Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Travel Writing Guest Reviewer

When I received an ARC from author David Ferry of Travel Writing I appreciated the cover for a few minutes before reading the first few pages.    I was intrigued that the main character had the same name, job, and hometown (Chicago) as the author.   It says 'novel' right on the cover so I knew I wasn't reading a memoir, but at first it sounded like a memoir.  It's not.

The first few pages dealt with the power of a make-believe story.  I automatically thought of Candleman, my own live-in storyteller and thought he would like to read this book.  When I suggested it he was willing and even anxious to read Travel Writing.  For the review on my blog, I interviewed him.  To read his original review check out Live And Learn.

Me:  Did the author capture your attention early in the book?
Candleman:  Ferry begins the book by telling a story to his High School students.  Four times in the opening two pages he points out to the kids that he is making the story up as he goes.  Even so, they are on the edge of the seats and demand to know how it turn’s out.  He clearly demonstrates to them that “that is why stories are so powerful.”   On the second page, I am hooked!

Me: I was quite taken with the cover.  The paint-by-number picture of a girl with only her eye painted intrigues me.  Does the cover correlate with the story?
Candleman:   The cover is drawn from an interesting quote from early in the book.  Ferry is spending time with a mentor, hoping to impress him with his writing.  His mentor critiques his work in these words, "I like what you are doing.  I really do.  I think you are sincere, and I think you are talented.  You haven't much to say, but you say it very well."

Ferry already knows it, he describes himself this way, "I was like that person you know who acquires a friend or a girl friend or a wife or even a child because someone says he should, who does and says all the right things, but who is only painting by numbers.

Actually, the eye is not painted on.  That portion is torn away revealing the real subject.  I think the tear represents the pain that brings the revelation of the meaning behind the motion. The narrative is about one who has spent much of life going through the motions, painting by numbers so to speak, with no understanding of reality or why anyone would triy to depict it.  He's trained to depict it in words, but is totally clueless as to what he is really looking at. The stories show us how gradually his shallow view of life gets torn away revealing truth behind the illusion.

Me:  Did you identify with the main character?
Candleman:  Yes, on several levels.  I too, aspire to be a writer, value a good story, have an uncertain future, am confused about my direction and am inexplicably compulsive.  While our stories are entirely different, our emotional circumstances match!

Me:  Why did Ferry write this book - what was the message he was attempting to make?  Did he succeed?
Candleman:  I think he wanted to show that there is a very fuzzy boundary between reality and imagination.  A story, even a “true” one may be true or it may not.  I think he wanted to show that we are writing our own stories, but in a very real way, our stories are also writing us.

Me:  Were you satisfied with how the book ended?
Candleman:  Yes, it was marvelous.  He finishes by telling us how his personal story was going to end, but you’re not sure if it will happen that way, or if it already has.  Again, is Ferry inventing the story, or is it inventing him.

Me:   What is something your really liked about Travel Writing?
Candleman:  I was interested in the way the author told several stories, all revolving around a central story.  It worked for me, because in the end it wasn’t what the stories were about, but rather who they were about, that mattered.  The collection of stories all resolved into a settled, understanding of the author’s self.  Something he lacked in the fragments and acquired in the whole.

Me:   Was there anything you did not like?
Candleman:  There was too much coarse language for my taste.  I don’t seek such company in life, nor do I in literature.  There is plenty of good stuff I’ll have a hard time getting to read to be crowding any of it out with trashy stuff.

Me:  Would you recommend this book?

Candleman:  Not really.  It wasn’t a waste of time for me, but I’m no better for having read it.  I do have a greater appreciation for the power of story, but I got 95% of that by page two.


Staci said...

I really enjoyed reading Candleman's thoughts on this one. I love the cover and would've picked this one up to investigate it further based on that alone. Thanks for the great review!!

Thoughts of Joy said...

How nice to "see" Candleman here at A Reader's Journal! I like his comment regarding coarse language, "I don't seek such company in life, nor do I in literature." I agree and try to do the same, but I find that very difficult and fail miserably. It's everywhere. :(