Monastic hours

In the quiet dark then not so dark, I finished Toni Morrison’s novel, “God Help the Child”.

It’s the second morning in a row that Finn has gotten me out of bed before five. Yesterday, there were also dreams (first, the usual nightmare of a male intruder, this one around 7′ tall, then around 4:30, this one: Oprah offers me a job as her counsel. We kind of know each other, both having second homes in upstate New York. The offer is equal parts wonderful and absurd. I sputter, “but I’m not a member of the NY bar.” Then I tell her I’m working on a novel. She raises her eyebrows as if to say, ‘So? You can’t do both?’ Awake, I walk around wondering whether Dream-Oprah was a clueless benefactor or better able to see my possibilities).

Today, after the reluctant sliding of legs over the side of the bed, rummaging for slippers and socks, making coffee in the dark, I knew that the quiet would reward me.

It did.

Lots to love about the novel. Did not care for the thread of magic realism she inserted, but I never care for that much. Certainly, the story held together and drove me to its end. That matters to me more than it used to. I knew I would like it way more than the reviewer for The New York Times Book Review did. Here’s a beautiful paragraph (Adam is Booker’s murdered older brother):

Doesn’t that prose take your breath away?
I hope it warms up a little soon. I’m really sick of being cold.

10 thoughts on “Monastic hours

  1. Mo Crow

    ah re gritty realism rather than the magic kind… one of the most compelling & tough books I have ever read is Clockers by Richard Price 1992

    1. Mo Crow

      and here’s a wonderful article on fabulism by Melissa Goodridge;
      “… Fabulism is a curious way to explore and understand the ordinary. In Link’s story, the speaker spends her time hunting for this handbag. It’s black, made from dog-skin, with a clasp of bone that can open three different ways:

      If you opened it one way, then it was just a purse big enough to hold […] a pair of reading glasses and a library book and pillbox. If you opened the clasp another way, then you found yourself in a little boat floating at the mouth of a river. […] If you opened the handbag the wrong way, though, you found yourself in a dark land that smelled like blood. That’s where the guardian of the purse (the dog whose skin had been sewn into a purse) lived.

      Fabulism is a lot like this purse. It seems to belong to this world, but doesn’t follow all of the rules. It beckons you. It’s off. The more you explore it, the more mystery and power it has.”

      Like the question at the end of “The Life of Pi” which version of the story would you rather?
      & just wondering how are you going to write about the lives of the people working the indigo plantation without the protective magic of Voodoo?

      1. deemallon Post author

        There will be references to charms, a binary form of divination, relationships to the ancestors, some ritual around grave sites. In the 1740’s, I imagine that some of the Africans would have arrived fully trained in the Ifa tradition (from Yoruba). One of my characters is just such a priest (babalawo). Another is a proficient herbalist, but would not fit the description of “root lady”.

        Maybe we split hairs here, but there’s a big difference between references to a character’s spiritual practices that involve magic and using the fantastic descriptions that a narrator uses in stories featuring magic realism. In Morrison’s novel, for instance, the character Bride’s body is reverting to a prepubescent state — hair disappearing, breasts shrinking, etc. I found it distracting and unnecessary to convey her psychological transformation.

        1. Mo Crow

          good to hear, the priest will open doors for you but be careful, take a talisman with you and watch your back, Voodoo is powerful magic , I had a close call in the dream space in a hotel room in New Orleans and have great respect.

        2. deemallon Post author

          I would like to hear more. Also it occurs to me to commission you to make me a charm that I can wear? Perhaps continue in email?

  2. saskia

    seems like you made good use of the ‘extra’ hours, they are the best! Hope weather has warmed up by now. I do look forward to your book, Dee.

    1. deemallon Post author

      I love getting up that early so it’s strange I don’t do it more often voluntarily. By four or five tho? In the evening? I’m wiped. Today’s was absolutely glorious. Many happy trips to the field for fetch. And “the book” (why the quotes?) well you and I both can’t wait to see it in print.

  3. ravenandsparrow

    Wow. That Booker passage is wonderful. Thank you for sharing. Magic realism is hard to bring off well, I think. I take it as a signal to look past literalism…that common default setting… and tune into metaphor and dreams.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Isn’t so beautiful and vivid? As to magic realism, I think it’s a personal preference thing, like enjoying pecan butter crunch more than chocolate swirl. I’m not sure, exactly, why it served only as a distraction in this case — I’ll bet if I dissected it I’d come up with something a little more substantial than preference.


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