Books that aggravated me, etc.
The Girl on the Train aggravated me. I bought it as an ebook. A couple of chapters into it, I began to feel like pre-grade-school me and the funny papers. The structure of the story, with the jagged timelines and characters’ developments, jumping from chapter to chapter befuddled me. I kept going back to figure out where I left a character and the timeline. I was doing more reading backwards than forward. I bought the book in hardcover and made notes of the key points of character development, plot development, and timeline progression, and it became clearer to me. It was like Mom buying me the scrapbook so I could see the beginning, middle, and ending of the story. At the end of the day, my abiding memory of the book is of its structure, and I see characters in separate trains on the same track chugga chuggin toward each other. I’m glad I did the work to find and appreciate that story structure. I will also confess to you my brothers and sisters, that before I started writing, I’d never have gone to the trouble to figure out that structure. I’d have plowed ahead doggedly to just finish it. And I wouldn’t have gotten a thing from the book other than entertainment of the shallowest kind. Because I did the work, I feel like I found one of those literary treasures my college prof talked about.
One of my favorite literary treasures is the line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So I bought a copy of Requiem for a Nun, and I started reading to find where that treasure was buried. The context, in which, the glorious two sentences, all of nine words total, were set. But I found it a slog. Reading Faulkner, for me, is often a slog. Keeping a dictionary to hand is one thing that makes reading him a slog, though this wasn’t the case with Requiem. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not into reading screen plays. Anyway, I went to Wikipedia and found out the line is in Act I, Scene 3. Ta dah. I narrowed the search, eliminated God knows how many minutes and seconds of slogging, and I found the line. And totally screwed up the treasure hunt. Sigh. Back to page one, and read the bloody piece of work. Like I originally intended.
To be continued.
J. J. Zerr writes stories in the historical fiction genre. Mostly. His novels are set in the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War eras. He also published a collection of short stories, some of which are set in the current timeframe.
Writing is his third—not career—passion. He is a US Navy and Vietnam veteran. Serving aboard ships and as navy carrier pilot for thirty-six years, he logged over one thousand carrier landings and more than three hundred combat missions during the Vietnam War. He retired from the US Navy in 1995. He then worked in the aerospace industry for eleven years. On January 2, 2008, he sat down in front of his computer and began working on his first novel and launched his third passion.
Writing, he says, is harder than work. Rewriting is harder than writing, and book promotion is harder than rewriting. “But I can’t not write.”
Zerr resides in the St. Louis area with his wife, Saint Karen.