Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When a Book Makes Me Feel Inadequate

I was all ready to rock and roll on the writing yesterday because I knew what would happen next -- and then I realized that while I have the big-picture sense of what was happening next, I was entirely lacking in specifics. And then I realized that I was lacking some information. Sometimes, "I need to do some research on this" is a procrastination method, but in this case, it turned out that my vague assumptions were wrong, and that will affect how I write the next part. It doesn't change my plot, just the timeline and how many actions I need to cover the span of time it takes to get from point A to point B.

Though there were one or two research rabbit holes I might have followed that weren't specifically relevant to my work but that were interesting.

So now I have a better idea of what's happening, and today should be rock-and-roll day.

It's possible that I was a little reluctant to write words because I had a reading hangover from the weekend. I read one of those books that leaves me feeling like a fraud and wondering why I even bother. At that library event last week, I picked up a copy of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, the "one book, one city" book for the year. It's a book that's a bit difficult to describe. Plot-wise, it's about a girl in 1939 Germany whose mother has to give her up (her mother is a communist, and therefore outside the pale of Nazi-era society, and she reaches the point where she's unable to care for her child) and the couple who takes her in. In some respects, she has as idyllic a life as she can expect against the backdrop of war in a small town near Munich. She has friends and her foster parents are good to her. But her foster father is an anti-Nazi and has trouble getting work because of that, so times are tough. He never got on board with the party because of the anti-Jewish stance, since his life was saved in WWI by his Jewish friend. And now the son of his friend is in need of help. The "book thief" thing happens because this young girl has a habit of picking up books -- first when the gravedigger drops one at her brother's funeral, later when she finds one that didn't burn in a book-burning event, later still when she gets access to a private library. She becomes more and more fascinated with words and their power.

But it's not really a book about the plot. The slightly odd thing that takes some getting used to is that it's narrated by Death, who is fascinated by humans and who becomes interested in this girl when he sees her as her brother dies. There's a lot of meditation on the human condition and the impact of war. It's both brutal and beautiful, and it ends up working quite well in a way that had me sighing, "I'll never be able to do something like this."

It's also a pretty intense book. I was glad I'd seen the movie because otherwise I'd have been skipping to the end. I wouldn't have been able to take the tension otherwise. I'd call the ending bittersweet -- part realistic, given the circumstances, but with a big dose of hope.

So, yeah, the kind of thing that gives me inadequacy issues. But then last night I pulled something off the To-Be-Read shelf that had me wondering how it even got published, so I think I'll be back on track today.

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