Reply
Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

There must have been a conscious attempt by the author to show most everybody in a negative light. Beginning with the namesake of the group, the poet Leopardi, negativity is the common denominator. I am usually a happy person and have a tendency to see the best in people, and though I steel myself to read about misfortunes, mishaps, and mistakes, I prefer a lighter dose of oppressive and depressing characterizations. One or two oddballs are enough for me. And, I guess, sometimes, while reading this novel, I miss the beauty of things the way Bernard misses wood grain. This doesn’t take away from the author’s eloquence nor does it mean that the story itself is flawed.

 

I find example after example that confirms my suspicion that there is was a concentrated effort to show flaws. Even the fact that Aimee paints everything white and covers the true wood grain or that Adam’s apartment was once a stately home but “has suffered numerous indignities tries to downgrade reality.” And the first sentence sets the scene for damaged goods: “It was the day of testicular cancer.”

 

But the most direct clue for flawed perception is Nancy’s mother. She clearly shows a preference for flawed imagery to perfection on page 93. “She chose not to draw lovely things which might have been more popular – but instead those with asymmetry and flaws. …In her drawings of people, even those she loved, everything was slightly distorted – in the way a bad snapshot changes things. She drew Nick with a scowl, Nancy’s hair unwashed. It was a portrait of how you feared you might look, rather than a portrait of what you wanted to look like. And although Nancy was actually quite pretty, she never thought of herself as such, and her mother’s drawings of her only confirmed

 

 

thewanderingjew wrote:

Since so many of the characters seem to have some kind of a distinct personality issue or even disorder, and a dysfunctional relationship in his /her family or past, I was wondering if the author did this deliberately. I thought that since a writer is more creative and often marches to the beat of his/her own drummer, perhaps she was trying to make each "exceptional" in his/her own way.

Did anyone else wonder about the reason for so many flawed characters?

 

 

Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

Isn't that a good thing?

 

LarryOnLI wrote:

I consider myself fairly well read and well educated.

 

I've been using the dictionary lookup feature on my NOOK more than any book I can remember reading.

 

 

 

Wordsmith
elaine_hf
Posts: 389
Registered: ‎01-05-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

[ Edited ]

As to the question of switching from character to character:

I read an early post comparing this book to 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveler' by Italo Calvino - and I have to humbly disagree with the comparison. In that novel, the story switches to completely different stories at the end of each section, and this book is a continuation of the same story, only from changing perspectives. Rather more like 'The Alexandria Quartet' by Lawrence Durrell, only that set of books tells the entire exact same story from 3 different perspectives, and then moving forward in time to finish the story. I like the idea of using the changing perspective, but in this particular book it felt a little difficult to keep everyone straight. I found myself forgetting small details of each character, with those same details being mentioned in a later portion of the book, so I regretted not using the bookmark feature more. This was especially true if I set the book down for a day and then picked it back up - could, of course, be my aging brain...

 

I agree with many of the reviewers, who were intrigued with the story of the doctor told in the beginning, and of course it quickly became clear that it was in fact based on Nancy's father. As much as we are allowed to know about Nancy, I still didn't feel as much empathy as I wanted to for her. And we know next to nothing about Oates, about whom I would have liked to know more. Frankly, I don't feel a lot of empathy for any of the characters, and that may be due to the constantly changing perspective. As soon as I felt like I was getting to know one of them, we'd be on to someone else, leaving me feeling like the characters were a little flat or shallow. I find myself disliking Gillian, which makes me want to try and like her, or at least understand her a little more - but so far that isn't going anywhere...  I am especially intrigued with Bernard and Aimee - it's clear that he is taken with Aimee, but what does she see in him, outside of being an author? That leads me to consider Rachel, Bernard and Virginia's daughter. She seems almost a little infantile to me - a married woman, still consistently calling Virginia 'mommy'? I understand they're close, but it feels out of place to me.

 

I am enjoying reading this book, all in all - it's in a genre that I wouldn't normally be drawn to, and joining this group has forced me to read something new. Thank you for sponsoring this group, and for allowing me this opportunity!

‎"Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." -Bokonon
Reader 4
vickth
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎05-03-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

I don't mind the switching up of the perspective for each chapter.  I actually have always liked this technique.  The only thing I would note is that in other books I have read using this change of perspective, I have found that when I read from a particular character's point of view, it helps to make that character more "real" and in many cases more likable.  In this book I can't say that it has.  The only character at this point that I like is Nancy although I don't feel like I know a ton about her.

 

Gillian is the character I dislike the most.  I find her detached and self-absorbed.  Her chapter with Adam I found myself scratching my head.  Her cottage seemed so sacred to her that I was surprised that she allowed Adam into her world even briefly. 

 

All in all I am enjoying this book and looking forward to see how things progress. 

 

Moderator
dhaupt
Posts: 11,829
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

 

violetangel wrote:

 

LarryOnLI wrote:

I consider myself fairly well read and well educated.

 

I've been using the dictionary lookup feature on my NOOK more than any book I can remember reading.

 

 

+1!!!  I so agree with this!!

 

 

I think the members of the circle have to check their dictionaries on their cell phones/pdas etc. too. I think they're trying to out wordsmith each other when they're together.

 

Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

I think that it is in the best interest of any writer -professional or hobby writer - to find the most suitable expression/word for a particular situation. I often work on a single sentence of a memoir early in the morning when I first wake up or while walking along the creek and always have notepaper and pen with me. After the whole piece has emerged it might take ten edits or more to chisel out just the right amount of information. With each edit also comes the danger that the life gets sucked out of a piece. What started as a wondrous saga of emotional survival might end up as a dry, minimalist, factual account of an ordinary event. That's why putting something aside and reading it again later allows the writer to look at it with new eyes. That's why a group that is neither intimidating nor condescending is important.

 

While the outcome depends on the writer's style - stilted or down to earth or anything in between - I don't think that they are trying to outdo each other in the circle. As a matter of fact, I read on and found a whole chapter of critiquing among them that sounded just like my writing group. Writers are way too self-absorbed to outdo each other; they make a game of outdoing themselves. Sure, there is the nervous over-the-shoulder look at the other writer's developing masterpiece, but I don't believe that a good writer adopts another's style to advance his own ambitions without suffering consequences.

 

Using a dictionary is not a crime. I consider it a sport. Language has one concern - communication. I think the art lies in using the simplest words to express the most complicated feelings. Not an easy task to master.

 

 

LarryOnLI wrote:

I consider myself fairly well read and well educated.

 

I've been using the dictionary lookup feature on my NOOK more than any book I can remember reading.

 

 violetangel wrote:

 

+1!!!  I so agree with this!!

 

 dhaupt wrote:

 

I think the members of the circle have to check their dictionaries on their cell phones/pdas etc. too. I think they're trying to out wordsmith each other when they're together.

 

 

 

Frequent Contributor
violetangel
Posts: 454
Registered: ‎01-02-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

No, using a dictionary isn't a crime, but there are times - and this book is beginning to seem like one of those times - when it feels like the author is just trying to show off her/his big vocabulary.  For me, it's coming off as pretentious in this case.

‎"No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anyone but oneself." -Virginia Woolf
Melissa_W
Posts: 4,123
Topics: 516
Kudos: 1,083
Blog Posts: 3
Ideas: 15
Solutions: 33
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

I would consider Nancy more of a central character.  As the narrative rotates among the group (and even not among the group - Paul is not a group member) it starts with Nancy and she does seem to get more "hits" as the focus of a chapter.  What sets this apart from me - and makes it seem less cohesive at the start - is that most novels I've read with rotating narratives are told in the first person where the rotation among characters provides perspective and moves the plot forward (The Help and The Well and the Mine are good examples); TWC uses a limited 3rd person narrative and so far it doesn't move the plot forward much (imo).  I think the character development is interesting (the idea that within the group there's a highbrow and lowbrow opinion is interesting - have they said exactly what Chris's novels are about or did I miss that?).

 

I do take to Paul right away and I do feel some sympathy for Chris (although without the ex-wife's perspective who knows how accurate his perceptions are).  I don't particularly like Gillian; she doesn't like her husband to call unexpectedly because it "infantilizes" her but she's nearly incapacitated by finding a dead mouse in the house (wuss) and then goes on to seduce Adam (but as Chris says, Gillian is not be liked, she is to be revered).  Living in a college town with a major writing program (the IWW and IWP), I run into people like Gillian all the time who are soo wrapped up in their art that the interpersonal relationship becomes secondary.  They are brilliant but cruel people at times because they don't think of others.

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Melissa_W
Posts: 4,123
Topics: 516
Kudos: 1,083
Blog Posts: 3
Ideas: 15
Solutions: 33
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

For those of you commenting on the vocabularly, I was wondering which words you were finding odd or in need of definition?  Just curious :smileyhappy:

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Inspired Contributor
dclement04
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎09-30-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

I have to agree with "nfam" I am not finding this book very interesting....Although we are getting information about each character this seems like the story is just a bunch of short stories put together; things seem very out of place. I'll keep reading and see if things get better, but this writing style was never one of my favorites.

 

On a positive note though I do like the cover of the book; very sweet!

 

 

nfam wrote:

I have to agree. This book is very disjoint and at this point I don't like any of the characters. It seems like the writing circle from hell. We're learning a lot about each character, but it's unclear how the story will unfold to mesh their lives. I have to admit thus far I'm rather disappointed in the book. It feels slippery. I can't find a character I care about. 

 

I don't mean to sound negative. Perhaps the pace will pick up and we'll get to like at least one of the characters. I'm hopeful! I know from her comments that the author intends to blend their lives and address some moral issues. I'm looking forward to the next section.

 

 

Contributor
Katy_Beth
Posts: 26
Registered: ‎04-09-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

I started out strong with reading of this book but I must admit I have fallen behind.  I'm having a hard time getting into the story and actually have stopped and read a couple of other books in between.  I have read several other books with the perspective switiching Including The Shop on Blossom Street which I actually stopped and read when this book got on my nerves. 

 

I feel like several others that this book so far is disjointed and I'm having trouble keeping everyone in mind.  I'm sure at some point the will begin to gel and come to gether but right now it seems to be dragging a bit. 

 

I don't intend to give up on this book as a made a commitment but I'm really have to push myself right now. 

 

Contributor
ma_book_lover
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-03-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

[ Edited ]

This has been a very difficult book for me to read. It's not just that the story feels disjointed by swapping the characters each chapter, it's also that I just simply don't like the people. I don't really care about anyone in the story. It's all a bit dull.  I tried to like Nancy, since she does seem to be the major character, but she seems pale and biddable. That all sounds really negative...sorry!

 

I'm not sure that the level of detail we're given about each person is really necessary.  It's a little overkill in my opinion. How does all of this information relate to the story. Is it all just background info? Is it ground work for something in the future? Does knowing that Aimee decorated Bernard's house all white become important somehow? Is it necessary for us to know that in order to get into their writing circle, they have to sometimes knock on the window of Chris's house? I don't know, that's just my opinion so far.

Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

Right now I can only think of one word I had to look up: preprandial prayer. And there was the nabbed MacArthur which is really not a word but a field-specific expression that would not be known to some of us. I do wonder about cultural references, geography or era-related expressions that might lose their punch. For instance: while most western nations and many global communities are familiar with "Silicon Valley," how will this distinction of the San Francisco Bay Area hold up if new areas of the country emerge as electronics industry leaders?

 

Melissa_W wrote:

For those of you commenting on the vocabularly, I was wondering which words you were finding odd or in need of definition?  Just curious :smileyhappy:

 

 

 

Wordsmith
kpatton
Posts: 206
Registered: ‎11-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

 

T-Mo wrote:

What effect does switching the perspective from chapter to chapter have on your reading? Which characters did you want to stay with longer? 

 

I like the fact that the chapters switch perspective. I have always enjoyed this writing style. I think it helps the reader gain more knowledge and understanding of each character. We tend to learn more about them because we see from their point of view as opposed to getting their perspective third hand, so to speak. It is easier to pick up on things, and gain an understanding of a character when we can see inside them from their own point of view- much like when you are conversing with another person. You can learn a lot about a person from their comments, opinions, and even at times, the terminology they use to discuss/describe something. 

 

 

T-Mo,  I agree that I like this style of writing.  In this instance you get to learn about the members of the writing group through the eyes of the others in the group.  It's an interesting way to introduce us to everyone.

Kathy

Wordsmith
kpatton
Posts: 206
Registered: ‎11-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

 

jbg78 wrote:

Different chapters told by different characters  Generally to me this style always seems discombobulated at first but always seems to make sense at the end of a book. I'm hoping that this is true for this book.  I do fine it gives a reader more information on individual characters and adds another level of dimension to the  interactions between the characters.

 

Nancy the main character  I'm not sure if she is or not yet.  I will say that I like her character the best.  Virginia runs a close second.

 

This is my first time reading an eBook. I had a few problems.  I like to physically start to turn the page about half way through the last sentence on a page.  AAAA..This isn't possible with an eBook. I spent a lot of time going back to reread the last part of a page.  I also like to read just before I go to sleep.  This doesn't work so great with a computer. 

 

 

You made me smile.  I also like to read in bed just before going to sleep.  I'm also reading on my computer.  Since it's a laptop I could take it to bed with me, but it just isn't the same. Ha!  Means I'm reading moe than one book at a time.

Kathy

Inspired Correspondent
Adeline79
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎03-17-2009
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

Having the different character perspectives makes it a quick read. The segments are so short that it keeps things immediate and real. I wanted to stick with Chris and his two little boys. That is the segment that really gripped me. It bothered me to have to leave that thread.

 

Yes, Nancy does seem like the "main" character, but it is not that I necessarily like her. She seems like a very ordinary type of person and so easy to relate to, but not very exciting. I think that she may turn out to be a good character that will ground all the other lives in the group.I like the way that Nancy is new to the group and we the readers are also new to the group. In a way it feels like we are learning about the other characters at the same pace as Nancy. Though of course we are getting the segments that are told from the other perspectives, so we kind of know more than Nancy.

 

I am enjoying the book so far and am eager to see how the story develops.

http://thereadingjourney.blogspot.com
Inspired Correspondent
Adeline79
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎03-17-2009
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

[ Edited ]

This style of writing (with the short segments and changing perspectives) does seem to indicate a surface level story. For some reason the short segments make it seem light. It does not lend itself well to soul searching and deep psychological characters.

 

Light is sometimes good too though. I am not sure what the author's intentions are - whether this is meant to be chic lit or literary fiction or whatever.

http://thereadingjourney.blogspot.com
Frequent Contributor
violetangel
Posts: 454
Registered: ‎01-02-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

[ Edited ]

Honestly I haven't bothered to mark anything as based on my reading so far, I'm not thinking this will be a book I will return to over and over like some I've read and continue to reread, so I don't remember them specifically.  And by now it's just coming off as so pretentious I'm not bothering to look them up anymore.  Sorry.

 

Melissa_W wrote:

For those of you commenting on the vocabularly, I was wondering which words you were finding odd or in need of definition?  Just curious :smileyhappy:

 

 

‎"No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anyone but oneself." -Virginia Woolf
Nallia
Posts: 4,758
Topics: 125
Kudos: 3,263
Solutions: 4
Registered: ‎02-15-2010
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

 

KEMFL wrote:

I started out strong with reading of this book but I must admit I have fallen behind.  I'm having a hard time getting into the story and actually have stopped and read a couple of other books in between.  I have read several other books with the perspective switiching Including The Shop on Blossom Street which I actually stopped and read when this book got on my nerves. 

 

I feel like several others that this book so far is disjointed and I'm having trouble keeping everyone in mind.  I'm sure at some point the will begin to gel and come to gether but right now it seems to be dragging a bit. 

 

I don't intend to give up on this book as a made a commitment but I'm really have to push myself right now. 

 

 

 

That's interesting.  I had some trouble focusing on the story in the beginning.  The preface and the excerpt of Nancy's novel didn't grab my attention the way it did many others here.  That may be because this book is outside of my usual genre.  I continued reading because I committed to this group, and found myself being drawn in by the actual story.

 

The change from one character to another hasn't bothered me so far, and I haven't found it difficult to read.  All that I've read so far has felt like an introduction of the main players in the story, and I don't mind it or the third person perspective.  I stopped at the end of Chris' chapter and haven't read any further.  At the moment, I am feeling some sympathy for Chris, but I suppose that's only natural for me since I stopped my reading after his afternoon with his sons.  My immediate reaction when he took Nancy to lunch was that I didn't trust him, but now I'm not so sure.

 

I haven't developed any likes or dislikes for any of the characters yet, not even for Gillian.

Contributor
jadeJE
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎12-01-2009
0 Kudos

Re: The Writing Circle: Early Chapters (through Chris's first chapter)

I actually liked the changing of characters with the chapters.  Sometimes I hated to leave a character just when I was getting to know them, but there were also times when I was glad to have a new person to focus on.

 

Nancy is one of the most likable characters, but I also find her to be a bit boring.  Same as Gillian is the least likable, which makes her more interesting to read about.  As somebody that has a major mouse phobia, I took Gillian's issue with the mouse as a way to make her more human, with weakness & fears, and less like the hard, strong, uncaring person that the other characters saw her as.  It made her more likable in my mind. 

 

I found the home life of the characters to be sad.  I was surprised that every one of them seemed to have a pattern of failed marriages/relationships.  Out of that many, it would have been nice to see one person have happy relationship without having been divorced first.