Skip to main content

Killing my darlings: a revisionist view of myself as the City

I've been immersed in novel revision for the last several weeks, enjoying my new-found free time by trying to tame the unwieldybeast.  It's going well, and I always forget how deeply satisfying it is to feel like your work is actually getting better.  So often, the slogging-through process leaves me uninspired.  I've clocked between five and eight hours a day for the past few weeks, something I haven't been able to do since my MFA program (and not even that often then, as I was working full-time).  The creation and revision process are so different: if I clocked five hours of creation time, I think I'd have to take three days off just to recover.  It's like that over-used, but still poignant parable of the tribal travelers having to pause to let their souls catch up with their bodies.  But, revision is different.  It can be more ruthless than the creation process.

A few versions (and years) ago, I had a narrator in the novel that was supposed to be San Francisco.  I fancied the City like a really awesome, beloved aunt, a creative-type who wore paint-stained overalls, spouted salt of the earth wisdom and exuded life.  I now realize, I think I wanted to be this image.  Ultimately, it really did not work for the novel, but I was very fond of it at the time and I recently found a page that I'd printed out to keep.  Stephen King is attributed with saying that you have to "kill your darlings" in revision.  True enough, Mr. King, but then sometimes your darlings can come back to life, and live on through your blog.  And then you can make your friends read them. :)

Here's me/my narrator, fancying myself as San Francisco:

The red-orange bridge spans, dips and soars again, signaling the entrance to a place of adventure, diversity, adversity.  I am a city of expanding lives that plummet and rise toward a bigger understanding of how they belong in the world.  These lives kaleidoscope into mesmerizing patters, connecting and disconnecting according to a silent rhythm.




Occasionally, I intervene in humanity with a cracked sidewalk or road closure that forces someone out of  their well-worn path long enough to see that maybe, just maybe, there could be more than what they thought was there.  Maybe they'll reach out for someone, or maybe they'll become still enough to hear the flow around them.

My intersections and cross streets, my winding wonders of Vermont and Lombard streets, my cable car routes and bus lines that span the city: all these lines of connection are drawn throughout, like a physics of relationship.  From a distance, the Muni buses appear as caterpillars, their magnetic feelers seeking out the unhidden cable trail above as they navigate the Heights: Bernal, Laurel, Pacific.  And the Valleys: Hayes, Cole and Noe.  Stairways climb through steep front yards in the sloped parts of the city leading to pockets of wild parrots and hidden stories.  Golden Gate Park is an interruption of green that slices toward the ocean.  Flanked by hills and houses, it is my serene center, my playground, my lungs.  I love my many absurd juxtapositions there: bison, windmills, the arboretum and museum.  Underneath the surface dissimilarities lies an emotional logic that will not be kept secret from those truly searching.

Obsessed with San Francisco, me?  Maybe (more than) a little bit.  But that is the beauty of writing fiction: you can (sort of) hide your personal form of crazy behind words and characters.

Comments

  1. I loved this, Christin. She's my favorite aunt, too.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

For Mom, Twenty-One Years Later

I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares refreshments.
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.



Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…

Book Review: Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

I inadvertently found myself in possession of an advance reader's edition of Elizabeth Strout's newest book, Anything is Possible. It's set to drop on April 25th.

Scrabble's response to the title: Does this mean I can eat ten times a day?
It's a companion, a follow-up if you will (but not a sequel) to her last novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. Which was fantastic and spare and a perfect example of Strout's phenomenal carefulness in her writing. I loved it for all those reasons. I love Anything is Possible for completely different reasons.

It's a collection of linked stories, not unlike Strout's Olive Kitteredge. Each of the stories showcases a particular character referenced in My Name is Lucy Barton. In My Name, conversations with her mother over the span of a few days reference a host of do-you-remembers, and whatever-happened-tos involving offscreen characters that are delightfully interesting in their own right. Anything is Possible is full of these ri…

The Thankful List

I make a decent attempt at gratitude on the regular, but I love how this season makes me think about it specifically. Even in the midst of all the holiday hoopla and the days of generalized anxiety we currently live in, there are genuine reflections of thankfulness everywhere. Way more so than say Valentine's day prompting people to really reflect on their love for someone. I've been keeping a list in my notes app on my phone to record the things that are currently immense suppliers of joy in my life. Here's an incomplete list:

My dental hygienist.
This is not a product placement disguised as gratitude. This is my genuine, heartfelt gratitude for a woman I see every six months who I have complete trust in, and who makes an otherwise unpleasant experience as humane and awesome as possible. Yes, yes, my dentist is also great. Absolutely. But making a teeth cleaning a pleasant experience is a gift not many hygienists possess. It's a combo of demeanor, the exact right amou…