Door always open.
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2003-11-13 7:52 AM
Just by nature, not by decision, I love established artists who take risks.
When I first heard Paul Simon's GRACELAND, I was getting seriously into African music and playing in an African band. GRACELAND's African element was South African, and I ended up playing more West African--Afrobeat, highlife, reggae--but it was still timed just right for me. What I loved most about it wasn't the African thing; it was first that an established artist, Paul Simon, went off in his own direction, and second that the result was great.
I just finished EVERY SECRET THING by Laura Lippman. She's an acquaintance, on the way to becoming a friend, so I bought the book with a great deal of trepidation. Unlike a lot of people who consider writing just a profession, I've never found the trick to being friends with people whose writing I don't like. By nature--not decision, since I would decide the opposite--I can't relax if I can't tell the truth, and saying "I don't think you're a very good writer" isn't the greatest thing to tell a friend. So I hold back, which means we can only be a certain kind of acquaintance.
Laura likes my books--had me out to a writing class she was teaching, to talk about writing. And over the course of a few email exchanges, she told me about her feelings while she was writing EVERY SECRET THING, and we talked about stuff like genre and the fear inherent in taking big career risks. As art goes, risk is, I think, the whole point. But as career goes, the bigger the career, the more potentially deadly the risk--and Laura's got a solid mystery career going with her Tess Monaghan series. Writing a book about two girls who kill a baby isn't the next step. Leaf through any "How To Write The Mystery" manual and you'll find an entire chapter called "Don't Write A Book About Two Girls Who Kill A Baby."
But the result is, in places, awesome. I don't use the word in the San Fernando Valley sense. I use it in the cathedral sense. There are places where the technical and emotional blend and multiply so perfectly that the heart and brain both light up at the same time. Any writer who's interested in how rules can be broken, not just for the joy of breaking them, but to bring the reader to a new, small outlook several times per page, should read this.
Yes, I'm shilling, and it's for someone I know. I expect to do it again when S.J. Rozan's ABSENT FRIENDS comes out next year, having been in her writers' group when she was writing it.
Because I just love it when established artists take big risks and it works.
Because honestly--how often does it really happen?
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