Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Reading and Writing (no 'Rithmatic)

Do you remember high school English class when the teacher would call on people at random to read sections of the latest assigned novel--Lord of the Flies; The Great Gatsby; Alas, Babylon; The Count of Monte Cristo? I always liked reading aloud. There was something about the rhythm of the words in my mouth that couldn't be replicated in a silent read. Something good and juicy and satisfying, like a Georgia peach picked right off the vine. (I've had those peaches; they make you look at other peaches with disdain. Truly, they will ruin you.)

I still love reading aloud, but now the “classroom” is my home, and the kids are mine. My daughter and I just started reading Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, the sequel to Inkheart. Let me tell you, Ms. Funke knows her juicy words. It's actually a challenge to read her prose aloud, because my tongue just wants to dwell in the sentences and lags behind my brain in awkward moments. Before I give you an example of these juicy morsels, let me tell you a little about these books, because they are truly inspired.

The Inks are about readers who can bring characters to life with their silver tongues. And I'm talking about Characters (note the capital "C")- some of whom are human and others who are fantastic beasts; some of whom want to return to their papery worlds and others who want to remain in the here-and-now; some of whom are very good and others who are purely evil. How's that for a unique hook? But that's not all.

The books are also about writers who fall into their own stories.

Which brings up some interesting questions: Would you want to fall into your own story? Who would you want to meet if you did? Who would you dread meeting? What scene would you fall into? What part of your story would be full of color, because you've drawn it that way with your words, and what part would be gray and waiting your hand?

There are no gray passages in the Inks. Here's a sample from the first page of Inkheart:

"Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain. Many years later, Meggie had only to close her eyes and she could still hear it, like tiny fingers tapping on the windowpane."

And a blip from the first page of Inkspell:

"The birds were falling silent in the trees, as if the approach of night had stifled their voices, and the nearby mountains were turning black. You might have thought the setting sun had singed them. Soon the whole world would be black as pitch, even the grass beneath Farid's bare feet, and the ghosts would begin to whisper..."

Okay, so the word “whisper” was used in each of those examples, but did you read the lines aloud? Try it. It's like poetry, the way those words roll around your tongue.

If I were an English teacher, I'd give everyone an assignment: Read your own writing aloud, feel how the words taste in your mouth. Do you like it? Do you want more? (Apply seasonings as needed.) And if you're looking for a pair of good fantasy reads, pick up Inkheart, and then Inkspell. In the words of Ms. Funke herself, "It will suck you up the way paper absorbs ink."


Blogger thea mcginnis said...

therese, an excellent reminder - for all of us - reader and/or writer - to slow down and listen to the beauty of the words, the language, the rhythm and the cadence that calls to our heart and makes us love the book more. beautiful essay

5:23 PM  

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