Tag Archives: Stephen King

The Monday Book: THE RETURNED by Jason Mott

 

the returnedMy friend Susan and I were tooling through a yarn crawl in Asheville, North Carolina, and came across a library book sale.

ZIP – I was in the doors almost as fast as Susan. They had a cart of free books you could just take, and on it sat Mott’s The Returned. I watched a French television series about Revenants a couple of years ago during a crocheting jag, and sort of liked it. It was half intellectual “what if,” half horror. I’m not a big fan of horror, but those what ifs will hook me every time.

I wondered if it were the one from which the series was made, and in fact the author blurb in back said it was being made into a series. So I took it to compare the French (and later a really crappy American series) to the book.

Would it surprise you to know the book is much better? Also, that the French series was based on a novel of the same name, much more horror-esque, by Seth Patrick. Stephen King once said about really good fantasy writing, “You don’t have to answer all the questions. You have to tell the story.” More or less. And that’s why I like Mott’s book better. He’s not trying to scare you or shock you. He just wonders, what if?

What if your dead loved ones, or unloved ones, returned, not flesh eating or hell bringing, just walked back in and sat down to dinner and said, “Why is everyone else older? Where have I been?”

It’s an interesting book because it follows one family whose little boy drowned, but intersperses it with one-chapter vignettes of other Returneds. Like The Grapes of Wrath with the Joads and the rest.

The book is really slow getting started. About 1/3 is set-up, 1/3 is build-up and then 1/3 takes the action back down. Slowly. For a “thriller” it’s gentle.

I loved it. The writing is very poetic, casual, calm. The subject matter is weird. The conclusions are startling. And it hooks you right from the first page.

Who could ask for more from a ghost story that is pretty much literature?

 

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The Monday Book: WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg

Yeah, it’s a classic. And it’s a classic for a reason.

One of the coolest things about Goldberg’s book is, even outdated, it updates itself in your mind. “Think about the pen and notebook you use.” She doesn’t mean a small laptop. She means paper. Remember paper?

But from choosing your tools carefully, through “don’t cross out”–which means don’t edit your first draft, just get it down, get it down, get it down–she’s giving great advice.

In fact, her advice lines up with Anne Lamott’s and Stephen King’s, so there’s an endorsement for you. And I have always loved the way her advice is chunked up into little two-page pieces: be specific, keep a notebook with lists of names of stuff, and use the real names, not just “fruit”; and she deals with the old procrastination trick of “making a writing room” very well. (I have never successfully had a writing room. Jack and I have made four, and I have used none. But I still get my writing done.)

In fact, my only beef with myself for choosing a “how to write” book for the Monday book is that reading about writing may take the place of you doing it. “Just one more how to, and then I’ll be ready.”

Nah. You’re ready now. That’s one of the things I love about Goldberg’s book. She makes sure you know you’re ready now, with advice that lets you know there’s no special fairy with a wand you need to wait for; just do things like “Use your senses as an animal does.” Or the section called “Claim your Writing,” where you’re allowed to believe in yourself ENOUGH TO CARVE OUT TIME TO DO THIS. I think that’s the thing I hear particularly from moms over and over again: I can’t find time; it’s not worth it while my kids need me. OK, but I never hear a guy say that. No, take that back – Neil Gaiman said something like that once. But he’s a nice guy.

The point is, we make time for what we feel we have to make time for: kids, words, whatever. And Goldberg’s very practical yet poetic advice makes it clear that, if we want to, we can not only find the time, but the ideas, the words, and the logistics to get our writing done.

 

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