Let’s just say I’ve been gone for two weeks because I’ve been reading Robin Black’s “If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This.” My friend and reader S mentioned Black in response to my post about late bloomers; “If I Loved You,” a story collection, is Black’s first book, and she is in her late forties.
I like a good short story, but despite my love of Alice Munro, I’ve never been as big a fan of them as I am of novels. I like losing myself in a world for several hundred pages. (But not more than 350-400–yes, I know that cuts out Russian novels and 18th century novels and “Ulysses.” I’ll live.) But I’m short on reading time and attention span these days, so Black’s book has been perfect for getting me back into the reading habit. Her stories are lovely and she’s the kind of writer who doesn’t intimidate but rather inspires: “If she can do this, I can do this, too.” My three favorite stories have been “The Guide,” about a father taking his daughter to get her first guide dog, “Harriet Elliot,” because it veers a little more toward the bizarre than the other stories, and “A Country Where You Once Lived.” I didn’t like the last of the three at first. The language is a little balder and more distant than the language in the rest of the book, but eventually that started to make sense. The point of view character is a scientist and the voice fits him and his distance from most other people. But the story won me over because it turns drastically several times, and what I got in the end was not the story I expected, but seemed inevitable.
The problem with reading a good story collection, it turns out, is that it has made me want to write new stories or work on stories that I set aside a while ago.
And then today I worked in my garden for four hours, and _that_ made me want to work on the novel I set aside to write the one I’m working on, because one of the main characters of set-aside novel is going to be into gardening.
So, someone please tell me how to get into the right mindset for writing about a wacky medieval sorceress/fortuneteller who lives in the hills with a goat.