The Letter Project

August 16, 2009

Special Delivery (13)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 12:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

In this letter Jacqueline Vogtman talks to her friend and fellow worshopper Anne about summer reading and writing.  Jacky also dreams about what the cover of her first novel will look like and discusses why writing by hand adds something to her creative work.  Jacky will be a second year MFA student at Bowling Green State University this year. –TW

July 1, 2009 (Hackettstown, New Jersey)

Dear Anne,

It feels good to finally sit down and write a real letter, after so much electronic communication with people. Lately I’ve also been writing my poetry and short-shorts longhand, and I think it adds something, a physical connection with the words and paper. I’ve taken a few weeks’ break from my longer stories—I was stuck on the last one I tried to write, so I though a break might help, and writing poetry instead might free up whatever’s blocked. How is your novel-writing going? And the poetry—are you finding yourself more comfortable writing it? I did enjoy your first workshop poem.

I feel like I’ve gotten a decent amount of work done on my “book” this summer (have to use the quotation marks, since it still seems hypothetical to me), and I hope to finish more before it ends. As I think I told you, I’ve got a solid idea, now, of the shape of the book. There will be 3 sections, each containing 3 longer stories and 3 short-shorts that act as epigraphs for the longer pieces, in an oblique way. I’ve “finished” the first section, and hope to be done with the second section by the end of summer. I even found the perfect painting to be on the cover of my book if I ever get it published—a Waterhouse painting—but of course I’m dreaming; I don’t even know how much say an author has in the cover artwork. But it’s still nice to daydream. Anyway, I’d love to hear more about your novel and what you think your thesis will be like, when you get the chance.

So as I said, I really wanted to write to you about 100 Years of Solitude—loved it! I can’t believe I let all these years go by without reading it, and I can see why you said you loved it, too. I’d only read Love in the Time of Cholera before, but I think 100 Years is so much better. After years of hearing that Marquez was the major figure of Magical Realism, and being told that I was doing MR too, I feel like, finally, after reading this book, I know what the term Magical Realism means. But of course I think the aesthetics of the book go so far beyond that term. I was definitely inspired while reading it, and I felt more freedom that ever to move fluidly between the magical and the real and also to go off on tangents.

Maybe it was the tangential quality of Marquez’s writing that struck me so much. I think, for awhile, I’d been trying so hard to tell one story that I harnessed my writing, made it too tight. But Marquez is always going off on tangents; he starts on one track and goes off on so many different tracks, ultimately circling back to the original subject. I find that style so interesting—it seems very authentic to how we really tell stories, and in a way it keeps stories from ever really ending, because there’s always something branching out—to quote Marquez, “ending at every moment but never ending its ending.”

Another thing I found interesting about the book was the use of the parchments—how, by the end, when Aureliano is deciphering them, it’s suggested to the reader that the parchments in the book sort of are the book; what’s written in them is what we’ve been reading the whole time. So, in a way there’s some post-modern sensibility there, but it’s subtle. That’s something I’ve been thinking about playing with just a little bit in my own work. But enough with post-modern aesthetics: what I really loved were the gypsies, the yellow butterflies circling Meme’s head, Remedios the Beauty, the ghosts, the plague of insomnia, the deluge that lasted years…too much good stuff to go into here!

Anyway, now I’m reading Calvino’s Cosmicomics, another one I think I’ve heard good things about from the people of BG. If you haven’t, you must read “The Distance of the Moon”—it’s amazing. I love how in these stories Calvino can create such bizarre worlds, such strange and unfamiliar landscapes and yet give his characters such psychological realism and create these true and believable family dynamics.

So how is Anna Karenina going? I remember I liked it a lot; Tolstoy has a lot of compassion for his characters, I think, and I remember feeling that. One of the details I remember about Anna are her rings—they’re always described as glittering and shimmering on her fingers. Whenever I wear a lot of rings, I always think of her.

Well, I hope you’re enjoying your summer to the fullest and that all areas of your life are going well—but especially your writing life. I wonder how hot and humid it is in the south. I love that weather—maybe if you write back, you’ll send along some of it with your letter to me up north.

Take care!



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