Sunday, March 30, 2008

reading: amy bloom, away

I've been a big Amy Bloom fan for a while, ever since Love Invents Us. She writes mostly contemporary fiction (novels, short stories) and always features queer characters of some sort in her writing, which is something I always find really interesting. But I wasn't very excited to read Away, a novel set in 1920s America chronicling a Russian Jew searching for her long-last daughter via an overland journey from New York to Siberia. Originally it was Bloom's prose more than the story that won me over...the story seemed like a mishmash of all the other narratives of displacement, rootlessness. The plucky female heroine immigrant road trip, or at least that's how the logline for the movie would read.

I read the book in a day...can't remember the last time I did that. I had two MUNI rides to get started, and stayed up late turning the pages. The details were vivid, sharp, unique. There was the requisite backstory (think Beloved, think Lipshitz Six), a horror story of violence, and that threaded repeatedly through the book.

What turned me off from the book was Bloom's habit of flashing forward. Since the book is a road narrative, the main character leaves every character she encounters, and all those characters give her something (physical or psychic, tangible or immaterial) to push her on her journey...and each time the MC leaves, Bloom offers a paragraph summary of where that person ends up. This is how he dies, or lives, this is where she goes. It's's the gratification of the reader impulse to "know where" the secondary characters end up, because they/we have come to care about these characters. But it gets old. It gets annoying. Especially as the book nears to a close.

I think it's in part the gimmicks of omniscience that turn me off of third person fiction. The author's tidy tricks. Life is much messier than that. In reality, those characters fade away. It's interesting to think about the novel's weak points in relation to my own work.

I've been writing a lot, especially on MUNI...put on the ipod and go. It feels really good. I'm writing a lot about food and it allows me a place to push against things, think things over.

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