Sunday, November 27, 2011

writers can excite us in many ways

Have you ever wondered what makes something great? How does a piece of work compel us to call it "amazing" or "okay" or "worthy"? Well, I've learned that it can't be whittled down to a single trait. Over this break, I've lost myself in a book by Nicole Krauss: The History of Love. For anyone who hasn't read her work and is looking for a new author, she is worth checking out. While I was happily anti social and curled up on a chubby armchair, I asked myself what made her novel compelling and how other authors can do that for their works.

With an engaging plot

Literary fiction is known for "slower" plots than its commercial counterpart, but as my blogging friend Margo once aptly put it, literary fiction packs in a lot of "micro tension". In The History of Love, the plot jumps around in time and the protagonist also shifts; however, what there isn't in continuous page turning events there is in mental conflict and mystery.

With gorgeous, gossamer words

"He learned to live with the truth. Not to accept it, but to live with it. It was like living with an elephant. His room was tiny, and every morning he had to squeeze around the truth just to get to the bathroom. To reach the armoire to get a pair of underpants he had to crawl under the truth, praying it wouldn't choose that moment to sit on his face. At night, when he closed his eyes, he felt it looming above him. ”

With characters who are easy to empathize with

Leo, the main character, has experienced a lot of loss when it comes to his family.We may not live in the same time period as him but all of us can relate to the feelings of love, hope, and heartbreak.


  1. These are definitely the three big things I try to include in my WiPs, because if a book I read doesn't have one of these things, I tend to put it down. I'll definitely check out this book--sounds beautiful!

  2. It's always so nice to be remembered by someone, and my thoughts passed along (though not terribly original thoughts... I learned about micro tension from Donald Maas). I'm checking out this book on Goodreads right now, that paragraph about avoiding the truth hooked me!