Prose: What I’ve Been Reading

Believe me, I get that prose–without plot, without characters, without setting and dialogue–isn’t enough. I’ve read enough books and manuscripts where the words flow pretty darned well, but everything underneath those words is thin–right. No scaffolding, no story.

But…I am also a sucker for beautiful prose, for the phrase or sentence that just nails it, that makes you suck in your breath, reread it, and then read it again–out loud to whoever is in the room, whether they really want to listen or not. The prose that makes them realize they really did.

It’s been a couple of weeks of reading authors who can wield words with beauty, like Van Gogh with his sunflowers, like Thor with his hammer, like B.B. King with Lucille. Authors who, yes of course they have all the other elements down pat, but who draw you along with the power of that prose. You absorb the story and the characters through osmosis, but you breathe in the words like the sweetest, purest oxygen.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ve heard me rave about the authors I’ve been breathing recently, but I’ll mention them here again.

  • Jandy Nelson. I remember really liking The Sky is Everywhere, so I picked up I’ll Give You the Sun. It knocked my socks off. Yes, story out the wazoo, but omg the beauty of the words, the way she mixes everybody’s special magic in with the less magic world they move through, the way they turn that world into magic for themselves and the reader. And two points of view, people…TWO.
  • Jan Karon. On a recommendation from a Facebook friend, I started Karon’s At Home in Mitford. I loved it. Sort of like Barbara Pym, except somewhere in the South instead of England, and without the depression. Without any depression. I put Book 2, A Light in the Window on hold at the library, but only Book 2, because you know…sometimes that first perfect book and then the rest not so perfect. Let’s just say that 50 pages into A Light in the Window, I zipped over to my library website and added Books 3 and 4 to my hold list. The books read like a river, one you’re safely and slowly traveling down–in the warm sunshine and not a drop of seasickness, with a pitcher of lemonade and a pot of tea waiting for you somewhere along the way. Even when Winter comes, you’re on that river, bundled up a little more against the cold, but still traveling happily, knowing its just the season and it will roll along into Spring and Summer.
  • Joshilyn Jackson. Years ago, I read Between, Georgia, which falls into that small bubble of books that may qualify as the single best book I’ve ever read. I’ve loved every one of Jackson’s books that I’ve read, but Between…it’s 17 stars out of 4. It goes on your must-read list NOW. And then pick up Someone Else’s Love Story, which I’ve been reading all morning and which is looking to be Jackson’s best one since. Kind of like Jandy Nelson, except entirely different, Jackson uses her power over words to place her character’s perceptions on the page and make them real. Again, two points of view here, and amazing, amazing, amazing. Different words, different phrasing for each of them–one kind of musical and light even when the darkness curls up at the edges, and the other a boulder just starting to shift on the slope of a mountain…just threatening to roll and pick up steam or maybe settle back down again and stay solid. With a few tiny sun-sparkles off the quartz embedded in its surface.

There are dozens of other writers who get me with their words–Steve Kluger with My Most Excellent Year, Kristin Cashore with Bitterblue are a couple that come to mind quickly. How about you. Who makes you almost not care that their storytelling and characterization is wonderful, because you’re so happy just to lose yourself in the prose? Leave some more suggestions in the comments!



Friday Five: Giveaway Winner & Other Random Stuff

1. And the winner of my Random Acts of Publicity contest is…

Mike Jung!

Which is more than fitting because Mike is the one who reminded me about the RAP, AND because Son pulled Mike’s name out of the hat bowl last night, which pretty much proves that the BOOV are out there & taking an interest in our lives. Mike, send me an email at beckylevine at ymail dot com, with your snail-mail address, and I’ll get a copy of Steve Kluger’s My Most Excellent Year out to you!

2. I read through some past chapters of my YA historical, downloaded the newest Beta of Scrivener, and came up with a different way to approach the next scene (one already written in the first draft). Which officially means, yes, I’m back to work on the YA.

3. I have seen several yellow leaves drift out of the trees as I drive up our road into the hills. I don’t think autumn is officially here yet, but between the leaves and the shorter days, I can tell it’s on its way.

4. I realized I have hit a yoga milestone. Well, a few. First, yes, the tips of my fingers have actually touched the ground during forward bends. Did I say my knees were straight at the time? No, I did not. They’ll get there. AND I have gone a week+ without having to take an afternoon nap the day of a morning yoga class. Did I say I wasn’t tired? No, I did not. I’ll get there. I’m counting it all as progress.

5. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s latest book, A Diamond in the Desert. This book blew me away. Who says a historical novel has to be heavy on details? Who says it has to bury us in historic figures & facts. Not Kathryn. She’s chosen an amazingly taut, light structure to tell the story of a young boy playing baseball in a Japanese internment camp. And it all works beautifully. Watch for a future interview here with Kathryn about the book.

Random Acts of Publicity: Steve Kluger’s MY MOST EXCELLENT YEAR

Mike Jung reminded me that today is Day 1 of the third annual Random Acts of Publicity, started by DarcyPattison as a fun way to promote friends and favorite books. Mike’s running a contest to win THREE books by Julian Hector. You may go enter Mike’s contest, although if you can do so WITHOUT beating out my entry, I would of course appreciate that.

Anyway, in my never-ending quest to get more people to read one of MY favorite books, I’m running a giveaway, too. Never said I can’t steal make use of someone else’s good idea!

Here’s the book:

As you can see from the complete title [deep breath], My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park, the book has everything. Why is it one of my absolute favorites? Because it is very possibly the best love story I have ever read. And, remember, I wrote my master’s thesis on Wuthering Heights (Sorry, Emily!). The story and the characters and the relationships cover every possible form that happy, kind, supportive love can take. The connections and the voices and the humor are outstanding, and if you aren’t smiling, laughing, or saying “aaaaw” on every page, well, then, yeah–this book isn’t for you.

But you know what? It will be.

Just to prove it, yes, I’m giving away a copy of this book. I like Mike’s idea of having us add more promotion to the contest–he’s asked minions enter his contest by leaving a comment listing one of their favorite picture books. So, here, let’s hear your favorite love story. Since this is about promotion, let’s say favorite love story published in the last five years. Yes, you can ALSO add a second favorite from way back whenever–Jane Austen comes to mind–but that won’t enter you in the contest.

And, no, I’m not going to check the pub date on entries–can’t I TRUST you people?!

I’ll announce the winner on Friday, so enter now! And, if you aren’t logged in so that I can click your signature & get an email to you, please make sure to leave your email in the comment.

And have a love-filled week!