The Lord of the Rings is controversial in both literary and Catholic circles. At the literary level, critics dismiss it while the public loves it, regularly voting it high on various best books lists. Catholic opinion is similarly divided, some seeing it as the great Catholic novel of the 20th century while others dismiss it as boring nonsense. Both judgements miss something. The Lord of the Rings is a big, messy, and sometimes silly book, but it has a streak of genius running through it.
Which point of view produces the greatest intimacy between the reader and the character? Watching this debate between two writing friends led me to ask what they meant by intimacy. I propose (invoking the liberty of blogging) that there are at least three modes of intimacy between reader and character: avatar, friend, and shrink. There may be more, but these will do for now.
Really pleased to say that my first novel has been accepted for publication by Chrism Press and will see the light of day toward the end of 2021.
The Rules of Trade (The Peaceweaver, Book One), is an historical novel set in eighth-century Northumbria, just weeks after the great Viking raid on the rich monastery of Lindisfarne, which was the 9-11 of the Anglo Saxon world.
Writers sometimes worry about overthinking their writing. They should be more worried about under-imagining it.
May 3, 2018. Springfield Missouri to Tulsa Oklahoma
Themes of the day are ugly English tourists, underwhelming attractions, and decent ice cream.
A storm system passes overnight and it continues raining for most of the morning. The day’s planned route is not terribly long so we make a leisurely morning and hope for the weather to clear.
There are three loud Englishmen at breakfast in the motel’s breakfast room. Apparently they are doing Route 66 west to east. As a Canadian born in England, who has experienced the ugly American tourist in Europe, it is nice to see roles reversed and the ugly English tourist being obnoxious in America.
As I set about creating the second blog of my life, I am thinking about the liberty of the blogger. The writer enjoys various degrees of liberty in the different kinds of things they write. In a diary or journal you may safely say almost anything, as long as you leave instructions in your will that all your private papers should be burned unread. (Recommended.) In a letter to a friend, colleague, editor, reader, etc. you have to be a little more circumspect, but your audience is still small.
May 2, 2018. St. Louis to Springfield MO
We head out of St. Louis toward Springfield, Missouri on a route that takes us through the Ozarks. Themes for the day: thousands of tiny attractions, bridges that memorialize corporals rather than generals, and wonky navigation units.
The Garmin, which served us so well in Chicago, decides to ignore all my painstakingly set shaping points for leaving St Louis by the old road and dumps us onto the freeway. The freeways of St. Louis are a particularly unpleasant place to be at 7 am on a weekday. We pass one Route 66 historic byway sign, but far too late to jump across lanes to the exit. We eventually get off and find a parking lot where it takes me 20 minutes to beat the Garmin into submission. Then five more minutes to persuade it that we don’t want to go back downtown and start over.
Monday, April 30, 2018 Springfield to St Louis
I resume the long-delayed transcribing of my Grand Tour travel diary in the midst of a pandemic which has meant, among other inconveniences, that I am at home on my laptop instead of somewhere in Utah, as originally planned for this October. Some say that the purpose of travel is to accumulate memories. If so, revisiting these diaries ought to be better than actually travelling. In some sense it is. Memory leaves out the tedious bits, the inconveniences, the frustrations and delays. Hopefully this account leaves them out too. Still, I’d rather be on the road right now. But here I sit and reminisce.
On this day, May 1, 2018, we take a fairly short drive from Springfield to St. Louis, leaving time for various detours and bits of sight seeing.
While Route 66 is a 2500 mile open air museum, a Beamish Museum / Upper Canada Village / Colonial Williamsburg, right down to the original section of red brick pavement or the concrete section with the turkey tracks, both of which we drive today, it is less “authentic” than those sites in the sense that the old bits are scattered among all the new bits.
One should always prefer the active voice over the passive, they tell us. Baloney. Active and passive are technical grammatical terms that have nothing to do with how active or passive your writing is. The distinction between the two forms actually has to do with whether the focus of your statement is the actor or the recipient of the action, the doer or the done-to. Sometimes the doer is more important than the done-to. Sometimes it is the other way round.
I am puzzled by how imprecise writers sometimes are when they talk about their craft. If any craft should be precise and lucid in the description of what it does, it should be writing. But it’s not. A case in point: the distinction between “present tense” and “past tense” narratives.