Have you ever read something that made you re-consider all you thought you knew about writing?
Ok, maybe that’s a little too dramatic, a little too overwhelming to even consider, but what about reading a book that seems to break all the rules, and yet reads beautifully?
The book that got all this churning is Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht.
I’ve read the reviews, and it seems some people don’t agree with me that Obreht’s book is great, but enough do that she’s won some awards and been nominated for others, and she’s certainly generated a buzz.
In reality, I think she mainly only broke one rule: her novel reads like short stories that were squeezed into one entity. The book consists of stories and various characters, and we move ominously (and often omnisciently) in and out of them. I can see that it can be confusing and odd, but I left myself go with it and it grabbed me.
At one point reading Tiger’s Wife I thought to myself, this is how I would have written when I was in my early twenties if I had been writing then. This thought stopped me in my tracks. I realized that I was impressed with Obreht’s freedom of movement within her novel, and that in my twenties this freedom was innate in me. I scared by this thought: Was I being true to myself as a writer, or was I holding back, unknowingly following someone else’s standards?
Now, in my thirties, I’m more stuck in some sense, more fixed. And when I write, I follow rules. And I do think we all need to follow rules. It’s just that for each of us those rules need to be different, and evolving, and most likely different for each piece we work with.
I can’t write with the same movement I would have ten years ago. My movements now are big and vast, but they are taken with precision and aim. It doesn’t mean it’s better or worse, just different.
Part of writing is about writing who we are. Today. And this is the best freedom of all.