I sailed The Starless Sea.

I read Erin Morgenstern’s first novel, The Night Circus, years ago. I liked it. I can’t say I loved it, because I don’t remember it that strongly. Having read The Starless Sea, I question if I enjoyed The Night Circus at all because Morgenstern’s sophomore release isn’t That Great. I wanted to love it.

The story doesn’t make sense. It’s written with a non-linear narrative, but I’m a sucker for a juicy, well-written non-linear narrative, so it wasn’t that. It was that nothing and no one had a motivation or basis in the novel.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is the protagonist, which you know because his full name is repeated as the first words of the majority of the chapters, bludgeoning readers with his Importance. His tag (“the son of the fortune-teller”) is also oft repeated. Zachary Ezra Rawlins walks along kind of letting things happen to him for some unclear reason. Around page 150, I questioned if this novel was any good, because I didn’t feel connected to the protagonist or his motivations. There are multiple repeated symbols (bees, keys, swords, hearts, crowns, honey, owls, cats, the moon, etc.), as if they are symbols because they are repeated and because they are repeated they are symbolic. The symbols are used in a universal sense, but they end up being meaningful only in very specific ways to Zachary Ezra Rawlins and his love interest.

Morgenstern is often cited as a wordsmith, and fans love her writing style. I found it irritating. She tries to say so much that not much is said at all. Words just to be words are not helpful. There is no basis to the melodic prose and it makes the story nonsensical.

The story gets interesting in the last sixth part (the novel is divided into VI books). Here, a secondary character, Kat, who has been absent for most of the novel, reappears to give backstory. Yes, it’s the whole non-linear thing, but the reader has been slogging along with clueless Zachary Ezra Rawlins this whole time not knowing why. Kat is an interesting and useful character. She has motivation, and moves the story along in a meaningful way.

I will grant that perhaps I didn’t “understand” the novel. Perhaps the lack of motivation is part of the theme of the novel (something something about fate and fortunes). Zachary Ezra Rawlins studies Emerging Media (video games), and he and Kat dialogue about Choose Your Own Adventure type games and narrative (Morgenstern herself is a gamer). Perhaps him bumbling along his adventure is part of the theme of the novel as well. It’s possible that Zachary Ezra Rawlins knows he’s supposed to do something because he read about himself in a book, again bringing about questions of fate and choice, but none of it is dissected or concluded in a satisfying manner. Book VI made the novel alright. The nearly 400 pages of luxuriant, comma-filled, pop-culture laden prose led by Zachary Ezra Rawlins, who I didn’t care about, wasn’t great.

…but I called it.

I’m taking an online writing course which includes bi-weekly assignments, which, since this is only the second week, I believe, includes regular prompts for free writing.  Here was the assignment for last week:

“Write a story using that phrase as your first line and include a twist at the end. Keep your story to 300 words or less. Write as tight as possible, that is, really select words with care. Trim out the extras. Add dialogue.”

Admittedly, I didn’t add much dialogue, but I like how my little story turned out.  I love to read character driven apocalyptic/dystopian sci-fi but rarely get a decent idea in that genre, so I was pleased that this idea showed up.  Who knows, maybe there is more here!

I’ll be sharing my assignments here as we go along. Continue reading “…but I called it.”

The Muse Works When You Do

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Hilma af Klint

I just spent the weekend in New York City.  Kara, one of my best friends/travel buddies, and I explored the shit outta that town.  We traipsed and Lyfted our way from Spanish-Italian cafe to French bistro to Korean small plates through Central Park, to the MoMa and Guggenheim, in search of great food, beer, coffee, art, ice cream, and pizza.

What always blows my mind about travel, beyond the obvious benefit of ‘seeing the world,’ is the doors it breaks down surrounding my creativity.  Which is an easier sentiment to have while listening to the Dark Side of the Moon and contemplating Hilma af Klint than sitting in my robe in my bed back home.  It’s a fleeting feeling I’m constantly yearning for, yet what I learned on this trip is creativity is not actually one fleeting moment.

Continue reading “The Muse Works When You Do”

Crossover Cards

Phew!  I am verrrry behind with my tarot studies in the Alternative Tarot Course!  I was hoping that January would slow down a bit — and the first half definitely did — but the second half of January was crazy with social and work commitments.  I’m happy to say that I’ve continued to pull a card a day, and have done a pretty dang good job staying committed to my at-home yoga practice.  I’m feeling good!  Anyway, I digress.

Part of week 2 includes analyzing the elements in the tarot.  One of the exercises asks me to pick some minor arcana cards that I view as “crossover” cards, cards that I feel communicate more than their corresponding element.

Continue reading “Crossover Cards”

Four Aces

The first exercise in the Alternative Tarot Course Week 2 is all about the aces.

Beth Maiden writes, “Pull out the four ace cards from your deck and lay them out in front of you.  What doors might be opening here, what sort of thing might each ace be suggesting you do?  How might you best take advantage of these opportunities?”

Continue reading “Four Aces”