Last week a bought a Kindle. I know, I know.
Now, I’ve been down this path before. I wrote here about my brief and unfulfilling flirtation with a Nook, and this post shows another problem with e-readers generally. I will never, ever stop buying books… but, well, let’s be honest – there’s a certain inevitability about it all, isn’t there? I’m going back to England for Christmas and New Year and I really don’t want half of my allotted baggage weight to be books – especially since (because I can’t do otherwise) I would also have to lug them back across the Atlantic after I’d read them. And the Kindle really is very dinky and light and all that good stuff.
But perhaps the best reason for buying a kindle is that there is now material that is only being made available to people with e-readers. Many authors are publishing their out-of-contract back catalogs for e-readers via sites like Smashwords, and of course – if this is your kind of thing – there is always the next self-published erotic vampire novel to get your teeth into (ba-boom-tish, I’m here all week, etc.)
One of the main reasons I finally broke down and bought my kindle was because I was desperate to read an extended essay called The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett, which is only available in downloadable format through amazon. Patchett is probably best-known for her novel Bel Canto, which I read and enjoyed several years ago – although by all accounts, her new book, State of Wonder, is better yet (the – please note – actual book is sitting next to me as I write, and I am itching to start it.)
The Get Away Car, though, is something different. It’s part memoir, part rumination, part advice column. Patchett offers up some of her personal memories and reflections on her career as a writer. Anyone who is in interested in the creative process of sticking words down on paper should get their hands on it at once. You’ll devour it in one sitting. It is absorbing, inspiring, funny, honest, modest, and – best of all – it’s full of wise observations and advice. Patchett writes about writing with refreshingly unsentimental candor. Here are a few gems I pulled out more or less at random. For each quote there were another ten I could have chosen.
First of all, perhaps the best metaphor for novel writing that I’ve yet come across:
“Novel writing, I soon discovered, is like channel swimming: a slow and steady stroke over a long distance in a cold, dark sea.”
Next, an elegant description of the mountain authors have to climb every time they are confronted by the proverbial blank page:
“What I like about the job of being a novelist, and at the same time what I find so exhausting about it, is that it’s the closest thing to being God that you’re ever going to get. All of the decisions are yours. You decide when the sun comes up. You decide who gets to fall in love and who gets hit by a car. You have to make all the leaves and all the trees and then sew the leaves onto the trees. You make the entire world.”
This next one resonated with me especially:
“As much as I love what I do, I forever feel like a dog on the wrong side of the door. If I’m writing a book, I’m racing to be finished; if I’m finished, I feel aimless and wish that I were writing a book.”
And finally, perhaps the truest words of all:
“Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.”
Thank you, Ann Patchett, for writing such a wonderful little book. I’ll be returning to it time and time again. Very highly recommended.