Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TCWT Blog Chain: Not Just Novels

Hi! So once again this month I am participating in the TCWT Blog Chain. The topic this month is: "What are your thoughts on reading or writing books in non-novel formats? Are there any you've particularly enjoyed?"

Well, this is an interesting question. At first my gut instinct was like, "ugh, no, only novels, please," because for most of my life I have really only enjoyed novels. I'm cool with weird formats of novels but I just want fiction with a nice good plot, and a beginning and end (even if the middle is squiggly).

But since starting college, my three different classes have forced me to try out new forms of books, and I've found that I actually like them. I still am not a big fan of analytical essays (read: if one more person says the word "postcolonial" I will toss them out a window) but I have learned to actually like collections of short stories, poetry, and certain types of nonfiction.

I always disliked short story collections because I like getting involved in a plot and watching it carry through to the end. Plus, a lot of short stories that I've read have been pretentious and not really fun to read. In my cultures of India class, however, we recently had to read a collection of short stories called Mirrorwork. It gathered together a lot of short stories and short excerpts from novels that had been written in the 50 years after independence. The stories gave me a new look into each author's perspective and gave me the option to slip in and out of different stories within a few pages of each other, even though they all somewhat related to similar topics. I also read, a while ago, a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman called Smoke and Mirrors. Neil Gaiman's talent to spin twisted, strange and fantastical stories was somehow able to be contained into tiny slices and every one was good. So I guess my conclusion for short stories are: they have to be really good, and they have to bring me into a world I like. Short stories are hard. I don't want to read something artsy and literary in them, generally, especially not if I have to read a whole collection of them. But if you're talented, you can make it work, even for someone as picky as me.

As for poetry... I've always liked poetry. But I've never really been the type to sit down and read a bunch of poetry at once. I'd read one poem here or there, if I saw it, but not whole collections. Then last summer I got a bunch of Poetry magazines and read them in my spare time, and found that I loved reading collections of poetry. The thing to remember when reading poetry collections is NOT to get caught up in feeling like you have to perfectly analyze each one. As a poet myself, I can say that at least from my perspective, I don't want readers of my poetry to pull out their pens and start pointing out literary devices and trying to glean some meaning. I should hope my poetry makes its meaning obvious to you, or at least subconsciously gives you some sort of feeling. That's just me- maybe the poets I read want me to dissect their writing. But, since it's a bit stressful to analyze as you read, I would suggest just enjoying the poems. Poetry is very enjoyable to read once you allow yourself to enjoy it. And in poetry class this year, we've read a few collections that were just awesome to read. Render: An Apocalypse by Rebecca Gayle Howell is confusing, then dark, then confusing, then you read it again and you think you get it, and then it's confusing. But it's so great and when you read it you feel chills down your spine. My personal favorite that we read was The Wild Iris, by Louise Gluck, a collection of poems from the point of view of flowers in a gardening catalogue that Gluck was reading. Just stunning words and imagery.

Nonfiction has always been kind of a love-hate relationship for me. It's easy for nonfiction to get dull because it doesn't have any of the riveting plot stuff that fiction is required to have. At the same time, sometimes reality makes its own good plotlines. In the case of I Am Malala, which I read recently, a nonfiction book told a story of a girl whose life was more admirable and whose character was better developed than a lot of fictional heroes. But sometimes, it's just someone's good writing abilities. In my French class, we read a book called Journal du dehors by Annie Ernaux. The book was a collection of basically people-watching notes. At first I thought, "are you kidding me? A book full of random stuff this lady saw?" But the way she arranged the stories, told them, and commented on them told a great story both about herself and the world she lived in. It wasn't a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat read, but I liked it.

These types of books aren't the stuff I normally read, but they can be done well, and I've enjoyed many of them. It just goes to show that sometimes it pays off to read outside your comfort zone.

Sorry this post was so late- I had such a busy day, you have no idea. This Saturday you'll read all about it in my new experience post.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Check out the rest of the blog chain posts:

6th (Post will be published at night on 3/6!)
27th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)


  1. You should have posted this earlier because I have just ordered mom 14 novels on Amazon. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my amazon cart would have "page 2"... But it was fun, and fast. What's the next book you need? :-)

  2. I totes agree with you because novels are awesome. Psh to everything else. ;)

    Also -- Post. Colonial.


    Okay. Sorry. But I had to do that.

    I, too, have a hard time with short story and poetry collections, though I've been wanting to get more into them. Especially short story collections. I'll have to check out that Neil Gaiman one, maybe read it a bit on the side.

  4. Novels are awesome, I have to agree—I've never really gotten into the short story hype, but especially since a blogging friend has started writing them I've become more interested. My grandfather is actually a poet, so I've sat down and read some poetry (he actually gave me a really awesome poetry collection for my birthday) and even if it's a little unusual, I think I enjoy it.

    Getting into other formats can be a little "eh" sometimes, but still, like you said, there's the occasional gem that makes it worth the read, even if it's hard.