Tuesday, July 05, 2005

pickings from ...a Watered Garden

Since I’ve been blogging reviews of books, I read differently. I not only read to enjoy the story, but with more construction-consciousness, i.e. with a view to noticing and interpreting what the author is doing in areas of (in fiction here) characterization, plot, structure, language – that sort of thing.

To help me do this I highlight sections and make marginal comments in pencil (in books I own, of course; ‘I can always erase these later,’ I tell myself, though I seldom do). Then I usually go through the book again, tabbing significant spots with sticky notes – to have quote or ‘for instance’ places handy – before I write about it.

I’ve just done that with the Patti Hill novel, Like a Watered Garden. And so, before I remove all those stickies and shelve that book – or lend it to someone – I’m going to make all that effort work for me in one more post and quote some places I found her writing particularly good.

Here is the place where the main character (Mibby) contrasts herself to her best friend Louise. Good showing of characterization:

The fact that Louise and I were friends was it own kind of miracle. We were a study in contrasts...The differences began with how we viewed clothes. Louise wore outfits. Everything from earrings to socks was carefully coordinated to a theme or color. A butterfly print dress required dangling – never studded – butterfly earrings and a tiny butterfly decal on her left thumbnail....

I subscribed to the indigo rule of fashion. I wore denim every day; it went with everything. I only started wearing socks that matched my T-shirts due to Louise’s influence. I owned a pair of everyday Birkenstocks and a dress-up pair of Birkenstocks. They were suitable for shorts, pants, and skirts, which meant I wore them to church.

Here’s a place where Mibby has just had a dream about her dead husband. I love metaphor she uses:

I brought my dream to the surface like a pearl diver and dropped the treasure into a small boat rolling with the waves. I pulled the covers over my head and went down into the murky water for more, but the dream of Scott was replaced with a dream of a picnic with neighbors I didn’t know...

Finally, here’s some more characterization stuff – and a cool metaphor too (Roseanne is one of Mibby’s garden clients):

When I first met Roseanne Mitchell, I wanted to dislike her. Perfect body – long and fluid. Perfect face – symmetrical and as smooth as a river stone. Perfect life – which for me meant having a living husband. Innovative hybridization would have been required to include Roseanne in a fruit salad with Louise and me, say a cross between a banana and an Elberta peach – the late summer variety with no stone and the sweetest, most rosy flesh.

You can actually read the entire first chapter of the book (from Patti Hill’s web site).


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