he floated there stunned, he heard the young woman’s voice shout “You’ll find plenty of fish down there.”  

 

II.

 

The old-growth forests of the surrounding area are a popular place for non-magical folk to explore … during the daytime. In 1874, a story appeared in several newspapers across the country, reporting how two girls – aged 15 and 17 – had gone into the woods on the night of the Summer Solstice, intending to perform a contrived variation of an ancient Celtic ritual. The next morning, they were found wandering the streets in hysterics, their neighbors attempted to coerce the girls inside to eat and rest, but they refused to let anyone touch them. They eventually had to be taken in by force, and once the local physician had a chance to examine them, he found the girls to be free of anyone physical trauma. A few days later, when the girls appeared to have calmed down, they were asked what happened to them, and reported many strange things: childish laughter echoing through the treetops, a large black shape with glowing red eyes that chased them through the footpaths, vines springing up from the ground and wrapping themselves around the girl’s’ ankles, as though trying to stop them from escaping. The next night, a dozen of Lewes’ strongest men armed themselves with axes and shotguns and organized a hunting party to flush out the evil within. The men were gone all night, and when the sun rose the next morning, only one emerged from the woods, face frozen in a mask of shock, hair turned pure white. When asked what had happened, he responded: “We found what it was that scared those girls.” When questioned further, he said: “I can’t tell you anything’ more, they only let me go if I promised I wouldn’t tell ya.” The man then burst into tears. For decades after that, the people of Lewes took great caution to not venture into the woods after dark, and it became something of a game among the town’s children to see who could stand closest to the tree line in the minutes before dusk. As the years passed, and those alive to remember the story of the girls and the hunting party grew old and died, people stopped fearing what lurk among the trees, and the local legend became nothing more than a pub tale, used to scare tourists.

 

III.

 

While fairy folk can be quite malicious in their dealings with human adults, they enjoy a      warm relationship with children, as they are open to a more colorful view of the world. In 1954, Matthew and Mary Thatcher noticed their daughter Matilda had been acting quite bizarrely, leaving plates of biscuits next to the rose bushes at night, performing silly dances where she would wiggle her arms over patches of mushrooms in the grass, and making squiggly chalk drawings like ancient runes all over the rocks on their property. When her parents asked Matilda what she was doing, she answered: “the fairies told me to.” Confused, Matthew and Mary equated Matilda’s behavior to an overactive imagination. Then, the family cat turned up dead, when asked if she knew what happened, Matilda said the fairies told her to poison the cat because he had been killing the mice and frogs the fairies had as friends. After that, Matthew and Mary hid the biscuits, washed the chalk runes from the rocks, tore up any mushrooms they found on the property, and refused to let their daughter out of the house, all the while, Matilda complained to them: “you can’t do that, you’ll make the fairies mad.” Suddenly, many bizarre and terrifying things began to happen to Matilda’s parents: birds, a dozen or more at a time, descended from the sky without provocation to chase them whenever they left the house, whenever they turned on the tap, a swarm of slimy, wriggling worms flooded out into the sink, causing them to scream in horror, and worst of all, their cows began producing sour milk – every single one of them. While Matthew and Mary were deep in discussion as to what they were going to do about their plight, Matilda came in and told them: “it’s the fairies, I told you, they’re mad at you.” Matilda’s parents shooed her away, but later that night, put a plate of biscuits near the roses. The next day, no birds flew out of the sky to chase them, no worms wriggled out of the faucet, and the cow’s milk was as fresh as it had ever been. From then on, Matilda was free to perform her silly rituals as much as she pleased, and the Thatcher family home never had a cat again.

 

IV.

 

One popular myth about fairy folk among humans, is that of the changeling, how fairies would steal infants from their beds, and replace them with inanimate objects bewitched to resemble children. This is a misconception, the truth is that fairies would take the form of a human woman’s husband, and impregnate her, thus creating a hybrid-child of sorts. These children, being of mixed heritage, tend to have curious attributes. Though outwardly human, changelings are more neurologically similar to fairy folk, while this can grant them proficiencies which exceed those of normal people – such as in the sciences or arts – it can also hinder their ability to interact with the non-magical. Lewes was home to one such child, a boy named Tyler Johnson, who, from the time he was a baby, would refuse to make eye contact with people, and spoke very little. Loud noises bothered Tyler, so-much-so, that his parents avoided taking him out in public, to the store, or to parties, for fear that he would be overwhelmed, and crumble to the ground, holding his ears shut, moaning like a wounded animal. Doctors diagnosed Tyler as being autistic, a label commonly applied to the misidentified changeling. Tyler found comfort in art, spending hours at a time scribbling abstract, geometric patterns onto paper – little did he, or anybody else know, that this was the language of the fairies, which entered his mind through mystical communications with his brethren.  One day, Tyler was in his front yard, examining a spider web in the grass, when Joshua, the stocky red-haired boy who lived down the street, approached him from behind. “Hey nutter,” Joshua shouted at Tyler, who did not respond. Frustrated, Joshua picked up a fresh pile of dog droppings, and threw at the back of Tyler’s head, as Tyler scrambled to remove the filth from his hair, Joshua pounced, pinning Tyler to the ground by his throat, fortunately, Tyler’s mother came rushing out of the house to chase Joshua away. Tyler went to bed that night with his head full of bitter thoughts at Joshua, unbeknownst to him, someone was listening. A few days later, Joshua went to the park to play football with his friends, a bad kick sent the ball flying into the bushes, and he went in to retrieve it, after waiting for Joshua for some time, his friends went into the bushes to discover he had virtually disappeared. Police from as far as two towns over were called in to look for him, alerts were posted throughout the country, but there was not a single trace of Joshua to be found.

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writing

Reading Experiment: Gaiman in the style of Shelley

For this reading experiment, I have decided to rewrite an excerpt from Neil Gaiman’s novel “American Gods” as a piece of poetry in the style of Percy Byron Shelley’s Ozymandius. Here is Gaiman’s original text: 

“A precise voice, fussy and exact, was speaking to him, but he could see no one. ‘these are the gods who have been forgotten, and now might a well be dead. they can be found only in dry histories … ‘ The voice spoke once more as if it were addressing a class, ‘These are the gods who have passed out of memory. Even their names are lost. The people who worshipped them are as forgotten as their gods. The totems are long since broken and cast down. Their last priests died without passing on their secrets (Gaiman, 78).'”

Here is Shelley’s original poem:

I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

Here is my interpretation:

 

While walking in a dream, I heard a voice,

It said – “Here are statues of the ancient gods,

The ones discarded by coercion and choice,

Relegated to text, stricken from thought.

We know their names but reserve no rejoice,

The images remain, but that is all.

Here are the gods whose names have eroded,

Lucky to be hanging in musty halls,

Little more than crumbs of the distant past.

The rest are shattered, buried, and faded,

No more devotees to offer tribute,

Nor priests left to polish their totems.

Here they shall lie, divine but destitute.      

A god cannot live without devotion.”

I read “Ozymandias” for a poetry course at around the same time I was rereading “American Gods,” and couldn’t help but notice the similarities in their respective messages: the Pharoah Ozymandius creates a massive statue of himself so that humanity will remember his power and greatness for all of time, but this eventually proves to be nothing but hollow arrogance, as his monument to himself falls with the civilization that created it, only to be rediscovered in passing as a crumbling ruin. The premise of Gaiman’s novel is that as immigrants come to America, their traditional beliefs cause their native gods to manifest in physical, human form, but as they and their descendants become Americanized, they stop believing, causing their gods to lose their power, eventually being replaced by the new gods of technology and industry. Both works are concerned with the idea that power, or a person or concept’s capacity to exert influence on a society, is intrinsically tied to their relevance. The Pharoah in Shelley’s poem and the gods in Gaiman’s novel have power because people believe in, and pay attention to them, but as generations are born and die, the significance of these powerful figures wanes, causing them to fade from the collective consciousness and eventually be replaced. As such, these two beautiful pieces of literature should serve as sobering reminders to us that permanence is an illusion, and that no one’s beliefs are too sacred to fade into irrelevance.

reviews/analysis · writing

Book Review: ‘Station Eleven,’ by Emily St. John Mandel

image courtesy of: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/20/415782006/survival-is-insufficient-station-eleven-preserves-art-after-the-apocalypse

When a genre and the tropes associated with it has become so pervasive in popular culture, writers who choose to tackle it must either go along with what has been established by their predecessors or create something all-their-own. In ‘Station Eleven,’ Emily St. John Mandel not only accomplishes the former but injects new life into a genre that has been done to death. This is a post-apocalyptic novel that transcends pulpy conventions in favor of profound statements about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of sweeping change.

The book begins with a brutal snow storm in Toronto when aging actor Arthur Leander is trying to revive his career with a production of ‘King Lear.’ When Arthur suffers a heart attack in the middle of the production, Jeevan Chaudhary, a paramedic connected to Arthur in a way he doesn’t realize, tries and fails to save the actor. Watching back stage is Kirsten Raymonde, a child actor who will carry more from this night than bad memories. Unbeknownst to everyone, the world outside the theater is beginning a vociferous slide to oblivion, as the Georgia flu spreads across Earth, rapidly eating away at all the civilized world holds dear. From there the novel jumps back and forth in time: twenty years in the future,  Kirsten is a member of the ‘Traveling Symphony,’ a troupe of  Shakespearean actors moving from one encampment to another, using theatre to preserve the last remnants of civilized culture. When the plague is in its earliest stages, we see Jeevan trapped in the city, desperately trying to keep himself and his disabled brother alive. Meanwhile those closest to Arthur – his former wives, and best friend, Clark – deal with the after math of his untimely death, while flashbacks trace the evolution of Arthur’s career and love life.

The primary theme of Mandel’s novel is how events outside of our control can forge subtle bonds between us. As the events in the separate timelines unfold, one gets a sense that nothing they’re reading is random; that it was impossible for things to transpire in any other way, not out of any mystical sense of destiny, but rather due to laws of physics and probability. Through a series of disasters, the Symphony finds themselves splintered, with their only hope of finding one another resting in their cardinal rule: “The Symphony Always has a destination, if you get separated, go to the destination and wait.” That happens to be Severn City, home of the Museum of Civilization. Little does Kirsten know, that she and her companions are moving towards more than just hope of a reunion, but the source of something akin to logic in their chaotic world; something which may prove that order is a natural feature of life, and not a product of man’s gaudy inventions.

Rather than focusing on either the chaotic period in the beginning or years after, when the world has settled into its new state of being, Mandel takes a less conventional approach to apocalyptic fiction, alternating between both, as-well-as having key scenes take place when the world is still stable. By showing characters in the time of transition, and then after, Mandel makes us contemplate our relationship to the civilized world. The best example of this are the scenes in-which Clark curates objects for what will become The Museum of Civilization. While stranded in the airport, Clark gathers what would otherwise be junk: abandoned shoes, magazines, discarded credit cards, and puts them on display, seemingly aware that a day will come in which they will have value as proof of what once was. Some other interesting passages are interviews between Kirsten and Francois Diallo, the editor of a recently established newspaper. Francois asks Kirsten about her life with the symphony:

Perhaps the most interesting passages are interviews between Kirsten and Francois Diallo, the editor of a recently established newspaper. Francois asks Kirsten about her travels with the symphony:

“Some towns are like this one, where they want to talk about what happened, about the past. Other towns, discussion of the past is discouraged. We went to this one place where the children didn’t know the world had been different, although you’d think all the rusted out automobiles and telephone wires would give them a clue. “

These interviews serve a dual purpose: that a newspaper is able to not only exist, but conduct an interview with a Shakespearean actor, demonstrates humanity’s desire for something greater than mere survival. What’s more, they provide a raw, intimate perspective to the post-civilized world. Kirsten is fascinating as a protagonist, instead of plowing through life with resigned stoicism or bemoaning the loss of what she knew, she accepts that which cannot be reversed, and creates her own sense of purpose in a world where such things are no longer guaranteed. Her’s is a journey which is dark and quiet, and uniquely human.

 

 

 

reviews/analysis · writing

Book Review: ‘The Architect’s Apprentice,’ Elif Safak

image courtesy of https://lionkingstress.blog/2016/12/24/favourite-quotes-the-architects-apprentice-by-elif-shafak/

A rich and sumptuous historical novel that is both sweeping and intimate.

Authors who write historical fiction often have strike a balance between being accurate to their chosen period, and developing a distinctive style, between demonstrating proficient knowledge of history and crafting a compelling narrative. Fortunately for her readers, Elif Shafak has no such problems. In ‘The Architect’s Apprentice,’ she uses all of the best gifts a writer can utilize to present a celebration of knowledge and the human spirit, set against one of the most colorful periods in world history.

The story begins in 1540, at the height of the Ottoman Empire’s power.  Jahan, a young boy from Hindustan (India), travels to Istanbul to present a fabulous gift to the Sultan – a white elephant named Chota. Unbeknownst to everyone, Jahan has been coerced into thievery by a vicious pirate who desires a share of the Sultan’s wealth. Jahan finds himself in the royal menagerie, where he meets the beautiful Princess Mihramah, developing an infatuation with her which will prove transformative throughout his life. Jahan and Chota are soon thrust into war, where they meet Sinan, the royal architect, a man of endless brilliance and profound humility. Sinan takes Jahan under his tutelage, as the decades roll by Istanbul changes and Jahan along with it. As they construct one iconic building after another, Sinan imparts upon his pupil the secrets of worldly beauty and the keys to a living a meaningful existence.

There is no overarching plotline throughout the novel. Rather, Jahan’s journey is captured in several key episodes of his life, some spanning only a few pages, others take up multiple chapters. Following a single protagonist over the course of a lifetime can, in the wrong hands, result in a tedious, meandering narrative. Luckily for her readers, Safak is able to inject enough sensitivity and emotional flexibility into Jahan’s character to make his a compelling and uniquely human journey. Sinan takes Jahan in when he is at his most vulnerable, notices the cracks in his spirit and seeks to repair them. What makes Jahan a particularly relatable character is that he is neither a hero nor an anti hero; he does not quest for anything, nor does he seek to rebel against the world. Rather, his journey is about learning to accept his place in the universe. It has been said that when we reach our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change. ‘The Architect’s Apprentice’ understands this, and like many other stories which deal with spiritual growth features a protagonist who has seen the worst life has to offer. Over the course of the novel, Jahan is forced to watch his mother marry his torturous uncle, denied any opportunity to express his true feelings for the woman he loves, and thrown in jail for no crime but having ambition. Jahan’s passion for his work and studies acts as a salve against the lacerations on his spirit, healing him, and making him stronger as well. What is more, it is in the scenes where Jahan is working that Safak demonstrates herself to be a wise and well-educated person, expertly enlightening discussions of art, history, and philosophy into her dialogue.

The most fascinating way in which Safak explores Jahan’s spiritual development is through his relationship with Chota. In all the world’s mythologies, animals, being closer to nature, are viewed as bridges between the material and meta physical worlds. So intense is the love Jahan has for Chota, that the purity of the elephant’s soul enters his, awakening him to the beauty of life, and giving him the strength to persevere along the journey of life.

‘The Architect’s Apprentice’ is – and I don’t use this term liberally – a rare gem, a piece of contemporary fiction which is both entertaining and profound; as heartbreaking as it is enlightening. Reading this novel is like being in the presence of a worldly sage, sitting and listening to them impart wisdom of the greatest truth. It has a certain energy running through it, a spiritual presence in its pages that makes readers feel connected to the soul of humanity itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Life · writing

Movement for the Body, Mind, and Spirit

 

This is an essay I wrote after returning from trip to Lewes, England

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, there is a rapture on the lonely shore, there is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more – Lord Byron. ”  

 

The history of many religious and philosophical movements are built around stories of their founders and prophets achieving spiritual transcendence while embarking upon grueling physical journeys: Jesus wandered through the desert for forty days and nights without food or water, during-which he found the strength to resist the temptations of the devil, the Buddha spent his whole life roaming across India, collecting all the wisdom he could from the country’s holy men, depriving himself of even the most basic physical pleasures, eventually realizing true enlightenment comes from equal engagement with both the internal, and the external realms. Even in Norse mythology, Odin, the Allfather, was known as a wanderer, protecting any brave souls who sought adventure wherever the seas would take them. Though these different systems of belief are constructed of differing values, one common feature among them is that their most spiritually powerful figures are those who detach themselves from stability and comfort, so as to experience the full breadth of life on Earth. Though nowhere near as arduous as the aforementioned journeys, my trip to Lewes had a profound effect on me that transcended the program’s academic nature, and imbued me with new perspectives on life.

England is a small country, but coming here gave me a sense of how small I am in relation to the rest of the world. Where I was born and raised, everything is developed, and paved over; everything is right next to everything else, and the only way to go anywhere is by enclosing yourself in a tiny metal box and driving there. I’ve spent my whole life stepping aside to make room for machines ten times my size or squeezing myself into spaces that weren’t designed to fit a human being. Walking through miles of open country has given me a new perspective of how profound an effect space can have on my state of mind, something I realized on our walk to Charleston, when we climbed the steep hills which surround Lewes, reaching the top, I gazed out upon a seemingly endless field of green: miles of grass, dotted with flowers of every color, fields of wheat waving in the gentle breeze, creating ripples of light as the sun shone on them, trees which had stood strong for hundreds of years, old before before my parents or grandparents had even been born.

The simple act of being present in such a large amount of unspoiled space, with no barrier between myself and the natural world felt cleansing, as though all the gunk had been removed from my spirit. Out in the fields, I felt no sadness, no frustration, no anxiety about the future or past; and I believe that the physicality of our outings contributed significantly to the introspective change I underwent, as I was forced to put all my energy into strenuous exercise, and not into chasing whichever thoughts happen to conjure themselves up in my head. During and after our hikes, I endured a hefty amount of pain, in all parts of my body: my muscles, my bones, my heart and lungs; I was sunburnt, dehydrated, and often so exhausted I could barely speak. And yet, none of it felt like suffering to me, instead, I took the discomfort as a sign that I was becoming stronger, that a weaker, less self-actualized version of myself was melting away to make room for a better one. Profuse sweating removed toxins from my system, heavy breathing and an increased heart rate sent enlivening blood and oxygen to all parts of my body; my body was growing in power, and as a result, so was my mind.

I found myself able to contemplate great ideas, chief among them, those concerning impermanence. While exploring the hills and valleys of southern England, I thought of all the history the land had seen, the countless souls who had walked these paths before, now all dead, just like I would be one day. I can achieve great things as a writer, and as a person in general: write great works of literature which sell millions of copies and touch countless lives, amass great sums of money, and become exquisitely educated, but none of those things will negate the reality that one day my body will slowly deteriorate and die.

It’s easy for us to get so wrapped up in ourselves that we become out of tune with the Earth’s natural rhythms, failing to recognize the forces at work in the universe which are larger than ourselves.  Given that we enjoy a relatively short period of time on Earth, I believe the most productive use of our energy is the augmentation of the spiritual aspects of life. This is best done through giving one’s self ample amounts of open space to explore, so as to become more tuned in with the universe’s natural rhythms. Americans don’t realize how lucky we are, to live in a large country, with such a splendid plethora of environments to experience, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Redwood Forests, places which constitute a sizable portion of our national heritage, and which I, lamentably, have never seen in person. After my adventures in the Southdowns, I have a new found hunger to explore the world on foot and feel the transcendent power that comes from being present in the raw wilderness, removed from the trappings of civilization. This is something I realized on our excursion to London, when I was struck by the disparity between the two settings; the noise and activity of London proved somewhat jarring after I had gotten used to the calm and consistency of Lewes, and while the city still retains a glamorous allure to me, extended stays there are not conducive to achievement of ephemeral transcendence. As I move forward in life, I plan to make the most of my home country’s magnificent landscapes, to break the gaudy bonds of comfort and familiarity, and venture beyond the borders of what I have come to know as my home. I choose to embark upon further pilgrimages of the mind, for to allow one’s body to remain sedentary is to cause the stagnation of the spirit.  

reviews/analysis · writing

Book Review: ‘My Name is Lucy Barton,’ By Elizabeth Strout

A bite-sized novel whose exquisite prose can’t quite transcend its bland protagonist.

Elizabeth Strout strikes me as every stereotype of what the moderately well-read American thinks a ‘serious’ literary novelist to be.  Beginning life as a wispy-haired child on the New England coast, she knew from an early age what she wanted to do with her life. Later, as a wispy-haired adult, she spends her days teaching at an obscure liberal arts college, writing stories about the emotionally disaffected. My first foray into her work, ‘My Name is Lucy Barton, is precisely the kind of book one would expect such an author to write.

We begin with the eponymous narrator, recalling a few days she spent in a New York City hospital, recovering from what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy. At the request of Lucy’s husband her mother flies in from rural Illinois to be with her, prompting Lucy to recall her impoverished childhood, eating nothing but molasses on bread for dinner, being mocked for not bathing, having to live with her family in a garage until she was eleven. From there the story jumps back and forth between various episodes in her life: college,  attending workshops with a famous author, the AIDs crisis of the Eighties, etc. The stark language Strout uses to weave her way through this stream of consciousness narrative lulls the reader into a state where they are easily susceptible to the novel’s atmospheric charms. There is a certain calmness to the book, a regal elegance that makes it easily digestible, but also work against it in certain ways. The entire story is told to us in Lucy’s voice. Generally, this serves to build intimacy with the audience. However, the simplicity of the language used is insufficient to convey the emotional depth necessary to become properly invested in her character. What is more, it provides glaring inconsistency with her backstory: someone who is college educated and makes their living as a writer should be able to more richly vocalize the psychological nuances within her head.

Lucy’s imparts her journey with a resigned stoicism that makes her frustrating as a protagonist, we see the full breadth of her life from childhood into middle age, and yet never truly feel like we know her: the dramatic contrast between Lucy’s humble beginnings and her transformation into a cultured member of New York’s literary scene is harrowing, but only to a point, as the watery sketch she draws of herself robs transformative moments of much of their cerebral heft. This broad-strokes-approach is most problematic in how the novel deals with Lucy’s estranged relationship with her mother. Lucy experienced abuse at the hands of her parents, including frequent insults from her mother – when Lucy began to develop breasts, her mother told her ‘You look like a cow’ – and being forced to spend nights locked pickup truck as punishment. Being forced to stay in the same room as her abuser draws up a bevy of complex emotions in Lucy, while she is intrigued by the stories her mother has to tell about life back home, she feels a palpable need to address the bad blood between the two of them, but just can’t bring herself to; she tries to get her mother to say she loves her, but can’t muster enough assertiveness. Throughout the novel, Lucy remains detached, devoid of personality, a character type, not a character.

For all the faults in ‘My Name is Lucy Barton,’ one aspect which is undeniable while reading it is the skill of its author, Strout demonstrates a keen ear for style in her prose, as-well-as a superb gift for crafting realistic dialogue. As with any artist, to judge Strout’s entire body of work against the weight of one piece would be a diseased way of thinking – especially since I haven’t read anything else by her – in this novel I see an intelligent, sensitive writer, who had the ambition to craft a provocative character study, but instead wrote the literary equivalent of a spring roll, light, tasty, but not substantial enough to be thoroughly satisfying.

writing

I Am An Artist

I am an artist. A writer. It’s something that became my passion, the thing I pursued because I couldn’t picture a life for myself where it wasn’t.

I am not a lazy, pretentious snob who needs to get a real job. I have a real job, it doesn’t pay very much – in fact, it hasn’t paid me anything thus far – but I devote time and energy to being the best at it I possibly can, if that doesn’t make it a job, please tell me what would.

Artists don’t perform life-saving surgeries, cook meals, put criminals in jail, or build houses for people to live in, but they are just as much a part of your community as the people who do. We are your neighbors, friends, and relatives. We are human beings, and as such, are entitled to the basic human dignity of being able to pursue work that fulfills us, as-well-as to be fairly compensated for that work so as to provide for ourselves and our families without being degraded for our choice of career.