Books to read this summer:
Meeks, by Julia Holmes. This, I'll bet, will still, come December, be my favorite debut novel of the year. It's an utterly charming and spooky dystopian story, with a great off-kilter somberness that's reminiscent of a silent slapstick movie, except that what also rushes off the page is an amazing evocation of city life--a scary city, to be sure, but full of pale, clean colors, civic murals, sweets (mints and cakes), and the tyranny of fashion. I almost swear I could taste and smell this place. An awesome book. Small Beer Press is still my favorite small publisher, incidentally.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell. This would be the most vivid historical novel I've read in a long time, perhaps ever. It's about the decline of the Dutch East India Company in Japan, told from a handful of different viewpoints, full of intrigue and heartbreak and all kinds of eye-popping detail. (Also, on a technical note, Mitchell does things with dialogue tags I don't think I've ever seen before--interesting.)
Suddenly I look up and half a year has passed. I'm still teaching myself to write a novel. Progress is being made. I'm about a quarter of the way done with my current project. Breakthroughs are happening at a sufficient rate to keep me forging ahead. I've been trying new techniques with each long work; with this one I'm writing everything longhand first. I have a prop of sorts, in that I "inherited" about 2,000 half sheets of blue paper from work which are the perfect size to carry around in a bundle and write on. The size is definitely ideal, and also, strangely, the blueness. It's nice to watch the novel grow in a physical form day by day, blue in its larval form, but eventually, as I type it into the computer, maturing to white. In the past few weeks I've also figured out how to continue revisions on the last large project I abandoned after writing a first draft. I guess it just needed more time to age. Maybe the year and a half I spent on it was not for naught but practice after all.