Saturday, September 12, 2009

A book you must read

This week I finished the book Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Kristin Gregory had recommended it to me (thank you, Kristin). I really loved the writing, the story, the Christian symbolism, the literary style. It was a fantastic read. Here's a little section I'm going to show my writing class this week:

“Just past midnight that hunched bundle behind the barn was me, Reuben Land, in deep regret. Skittish, that’s what I was, and unnerved about walking out into the dark. Here all day I’d imagined the glory of this act—waiting for a certain heaviness in the house, slipping on pants, ghosting down to the kitchen, pocketing gingersnaps, easing shut the door, crossing some hundreds of yards into Davy’s night—just thinking of it beforehand slid me into the company of heroes…. Wouldn’t I, too, defeat jitters and win out for Davy’s sake?” (Peace Like a River, Leif Enger, 223).

What I adore about this passage are three things:

1. Word choice - "ghosting" down the stairs, "pocketing" the cookies, the "hunched bundle." This little passage is brilliant in its economy of words--and not just the word choice, but the visual imagery created by those choice words.

2. Detail - the "gingersnaps" is such a small and seemingly insignificant word in this paragraph, but again, it represents the best of writing. I can feel the sweet spicy crumbs in my pocket, can't you?

3. The surprises - perhaps best of all in this passage are the surprises. Instead of the expected use of "quietness" or "stillness" to describe the house, Enger uses "heaviness." And isn't that just right? Isn't there a kind of heaviness in the wee hours of the night? I also loved the surprising sentence structure of that first sentence: "That...bundle...was me."


On another note, I've been enjoying my teaching at IPFW so far this semester, and now I am also tutoring ESL high school students. So I'm busy, but I love being in the classroom, and I am finding little pockets of time to write as well.