I’ve been reading a lot of “different for me” books lately, most randomly picked from the “Lucky Draw” shelf at the local library, which houses an ever-changing assortment of popular books, generally best sellers or book-club picks – things I normally would avoid like the plague. The one I just finished was Less (winner of the Pulitzer Prize) by Andrew Sean Greer. It’s the story of a novelist, about to turn fifty, who accepts a raft of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world in order to avoid his boyfriend’s wedding.
There was one specific little bit that really stuck with me after I had finished reading. At one point in the story, the novelist – Arthur Less – is teaching a writing seminar in Germany. His rather unconventional methods include “he cuts up a paragraph of Lolita and has the young doctoral students reassemble the text as they desire”, “he gives them a page of Joyce and a bottle of White-Out”, and he has them “write a persuasive opening sentence for a book they have never read”. The result is not that they learn anything about literature but, they get something better:
“They learn to love language again, something that has faded like sex in a long marriage.”
As I read that I thought, I’d have loved that class.
Somewhere along the line, focusing on conflict boxes, beats, story arcs, and all the other story minutia, I seem to have lost sight of why I write in the first place. I love playing with words. Finding just the right ones and putting them together in just the right way, to say exactly what I’m trying to say.
If there can be a pun involved, well then so much the better.
Coincidentally, I came across a post on Facebook today relevant to this train of thought. So instead of talking about the writing process or publishing or what’s new and exciting in the world of books, I’d like to present you with a challenge:
Craft a shaggy-dog story that ends with a pun incorporating Trudeau, trousseau, Thoreau, bureau, and Clouseau.
It may not be the same as cutting up Lolita or using White-Out on Joyce, but you might just increase your own love of language in the process, or at least have some fun trying.
So, go ahead.
I dare you.