It’s only 5 a.m., and already this Monday is a bit disappointing. We were supposed to wake up to more snow and treacherous roads. Now, I’m aware that my grown up job has never closed for bad weather – which is ludicrous, we live in the arctic and are prone to blizzards – but I had decided if it was really bad I was simply going to report I couldn’t get out of my neighborhood.
It wouldn’t have been a lie. I (me, myself) couldn’t (as in, do not have the ability because of my irrational fear of driving in icy conditions) get out of (my tiny old car could get stuck in anything) my neighborhood (prone to not being plowed).
But the streets are clear. There are people zooming past below me as we speak. They aren’t even driving a little slower, to give me hope the roads are slippery. The schools won’t be canceled after all. And my teeny tiny weekend that barely got started is officially over.
So, Monday, here we go…
Book #3: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Barnes And Noble
My biggest complaint about this book is that it didn’t last longer – I was sad to see the characters go. In just the few nights we had together, I got attached.
I’ll admit I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1920s. I was convinced I should have been living in the days of Gatsby since the first time I picked up Fitzgerald – who, it just so happens, is an important character in this book.
And, on top of my love for the 20s, I’m even more devotedly in love with Paris.
The 20s + Paris = I was convinced just a few chapters in I should have married Hemingway myself
Paula McLain took on something here that could easily have backfired – learning everything she could about Hemingway, and then writing a fictional story from his wife’s point of view with all the right facts in place. It reads like an honest, heart-felt autobiography, even thought it isn’t. Hadley is endearing and lovable, even in the moments you want to sit her down and tell her what to do.
But amazing story aside, the thing that really stuck with me about this book was the way she wrote about Hemingway writing. It’s what has kept me from writing about a book I finished weeks ago. Because part of me knows this isn’t really Hadley talking – the author could have gotten it all wrong. But that’s really just me making excuses.
Hemingway didn’t just write in flashes of brilliance – he slaved over his work. Day in and day out he almost drove himself mad, sitting in a rented room and writing from dawn until dusk. Words didn’t just flow, he did battle with them. And when they did flow, he went back to them and whittled away at them until they were perfect. That isn’t how I picture great writing.
Back, around the time I dropped my creative writing major in college, a professor wrote me a letter at the end of the semester. She told me that I was the best writer in her class, but I was never going to be great unless I committed to my work. She knew I wrote in quick moments if inspiration. She said that in my mind, when my work was brilliant, I was brilliant. And when my work was bad, it meant nothing because I didn’t put any real effort in anyway. She told me then, that wasn’t how great writers wrote.
At the time I thought I understood her, but I didn’t. I tried to prove her wrong by putting the time in, teaching myself to write novels. But I never really learned the lesson. I’ve never slaved over every word. I’ve never been conscious of refining every sentence. I’ve never rewritten an entire novel because the tone wasn’t quite right.
This book brought the book I was writing to a screeching halt. I haven’t been able to add a word to it. But my mind keeps going back to another story, one that’s hidden away on a corner of my computer. One that I love, but has never been quite right. I’ve revised it, and revised it again. But I’ve never slaved over it, not like Hemingway did to get the perfect balance of detail and simplicity. I’ve never perfected it.
So I picked it up – thinking this flash of inspiration was going to make it easy to see what I didn’t see before. But the truth was, once I finished rereading it I felt defeated. It isn’t a quick fix. There are moment I love, and things that need to be rebuilt from the ground up. And after all of the time I’ve put in, I’m not sure I want to put in anymore.
But now I can’t write anything else.