Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wish I'd have listened to Grandmother

I am currently reading Five Sisters, The Langhornes of Virginia by James Fox. I will read anything, absolutely anything, so I love for friends to recommend or lend me books. I don't tend to read Nonfiction, however. Usually it feels too much like the school days where you were forced to "care" about some event in history by some boring retelling of facts and teacher requirement. I've never been a history buff. Just not my thing. Still, a friend passed it along, and I felt it my duty to try. Surprise... I really have enjoyed the book, and have been fascinated with Fox's ability to make it read like Fiction. I've even googled some events from the book to find out more details.

This book, like most that I like, got me thinking. My great-grandmother died two years ago at 93. She used to tell us the best stories about our family (one of her brothers was at tPearl Harbor when it was bombed). I never appreciated the unique gift of her stories or just getting to know her. She was a feisty old broad with a unique perspective and way of putting things. My favorite line of hers was to say the reason she hadn't died yet was because "Heaven won't take me and Hell doesn't want me running amuck."

As I was reading Five Sisters, an accounting by the great-grandson of one of the sisters, all I kept thinking about was the lost history of my grandmother and the people before her. As an author, I kick myself now for not soaking up every bit of information she possessed. Not only to know about my family, but for reference for a catalog of story ideas. Such a loss.

More about the book... I love the author's bluntness and apparent ability to control his natural bias when discussing his family's history. These sisters were all strong-willed and determined women in a time, post-Civil War Richmond, where men were held as the only importance. Yet, all of them were determined to a fault, particularly Nancy who would later become the first woman elected to British Parliament. One reviewer said, "fascinating hints abound, isolated episodes are brilliant, but repeated tragic blindness on the part of these five women... readily blots out all else."

I feel like everything I read lately brings me in some way back to my own novel. It is out for its last edit (both Mom and I picked trusted, literary confidants) and it's also in the hands of my middle sister with my baby sister and father having already read it and given various input. Tara came to me and was worried we couldn't publish it for fear of hurting people's feelings. Although quite auto-biographical, my mom and I certainly change things to protect the innocent (or guilty depending on the part in the novel), I can see this concern. That made James Fox's work more inspiring to me because he couldn't hide behind the legal jargon of, "all characters appearing in this book are ficticious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincedental." And, trust me, we will have that in big, bold letters on the first page of our novel!

Still, my sister got me worried enough to look on the internet to see how protective an author should be. I found a ridiculous 11/24/09 example of a jury ruling in favor of someone who claimed libel against an author for a fictional character. I couldn't find further information on where in the US or if this ruling was later overturned (don't know how it couldn't be). I was amazed. First of all, how would anyone ever prove such a thing!?! But, also, I assume if you are claiming libel, the character must have been ridiculed or negatively represented. Would someone really want to suggest he/she is that person, even if it is obvious?

Oh, the things I'm learning. In so many ways, youth is wasted on the young. I wish I had been a better sponge when my brain would have actually retained all the information to make me a better author! To my friends, please keep recommending books. I'm determined to be open-minded and learn no matter how painful the process is at times.


Dana & Keith Newbrough said...

I agree! I wish I would have recorded some of those conversations with Great Grandma and Grandma or just listened better. I wish the youth overall cared more about those stories. I find I love them now as an adult. Though, as an adult I cling to memories because I realize now how fast things go and how everything changes - hence my dedication to the blog since the birth of Samantha. As for your book - I wouldn't worry about all that - it is not cruel or derogatory towards anyone and is beautifully written. NOW GET IT PUBLISHED ALREADY! Love and miss you.

Bach said...

We're working on it. I think it will be before the end of the year! We still need help with the cover, so we'll chat with you about that this summer. Plus, I want your help with this blog. Love you!