The internet is cool because - I wrote that post about some of my favourite books down there, and this morning had a comment from one of the authors - Tod Goldberg - author of the fabulous Living Dead Girl. How cool is that?
I read the book a couple of years ago and remember most the atmosphere of it; dark and golden. I don't have a copy, but I know it must have had a certain quality to it, because only That Kind of Book makes it onto my favourites list. The quality is - hard to define or explain, it's oblique and slanted, off centre and fresh. There's some fantastic books I wouldn't put on my list because they miss that quality - The shipping news, for example, is incredible, the writing's beautiful. But there's a kind of slant that particularly moves me that isn't there - the plot is somehow whole and complete, and I prefer things damaged and skewed, just so much.
Proulx's short stories have it, oh god, that woman writes so heartstoppingly well. In fact, short stories more often have it than novels. And poems often hit the right angle. It's a kind of careless grace, an ease of writing. Barbara Kingsolver's short stories, but not 'The Poisonwood Bible', though it's an incredible book.
I still can't explain the elusive Quality. Author's first books rarely have it - more often when they're older and have a thick back catalogue to lean against - when they throw out the little rough-hewn stories that are spare and beautiful and not fully explicable. When they've burned off the hunger and the words just fall out of them, like an outbreath. (Or seem to). When it comes to quantifying them, I've been trying to pin down the unpinnable for years now.
And this is why the internet is terrible - I had a friend who went to live in Japan who understood the Quality and we communicated daily for years. Long rambling wonderful letters, about love and books and islands that I would love to read again. Only they weren't letters, they were emails, and when my PC died they were lost forever.
Little miracles flare up in the ethernet and burn out quickly.