I want a month of muse

The only problem with the weekend was that it was only a weekend. I read Good Faith by Jane Smiley and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I liked both but didn’t love either, which got me thinking about the way in which I classify books.

This is how books break down in my head:

Category 1 – yuck. I couldn’t get past Chapter 3. I always give a book three chapters or thirty pages. If the author doesn’t hook me by then, the book goes back to the library.

Category 2 – meh. There was something in the book that kept me reading – a character or plot twist, f. ex. – but the whole story didn’t hang together for me. This is a very useful category because books like this help me understand where my own weaknesses as a writer are.

Category 3 – good enough. About 85% of what I read falls in this category. I kept reading because I was engaged in the characters and the story, I closed the book with a feeling of satisfaction. The author did her/his job and I will look for more that s/he has written. Usually there was one quality of the book that stood out for me. In Good Faith, it was the evocation of the early 1980’s, in Gilead, it was the language and voice that was so perfect for the story itself. But the book was not good enough to break into ….

… Category 4 – amazing. These are the books I rave about and buy multiple copies of for friends. These are the books that make me laugh out loud or weep. These are the books that take me away from this world and transport me into the world of the story – so much so that I lose track of time and get in trouble for it. Only a couple of books a year fall into this category. (Sometimes a year will go by without me reading a book that I feel is good enough for Category 4. That is depressing.)

In addition to reading, I worked on a couple picture book manuscripts and wrote in my journal (the old-fashioned one) for the first time in years. BH and I took a long walk up at Fort Ontario when the sun was shining. There is a small graveyard there where Revolutionary War soldiers are interred, and the body of a baby born while her father was posted to the fort. There was mist on the horizon. The line where the lake met the sky was blurred and lavender. Hunks of ice bumped against the shore. BH made the best batch of chili ever last night and we ate it while watching the March Madness selection show. Eight Big East teams!

If you live in the area and are looking for something to do tonight, my dad, Frank Halse, is giving a poetry reading at the Mexico Public Library at 6:30pm. He turns 79 in a couple weeks and he is still writing new poetry and giving public readings. I think that’s cool.

14 Replies to “I want a month of muse”

  1. Category 2 – . . . books like this help me understand where my own weaknesses as a writer are.

    It’s really cool that you’re getting something out of books you don’t quite like & you’re using them to tell you more about yourself. Could you possibly explain a little more how to do that? Like, are you constantly deconstructing books as you read them? Do their flaws remind you of things you yourself should work on? or something?

  2. What are your Category 4 books?

    I just read one last night — in fact, I started it before bed and stayed up til four hours before my alarm clock went off to finish it — Deliverance, by James Dickey. Totally not my genre, but totally unforgettable.

  3. Care to share…

    some of the titles you would put in Category 4, Laurie?

    I’ve been lurking for quite a while and just wanted to thank you for what you share here. I learn so much from hearing about other writers’ process.


  4. I used to force myself to finish a book, even if I was struggling to get through each page. At this time in my life, I’ve finally realized that “too many books, too little time” is all too true, and I don’t waste my time on those I don’t like. I don’t think I’ll ever finish Interview with the Vampire!

    I’d love to hear some of your Category 4 books.

  5. one of my dumb moments

    I nearly suggested that you read “Speak” if you’re lookinjg for a “Four” and then in the same second I remembered “oh duh…she wrote it.”

  6. Books

    Yeah, I catergrize books like that. Other people I know ask if I liked a book I just finished, and I’ll say something like, “Not really, but I like the way the interactions with the characters were written,” and they’re like, What!?! lol
    I hate having to force myself through books. I always give it a few chapters. I bought this book about two months ago because it sounded okay in the store, but when I started reading it at home, it was horrible! I usually don’t say a book is down-right horrible, but this one was. I took it back the next day. It makes me sad that they’re aren’t enough fours. Maybe I’ll write a four someday….

  7. Women’s history month!

    Ms. Laurie I am shocked that you have failed to mention that it’s women’s history month. In order to get everyone in the spirit here is a poem I had previously written.


    I lie on the floor frozen with fear when down my face trickles a single tear.

    I hear footsteps coming and my feet stay put although my brain tells me start running!.

    They say it’s time for you to put on your act oh those who believe it the brains they must lack!

    Oh how much longer must I go on with this charade?

    Oh how I long for someone to see pass the masquerade !

    When it’s all over I’m dragged back to my cell.

    Help me! help me! My broken spirit yells.

    As the injustice of it all comes over me like a wave

    I struggle for it is equality I crave

    By Jessica Hernandez

    A poem in the prospective of a prisoner of the woman’s rights movement.

    There’s a prompt you haven’t done you should ask for people to write poetry about women’s history month/women in history I bet it would be great!

  8. Good luck to your dad for his event.

    Hurrah for your ratings system! I have one as well.

    I read what you’d call a Category 4 today – A Certain Slant of Light. WOW.

  9. Good categories. I enjoyed the breakdown.

    And I also would relish a month of muse. I’d be able to get some serious writing done. You know, to put this swirling tornado of thoughts into Courier New.

  10. balm in gilead

    I don’t think so, given the war there. These days, the line would read,
    “there is a bomb in Gilead…”

    Frank Halse (Dad)

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