Friday, October 11, 2013

All Perfume

The workshop on Wednesday night was not what I expected. Everybody [who talked] was more engaged with my story than I thought they would be. An aspect of the story that had never occurred to me (and probably never would have), but that I consider a major problem, was brought to my attention, so YAY for that. Overall the experience was less scary and frustrating and a good deal weirder than I thought it would be, based on prior workshoppings in which I've participated.

After I finished the Greenland book and gave it to Matt to read, and we talked about it, it was truly, genuinely funky to hear my characters' names coming out of his mouth. I'd e-mailed about the book with other people, but there's no substitute for hearing names spoken aloud that you've made up and endowed with meaning yourself. The same freaky feeling happened here. (Especially since the names in this story are odd: Shawnboy, Cee.) I don't remember this happening when Matt talked to me about Highbinder, but I don't know if that's because I'm used to him being part of my internal writing world now, or because Berra's realer to me than anyone else I've created.

Not for the first time, I wish I had a workshop group. After hearing from these ladies and gents, I wanted to know what they'd make of some of the other stories of mine that need work. Alas, alack, Alaska.


Guess what I did yesterday?


This is not me; it's a German fencer named Peter Joppich in 2010.
But it might as well be me.
I listened to the very last "yes", the absolute final one, read by dear Marcella, and I put down my iPod and breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Done. And, unless for a class, probably NEVER AGAIN.

Don't get me wrong. There were parts of Ulysses that I loved. There were things about it that tickled my intellectual fancy, and aspects at which I marveled. I kept finding little corners where other high-literary books I've read have called back to it, which was interesting. But holy hell was it a slog. And the more obtuse sections were as exasperating as anything I've ever read, even Infinite Jest (which, in truth, I had an easier time with, although I don't know what that means).

I hugely enjoyed Molly's soliloquy, and it reminded me that before about episode 12 (the damned Citizen), there were parts where the book clipped right along for me. It lost me pretty much entirely during episode 15, the longest, which was written in the format of a play. But all throughout, the characters of Bloom and Stephen and Molly were as real as real humans, as risible and endearing, which is an accomplishment indeed.

I'd love to sit down over coffee (or shots) with somebody about this book, because I feel quite clueless about it and my reactions to and interpretations of it. It'd be nice to pick the brains of others. I read over the SparkNotes for it, and although I think a lot of fans of Ulysses would say this is the worst way to enjoy it, I found them incredibly helpful.

And now I can read other stuff! The pile of books I want to read is tall and teetery indeed. I hardly know where to start.

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