I am writing.
Not that long-ago inspired novel that would surely re-define the modern romance, nor that collection of emotionally-fired poems and essays smoldering with regional charm. Or other hyphenated things.
I am writing random things: pithy social network posts, lengthy blogposts that can be considered nothing more than musings. Snippets of poems. Snippets of snippets.
I am writing without first plotting out a trajectory, without considering grammar, or too deeply pondering such things as tone, typeface, or moral. I am without discipline or definite purpose, but I am writing.
Suddenly, it occurs to me that I have just finished reading a trilogy written by the renowned word weaver, Margaret Atwood, and that I should write a review. Oryx and Crake. The Year of the Flood. MaddAddam. I should do that.
Reviews are troublesome for me, though, so much like other writings that typically hold to some traditional format. I’m not very good with typically traditional formats. I don’t care for plot summaries or pointed recommendations. Perhaps it’s my own inability to produce imaginative content within the confines of expected form that makes me uneasy?
Perhaps that’s why I enjoy Atwood so much. She is not typical, not traditional, in my opinion. Atwood has the ability to write speculative fiction placed in worlds that are so horrific, ugly, and bizarre, characters so absurd, so comfortably unsympathetic, that if I were to attempt to outline MaddAddam in casual conversation, no sane lover of fiction would rush out to grab the nearest and newest copy. My description would only repel, or worse, be repellently comical.
There can be no justice served to one so brilliant as Margaret Atwood by attempting a real-world comparison to her characters, or to try to demonstrate logic behind the courses her characters take. The best approach might be to compare her body of work, not just the most recent speculative fiction, to those luscious tunes our minds capture by chance—from radio, from parties, from sophisticated commercial jingles, wherever.
I am certain many of you understand being so captivated by a song that you might know the beat by heart, each turn and break and bridge.
The first time you heard that song, you had known it your entire life. It made sense. It belonged. You’ve been able to identify it for a decade or longer, on the first note, but never felt compelled to ask why the artist chose to blend those lyrics with those notes; never wondered over what thunderous inspiration, what desperation, or miracle, might have brought the artist to such perfection. You just believe in the song. And you want to hear it again.
If a critic were to be so crass as to break down each element of the song, explain the science behind it, the not-so-subtly disguised human error that belongs to its creators, the fallacies proposed as magic within—if someone were to be so crass as to point out such things about that brilliant song, you might wish them stoned to death.
Atwood writes like that perfect song. She creates a melody so plausible, so naturally rhythmic, it must have been there all along. It belongs. I believe in it.
The MaddAddam trilogy is no different from the rest of her body of work, in this way. It has a rhythm that lends plausibility to its ugly, bizarre backdrop and absurd characters. MaddAddam is possible. And I am at once sickened and thrilled by the possibility.
The backdrop is, of course, a dystopian future that I hope never comes close to existing. But for the time that I was there, between Atwood’s rhythmic pages, it was a terrible and delightful home to which I belonged.
Thank you. Good night.
You may sing now.
I will write and sing.
One thought on “Writing Music”
Roz Morris @Roz_Morris
What an interesting way to review an unusual work while respecting its unique nature. I like your comparison to a song that simply works, belongs together, should be taken as an emotional whole instead of chopped into components or put into boxes. Like you, I value writers who create their own genre or class of fiction, who generate the new and reward us with something beautifully crafted and unforgettable.
We live in a time where writers are being told they must conform to strict parameters so that they fit with booksellers, publishers and algorithms, but this is in danger of stifling originality. However, readers and writers don’t care about this – they look for a deeper truth.