Saturday, January 11, 2014
Reading For Craft
Journals, Diaries, and Letters (Expertise)
Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck is described as “one of those rare books that are all things to all readers. Actually the record of a brief collecting expedition in the lonely Gulf of California, it will be science to the scientist, philosophy to the philosopher, and to the average man an adventure in living and thinking.”
Recently I read a short story western set in the early 1900’s. One character took ill and the other took over the daily diary log for a week, as requested by their employer, and almost went mad with the boredom. As a reader I was on the borderline of skimming any more diary entries myself when the author returned to the main diary person who realized that the reason they were so far behind schedule was due to the enormous amount of time needed daily to keep their nomad livestock alive and healthy. The diary details were short, meticulous and repetitive. Like the record keeping of the Sea of Cortez log there was an authenticity to the lifestyle and the work that made the fictional story read like a memoir.
Hopefully as writers we will not cut as close to the edge of boring readers, but to understand and use accurately details of a job or location or project, diaries and letters and journals written by hands-on participants will give us the verity of expertise. We can see through their eyes and recognize what aspects are important and which are not.
They will also bridge the gap between instructional information, such as reading a recipe, and the emotional response of a working process, such as the texture and smell and satisfactions of kneading dough into bread, or shaping pottery on wheel, or hearing an engine hum after changing plugs and draining oil.
Share: What diaries have you read that made you feel as if you were present?
Read deep, marcy