12.27.2006

HH Com 474

Lookit-- my wife Olga says you learn on your skin and it’s true-- life has inflicted chastisement on my back with the rigor that a dullard requires. An Impressionable Age is about easy lessons I learned the hard way when, as a 20-year-old teacher at a private school for emotionally disturbed inner city kids, I become involved in something bigger and nobler than anything that came after. It ended two years later when I raised myself too high. I defended what was mine without calculating the price my skin would have to pay and men wearing expensive cologne and custom-tailored suits, big men whose obituaries would appear in The New York Times, took it all away from me.

I worked hard at inventing myself as a man I came to like, only to have to tear down my work and start over, but this isn’t a coming-of-ager. I was young for my age, but tender years and naïveté didn’t have a lot to do with the choices I made; they just make the sweet parts sweeter and the low parts tougher.

I open with the Cute Meet by knocking on a door—the wrong door—and end by closing another door. Valerie Soroko is behind both doors, but that knock is the inciting moment of my life. The spawning instinct ran me during my Valerie years and she’ll be the most important person in my life for the remainder of my youth, though this isn’t a romance, either.


There's an energy and freshness of voice that makes my ears perk up here.
There's certainly a sense of conflict, although no specifics.

This certainly isn't the "usual" form, but it works for me.

33 comments:

Saundra Mitchell said...

If author intends to use this cheerful hook-not hook in real querying endeavors, may I respectfully suggest that it's "Meet Cute", not "Cute Meet"?

Sincerely,
Your Deranged Screenwriter

Luc2 said...

Not my taste, but I can understand why MS picked this. And she's right about the energy and freshness.
Somehow, the lack of specifics make this hook stronger, in my opinion ("...though this isn't a romance either"!?)
Nicely done, author.

Manic Mom said...

I'm intrigued.

jamiehall said...

I found the sentence structures in the begining part of the hook convoluted and hard to follow.

Novelust said...

There's a style, but I think some of the sentences could benefit from shortening and pruning.

I also would like to know exactly what the conflict is in this book. I've read 'Me Against the Fat Cats' before. What's the issue? (Tell me Valerie isn't a student he's dating - gah.)

desert snarkling said...

Feels a bit incoherent to me, though if that energy is in the actual writing as well, of course, it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love this! I adore first person stories with a strong voice. I am especially enamored by a character/narrator that spends time explaining what or why he is telling the story.

Keep going with this, and good luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking this is one has great potential. I'd read on.

Virginia Miss said...

Wow, great voice. I love "Lookit-- my wife Olga says you learn on your skin and it’s true--"

What an intriguing opening, so dense with atmosphere and character.

and this part flows so well:

It ended two years later when I raised myself too high. I defended what was mine without calculating the price my skin would have to pay and men wearing expensive cologne and custom-tailored suits, big men whose obituaries would appear in The New York Times, took it all away from me."

Author, your writing is powerful. I hope we get to read some pages on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I've only commented on a couple so far, this one pulled me to it.

I love the writing here. Not the XYZ of the hook, explained and expected by Miss Snark, but it works well, with a fresh and compelling voice.

I'd read this.

ObiDonWan said...

Nice voice indeed, but somehow reminiscent, also, of the "tough guy" detective stories of Chandler, etc.

Anonymous said...

I guess I just don't get it, because this one gets a wtf from me.

Laura K said...

I guess I am the only one who really can't stand this hook. Maybe if I could see it in the context of a query letter, I would think it was great. But here...well...I can't tell what it is. Is it a first page? Is it the author's description of his own life? Because the first two sentences lead me to believe that it's a (memoir?) about the author's own life and if it is, I really don't understand the storyline at all.

blaironaleash said...

Several hundred kilometres too cute for me to buy it as is, but there's talent in there anyhow. Needs an editor to knock the 'cute' right out of it. My personal opinion.

skybluepinkrose said...

Arresting beginning, but after that I don't get it. "Bigger and nobler than anything that came after"? "Raised myself too high"? "Defended what was mine"? What does all this mean, specifically? "Worked hard at inventing myself as a man"? You tell us this isn't a coming of age story, or a romance. Tell us what it is, instead of what it's not. I'm pretty close to wtf here too.

One other question, how did you get to be a teacher at age 20? Most education students need 5 years of college these days just to get the requirements in. If you were a teacher in the days when only a two-year degree was required, is this historical? Is this a memoir?

jbtgkmpz --sheesh, do they have to be this long?

BernardL said...

I agree with Laura K. I don't see why this didn't get a wtf; but hey, good luck with it just the same.

Anonymous said...

Sounds a great deal like one of my favorite novels, "Emma Who Saved My Life", by Wilton Barnhardt. Like that author, this one shows a major disregard for punctuation and grammar. I was able to overlook that in the Barnhardt book (with difficulty), but a few people I passed it on to passed on it for that reason.

The conflict and resolution sounds different, but the era of life being dominated by a woman the author doesn't marry is very similar.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't follow this and I thought it sounded strangely like that guy Meisha on The Rejecter's blog.

Just not my cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

This has too much of a "how many ways can I say the same introduction" feel. If the book kept up with the voice the same as this, I would not read it, but if it became terser and arrived at actual elements of the story quickly enough to get past this early repetition, I might give it a chance.

Anonymous said...

This didn't do it for me. The lofty incomprehensibility tripped all my "literary pretensions" alarms.

Anonymous said...

This made very little sense to me.

Southern Writer said...

What does "learn on your skin" mean? I do like the voice, but couldn't make sense of the writing.

Anon #5, I picked up Emma Who Saved My Life at a library sale, intrigued by the title. I didn't make it through five pages. For unusual punctuation done well, try Evening by Susan Minot.

I Said said...

A good voice maybe. But as one anonymous noted, "This has too much of a 'how many ways can I say the same introduction' feel."

Eye catching because it's different is one thing, and that's certainly understandable when an agent sees the same wording and form over and over again as we've seen here.

But there has to be something to the story (and it sounds like there might be something here, and I'd like to think that the author needs to show that by enticing with facts rather than smoke and mirrors.

MWT said...

Yeah, I'm one of those that got lost halfway through the first sentence. "Life has inflicted chastisement on my back with the rigor that a dullard requires" means what exactly? He was a whipping boy? If so, why not just say that directly without all the big words?

Reading on past that, it didn't get any better. "I became involved in something big and noble. It ended two years later." What something big and noble??

The next part seems to say something about powerful men taking something important away from you, that you defended in vain? What was taken away?

etc.

Basically, it takes me too much effort to decipher the meaning out of the writing. Therefore I stop reading. It is the writer's task to make him/herself clear - not the reader's to figure it out.

But apparently a lot of other people groked it, so I guess it must be working for someone.

A Paperback Writer said...

I liked the voice, too, but I couldn't understand what the voice was saying. I'm really lost with whatever the plot is, even after reading the hook 3 times.
I hope the 750 words will clear things up for me.

Anonymous said...

I know one quality of a good writer is the ability to solidly tell a story without laying out each tiny detail for the reader. But this story would have to come bundled with a legend *and* a map for me to slog through more than one page.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think we're being Snark-scammed on this one. This so-called hook has ~everything~ that Miss Snark hates: high-flying hyperbole, lack of defined conflict, English as Second Language by way of Babelfish, painful cliches, and so on. Energy, my poodle-chewed left slipper; I think this is Miss Snark checking if Snarklings will admire the Emperor's new clothes based only on her vague approval of his fashion sense. Glad to see that many have eyes of their own.

Anonymous said...

Scam or not, it has a certain romantic intrigue . . .

clueless author

Anonymous said...

Uh ... this is where I sit down and reflect that there are levels of "literary" that just make me say "wtf?" I have little or no idea what this hook just said.

Sorry, author.

xiqay said...

I liked this. I can't say why, but I like th voice, the speaker, and I want to keep reading.

Glad that MS gave this the thumb's up.

xiqay again said...

I'm one of the few who said I like this--and I mean it. And I've said I didn't like a bunch that MS selected, and I've liked some she dissed.

But now that someone has mentioned Babelfish, I have to laugh, because it does have that sound to it, too!

But no, I don't think Babelfish would come out with "lookit." So I think it's real.

I like it because I hear this speaker so clearly, as if he's in front of me telling his story, and I'm intrigued.

writtenwyrdd said...

It's probably a character flaw on my part, but I didn't get this at all. In fact, I really loathed it. Writing like this is what people who sneer at literary writing must be referring to.

Twill said...

I don't remember the exact line from Nemo's dad - the line where the little turtle is telling him and Dory how to exit the slipstream, using a bunch of slang, and he's like, "It's almost like he's speaking to me..."