Portrait of the Writer as a Young Child

When I was in kindergarten, I penned and illustrated my first (and only) book. The protagonist was a butterfly and I vaguely remember crayons being involved in the production of said book. The teacher was so impressed that she laminated it to give to my parents. I’m pretty sure my mother still has it stashed away in her house–in safe keeping, I hope!

What got me thinking about this was a recent story I heard on NPR, “Small Book, Big Story: Bronte Manuscript Discovered.”

 Next month, the auction house Sotheby’s will sell one such manuscript produced by a 14-year-old Charlotte, estimated to fetch $315,000 to $475,000. The magazine is tiny, “half the size of a credit card,” Gabriel Heaton, deputy director of books and manuscripts at Sothebys, tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer, and designed to be the right size for the Bronte children’s toy soldiers. Its 19 pages are crammed with more than 4,000 words — short stories, news, even advertisements — discernible only by magnifying glass.

courtesy of Sotheby's

Granted, Charlotte had about 9 years up on me but her “childhood book” seems so much more crafted than my own (well-played, Bronte, well-played). But I digress. When I read about this and saw the photos, I wasn’t surprised. My opinion is that talented people show talent throughout their lives and in various forms.

I am curious to hear other people’s personal anecdotes about themselves or stories they’ve heard about famous writers, painters, etc.

The 50 Page Rule [redux]

So, I titled this post [redux] because of some timely events. I originally was going to scribble about how I have a hard time sticking with my 50 Page Rule. A few years ago, I half-way allowed myself to put down a book if I was unable to “get in to it” around page 50. I know, it’s a hard rule to follow but it allowed me to feel less guilty when I had to put a book aside instead of remaining with it till its final page.

Yesterday, I was on NPR’s website when I ran across a review of Roberto Bolaño‘s The Third Reich. I was thinking to myself whether I would attempt the book or not. I read 2666 in its entirety when it came out in English and a large portion of The Savage Detectives. I started with the latter because the synopsis sounded so interesting. In layman’s terms, I just couldn’t get in to it. When 2666 came out in English, there was a huge hoopla. It had such an intriguing premise (which is altogether too complicated to try to sum up in a sentence or two). The monster of a novel (912 pages according to Amazon) did have its really compelling portions that intensified the mystery (the part about the critics and especially, the part about the crimes), but ultimately, I was terribly disappointed.

When I read the previously mentioned review, I couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit interested. I briefly remembered when the Paris Review was publishing excerpts and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve always had an interest in World War II history and the research concerning my novel-in-progress is heavily saturated in historical events from Nazi Germany. So, I was torn between skipping it altogether based on my previous opinions of Bolaño’s fiction or just utilizing the 50 Page Rule. I had not come to a conclusion and was still on the fence about the whole thing.

BUT, I spent Thursday evening with a few of my writerly friends–one who is an editor at Words Without Borders. When I was in Europe in October, he had contacted me about writing book reviews for WWB because of my interest in translation. We played email tag for the next few weeks until last night. He has a galley copy of The Third Reich for me to review.

The 50 Page Rule is going to have to be benched for this book but hopefully, I won’t regret it. Third times a charm, right?