Jesus’ Son

Jesus SonBook by Denis Johnson

Annotation by Kate Maruyama

Denis Johnson is a raw nerve exposed to the world, hyperaware of the little things that make up the scattershot of life. He is deeply involved in every person who stumbles into his main character’s life or who he watches from afar (and sometimes uncomfortably close). While his every observation is a reflection of himself, it is deeply insightful. He moves in different paces and approaches in his observation. Some characters he can sum up in two lines of acute perception (the various and sundry in “Happy Hour”), others he shows us through dialogue (Georgie), others take up residence and worm their ways into our consciousness (“Two Men”). His descriptions of the world around our characters ebb and flow, surrounding us (descriptions of Seattle, the Puget Sound) or remaining shadowy to bring the people he is describing into relief.

“Emergency” creates a very cool tension by starting in the intensely claustrophobic world of the emergency room with that horrible hilarious description of the guy with the knife in his eye. How Georgie and our hero react tells us a lot about them (their dialogue is beyond great). When they hit the road and start to wander, the uncertainty of their journey as well as their lack of a grasp on their surroundings gains more tension from their time spent in the close and very identifiable ER. Time slowed to a crawl in there, once they are outside there is this lost, haphazard feel to things. Totally different genre, but my main character is about to leave his building for the first time in my novel and I hope to somehow bring that tension to his venture back into the ordinary world. This gives me an idea of the disjointedness that time will take on once he leaves, and I want the reader to feel the urgency of time passing while he is away. Funerals are all day events, which become their own world, much like weddings and usually have receptions after. I do want to make it all kinds of awful but “Emergency” gives me some guidelines for how to make the space feel broad and hard to get a handle on.

The stories move in an artfully random fashion, Johnson gives off the goofy air of someone just sharing snippets with you, but in reality, he is really in control not only of each line of prose, but the reader’s passage through it. Phenomenal.

He is a genius of juxtaposition. He can put together two different ideas with two sentences next to each other so that they become something entirely new. “Happy Hour”, (such an amazing story with as many layers as a Basquiat painting) has a lot of this from paragraph to paragraph, and from scene to scene, but my favorite two sentences put together are about Angelique, “There was a part of her she hadn’t yet allowed to be born because it was too beautiful for this place, that was true. But she was mostly a torn-up trollop.” Moving, clever and funny. I don’t know if this is something that can be created artificially, but it is a reminder to entertain those random thoughts that come in while writing from one point of view. Sometimes the absurd makes the ordinary more tangible.

“Beverly Home” is a wonderful mix-up of the various styles of observation Johnson has exercised in the book thus far. His contact with the gorgeous dysfunction of the residents of Beverly Home is staggering. He fully describes a young guy taken down by multiple sclerosis, abandoned by his wife, left to live out his days in his wheelchair “clamping his lips repeatedly around his protruding tongue while groaning.” Johnson moves on to the next line and paragraph, perkily stating, “No more pretending for him! He was completely and openly a mess. Meanwhile the rest of us go on trying to fool each other.” It totally killed me. Where many look the other way or try to gloss over unpleasantness, Johnson looks more closely and finds more beauty than is remotely possible in the world of the pleasant. The story has many other such moments, but then cuts to his life outside the hospital, his perfunctory observation of his relationship with a dwarf, interspersed with his slow, languorous look into the life of an Amish woman and her husband. All three of these techniques are intercut and build like music ending in a stunning closing paragraph that brings it together, how he was getting well among the weirdos. But the story is larger than his conclusion. It stays with you.

This collection crept up on me, I didn’t know where I was, then I started just enjoying it, but by the end, I had become an avid follower. It’ll probably take a few more years of writing and a few more reads to sort out what this first read accomplished.

Jesus’ Son

Jesus Sonbook by Denis Johnson

annotation by Diane Sherlock

First, issue your disclaimer. Mine is that I’m not a big fan of short stories. Denis Johnson changed my mind with this, now one of my all-time favorite books, and showed how to braid narrative and use the lyric register (poetic language). Jesus’ Son is a mosaic of short stories that could be also considered an episodic novel (ha!). Titled from Lou Reed’s song, Heroin, these linked stories chronicle the progress of the addiction and tentative recovery of its narrator. One of the first locations mentioned in the first story is Bethany, Missouri. Bethany was best known as the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Here, the man from Bethany is not just killed, but “killed forever” in a head-on collision, containing the dark humor with a subtle biblical reference that suffuses most of the stories. The stories contain a through line to the redemption of the narrator in eleven chapters, one short of the twelve steps of recovery, as well as the biblical significance of the twelve apostles, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Stations of the Cross, and so on, indicating that the final chapter of this man’s life is yet unwritten.

An accident begins the series of stories. The narrator lets us know that he takes just about any drug offered to him: amphetamines, alcohol, hash and that he will end up in detox “some years later.” Moving back and forth through time, the author creates not only tension, but the shock of the accident, the sense of disorientation during and after the impact. He combines the fluidity of time with slightly ominous similes, “Midwestern clouds like great grey brains” and hyperbole “we’d torn open our chests and shown our cowardly hearts” with straight reporting, “The house looked abandoned, no curtains, no rugs” to create the sense of the narrator’s world which is at once funny, disturbing, and a little off.

One of the best things about Johnson’s writing are sentences like, “The jolt of fear burned all the red out of my blood.” The reader is left to imagine the residue of cowardice, of antithesis of red-bloodedness. He also builds tension in one story, such as Two Men with the narrator holding a gun to a woman’s head then dispels it with the title of the next, Out On Bail, even though the story does not directly take up where the previous story left off. By the time the reader gets to Out On Bail, the narrator makes it clear that he is fully into heroin, the same drug that costs Jack Hotel his life via overdose.

The religious subtext surfaces dramatically on the last page of Dundun in a particularly rich paragraph as the author continues to consider cruelty. He again plays with time, “It felt like the moment before the Savior comes. And the Savior did come, but we had to wait a long time.” The next paragraph moves to the subject of Dundun’s brutality torturing Jack Hotel, which leads into the conclusion containing a reference to Matthew 6:3 “His left hand didn’t know what his right hand was doing.” The narrator prefaces the reference with a direct address to the reader, “Will you believe me when I tell you he had kindness in his heart?” He then takes the biblical reference from Matthew normally taught as an admonition to humility, kindness, and generosity, and turns it on its head followed by an explanation for the inexplicable: “…certain important connections had been burned through” with an invitation toward understanding, “If I opened up your head and ran a hot smoldering iron around in your brain, I might turn you into someone like that.”

My favorite of the stories was Emergency, which plays with the theme of blindness. There is the literal blindness of Terrence Weber cured when Georgie simply removes the knife from his eye as the doctors are trying to figure out how to accomplish the same, the narrator’s blindness to self, having ingested as many drugs as “a very famous guru of the love generation,” Georgie’s blindness from the sudden change in light “’I’m starting to get my eyes back,’ Georgie said in another minute,” and the blinding light caused by the environment, “The day was cloudless, blinding.” This is something I want to keep in mind for my writing – to use the theme in a number of ways and on several levels.

The progression of stories after blindness move from his relationship to Michelle, then to finishing the story of the two men, the narrator’s drinking, until the last two stories which concern his recovery and redemption through service, a basic tenet of the twelve steps. Of course, after tracking him through desperate, violent, and drug-induced events, it’s not surprising that his redemption, too, is unusual, peeping on a Mennonite couple which builds the tension of the last story. His fascination with the Mennonites ends with watching the foot washing and its inherent symbolism of servitude, echoing Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

By the end, the narrator is improving each day, learning to live sober. The narrative of the book is the narrative of the addiction experience. The construction of the last paragraph initially indicates that the narrator sees his girlfriend and the residents of Beverly Home as ‘other’ until the very last sentence, “I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us.” The narrator has not reached the Twelfth Step of AA (Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs) and yet he has, by relaying these stories. The assortment of scenes from his life carries the reader with the narrator from peripheral drugged up hitchhiker to member of a community.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Time Travelers WifeBook by Audrey Niffenegger

Annotation by Kate Maruyama

The Time Traveler’s Wife is such a lovely read on so many levels and might take a dissertation to unravel its mysteries. There would be lots of charts and diagrams involved.
Niffeneger not only gives us two very tangible and likeable romantic heroes, she gives us the entire interweaving of their complicated lives. Or, the complicated interweaving of their entire lives…the result being an amazing portrait of a marriage and its complications. On top of all of this is a supernatural thriller with its own rules, tension and horrors. There are many lessons to be taken from this gorgeous novel.

The author’s withholding information is artfully done. The first reminder this book had for me is that not everything has to happen at once. This will be enormously helpful for my bloated first chapter of my novel when I go back in for revision. She keeps us in the dark in the beginning, and yet explains the rules of the universe: that is so important. They are breathless and time traveling and clearly in love and Henry briefly explains what it physically feels like and that it happens. Then, the other questions that come up, “When do they meet? Why doesn’t he know her? Is he getting younger?” These can wait because we know the basics of the universe and we know exactly the kind of book we are in and it will all come clear in time. And, better than that, these are the questions that create the tension for the story to go forward.

The different voices in the novel, Clare and Henry, work on so many great levels. First, the voices are so strong and clear and we know exactly who they are. They have a sense of humor, which is great. Their awareness of facts are different at every different time we see them and this creates tension, and we also get that great disconnect that often goes on in marriage when feelings and knowledge are presumed, or suppressed or ignored. There are many things Henry keeps from Clare, so it is a delight when she keeps from him their first time making love. This book gave me courage to welcome my heroine’s voice into the book. Her awareness, her lost feelings and her completely different take on the situation.

The secondary characters are so well written and we know exactly who they are: Clare’s family, Henry’s Dad, Charisse and Gomez (and their entanglements in our heroes’ lives). Niffenegger brings them all together at the end for a party for Henry and the party takes on some joy for the reader as we realize we know all of these people. Their stories and how they interact create a resonance for the tension of Henry’s final departure. I have to try to remember to make my heroes’ close friends a place to learn one or two surprising things about the couple, as well as taking advantage of it as a place to echo what we already know about them. But this book is like a painting, I will have to go back in for a lot of shadowing and highlights: I am still trying to see what the whole picture is.

I marveled at the complete story of their relationship as it is told from beginning to end, and yet it could jump around into the future and the past and the different feelings one has in a marriage were bumped up against each other. Particularly after Henry sleeps with the 18 year old Clare and goes home to the 35 year old Clare who has had so much sorrow. I am mindful to hold my heroes’ entire relationship in my head and while I will not be able to share it all in the time structure of this story, being conscious of how a relationship changes will be foremost in my mind.

The ending of the novel was touching, but I found that the part that moved me most was September 11, 2001. Clare gets up to find Henry sitting in front of the television with their hard-won baby Alba in his lap. She asks if it has happened yet and we realize that Henry has already told her about the twin towers. He answers, no, he is just enjoying the last few hours of the world before it changes forever. I do not often cry in books, but this moment set me off. I was pregnant with my daughter on that day and my son was eighteen months and if I had known then what I know now… It was such a small scene, and yet it yielded the horrors of time travel, of knowing; the problems with not knowing when something large hits, the inability to protect your children from history and the extraordinary ability Henry had to take a moment in his unpredictable traveling to relish innocence.

This 500 plus page book was read in one weekend. I could say it was out of a ticking deadline for my packet, but the truth was, I was completely absorbed, in love and couldn’t go very long without finding out what happened next. Bottling that would be amazing, but how does one ensure that every turn for each character will make the reader become completely absorbed, care about the characters and want to know what happens next? It’s not a practical approach, so for now, I will just hold it in my mind as I forge forward in my draft.

Hotel World

Hotel WorldBook by Ali Smith

Annotation by Kate Maruyama

Wooo-hooo! from the opening lines of this book, the ghost voice of Sara is mesmerizing.  There is a very good balance in this chapter of withheld information and revealed information, so that while we are unsure of where we are, we’re pretty certain of the rules and each new piece of revealed information is so fun to uncover.  Smith gives such a beautifully free-floating flying sensation (again from the first line, as the fall of her death was fun going down) so that we feel like a ghost trying to get a grasp.

I wanted my heroine to lose her grip as I give her a voice, and she has done a little already, but I intend a little thievery from Smith when it comes to us seeing her lose her grasp from her consciousness. This story was a great inspiration to go back through my novel and have her forget, tastes, smells, those things that keep us anchored in life, so that we can see more why she so completely loses track of her husband when he goes…and of time and her surroundings.

As the book moved on, I became involved in each character fully, from the homeless Elspeth with her painful cough to the slightly wacky hotel manager Lise who gives her a room. It was nice how each character wove back into the other so that by the time that Penny sees the teenaged girl trying to open the panel in the wall we know exactly what that panel is and we have an inkling what the girl is after.

Where Smith lost me was in the sister’s monologue in the second to last chapter.  It reminded me of Foer’s artful use of no punctuation and stream of consciousness in Everything is Illuminated.  But that sequence, delivered by Alex, had complete structure and we knew from the beginning that we were being told something awful.  The lack of punctuation helped build the emotion and added a hopeless franticness to the piece as it rushed breathlessly forward to its certain horrible end.  But in the sister’s voice, Smith rambles.  Teenagers ramble, but about halfway through the chapter, it was apparent her ramblings weren’t going to get anywhere…perhaps because the chapter started with the realization of how exactly her sister died.  While it’s interesting how elements of Sara lingered in her life, Sara’s sister does not seem to have much of a story to tell and it reminded me a great deal of Rob’s constant repetition of, “The point is to have your reader wondering, ‘what’s going to happen next?’ not, ‘what’s going on?'”   But this chapter was a very useful reminder as I do explore the imagined and lost space  to keep my heroine anchored in some sort of identifiable world with its own recognizable rules.

Smith had such a knack for detail of physical environment and physical sensations.  The hotel became a very tangible imagined space from its carpets sconces, odors and textures.  Just Penny’s need to look at what was on the bedspread reminded us of where we were.

Aside from the ghost section, for its relevance to what I’m writing, Penny’s section was my favorite. She was such an amazing character.  When a writer can give you someone you most likely wouldn’t get along with in real life and yet make you understand her thought processes and have some sympathy for her, she’s done a very difficult and clever thing.  Penny is so clueless about what she sees and despite the strife of Sara’s sister finding the hole in the hotel down which Sara fell to her death, it is only relevant to Penny inasmuch as it relates to her.  It’s totally brilliant, how she’s there helping until things get too strange: she is elated by the “new” until her handle on the situation loosens and it seems to be just miserable. And then she leaves. What kind of a person gets emotionally involved with a teenaged girl crying but once she realizes that the girl is truly troubled, walks away?  Penny.  And we get it.  Penny’s following Elspeth is brilliant as well, she’s found a whiff of adrenaline and now she has to pursue it, that realization that Else is homeless and that she has made a fool of herself by following her is so lovely and lost.  Smith did such a great job of describing those lost bits of urban England, it reminded me of wandering in Norwich in my year abroad after dark to borrow a bicycle. Totally alienating and strange and I didn’t feel safe at all, but still I got glimpses through windows into people’s lives, so safe and warm compared to where I was walking.   This sequence was good reminder that it’s those esoteric moments of life, which, captured fully, can resonate more than the most recognizable ones.

Again, this book was totally right for what I’m doing at this exact moment on my novel. Penny’s section has also inspired some thoughts toward short stories; distant simmerings, but I hope they will emerge on their own.

The Palm-Wine Drinkard

book by Amos Tutuola

annotation by Diane Sherlock

The Palm-Wine Drinkard is a novella of connected stories based on Yoruba folktales written by Amos Tutuola, a Christian Yoruba. It is not surprising that the reader can ‘hear’ the stories while reading them as the Nigerian Tutuola came out of a strong oral tradition and was first generation literate. We follow the Palm-Wine Drinkard, eldest son of the “richest man in town” who “had no other work than to drink palm-wine.” The novella resonated with me for several personal reasons: my great-grandmother was from West Africa and an uncle, Sir Philip Sherlock, wrote several books of Anansi folktales for a Caribbean audience. Anansi stories, centering on a trickster spider, originated with the Asante tribe of West Africa, primarily in Nigeria’s neighbor, Ghana. The Yoruba folktales that Tutuola uses are similar.

The narrator begins his journey when the tapster his father secured for him dies on a Sunday, the day of rest underscoring the narrator’s unwarranted burden on his tapster.Within this overarching narrative are two main story lines, the first concerning the attainment of the magic egg; the second, its use and abuse. Traditional African themes of fertility, reciprocity, and destruction, specifically as a direct result of greed are all on display here without the harshness of a work like Peter Brooks’ Ik and without the sermonizing of some of Tutuola’s Christian colleagues. Tutuola manages to integrate his Christian beliefs into his Yoruba heritage and work through problems of ethical reciprocity. For example, in WE AND THE WISE KING IN THE WRONG TOWN WITH THE PRINCE KILLER, there are clear echoes of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem before the sacrifice of the crucifixion. “Then we mounted the horse. After that they were following us about the town, they were beating drums, dancing, and singing…” Yet the story is also purely African, set firmly in the bush.

There are many mirror elements in the narrative such as the tohosu baby following the marriage of the narrator and another that follows the recalibrating of that marriage.Since the Yoruba believe that life is preserved through children, a monstrous child that turns the natural order upside down is a striking and dramatic element. The tohosu baby born from a thumb rather than womb is voracious, “stronger than the whole town” and a threat to the existence of everyone the tohosu meets. This is one of the strongest ways that greed leading to destruction is illustrated and is retold in a different form near the end when the townspeople become demanding, voracious for the food produced by the magic egg. The magic egg’s production is placed after the husband and wife are in the hungry creature’s stomach, not unlike Jonah and the whale. Hunger, satiation, famine, then greed and destruction are revisited in each of the stories to varying degrees until by the end of the book, the narrator produces whips from the egg to disperse the greedy crowd who make incessant demands on him for food.

The centerpiece of the book is the trip to Deads’ Town and is preceded by a story of sacrifice and retribution (PRINCE KILLER). Deads’ Town is drawn as distinct with its own methods, rhythms and customs apart from the living. Some of Tutuola’s work is reminiscent of the psychedelic lyrics from the sixties (“I know what it’s like to be dead” from the Beatles, for example). It is as if Tutuola uses Yoruba legends to open doors in the mind that Western artists opened with drugs.

From Tutuola, I learned not to be afraid to repeat story elements to create a spiral effect in narrative, returning, in both cases, to the theme of greed. He repeatedly shows instances of greed such as the wife returning to retrieve her “gold trinket,” which results in the return of the tohosu in the form of the half-bodied baby. He does he shy away from the grotesque and fantastic, not only through the tohosu but also the ‘complete gentleman’ who discards body parts and finally flesh to become a skull.

Though he predates it, he follows Vonnegut’s sixth rule for writing: Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of. This is something I’ve struggled with, but it gets easier when I see how it makes for a better tale. Most of this comes in the form of the tohosu,but also in the narrator’s struggles with Death. Tutuola’s point does not seem to be to test the mettle of the narrator, who is not exactly sweet nor innocent, but to weave an entertaining story, which he does. At the same time, the author repeatedly makes the point vital to survival of the Yoruba, Africa in general, and finally to the world audience, about the dangers of greed.

The Corrections

Correctionsbook by Jonathan Franzen

annotation by Diane Sherlock

Just as women writers in Los Angeles should not read Janet Fitch until they have found their own voice, Franzen makes the case for staving off the long shadows of Pynchon and possibly Gaddis, the author apparently hat-tipped in the title. The Corrections is nihilistic satire filled with repugnant characters related by a totalitarian narrator who leaves no breathing room for his readers to form their own opinions. Other writers have handled repellent characters and still engaged me in the text so there is something else going on here and that is most likely the mean-spiritedness that infuses the text. Though the author has a good eye for detail, it does not seem that he has done basic research. For example, the manifestations of Parkinson’s are unconvincing. For four years, I helped care for a Parkinson’s patient until we could finally get her into a convalescent hospital; there was nothing familiar in the description of Alfred Lambert.

The main problem is that the author has undertaken the task of mocking everything, especially his garish characters, without deep understanding much less sympathy, save the failed professor. I found myself several times wishing that Franzen had confined the book to the university because that was where he had the most success with his observations, where he seemed the most comfortable, and where his brand of skewering was most effective. He could have had a more sharply realized book in that setting, perhaps a better arena to evaluate his intellectual control, and (one hopes) could have provided a more satisfying ending than the one here.

A writer like Austen intended her novels for the very people she was satirizing, but it’s hard to imagine that is the case here. He does have the underlying didactic intention necessary for his subject matter, probably too much of it.

To be fair, Franzen is a good example of shifting points of view, particularly the three siblings, and helped me establish my own narrative structure. He moves among all five family members, mostly with success. He has a strong sense of character, well, male character, and of place. His women have some problems. His characterization of Denise reads more like a male fantasy of a lesbian than a conflicted young woman. There is not enough reader identification with Enid to either sustain reader interest in her or for her desire for a family Christmas to drive the narrative.

Alfred’s falling off the cruise ship and rescue did not ring true and seemed out of place with the rest of the book. There have been enough people who disappear without a trace off cruise ships and after so much detail in overly long sequences like the Lithuanian cash plot, his fall and how he might have been noticed, found and rescued is glanced over. Franzen strays into self-parody with his narrative, then wraps up the characters into mostly happy ever afters. Chip even gets his father’s doctor and the father has a long slow decline “lasting longer than anyone expected,” which is again glossed over in a few sentences. It seems that the author could have used the one character who exhibits a moral core and self sacrifice to more effect at the end of his life. The Corrections is an overly long novel that fails to amuse and leaves a bad aftertaste.

Hell Screens

Hell Screensbook by Alvin Wu

Annotation by Kate Maruyama

Hell Screens was such a great read.  Alvin Lu’s first person character has such a mellow immediacy and his curiosity is so passive that it gives our journey an elusive air, which serves the story well.  The manner in which he moves from one scene to another is abrupt and odd and in this nether world between ghost world and reality, it serves to disorient the reader, first to the point where you question everything, then to the point where you, like the main character, sit back and let it wash over you.  When our hero starts to understand that his journey is out of his control is when we do the same, making it all the more interesting to follow.

His elusive is-she-or-isn’t-she-a-ghost palm reader is a very intriguing character.  For someone who might not exist she has a very no-nonsense attitude, so that when our hero steps into her world, she is clearly in charge in a very human way, making her all the more appealing.  There is a great device of her cleaning his contact lens in her mouth, making it have special powers.  It ushers us into the in-between world as seen through our hero’s new eyes.  Being acutely myopic, I found the scenes where his lens is dry or he can’t quite see properly all the more torturous.  The fact that he is a writer trying to find out about a mystery lets us suspend belief: of course he would keep trying to wear the lens as it is leading him where he wants to go.

Maybe I have watched too many Chinese ghost stories, but I felt completely absorbed by the city Lu created, constantly shifting.  It was such a nice device, as ghosts dwell on streets that only exist sometimes, at addresses the cab driver may or may not be able to find.  I was very taken by the entire sequence in the public park where the hermit lives.  I loved the foggy mist, the lost people wandering through it and, especially, the rope to nowhere, up which an older man in street clothes scrambled as quickly as a bug.  Even though our larger journey was a bit vague at times, things were creepy and tense throughout and the visual imagery kept me rapt.  This feeling of otherness opens up my protagonists journey into a ghost-filled world.   Lu’s prose is a good reminder of creepiness in details.

The character of Fatty is hilarious, he is every guy’s obnoxious college roommate.  We get the sense that our hero tolerates him and his fumblings in the way that we all tolerated that loveable pain in the ass of a friend or roommate at one time or another.  The greatest thing about Fatty is his dependability and ineptitude, so that when he goes around the bend and starts getting weird, things get truly scary.  Having an edgy friend go weird is one thing; having a mundane drag of a buddy go freaky is downright terrifying.   While killing off the best friend is an old trick, the fact that Fatty had been shrinking physically due to his ghost encounters, puts him in a realm beyond the stereotypical expiring best friend.  Our hero is losing a friend in a frightening and destabilizing way.    This portion made me mindful of how to keep my heroine’s decay real and to pay attention to not only the details of each stage, but to keep my protagonist reacting to these details.  It is in his vision of her that she can become truly frightening.

The notorious murderer K has a storyline that runs through the background of the book, giving it a noir feel as our hero investigates one thing or another, in a half-hearted attempt to seek him out and to write about him.

Unfortunately, once we are safely lost in the eastern world of Taipei during high ghost season and things seem to reach a climax (our hero has barely recovered from an encounter with a ghost) we are given a very Western and predictable reveal: our hero IS K and has gone back to San Francisco to wreak more havoc.  Here I feel that the writer lost something beautiful and fragile he had created and the journey through the ether is given a B-movie plot twist, causing our delicate castle in the air to fall down with a nasty clunk.  It makes me more determined to see where my novel takes me, rather than trying to wrap it up tidily at the end.  The ending I had in mind when I first thought of the idea was WAY too B movie and while I kind of know how things are going to end, I need to be careful to maintain whatever it is that I have built up (am still building!) through the beginning.  We talked in the workshop about twists that are disappointing to the reader and I am hoping to diffuse any movie-like leanings that I may have by providing that twist early on.

The book was very inspiring as I keep on with my ghost story.  I can take a moment here and there to breathe and feel creepy through the atmosphere and I need to take some more time in the point of view of the protagonist to really creep him out.  I need to go back through what I have and increase his feelings of uneasiness.  I do find that in moving from movies to fiction, the scares have to be more deeply based than the old cat-jumping-off-a-counter scare or sudden-television-at-full-volume.  But if we make the reader myopic in his thoughts, things can creep up on him and frighten him (and, I hope the reader) more easily.  I just need to find what the scares are and the manner in which Lu writes gives me some very good pointers in atmosphere to create them.