News | 2010 | It's Not You, It's Me

Anyone who really knows me understands I've got an over-developed sense of completion. I collect sets of things. I clean my plate. I play all options in computer games. I watch the credits at the end of movies. I read introductions and author's notes. I hate to give up. On anything. I'd rather lose and play things out to the bitter end than tip over my king. However, I don't think I'm ruled by this compulsion--at times, I do walk away and not finish what I've started. Disappointingly, I've found myself at one of those times again.

The Misanthrope and Other French Classics by Eric Bentley (editor)

I've been trying to read a collection of French classic plays for the past six days, but I just can't do it (The Misanthrope and Other French Classics, edited by Eric Bentley). The plays are written in verse and the beat and the rhyme is completely distracting me. Maybe these plays would be better in the original French and it's just the translation I'm trying to read now. Maybe it's the nature of the pieces and I just don't get them (or have the patience to get them). Maybe these plays would be much better on stage, with an actor controlling line delivery (they are classics, after all--I realize many people have loved these plays over the years). Whatever the reason, I just can't get into the stories of the plays--I'm stuck at the surface level of the words, anticipating and finding pedantic and obvious rhymes and that's just not cutting it for me. So, I've decided not to put myself through this. I've put the book down, probably not to be picked up again (it's now on top of my take-to-the-used-bookstore-for-trade-in pile).

The Journey Prize Stories 21, Selected by Camilla Gibb, Lee Henderson, and Rebecca Rosenblum

Luckily, the book I've picked up in its place is not disappointing me at all. Last night I grabbed the twenty-first collection of The Journey Prize Stories (selected by Camilla Gibb, Lee Henderson, and Rebecca Rosenblum), and after powering through four stories without a break, my wife convinced me it was time to turn off the light and go to sleep--the stories would still be there in the morning. What I'm trying to say is wow--I'm enjoying the power of these stories and the way I'm getting immersed in them. Rather than trying to fight my way in like I was with the French plays, now, I'm having a hard time coming up for breath. Which, honestly is the way writing should be. I sometimes tell my students (depending on who they are) that their readers could always be having sex. I challenge them to make their stories so good, their readers never stop to think of that. So far, The Journey Prize Stories are keeping me focused in ways the French plays never could. Now, only eight more stories to go...

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