Friday, June 1, 2012

When Writers Read A Book

I read a small but fascinating book this week. The Buddha In The Attic by Julie Otsuka tells the story of Japanese picture brides in eight distinct sections. Unlike most novels, we have not one protagonist but many. We don't learn their names.The story of this group of women is told in first person plural. Ms. Otsuka writes in spare fashion that comes across like poetry. The synopsis on the inside front cover describes the writing as incantatory. It does seem formulaic in some respects, it does appear to be almost a magical spell type of chanting. It was written in a style which I have never seen before. It held my interest and i think it was as much the writing style as it was the story that made me want to keep reading.

When I finished the 129 page book, I felt great sympathy for what these Japanese women faced coming to a new country to marry a man who they knew only from a picture he'd sent. Often the picture was 20 years old or of someone else. They endured a terrible voyage, a wrenching from family, and great disappointment when they met their husbands. They submitted to a life of hard work, sex with little love, child bearing and rearing, and the stigma of being Japanese when their home country and the country they'd adopted went to war. 

But more than the story, I will remember the writing style, the lyrical phrasing, the poetic prose that appeared on each page. When a writer reads a book, she looks for more than a good story. She looks at the writing with a more critical eye than someone who has never written either a book or a short story. 

Whether you are only a reader or a writer who reads, you might want to try this one. I'd love to hear your views on it. 

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