What I’m reading

“I’d written it in my midtwenties, and, like most first novels, it evolved through a series of failures. I had no sense of form or structure. I imagined skyscrapers when all I could build were tree houses. I wasn’t an architect; I was a kid with wooden planks, a hammer, and a box of nails. My sentences were imprecise. As a result, the characters and landscapes I described were difficult for a reader to see, like blurry images observed through an out-of-focus lens. And I didn’t understand the difference between action and dramatic action. Action alone has no consequences: a character washes a dish and the dish clean. Dramatic action has consequences: a character flings a dirty dish at another character, splits his upper lip, and cracks his front teeth; the assaulted character then grabs a conveniently placed meat cleaver, flings it at the other character, and splits open his head like a halved cantaloupe.”

— Tom Grimes, Mentor: A Memoir

Another favorite from the book: “‘The bad work leads to the good work,’ Frank [Conroy] used to tell us in workshop. ‘You rarely get one without the other.'”


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