I’ve been reading Nine Stories on the metro lately, which I always thought I’d read before, but apparently I only ever read the first one. In "Teddy," the last one, I encountered this sentence last night, which I really enjoyed:
“His smile was not unpersonable, but it was social, or conversational, and related back, however indirectly, to his own ego.”
There’s so much great writing that doesn’t strictly abide by the show, don’t tell principle, especially on a sentence-by-sentence basis. This exuberant kind of writing that doesn’t skimp on the descriptors lends itself to comedy much better, I think, than its spare counterpart, and the mere abundance of words doesn't (IMO) make it any less literary. Of course, it's Salinger we're talking about, and as always, anyone really good can break any kind of rule set out to help the rest of us mere mortals along.
Another thing I’ve been wondering about Salinger as I’ve been reading this…what, exactly, does kittenish mean? Or what did it used to mean at the time he was writing? I always thought it meant something along the lines of weak and cute, but I’ve seen it in a few sentences where it appears to be otherwise.*
And.....I like this list of "books to savour" from Flavorwire – not least because I have been savouring two of them for months now. Bleak House (which I’ve read before) is the go-to book on the Kindle app on my phone for reading before bed. And Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is one of several books I’ve been reading while doing my edits…both the last round and this round....which gives you a clue of just how slowly I've been savouring it. Gilead in particular is not a book with a ton of forward plot momentum (and therefore perhaps maybe not the best thing to be reading while trying to cobble my ending back together…hmmm). But it is full of rather wonderful passages like this:
"A great part of my work has been listening to people, in that particular intense privacy of confession, or at least unburdening, and it has been very interesting to me. Not that I thought of these conversations as if they were a contest, I don't mean that. But as you might look at a game more abstractly---where is the strength, what is the strategy? As if you had no interest in it except in seeing how well the two sides bring each other along, how much they can require of each other, how the life that is the real subject of it all is manifest in it. By "life" I mean something like "energy" (as the scientists use the word) or "vitality," and also something very different. When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the "I" whose predicate can be "love" or "fear" or "want," and whose object can be "someone" or "nothing" and it won't really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around "I" like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else. But quick, and avid, and resourceful. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned."
I think you'll agree that it's not exactly action-packed, in the usual sense. Very easy to enjoy...and put down...and pick back up without needing to remember what has already happened. (So far: nothing really <-- awesome!)