What I’m Reading Wednesday

What I’m Reading Now:

I’ve started reading Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov for my class with Mary Gaitskill on description and imagery. She is very devoted to Nabokov, and after reading a number of his short stories this semester, and re-reading Lolita, I understand why. He is a master of description and imagery, and there is a virtuosity to his writing that can be admired, but not imitated. One never sees him struggling.

I’m also still reading Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon, which is incredibly entertaining, but also very slow going. Full of figurative flights of fancy, interspersed with hilarious low humor, all in a very challenging to penetrate 18th century pastiche. He is also a master.

One of the things M&D does that is of interest to me as a writer is create a rather preposterous frame, and execute it so well that it doesn’t matter that it is preposterous. The story is ostensibly told by a Reverend to his nieces and nephews, but the Reverend is so close to Mason and Dixon that he is often inside their perspectives, and only rarely his own. There is no way that someone could actually tell a story this way.

Since I am currently writing a novel that is a letter/confession/memoir, I need to learn how to do this. I don’t care that the narrator of M&D has implausible knowledge and recall, because the story and delivery itself is so good. The preposterousness of it is part of the charm.

I was warned that this book would contain hilarious anachronisms and in-jokes, and so it does. Among other things,

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