Tag Archives: David Sedaris

I’m Hearing Voices

I rarely re-read books.

The exceptions are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… because I love her with my whole heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… because The SantaLand Diaries is pretty close to perfect writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… because I read this book as a young teenager and it cast a spell on me that appears to be unbreakable.

And now I can add

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to my list.

I read it when it came out in 2017 and a member of my book club chose it for our December 2018 read. The second time through I was able to savor it, letting the prose weave through my thoughts, finding new nooks and crannies to settle in.

Eleanor Oliphant gives new meaning to the term “socially awkward.” She’s a mulligan stew of hilarity, practicality, and heartbreak … and so much more.

I love the story, but it’s on my list to re-read because of a couple of things the author, Gail Honeyman, does really well.

The first thing is backstory. I won’t give anything away, but Eleanor has a secret. Honeyman dribbles just the right amount of information the reader needs at just the right time. ‘Nuff said about that, lest I spoil it. You’ll see when you read it.

But the second thing the author does is much more difficult. And that is capturing Eleanor’s voice.

Talking about voice in writing can be nebulous. Like art or pornography, you can’t define it precisely, but you know it when you see it.

Voice has different levels and different meanings.

First, there’s the writer’s voice. The writing of Ernest Hemingway doesn’t sound anything like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Janet Evanovich doesn’t sound anything like John Grisham. Dr Seuss doesn’t sound anything like Emily Dickinson.

Each author chooses certain words and rhythms to their writings. I bet you can search the depth and breadth of Fitzgerald’s works and never find him describing anyone as a “mulligan stew.” Nor will I ever write anything resembling, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I use a lot of sentence fragments when I write, anathema to some. Hemingway rarely varies his sentence pattern, anathema to me. But that’s an entirely different blog post. Fight me later.

Second, there’s the actual voice of the character. Some people have foreign or regional accents. Some drop the G at the end of a word. Some speak fast, some s l o w. Some have a squeaky soprano, some a basso profundo. Eleanor Oliphant is Scottish and that creeps in every so often. The first time I heard The SantaLand Diaries was on NPR, read by the author, David Sedaris. He has a very distinctive voice and I haven’t read anything of his since without hearing his words in his voice.

Then, the heart of a character, who they are. And that is shown by everything they say, how they say it, what they don’t say.

This is the voice that Gail Honeyman excels at with Eleanor Oliphant.

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t take long to get a sense of Eleanor, does it? While it might be infuriating to hang out with her as a real person, I love spending time with fictional Eleanor.

I could listen to her voice for hours.

What are some other voices that have stuck with you over the years?

Richest Fictional Characters

Forbes magazine recently listed the Richest Fictional Characters.

1. Daddy Warbucks
2. C. Montgomery Burns
3. Scrooge McDuck
4. Richie Rich
5. Jed Clampett
6. Mr. Monopoly
7. Bruce Wayne
8. Anthony Stark
9. Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria
10. Thurston Howell III

The recession clearly hasn’t been good to Uncle Sam, Gordon Gekko or Ebenezer Scrooge who were numbers 1, 4 and 6, respectively, last year.

But it made me wonder about my other fictional friends. So I made some lists.

The Most Fabulous Fictional Houses
1. Xanadu — You can roller skate in every room with Olivia Newton-John
2. Burns Manor — Release the hounds!
3. Wayne Manor — cozy throw pillows everywhere
4. Toad Hall — secret passages make it remarkably easy to escape from
5. Corleone Compound — Never-ending pots of spaghetti and horse heads
6. Jay Gatsby’s Mansion — Constant parties and a lovely green light at the end of the dock
7. Beverly Hillbillies Mansion — it has a cement pond!!
8. Tara Plantation — As God is my witness, I’d like to live there
9. Barbie’s Dream House — Pink!
10.The Ponderosa — Little Joe AND Candy lived there. Hummina, hummina.

Best Fictional Songbirds
1. The Little Mermaid — even though she’d rather have legs
2. The Singing Detective — even though he’d rather not have psoriatic arthropathy.
3. Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy — but he might have been real
4. Buckaroo Banzai — plus, he’s a neurosurgeon-superhero-samurai-scientist who can drive through solid matter
5. Homer Simpson — at least when his operation went sideways and he became an opera star
6. Opera Stars — again, I’ve been told they might be real but I can’t believe it
7. The Sharks AND the Jets — tied because I didn’t want them to rumble over their ranking
9. The Caged Bird — but I don’t know why
10. Bilbo Baggins — you might not know it because he was so short the sound never carried far

Smokiest Fictional Characters
1. Marlboro Man — way cooler than that loser Joe Camel
2. Bridget Jones — but she knew she shouldn’t
3. Beezus and Ramona’s dad — thank goodness a second-grader was available to help him quit!
4. David Sedaris — He’s what now?
5. Miss Pettigrew — it helped her live for a day, but then, ironically, shortened her life
6 and 7. Nick and Nora Charles — that’s why they were so freakin glamorous!
8. Fred Sanford — but his glam quotient was non-existent. Weird.
9. Every soldier in every war movie
10. Don Draper — My-oh-my. Could it be the never-ending cigarettes that make his butt look so smokin’ hot?

Any others to add?