In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote,
I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month, a guest writer shares how he or she spends the day.
July 1, 2013: Caroline Leavitt
I have the perfect book for your summer reading list: Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt. She had me on the first page. And each day I was reading it, I couldn’t wait to get back to it.
Speaking of Caroline’s best-selling Pictures of You, Anne Lamott said, “It’s so exciting whenever, on the Best Seller List, there’s a real book.” Lamott goes on to define a real book as follows: written with a … sustained narrative voice, an author who has four or five plates in the air, who has done it with grace so you don’t notice the effort, and again who is working hard to find the right verb so you don’t have to have endless adverbs and adjectives…”
And also as Anne Lamott noted, Caroline Leavitt is a storyteller, which is an ability I admire and aspire to. Here are two examples on the sentence level that you are in the hands of a sure narrator:
Ava leaned against the kitchen wall, shutting her eyes. She wasn’t afraid. Not then.
He wouldn’t remember this moment, but she would never forget it.
Speaking of sentences, here are some of my favorites and why.
Moves form the concrete TO the theme of the book TO a bigger theme of all of our lives:
He paid attention to the buildings along Lexington Street so he wouldn’t get lost, something that often happened, leaving him tense and disoriented as if the world had changed shape without his knowing it.
For its sound:
If you didn’t know what had happened, you’d think nothing had.
Yes, I said. That’s how fast it happens and how it feels:
Not Mommy anymore, but a truncated syllable, like the bang of a screen door. Mom.
From a fact TO a theme of the book TO a bigger idea that gives us another way to think about life:
[T]his street is only a tiny part of the world. People leave it all the time. That’s what life is.
Creates a picture:
When he talked, he shot the breeze about the hospital or Madison. It was all casual, loose as pocket change that never added up to anything.
And now look at these examples that in addition to whatever else they do, the create MOVING pictures, pictures that are alive, videos (going further than the last example above, which is already good), and Caroline does it with those verbs that Anne Lamott commented on above.
Begins with a concrete detail and then expands it into a video I can watch:
He listened to her breathing, and then his own, almost as if it were a conversation, her quick, short breaths, and his longer ones.
Moving from the moment TO a picture/video:
She felt their stares, like a film on her body she wanted to scrub off.
From the concrete (also a theme) TO a sensation (that also creates a video);
When he left, the door slammed and the sound traveled up her bones.
Creates a picture that is alive and a sensation, and a new way of thinking about loneliness:
His loneliness pounded like a headache.
Creates a moving picture and a sensation:
His rage was like a hot little heart and all she could do was listen to it beat.
Is This Tomorrow, full of echos and subplots, creates a fictional world that comes alive on the page. I just ordered Pictures of You.
Come back on JULY 1st to read how Caroline Leavitt spends her days.
The next writer in the series is announced as close to the 8th of each month as possible so you can read ahead!