Friday, November 10, 2006

"THE NOTEBOOK" ... and The Rules

Well, THE NOTEBOOK won in my recent quandary over what to read next.

When a book or a movie is very successful, sometimes you've heard so much about it that it's hard for it to live up to all the hubbub. I'm happy to say that THE NOTEBOOK lived up to the hubbub. So for the past couple of days, I've been trying to put my finger on just how Nicholas Sparks did it.

One thing he didn't do was follow conventional structure. The book opens with a framing story, which certainly isn't unheard of, but then the framing story takes center stage for the last third or so of the book. And the "flashback" story doesn't start at the beginning of the relationship, but begins just before the couple is about to reunite for the first time since their summer romance ended 14 years before. And the flashback begins with about thirty pages of backstory to summarize the summer romance and how they ended up where they are today....

It sounds like it wouldn't work. Nicholas Sparks breaks The Rules we writers are told to follow, six ways from Sunday. So what makes it work? Well, the story has some deep emotional themes that pack a heck of a punch by the end, but it takes a while to build up to that point. What keeps us reading?

Maybe it's the writer's conviction. The book sounds convincing, sincere, real. Maybe it's the writer's style -- one of the review quotes on my copy calls it "lyrical," and I think that's a really good word for it. Sometimes you're wowed by the beauty of the language ... but more often, you're not thinking about the writing, you're just drawn in by its deceptive simplicity.

Oh, heck. A literary critic I'm not. The point is, it works. End of story.

Friday, November 03, 2006

My TBR pile

What I'm reading:
- ?
What's on the CD player:
- GILDED PALACE OF SIN by the Flying Burrito Brothers
What I'm watching tonight with the kids:

You know what that is, don't you? The To-Be-Read pile ... that towering stack of books that just about every reader seizes faster than she/he can read them. (If you can buy one book at a time, and not buy another until you finish it ... you scare me.)

A friend of mine shared her TBR pile on a recent blog, so I thought I'd follow suit. These are the books currently tottering on my little office floor, vying for my attention:

THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks
THE WEDDING RING by Emily Richards
AN OFFER HE CAN'T REFUSE by Christie Ridgeway
HIT REPLY by Rocki St. Clair
TELL ME LIES by Jennifer Crusie
CHARLIE ALL NIGHT by Jennifer Crusie
CRAZY IN LOVE by Luanne Rice
RECIPES FOR EASY LIVING by Curtiss Ann Matlock
FULL HOUSE by Janet Evanovich
by Janet Evanovich
FAR HARBOR by JoAnn Ross
HE LOVES LUCY by Susan Donovan

Oh dear. It's worse than I thought. I shouldn't be allowed to leave the house 'til I catch up, let alone set foot anywhere near Barnes & Noble.

I find a lot of times I like a shift in tone from the last book I read. The last book was a comedic women's fiction, so I'm thinking one of the more serious ones might be good. Right now, THE NOTEBOOK is arm-wrestling with THE WEDDING ALBUM....