Tag Archives: Haven Kimmel

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?

5 Novels I Can’t Live Without

5-novels

When I realized I wrote in a similar manner to Janet Evanovich, I began to study her books to see how she does what she does. And, of course, I’m forever in her debt for introducing me to Ranger.

We read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” in our book club. It touched every emotion I had. Well done, Rachel Joyce.

When our kids were young, we took a long road trip and listened to the audio version of Jennifer Donnelly’s “A Northern Light” in the car. It captivated all five of us, often making us sit in a parking lot at our destination to hear the end of the chapter. When we got home I read it to see how she did what she did. Still not entirely sure.

I have four copies of Zippy. I lend them all the time, but never want to be without one myself. I love Zippy and Haven Kimmel like petunias love sunshine. It’s one of the very few books I’ve lifted to “You Betcha, I’ll Read It Again” status. It does three things to me simultaneously … laugh hysterically, break my heart thus turning me into a little puddle of sobbing Becky, and curse the day the writing bug bit me because I’ll never be Haven Kimmel.

Garrison Keillor and I go way back. When I was a young’un, my dad would dial up his “Prairie Home Companion” show on the car radio and we’d load into the car for a drive while we listened. If we were lucky, we’d watch a thunderstorm roll toward us, engulf us, then release us while we caught up on the news from the Sidetrack Tap, the Chatterbox Cafe, Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery and Bertha’s Kitty Boutique.

To this day radio static always makes me smile.

What are the five novels you can’t live without?

My New Favorite Book

VELVA JEAN LEARNS TO DRIVE by Jennifer Niven

Hmm. Second favorite. I’ve blogged before of my love for Haven Kimmel’s A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY.

Velva Jean is very reminiscent of Zippy. A backwoods Zippy, maybe. Or maybe Zip is a suburban Velva Jean. Such a Sophie’s choice to choose favorites, though. Thank goodness I can have them both!

VELVA JEAN LEARNS TO DRIVE is a coming-of-age story about finding your dreams that will make you laugh out loud and then shatter your heart. Again and again and again.

Velva Jean’s dying mother tells her to live her life in the great big world instead of in the moonshining hollers of Appalachia, something ten-year-old Velva Jean doesn’t understand. At 16 she marries Harley Bright, a hell-fire tent preacher, and it seems she’ll escape like mama wanted. But Harley’s world closes in on them, and threatens to suffocate Velva Jean and her dreams. Then she meets a bright yellow truck.

Favorite line(s) …

“And I always chose a new book to take home with me, something Sweet Fern would approve of because she wanted to know the name of any book I brought into the house. I love Little Women and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which was so beautiful and sad that I wanted to throw it at the wall.”

I loved everything about this book, right down to the character names … Sweet Fern, Ruby Poole, Aunt Bird, Uncle Turk, Aunt Zona, Beachard, Johnny Clay Hart, Swill Tenor, Harley Bright, Root Caldwell, Clover, Celia Faye, Lucinda Sink. And of course, Velva Jean.

How could you not want to hang out with them for 400 pages??

Living Will

I totally rejiggered this from an email I got (thanks, Mary!), but it’s perfect for BeckyLand — funny, and absolutely true … like this … and this … and this … and this.

That was a fun trip down Bloggory Lane!

Anyway … next time I go to the hospital I’m taking this Living Will with me. In triplicate.

I, State Your Name, being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.

Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of pinhead politicians who couldn’t pass ninth grade biology if their lives depended on it, or greedy lawyers and doctors interested in running up the bills.

If a reasonable amount of time passes, say, ten minutes or so, and I fail to ask for at least one of the following …

Guinness
Chocolate
Chinese food
Sex
Mimosa
Cold Beer
Chocolate
Fried chicken
Chinese food
Sex
My favorite book, A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
Chocolate cake
Bacon cheeseburger with fries
Guinness
Pizza
Sex
Any of my iTunes music, but especially Bugler’s Holiday
Ice cream
Guinness
Guinness
Guinness
Sex
Guinness

… it should be presumed I’ll never get better. At least I won’t be any fun anymore and that’s just as bad. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my appointed person and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes, let the fat lady sing, and call it a day!

You’re all witnesses to my final wishes. And, if you can read between the lines, some of my current ones.

What would be on your list?

Only Three Books

Here’s something interesting. It’s not necessarily a “bad retail behavior” story, but it’s thought-provoking.

Apparently, a well-dressed gentleman stopped in a bookstore and informed the employees that he’d just been sentenced to six months at the workhouse and would be allowed to take three books with him.

He selected Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard (possibly because of the heft of the volume), Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and an unmemorable third.

This episode turned into a parlor game for all the booksellers, as in, “If I were sentenced to six months in the workhouse and could only take three books with me, what would I take?”

Because I’m always expecting the authorities on my doorstep, I want to be ready so I’ve been thinking about my three choices.

zippy

One …  I’d bring A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY – GROWING UP SMALL IN MOORELAND, INDIANA by Haven Kimmel.

It’s one of the very few books I’ve lifted to “You Betcha, I’ll Read It Again” status. I love it with every fiber of my being. It does three things to me simultaneously … laugh hysterically, break my heart thus turning me into a little puddle of sobbing Becky, and curse the day the writing bug bit me because I’ll never be Haven Kimmel.

Two …  I’d bring THE TAO OF POOH and THE TE OF PIGLET, by Benjamin Hoff

tao-of-poohte-of-piglet

because really, is there any other way to learn the Chinese philosophy of Taoism? No. No, there is not. Technically, you can find both books in one volume. Alas, I don’t own it. But if I’m only allowed one, I’d choose Piglet because I believe in the virtue of the small.

piglet-jpg

urban-dictionaryThree …  my URBAN DICTIONARY compiled by Aaron Peckham.  I would spend my incarceration memorizing every delicious word and then come out saying things like …

D’s been giving me heat ‘cause I slang bricks.

That concert was hellza cool!

Oooh! I love this song. Let me get my dance on while I lean back.

Yo, check it! Sista got Tyrese on mad lockdown again this weekend. Brotha won’t be able to hang.

And of course I’ll start calling everyone “holmes.”

Holla back at me with the three books you’d take to the joint with you.