8.31.2005

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer #35



First, you had to make it over the nine-foot metal fence with its sharp finials. Then you had to jump past the jungle of honeysuckle vines that was so dense that it swallowed blue jays and carpenter bees, and small children could get lost in it and not be able to find their way out until they were teenagers. Then you had to walk through the lavender and the nasturtiums and the anise hyssop and the chicory until finally, finally, at the back of the Waverleys' yard you could see the old apple tree, cranky but mostly self-sufficient, like an elderly house cat. If you could manage to get to the tree and steal an apple before someone saw you, you still had to make your way past the flowers and the honeysuckle and the over the fence again. But then you could eat your apple at your leisure.

Why go through all of this? Because if you ate an apple from the tree in the Waverleys back yard, you'd see what the biggest event in your life would be. Local legend had it that, fifty years ago, Seth Bagwell saw himself making the winning home run the first and only time Bascom High made to the North Carolina state championship. And Janice Ramsey said she saw her wedding day. Junior Martin claimed he saw the time he was skinny dipping in Lunsford's reservoir and a bear chased him out of the water and right into old Mrs. Norton's yard. Though she'd never eaten a Waverley apple, this was probably the biggest event in Mrs. Norton's life, as she had been married sixty years to a fundamentalist and had never seen a naked man in the daytime before.

The irony was that the Waverleys themselves were all born with a severe dislike of apples, thus the old saying that Waverleys knew where to find the truth, they just couldn't stomach it.



This violates every rule I've been yapping about...and it's great. First, the second person "you" ..shades of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City. Second, nothing really happens, and technically it's all backstory...and it's great.

Notice the wry humor, the telling details, the crisp pace. Even the long sentences work.

I'd read on for sure.

13 comments:

Ric said...

It's nice to see that the rules can be broken - if the piece is this good.

Wonderful.

Follow the muse, fellow writers. Magic can happen.

Laura Lemm said...

This one hooked me too. I'm intrigued. I'm betting a skillful exception to the rules, like this one, is something that surprises an agent -- and we all know agents (Miss Snark in particular) like to be pleasantly surprised.

Rhonda said...

I agree - this entry hooked me fast. I'd read more, too!

ps - I just discovered this blog a couple of days ago, and I'm already a rabid fan - I keep checking here every hour or so for updates. Thank you!

Bernita said...

apple tree - "like an elderly house cat" is pure gold.

Chelsea said...

This is great. When you started in about what the apples actually do, I got chills. Reminds me a little of Big Fish. I'd definitely keep reading, too.

And rule breakers rock.

Molly said...

...thus the old saying that Waverleys knew where to find the truth, they just couldn't stomach it.

Love this.

Anonymous said...

Great! Is this book complete? You should send it out ASAP! This had a STAND BY ME vibe... Love to know where it is going.

Sar said...

While it would have been fun to be snarkbait, I have to admit this is better. xoxo, Miss Snark. And thanks for the encouragment, everyone. I loved Big Fish, chelsea. Something like that is not just writing, it's storytelling. Love Alice Hoffman's books, too.

sar said...

It's a partial, anon. Thanks for the cheer. I completed another southern magical realism book before this one, same tone. Sent it around. No interest. It's a tricky sell. Sqaure peg, round hole.

Or maybe it just sucked...;-)

Anonymous said...

I loved this, too. I wanted to keep reading.

Good luck to the author.

Anonymous said...

This is not something I'd normally read, and I usually don't care for lots of narrative in big chunks, but I ADORED it. Very well done!

Maeve said...

Fantastic!

I love the wonder; the breathless, in the moment, child-like point of view.

Shalanna Collins said...

This one's really good, like an old-fashioned "book" book. And we know as soon as we read this that what the next person who climbs up the tree is going to "see" is a bad thing, a bad destiny, like his father killing his little brother, or the school bus going over the cliff. . . .

The opening is the traditional sweeping opening shot, and I expect it to focus down in on the person who is about to climb the tree in the next paragraph, so it's not really "backstory" or what-have-you, but a brief hooky setup. I mean, your next line is, "Danky Parker lifted her foot to the first branch" or something. That is great.

I don't agree that nothing happens, as we're aware that something bad is about to happen. Still, if the next sentence is NOT the present action, then you burst our bubble and there's a problem.

If you finish this, come by my livejournal and we'll schmooze about where you should send it (if we can't figure out who Miss Snark is.) There are still people wanting magical realism, Southern gothic, and literary fiction. More than just me, I mean.