Thursday, January 5, 2012

Comma Chameleon

A few days ago, I finished an urban fantasy series that had consumed me. Still, despite all reports of consumption, it took me forever to get through the five currently published novels. I'm slow. *shrugs*

So there I was on my Nook (my newest toy, most recent love, and late-night cuddle buddy), perusing Barnes & Noble's online store. I don't remember what led to it, but I decided to purchase an e-book copy of Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, which is the first in The Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy.

I remember years ago, reading The Witching Hour for the first time and falling consummately in love with the world Rice paints for us. Her prose is rich with a classic elegance that can only be earned by living and learning. She brings a setting to life in a way that most authors I read are wholly incapable of doing; and above all, Anne Rice makes me feel as though my person has been woven into the tale. I never feel like an outsider looking in. I'm always there, present.

It was late 2007 when I first stepped on Louisiana soil. I fell in lust instantly. It was mid-October, and the weather was balmy, the air humid, and everywhere I turned somebody or something was welcoming me to the pelican state.

The largest airport within driving distance of the city is Louis Armstrong, which is out in Kenner. Kenner is a suburb of New Orleans, divided to the crescent city only by the suburban city of Metairie (both suburbs are in Jefferson Parish). The drive east on I-10 was uneventful. Both Kenner and Metairie are fairly average as suburbs go. There were hotel chains, diners, strip mall, office buildings, and a few signs that promised classy ladies wearing little more than a garter. Though eventually, all of that gave way to the city itself. And I was hooked.

I exited the highway at Carrollton Avenue and headed toward the river. At the time, I think it called it "south", but eventually I would come to know better. A few blocks down, discount gas stations, and fast food joints that line Carrollton Avenue gave way to sprawling oaks, and stately antebellum mansions of yesteryear. A few days later as I was exploring the historic Garden District, and I was careful to pick up my feet lest my foot be caught on a piece of protruding concrete, sending me to the pavement; I was reminded of why I was there.

Somewhere, in the pages of Rice's novel, I had fallen in love with the setting more than I had fallen in love with the story itself. Rice never spared the setting in editing as so many authors often do. Early on in her works, it's easy to see that among Rowan and Michael and the expansive Mayfair clan, the setting is an integral character. Every crack in the pavement, every bougainvillea bush, and every weeping willow drew me back into that world that I'd fallen in love with. That feeling never left me in the three years I called the city home.

I could go on and on, but this post is lengthy enough as it is.

In the end, I'm happy to be re-reading The Witching Hour. It has simultaneously reminded me of a place that I'll always think of as home, and it has shown me how much I've grown. The first time I went through this trilogy, I was an aspiring writer. I had stories to tell and the burning desire to tell them well. Only, I didn't have the tools in order to do so.

This time, I am a writer. Last year I clocked nearly 300,000 words over an expanse of five bodies of work. I recently finished one piece and am nearly completion on another, while a few more sit discontentedly around the second act-- just waiting for continuation. I know more about the English language than I did during the first read; and this time I even have preferences and peculiarities about literature and language. One of those is my loyalty to the Oxford comma. I realize that stylistically its popularity has fallen by the wayside, but I love it. It's how I write and is easier on my brain.

So, I admit to being a little surprised at how few commas appear in Rice's gothic family epic. Anne Rice isn't wrong, not at all. She just has a different style of writing than I do. And no, I don't consider myself on par with her; though I do think I'm knowledgeable enough to garner an opinion.

Now I wonder how many other of my favorite books are stylistically different from what I prefer... hm.

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