Sunday, October 18, 2009

Annie Dillard and Where The Wild Things Are (in that order)

When I wrote non-fiction, I wanted to be like Annie Dillard. I liked how hard she came down on me as I read. She wrote words with teeth. I felt like I learned a lot from reading her, taking the words apart to see how they worked. I learned to want the surprise and the sharpness, but it is clear I would have learned more from studying with her. Alexander Chee has an essay full of Annie Dillard's teacherly wisdom up at The Morning News(via Editorial Ass). Dillard's verb exercise(she got it from Samuel Johnson) is a bit of brilliance. I like that quote near the end about hard work beating talent alone. Also what she said about not having to be original all the time was pretty reassuring. And I also like the idea of accidents leading the way. I love taking, teaching and thinking about creative writing classes. I went to Chee's blog to to nose around. I found an article by Junot Diaz about the writing of his book(I heard an interview with J.D. on Meet the Writers once that I loved) and the words of Cory Doctorow about the author and Chee's own techniques of applying tarot cards to characters. I could learn much from Alexander Chee too and I never heard about him until today.

I went to see Where the Wild Things Are this weekend. I was struck Max's fear and his sweetness, the things that he doesn’t know but manages to learn, tiny little things that are soo small and almost uneventful and yet so essential. That families are hard and anger is hard and we flit so close to danger all the time, on the verge of something huge. It is a tiny miracle everyday that here we are doing what we do in the intact state that we are in. There is one moment in the film, almost unnoticeable when Max is with the wild things. He has just become king. He and the wild things run through the forest to the edge of a cliff and the view is beautiful and everybody is so happy and excited and they know it will be perfect now that Max is king, everything will be okay. Max stands with Carol at the edge and then from behind comes another wild thing, just as excited and happy. He knocks Max. Max stumbles and just catches himself before falling from the edge. He glances up in fear at this wild thing. The face of Max full of consternation. And there is that moment of disequilibrium, of everything not being okay. But it passes, Max lets it go, everyone is still happy. I personally thought it was a super successful expansion of the book, Eggars and Jonze have my approval, for whatever that is worth. My kids didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did.

As always (feeling a little like Max today),