Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Are Writers Garbage Pickers?

white-male-2064827_1920When I arrived at the gym yesterday, I parked the car next to the Big 5 Sporting Goods store’s huge garbage containers, located in my gym’s parking area. I felt embarrassed for the man I saw lurking behind the bins. He wore a baseball cap and tried to appear invisible as he rummaged through the trash. The image of him prowling there stayed with me, and I couldn’t help but think of it as a metaphor for writers.

Writers are garbage pickers. They dig in the dregs of daily life, searching for stories they can embellish, selecting details from their family, friends, and acquaintance’s conversations/lives that illuminate the most elusive corners of our existence. I’m currently reading Joyce Carol Oates latest short story collection, Beautiful Days, and so many of the tales are anything but beautiful. In fact, one Amazon reviewer says, “The characters are unlike anyone that I know or would care to know. Very strange.”

Oates has clearly dug into the surface of our days to reveal what’s hidden from ordinary view. Her stories bring the reader close to situations and emotions we might otherwise avoid. There’s the teenager whose mother has kept him an emotional prisoner and refused to reveal his real father’s identity. When the father does turn up unexpectedly, it has a powerful and unexpected impact on the young man. Or the woman whose stepdaughter dies in a car crash. The stepmother feels the young woman’s death might have been avoided if the stepmother hadn’t ignored her phone call, made not long before the accident.

Each story confronts the reader with material we might prefer to toss in the garbage but refuses to be dismissed so easily. In other words, Oates (and many other writers) is exploring what the psychologist Carl Jung would call our shadow side, the parts of our personalities we’d prefer to ignore as they challenge our sense of who we are. But in order to have a truer picture of ourselves, we need to delve into that level. This is true both individually and collectively and reminds me of a radio drama I loved as a kid: “The Shadow.” The introduction went as follows: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” And then we were off on another adventure into that world. Oates is doing something similar in the way she examines her characters’ secret, interior lives, as are so are many serious writers.

Another work I’m currently reading, Sylvia Warner Townsend’s debut novel Lolly Willowes, reveals painful truths about urban and country life from her perspective early in the 20th Century when so many women were under their family’s (often male) domination. Lolly, in mid-life, finally breaks free from her brother and sister-in-law’s “care” and establishes a life for herself in a tiny country community where women seem more empowered. In scintillating prose, Sylvia Townsend Warner, a masterful garbage picker, unearths an unexpected aspect of female influence.

It’s true that garbage can get smelly and our impulse is to conceal it—to bury it underground. But it’s also true that certain kinds of garbage can be effective compost, fertilizing the earth. Something similar happens when writers aren’t afraid to dig into the emotions and actions that are a big part of being human. It’s where our most enlightening stories originate!

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8 Comments

  1. Graham

    Great blog, Lily. I’d never really thought about it this way before but I can see that writing is a form of shadow work. I like the bin-raker metaphor, and I see that, but I like to think of writing as releasing the genie out of the lamp.

  2. I typed the wrong name, then the right name, then the wrong name. Sorry, Lily. I fell down the stairs on my head recently.

  3. I agree with your claim for the riches for a writer in garbage.The same for gossip. Some of my friends scorn gossip and have negative feelings for my long-time (and long-ago) job as chief librarian for all the tabloids until 2001 when our research library and editorial offices were destroyed by the first anthrax attack. Virginia Woolf, said that gossip is our way of guessing about each other; as a result of what they said and wrote about each other, I know more about the Bloomsbury group and their loves and foibles as I did about the celebrities I researched in the ’80s and ’90s. Good topic, Susan.
    –Martha Moffett, winner, William Faulkner Prize for the short novel 2017.

  4. Susan Cole

    I have learned much from so called garbage. If writers did not point out the weaknesses of the human condition as well as the strengths, I would not read.

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