Tag Archives: Irish writers

The Gathering: The Final Review

Well, it’s down to the wire and I’ve finally finished The Gathering for my practicum assignment. There are three days for me to write this 5-8 page paper. Seems silly to wait this close to the deadline when I’ve had over a month to accomplish it. For a writer, you’d think the deadline would be the scary, black cloud looming over my head ready to strike me down with lightening. But I love the thrill of procrastination. There’s something about the deadline that forces my creative juices to work harder. Contrary to the idea that stress creates writer’s block, sometimes the stress inspires your imagination in a way working ahead just can’t provide.

This 261 page book was difficult not in the sense that it was hard to read, but that I was attempting to read like a writer. As I’ve mentioned before, reading can be broken down into three easy categories.

1) Reading as a reader (for pleasure)- It is the most common and easy way to read. You are reading to enjoy the story and not to dissect the writing. Sometimes you just need to crawl away from the world and read to escape the realities.

2) Reading as a student (to analyze)- This is the most familiar for high school and college students. There is an English Comp. or Literature class requiring you to write about a book that you have to read. You read the book knowing what to look for in the words to write a paper.

3) Reading as a writer (to learn)-The action of a writer reading another writer’s work is different than anything else in the reading world. We don’t judge another author’s work, but try to understand how they accomplished such a feat. Especially for a young writer like myself, it is an important skill to learn from experienced authors.

Knowing I had a daunting task ahead to learn how to read like a writer, I took my time. Over the course of three weeks, I labored over this book. You would think it might take a week with how determined I am to get a good grade, but that’s not the case. This book is simply about a woman coming to terms with her closest brother’s suicide. What do you have when you mix an exotic setting (Ireland) with a great tragedy (suicide), and drop in a couple repressed memories from a deranged family? You get one confusing book. Not confusing in the sense that you couldn’t connect the story together from chapter to chapter. It is the viewpoint of the entire books. Going from imaginative memories of Veronica’s grandparents to interactions with her deranged mother, any reader can feel her confusion.

At the risk of sounding cocky, I feel like this could be on purpose by the author. Without the confusion in this woman’s life, we wouldn’t be able to understand where she’s coming from. Death can do crazy things to your life, especially with marriage, secrets, and family gatherings. The ending leaves you wanting more coinciding almost exactly with the feelings of the narrator.

I was stunned, absolutely stunned at the ending. Not because I can’t imagine things that happen when a family gets together, but it is still more shocking to someone outside of the family. Overall, the book was satisfying. It’s relative to everyone in one way or another. Regardless of how crazy your family is, it’s nice to see that other families are worse. My next step is to write this paper. Although it should be a piece of cake, I don’t want it to fall short. There is a need for me to go above and beyond what I did in my undergrad. It’s easier because I’m not analyzing the text to find a certain theme. Instead, I’m asked to find what aspects of the book I like and what has affected my writing so far.

In 5-8 pages, I think I can do this in one day let alone three. It’s easy to find what you like or don’t like about a book. With the sticky notes and scribbles in the margin, I feel like my work will pay off. So, here goes my late night start to the first critical essay!

Make sure you check out The Gathering by Anne Enright!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Idea of the Day

The Gathering Week One

Well, the first book I have to read for my residency with acclaimed western writer, Jane Boyer (Candia Coleman) is The Gathering by Anne Enright. Now you must be thinking, what is a western writer doing assigning an Irish writer to a bunch of first years (freshman so to speak)? The answer would be my upcoming trip to Dublin, Ireland in June. Why Anne Enright? Because she could very well be there during the residency and she is a fantastic example of Irish writing.

The copy I'm currently reading looks like this 🙂

I’ve had some experience with Irish writing. Mostly James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, and William Trevor. My experience first came in a Irish Short Fiction class during my junior or senior year of my undergrad. It would have been an amazing class if it had not been at 8 o’clock in the morning three days a week. There is just something about 8 a.m. that makes the brain want to work less. It was interesting nonetheless and I expect my time in Ireland will be much better than sleepy mornings in the basement of the library.

Returning to the purpose of the post, I have spent the last few days starting Anne Enright’s book.  The book is set in Ireland and England, so far. To me, they are exotic enough that just the areas she describes excite me to read more. As much as I enjoy her use of vocabulary and detailed scenes, I force myself to slow down. Too frequently, readers forget how to read slow and simply skim over the words only processing half of them. My friends and family may think I’m a fast reader because I finish books quickly, but that is not the case. In fact, I would describe myself as a slow reader on purpose. I want to savor the moments of a book whether it is for school or for pleasure. Reading shouldn’t be a race to get to the end of the story. A book should be read at the pace that it’s written.

For example, Carrie by Stephen King, I read in one sitting or a few hours. It was relatively small for a Stephen King novel, but the fast paced nature of the story is what led me to read it quickly. The author somewhat dictates how fast or slow you read the book, but the story also does that.  For the books I’m required to read for school, though, I deliberately take my time to savor and analyze the book. As I have  learned from my first residency, there is a difference between reading as a reader and reader as a writer. I struggle automatically to differentiate the two while reading.

However, I’m not alone as it is a skill acquired with time and practice. It is easy to enjoy a story and read for pleasure. It is another to read from an academic point and analyze potential literature for archetypes and common themes. It is another point all together to read as a writer. It is completely different to read thinking about style, voice, and point of view. To understand how a writer wrote such a fantastic story from the inside is a task not easily handled. So, I have only delved 1/5 of the way through the world Enright has created.

I am following an Irish family as they suffer through one of many deaths. The main character, Veronica Hegarty, is suffering most from her brother’s suicide. Although, from the first few pages, their deranged mother seems to be suffering more than all of her remaining children combined. I think the casual nature that Enright brings in the dysfunction of the family appeals most to me. Everyone thinks they have the most dysfunctional family, until they look at the house next door or down the street. It is that familiarity that your family infuriates you (Veronica being the responsible one and having to take care of all the arrangements) and soothes you (hasn’t happened yet, but I hope it will) without you even realizing it. She depicts a playful relationships with the past and present of Veronica’s life in addition to an imaginative past of her grandparents’.

I am struck by how quintessential family can become in just a few chapters. It doesn’t have to relate at all to your own family because people always find similarities in the smallest things. It is simply the struggle of dealing with family and death that makes this book so easy to connect. Two elements that in one way or another shape every human being, every living creature on the planet. I look forward to each page, attempting to understand the bits of Irish culture embedded in the  story as well as the overall feeling of Enright as a writer. If I do have the chance to meet Enright, I will surely faint for the sheer fact that she is an acclaimed Irish writer. More importantly, I will again be in awe of those much more experienced and eloquent doing the most valuable thing in the world, writing.

So, I leave you reader to return to The Gathering and coincidentally my cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Hope you will check out this little piece of Irish life as I prepare to write a paper about it.

2 Comments

Filed under Idea of the Day