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Monday, February 18, 2008

Ten signs meme

I saw this meme on Jenny Davidson's blog last week and admired it, so I thought I'd try it out to characterize my as-yet unwritten novels. I'm thinking particularly of my half-planned crime novel set primarily in Albuquerque heavy metal snake store (which exists or used to exist), but I also used my short stories as material to classify.

Ten signs a novel (or short story) has been written by me:

1. It is probably set in the desert.

2. The dialogue is elliptical--in a good way (I think). This feature owes much to Amy Hempel and Lorrie Moore.

3. There are lists of items in a set and an interest in how those items are named or classified.

4. There are lists of items that don't immediately seem to fit into a set but are put together in homage to Katherine Anne Porter's list of things lost in her short story, "Theft," or Elizabeth Hardwick's sentences.

5. Weather phenomena--snowstorms, thunderstorms, almost certainly lightning storms--play a significant role. This feature is hard to justify in stories set in the desert, so the lightning storms are the most frequent and there's lots of wistfulness about hoping that the thunderstorms will actually produce rain instead of evaporating.

[Note: It's unrelated, but here's a transcript of a conversation with my dad this weekend about the bad weather in the South. I was in Alabama over the weekend. Oh, and maybe you'll see where that elliptical dialogue comes from if it doesn't only come from Amy Hempel.]

Alice: So I figured out this weekend that one-minute conversations about the weather are OK, and five-minute conversations about the weather are not OK.
Dad: Yeah, that's probably true for most people.
Alice: No one else is excited that we're going to have squall lines here tomorrow.
Dad: You're going to have squall lines?! Wow...
Alice: I know! It's going to be great!

Squall lines are indeed impressive when you can watch them march by in red blobs on the Weather Channel or when you can stand and watch the storms from a big window. They are not impressive when you are trapped in the Atlanta airport for more than six hours and the windows are tinted and tiny.]

6. There is some nostalgia for historic buildings that have fallen into disrepair or abandonment, but sometimes that nostalgia turns back on itself.

7. The characters walk places more often than they drive, and they are up for walking long distances.

[This feature is certainly the result of the author not knowing how to drive.]

8. At least one character works at a newspaper (daily or weekly).

9. A trip to the archives--newspaper, manuscripts, something else--is imperative for some reason.

10. At least six of Joan Didion's sentence structures are imitated--often the "she did or did not think about..." construction.

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Blogger Jenny Davidson on Tue Feb 19, 06:35:00 AM:
One other thing I could have said about mine is that both protagonists are anxious and self-critical about not knowing how to drive! Just like me, obviously...
Anonymous Anonymous on Tue Feb 19, 05:51:00 PM:
You've totally inspired me, I'm going to do it on my own blog, .
Blogger Unknown on Wed Feb 20, 02:44:00 PM:
In response to Item #5, Did you know there's a lunar eclipse tonight? I didn't until Soterios Johnson casually mentioned it this morning. It'll be visible at 10:26pm.
Blogger Sophia on Thu Feb 21, 10:45:00 AM:
I love weather, but living in Oklahoma is like living in 8 different climate zones a week. Rain, wind, ice, snow, wind, wind, wind. le sigh.
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Feb 27, 08:37:00 PM:
Wow. nice list. nice squall lines. I've been learning all these terms from people all over the US lately referring to different weather phenomena I've never seen but hope I will: snow thunder; freezing fog; now squall lines. Here's one from Mexico City: thermal inversion...that's when it's so cold that the pollution is trapped between the us and the sky so everything is gray and has a hue of orange radioactivity.