When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.
A book is simply the container of an idea—like a bottle; what is inside the book is what matters.
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
It’s one of those classic books that you see in bookstores or intelligent people’s shelves, but you’ve probably never read it, or you did read it but that was for a school project which doesn’t really count. Whenever teachers make you read some book, you end up hating it. Take “The Scarlet Letter” for example. I had to read that in school and hated it. Man, was it ever boring to me. It felt like it was a million pages long. I don’t remember any of it either. I mean, I remember that its about a lady who commits adultery and she has the big, red “A” on her dress to shame her and all, but that’s it. But when I picked up “Catcher in the Rye” to read, I hadn’t even had to read it for school.
The book makes me sad as hell, it really does. Reminiscing and all. Makes me wish I had been a better brother growing up, not stuck my head so far up my ass or spent so many days away with friends and ignored my own family. It’s a really crumby feeling, it really is. I wasn’t ever quite as rebellious as Holden Caulfield, I mean, most people thought I was a straight-laced kind of kid, but no kid is like that, not on the inside. We all think thoughts we shouldn’t, try out curse words to see how they taste, ignore people that we come to wish we hadn’t. It’s part of growing up, inn’t it?
The swearing in this book is something awful too. Holden curses every other goddam sentence so that it sticks in your mind like something in your teeth that you aren’t sure when it will fall out of your mouth. Probably sometime innappropriate, because that’s how life is too. Always bad timing, you know. So I was reading this book on the subway, back and forth to classes at the university up north, feeling awfully sorry for regrets in my life. It was awful, it really was. Jisook could feel it on me. It didn’t help that I had just finished reading “The Bell Jar”, and that book isn’t a bowl full of daisies either, let me tell ya. So I kept feeling lousier and lousier, and then I’d have to go to class or come home and find my way out of this funk.
But I’m glad I read it. It’s written like a real person is telling you the story. I know a real person wrote the story, but I mean like Holden Caulfield was some old school buddy and he was telling you his story. It’s a story that should be read out loud too, but not too loud on account of all the swearing. Makes me feel like a teenager again, that’s for sure. But I was an awful teenager, I really was. I’ve always been too serious. I wish I could be happy-go-lucky like my brothers, but every time I try I just get serious all over again. So I’m either too serious or too focused to see the present happening. Those are my two big problems. Can’t see the forest for the trees, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because the trees are the forest and all, but you know what I mean.
Just make sure that when you read this that you have somewhere happy to go home to, or somebody to talk to that won’t make you sad as hell, because you’ll already be well on your way there. I mean, nothing terribly sad happens in the book, nobody dies or anything, but it gets awfully sentimental. All I’m saying is that if you had a good home life, you’ll be missing your family right quick.
Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old drag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
The Bell Jar was hard to read for several reasons. My grandfather suffered with Bi-polar Disorder earlier in his life. This caused him to act erratically, to drive to Florida without notice, and to require the use of shock treatments. My mother told me about the shock treatments. She only talked about it the one time. It made me see my grandfather as a conqueror, someone who can push past and not give up. And my grandmother. And my mother.
And I have struggled with my own devils, sitting on my shoulder, whispering inadequacies I had never opened my eyes to.
“The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it.”
Seattle was the darkest. I sat in my room for days, sleeping on the floor because I could not afford a bed. I rarely ate. I drank wine. I tried to forget about the outside world. I parked my car in front of the apartment and never drove it again. I left it in the same spot for seven months.
I once had a job in Korea, after my visa was denied. I worked at an academy, but the hours were too much. Seven days a week, teaching ten hours straight on Saturdays, sleeping only two hours a night and finally falling asleep on top of ungraded papers. That was when the panic attacks started. Nowadays I try to put those memories behind me.
“Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind snow, should numb and cover them. But they were a part of me. They were my landscape.”
The Bell Jar is about a girl sinking into an abyss, from which the only answer for her is suicide. She made many attempts, though none of them successful. She recovered. She married and had children. It is an easy thing to type, but it must be remembered that Sylvia Plath lived these experiences before transferring them to Esther Greenwood. And eventually, when she was a mere thirthy-years-old, one of her attempts was finally successful.
The life she could have led, the books written, the people loved: these I thought of while reading. And they are what I had to consider when my own bouts raged through. Clouds of darkness that never seemed to clear. But one day they did.
The sun always rises. Life goes on.
I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.
-William Carlos Williams
There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.