Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Conversing with the Barista about Books

Henry Plume and John Steppenwolf at the counter, Barista keeping coffee mugs full and listening to them talking about books . . .

Plume: . . . .trying to catch up on my reading, couldn't get a handle on it, so I've got a new idea - I'm putting all the books in bags

Barista: Plastic or cloth?

Plume: Cloth, thankyouverymuch, my little earth-conscious neo-hippie, but anyway, I'm putting in about five at a time, and then just trying to plow through all five, in a month.

Steppenwolf: Consecutively, or all at the same time?

Plume: Turns out a little of both. Started out one at a time, but then I couldn't find one one night and started it. That one was What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going by Damion Searls.

Steppenwolf: How was it?

Plume: Ah, really, only when you're in your twenties is stories about the bohemian lifestyle any interesting. First story starts out about a guy who wants to be a writer but's really just a London slacker. Smooth text, but the idea doesn't catch me, now the one I started first, The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West, now that one started out promising: 1918, wife of a British soldier, he comes home with shell-shock.

Steppenwolf: What they used to call PTSD . . .

Plume: Right, same thing, different terms for different times. My favourite phrase for it always was "Soldier's Heart"

Barista: Oh, my daughter's reading that book for her sixth grade class. She made me read it too, wonderful book, really strong, especially for a kid's book.

Plume: Yeah, read that one too - it's tough, but solid, and I think it's fairly historically accurate. Granted, the author admits that one guy couldn't have been in all those conflicts, but all the stories were from real experiences . . . but the Rebecca West, eh . . . let's just say it seems to be a great story, but something about the writing is just leaving me off.

Steppenwolf: So you like the writing of one but not the story, and the story of the other but not the writing.

Plume: Something like that, yeah.

Barista: Maybe one should have written the other and the other just gets left alone.

Steppenwolf: A literary mash-up?

Plume: Actually I was thinking that, especially about The Return of the Soldier. I would have like to have seen Virginia Woolf write that one.

Steppenwolf: Woolf! Ach!

Plume: I know, I know.

Barista: Who's Virginia Woolf?

Steppenwolf: Someone you should never be afraid of.

Plume: Someone you should never be forced to read - terrible, stream of consciousness crap . . .

Steppenwolf: Wrote To the Outhouse . . .

Plume: To the Lighthouse.

Steppenwolf: I know what she called it. I'm telling you what we called it when we were forced to read it sophomore year.

Plume: - but I was thinking, if she had actually had a story like West's, then maybe her style would have been able to do something with the story. Look: this story we've got the soldier himself who's mind is stuck fifteen years in the past, he thinks he still in love with this other girl, she's written to the wife saying I'm here trying to take care of him, the wife seems a bit stuck up, wants to love him, but is caught all up in what will the neighbors think? and then there's his cousin, who just loves him pure familial love, I mean, it's fantastic! One guy out of his mind, three women from different vantage points . . . Woolf's slipping inandout of thoughts would have been perfect for this, much better than To the Outhouse . . .

Steppenwolf: Ah! See? Catchy, isn't it?

Plume: I meant To the LIGHThouse!

Barista: Looks like a Freudian slip into the Stream of Consciousness.

Steppenwolf: I KNEW there was a reason why I liked you!

Barista: But maybe you should try it.

Plume: Try what?

Barista: Go ahead, re-write it. Rewrite West's novel in Woolf's style.

Plume: Wouldn't that be plagiarism? Of a sort?

Barista: Every hit song these days samples some other song.

Steppenwolf: Even art. Every exhibit is just found object collage or paint splattered over renditions of previous art. I say let's take it into the field of literature.

Plume: Some might say literature beat them to the punch . . .. only like five basic plots, everything's variations on a theme . . . .

Steppenwolf: You're thinking like an English major, start thinking like a writer.

Barista: Just start, and see what happens.

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