Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review - Travel Writing

I have seldom read a book whose first pages captivated me as much as this did. Peter Ferry describes himself in his High School Classroom telling a story to his students. Four times in the course of two pages of story he points out to the kids that he is making the story up as he goes along. Even knowing that, the kids are so intrigued and involved in the tale that they clamor to know what happens next. "....and that is why stories are so powerful," he teaches them - and me.

I love a good story. Travel Writing is a number of them. In and out of the stories Perry describes the life, troubles, obsessions, self recriminations, confusions of the writer. He tells his own story along with those he is making up. In so doing he discovers that he is making up his own story too and like his students, he can barely wait to discover what happens next.

I found the book to be a bit too crass for my personal taste, but I carried on, in this case, because I identified so completely with the protagonist. Our stories were completely dissimilar, but I too have been, lately, full of confusion, self recrimination, obsession and troubles. I found it cathartic to observe how he dealt with a life spinning off course on some inexplicable, seemingly ridiculous tangent. I related to the seeming inevitability of surprise in our lives. I've long held that life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. Peter Ferry helped me see that sometimes our real hopes, our real dreams, our real selves just cannot be restrained from emerging, no matter how hard we try to hide in the comfort of the "normal" compliant, acceptable lives we've created for ourselves.

Ferry is teaching his students to write. He admonishes them to write what they know. From his own experience he tells of a critique he received from a mentor, regarding his own writing. "I like what you're doing. I really do. I think you are sincere, and I think you are talented. You haven't much to say, but you say it very well." I related, as well, to this. A while back I wondered how Stefan Merrill Block could have written such a deep and well crafted novel as The Story of Forgetting at such a young age. Clearly the answer lies in writing about what he knew. Ferry knew a lot about writing and he new a great deal about uncertainty, doubt, and confusion. In his first novel Peter Ferry seems to have discovered that he had something to say, not so much in what he knew, but in what knew he didn't know.

Maybe we're making it up as we go, but our stories and their characters, like literature, tend to take on a life of their own and always lead us to unexpected ends.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...