Monday, December 28, 2009

Reading the Writer Not the Book

Last year about this time I state that my one New Year's resolution was to read 52 books in 2009. I've got four days left in the year; book total: 49.

What I read yesterday was Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Back in the 80s the novel won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards (top of the line awards for science fiction). And while the plot is very intriguing -- one of those ones that stays with you for a while -- I found myself trying to read the writer not the book.

What I mean by this is that I would slow down (wherever I could make myself do so) and read both the words and the punctuation to myself. I would pause after a sentence and see how he divvied up the clauses; consider why and how he was able to lapse out of the third person point of view and jump directly into his character's thoughts. What I found was that, on Card's part, all of this was carefully done.

As a composition teacher, most of the time I spend on grading papers is spent unraveling the inaccuracies of prose -- many of which I can spot and fix though I couldn't tell you their grammatical names. Much of what I'm editing in my student's papers isn't grammar so much as it is style. Flip these two words, I'll tell them, so that it'll sound smoother. There's too many things this pronoun could refer to; just restate the noun. So when I got the chance to sit and unravel a published work where the author has not only a great grasp of grammar, tone, punctuation and pacing, but also a highly personalized sense of prose styling I was quite delighted.

Highly Recommended