12 Winters Blog

Men of Winter edits, more Solares and Morrison

Posted in June 2010 by Ted Morrissey on June 15, 2010

I’ve had the good fortune to have my novel Men of Winter edited by Cheryl Hampton for Punkin House Press. Her close attention to detail and, as such, to nuance have been most reassuring — reassuring, that is, that Men of Winter is in good hands.  I have attempted to make the narrative voice sound translated, as if English is not the novel’s original language; hence many of the sentence patterns are deliberately oddball. I think it’s fair to say that it took Cheryl a few pages to get the rhythm of what I was up to, but once she did, her editing was spot on, often times suggesting changes that were improvements but still in the proper “oddball” voice.  One of the issues we discussed, via emails, was the use of compound words, like “snowcountry” and “streetpeople.” We’ve been in agreement to go with the compound words in the final version of the novel, as the unusual compounds contribute to the voice’s oddity. We agreed on one exception, however: “dining room” for “diningroom.”  For some reason, to my eye at least, the GROOM part of diningroom seems to stand out, and it’s an unnecessary distraction. Overall the edits have been minor and few, and the final version of the manuscript should be finished very soon.

I’ve been reading more of Solares’s Yankee Invasion, and I very much admire the way that the author moves back and forth in time in the narrative. The novel has a first-person reflective narrator who is at times writing about the time just prior to and during the United States’ invasion of Mexico City in 1847, and other chapters are much later as the narrator discusses with his wife about the memoir he is writing, and why he’s writing it, and what he’s leaving out, etc. There is much factual history in the novel woven in with the totally fabricated characters and events. In fact, the book begins with a timeline of Mexico’s history from 1838 to 1848, and it ends with a glossary of biographies of people mentioned in the novel, from John Quincy Adams to Francisco Zarco.  There are also several maps of Mexico and the United States from the time period. In the novel’s introduction, Carlos Fuentes (who’s been one of my favorite authors since I read his novel The Old Gringo about a million years ago) writes, “Written from the precarious vantage point of the future immediate to the novel, yet written by an author, Solares, contemporaneous to ourselves, Yankee Invasion holds a tacit invitation to see and be seen as subjects of history passing through the sieve of fiction” (xiii, 2009 Scarletta Press edition). I’m about 90 pages into the novel and am enjoying it very much. It’s an excellent example of what critic Brian McHale, in Postmodernist Fiction, calls a “zone,” a space created by the author where the “real” and the “unreal” (even the fantastic in this case) co-exist.

I’ve also been reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye for my African-American authors class. I must say even though I’m an enormous fan of Morrison’s work, I’ve not been enjoying The Bluest Eye as much as I anticipated — perhaps because I’m ready to be in full summer mode and the novel is keeping me at least partially in the work-world. This is my last week to teach, though, as next Thursday is the last class session, which will be devoted to the students’ final projects.

In my creative life, besides working with Cheryl on the final publication draft of Men of Winter, I also finished retyping/revising my older novella Weeping with an Ancient God, and I’ve even been sending out the first chapter as a stand-alone piece, titled “Melvill in the Marquesas.” Plus I’ve been reading and editing the entire manuscript of the Authoress, my novel in progress, before continuing the drafting process. I’m nearly done with the 230 or so manuscript pages, and will be ready to write in earnest by the end of the week, I would think.


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