Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

My book club is reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet this month.

This is a complex novel that begs for at least two readings. But while the story has a wonderfully exciting and complex plot, I was held up constantly in my first reading by the unusual mode of expression.

It is written largely in the present tense, with the actions of the weather and aspects of the natural world given as much importance, with active verbs, as people. eg, The incandescent sun is caged ...; the fire snaps .... leading to a vanGogh-type of scenario with every aspect in the picture as important as every other.

My second reading was much more enjoyable as I had the story, I didn't need to rush, and could enjoy the language at my leisure.

The use of active present tense verbs is so continuous and leads to such intensity of particularization of experience I finally did look for and find an indexed notebook to start noting down some of the examples most resonant to me. I've been promising myself for a while to start this practice, and have never been so inspired as I was with this novel.

It seems necessary to know more verbs, now that adverbs, -ly words, and adjectives are on the black list. Though I like creating new words, to re-introduce words gone out of use, and to use words from other languages, I had the feeling my writing was missing out by not having more verbs in my treasure bag of words.

What is your writing tool of the moment?

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