Looks like an impossibility, no? I stood on the terrace drinking my cafè con leche, camera in hand and the blue and gray and pink and white of the sky made me feel inside out, upside down. I could have been looking into an ocean as easily as up to the sky, if it weren’t for the water towers and smokestacks of neighboring buildings to orient me.
This morning’s sunrise was a surprisingly accurate reflection of how I feel as I’m reading The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud. So perfectly simple, natural, it’s a deeply complex piece written with such honesty it makes my heart stop every few pages. The words and phrasing aren’t pretty but they’re beautiful (if that makes sense to anyone other than me). Her main character is pure in her anger– no coyness, no stereotypical qualifiers, I’m not reading into it, she tells us exactly how angry she is and how she sublimates that anger in order to function–much the way I know those deep pinks above, stunning as they are, represent a big storm on its way later. I took the photos so I can look at this sunrise again tomorrow or next month or next year, but they won’t give the same wow they did when I stood there this morning.
There are many writers I admire, for craft, plotting, characterization, descriptions, but. There aren’t many writers who have made me feel like I’m holding my breath, chest and head hurting but I’m afraid to exhale, afraid to keep turning the pages because then it gets me closer to the end. I don’t want it to be over, and I also don’t want to find out if it was wrapped up in a neat and tidy package where everyone gets to live happily ever after because sales-marketing-feel good-life is a cabaret.
*this, by the way, is why I don’t write book reviews on the blog. Not too many people looking to buy a novel want to know how a book made me feel, but the feelings are what’s important and memorable to me.
Some novels I read and know no matter how much I enjoy them, they aren’t my type of story to write. Thrillers, horror, so fun! My imagination doesn’t go in those directions. Some novels I read and think yes, I should be querying and pursuing publication, my work is competitive. This is a whole other category.
This is the type of book I will remember the name of, will recommend to friends and acquaintances for the next ten years. I’m guessing there are a lot of people who won’t like it. Anger, especially women’s anger, tends to make people uncomfortable. It’s also the type of novel that makes me wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing. A strange feeling, hard to state clearly because it’s inspiring at the same time. There’s a little back room in my brain where I’ve been drafting a character for another story, and he’s starting to knock, wanting to move forward. As much as I’m loving The Woman Upstairs, feel it was money well spent, it also makes me want to stomp my feet and shake my fists because this is what writing can be, but my writing is not. Cliche as it may be, the word that keeps coming to mind is heartbreaker.
Must mean it’s time to get the Led out before I get back to reading and before the rain comes.