I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. It won the Dagger Award and was an Edgar nominee for Best First Novel, a BookSense pick, and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. I didn’t like it. It was a slow read and at the end I wondered what the point was. The author flirted around with the problem of sexual abuse and self-mutilation by cutting but nothing was specific.
I say if you’re going to write a book about something shocking do it. Don’t go all The-Sound-And-The-Fury on us.
So with trepidation I read her third novel gone “best seller” Gone Girland I have to say I am very impressed. The novel uses its three-part structure well. The two main characters, Nick and Amy Dunne, take turns by chapter telling their stories in first person. Amy Dunne disappears on the fifth wedding anniversary. Nick Dunne is shocked. A few chapters later we can’t help but get suspicious of him. It looks as if his wife has been murdered and the crime scene staged to look like an abduction. I will not go any further into the plot because the reader needs to discover all the plot twists alone to really appreciate the book. In case you were wondering how we can share the wife’s perspective if she is dead – by reading her diary.
Gone Girl is an excellent study in human nature, and specifically the scary traits of the psychotic. That a female author wrote a man’s perspective so well is impressive. It is almost as if two writers are writing the book instead of two fictional characters.
You only get that title if you remember Monty Python.
It is Book Review Wednesday at the Nolen house. Today’s totally different book review is on a non-fiction book. I read a lot of non-fiction books but I don’t usually review them here.
I started this book thinking it would be a quick read. I mean, look at it! Well, you can’t see it here. It is tiny. STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST or “10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative” by Austin Kleon. Who, by the way, lives in Austin, Texas and so does my fellow book-writer and friend Nikki Loftin (more on her fabulous book later). Nikki encouraged me to read this book. Thank you, Nikki! Should have been a quick read. This book is not a quick read for the simple reason that it is stuffed with good ideas that need to be mulled like spiced apple cider. Mulled apple cider is always better the day after. Yes, I said “mulled”. Or steeped inside that steamy caldron of a creative brain you carry on your shoulders. This is a fantastic book.
Also, I can’t believe I read a NYT’s best seller while it was still on the best seller list. That’s a first.
I don’t want to leave you wondering if I’ve lost it. Here are a few tips from the creative master Mr. Kleon: Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. In other words, waiting for inspiration to hit you may see you old and gray before anything happens. I love his scribbles and multimedia artwork he uses to illustrate his points. He says “Fake it ’til you make it.” Great advice. You have to make some ugly art before the good stuff. If you’ve been to art school as I have and seen what you start with and then see what you end with on your “forced” projects you understand what this means. With writing it translates into the same thing. Some days what I have written is horrible. But Mr. Kleon says over and over – don’t ever throw anything away. He’s right. You never know when that “horrible” will spark something ingenious. All my work comes from ugly.
He quotes from Francis Ford Coppola — “We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.”
Another tip from the book: Write the book you want to read. I’ve always heard – write what you know. But I’ve always believed that you must write what you love AND what you want to read. If you write, you spend a LOT of time at it. You better love it.
One more tip from the book: Side projects and hobbies are important. How well I adhere to this! I can’t help it. I can’t help writing. Even if the writing is only in my head. I can’t help seeing the world around me with an artist’s “eye” although I haven’t touched a canvas in nine months. But life goes on and my projects may look to everyone else as though I’m sitting on my hands. They aren’t – my projects are brewing.
I don’t begin to do this book justice in a short review. I’m going to leave the other seven tips for you to read when you pick up a copy of “Steal Like An Artist”. You won’t be unchallenged, and unchanged if you do. I promise.
The stuff in the book may even be a sort of Holy Grail for writerly types.