From Tracie: Two Stories About Lilith

Monday, September 02, 2013

Two Stories About Lilith

I have two stories to tell you about a book. That is a lot of stories considering I am only 20 pages into it. The book is Lilith by George MacDonald. It has been on my reading list for a long time. I've read other MacDonald books in the past, and enjoyed them, so I had high hopes for this one.

Story number 1.
I borrowed Lilith from the library using Katarina's Nook last week. I started at the first page which seemed to be a prologue, and immediately hated it. I set it down before finishing the page. The next day I tried it again, and the same thing happened. It did not appeal to me at all. The third day was another repeat.

This morning I was determined to get through it - even though it didn't feel like any George MacDonald book I had read before, even though it didn't even make clear sense to me, even though it seemed far removed from the description of the book, even though I thought he might be writing about bees who drive carriages and let their horses walk into their houses (I am not entirely sure if that interpretation is correct); I was going to keep going.

Four flicks of the nook pages later, I realized that it wasn't George MacDonald at all. It was a quote from Thoreau's Walking.

No wonder it felt so wrong.

Confession: If I had been holding a paper version of the book, I would have seen that it was a section from Thoreau, and I would have skipped right past it.
Sometimes you get tricked when you use an ereader, because you don't always get to see the page in its entirely until you have flipped to the next screen. It is possible ereaders are trying to mess with my brain because of the unkind things I have said about them in the past. I knew they weren't to be trusted.

Confession: I don't like Thoreau. I don't like most poetry, either.
This information shocked Thomas when I shared it with him this morning, but I am sure I can't be the only person who feels this way.

Story number 2.
Once I got past the Thoreau opening, I made it to the first page of George MacDonald. It was wonderful from the very first word. Then I reached this special moment on page 8,
"The house as well as the family was of some antiquity, but no description of it is necessary to the understanding of my narrative."
One of the most beautiful word groupings in the English language just happened there. Did you catch them? "No description of it is necessary to the understanding of my narrative." I was delighted.

Confession: I don't enjoy extremely descriptive writers.
Sometimes you read a book, and you look back at the end and realize that it would be a fourth shorter if there hadn't been so many detailed descriptions of what every single person wore (*cough* Robert Jordan fulfilling what I can only assume was his secret desire to be a fashion designer in every scene of Wheel of Time that takes place in Tel'aran'rhiod with ridiculously involved descriptions of every outfit change, of which there will be at least four in each scene. *cough*). You keep reading it, because you enjoy the story (and because all books must be finished), but by the fiftieth outfit change you find yourself wishing that every character would spend the rest of the book naked.

I immediately thought of a scene in the movie Stranger Than Fiction where Dennis Hoffman tells Will Ferrell:
"I've written papers on 'Little did he know.' I've taught classes on 'Little did he know.' I once gave an entire seminar based upon 'Little did he know.'"
This is how strongly I feel about the phrase "No description of it is necessary to the understanding of my narrative." I want someone to write a paper about it, teach a class on it, spend an entire seminar telling people they can omit descriptions that are not necessary to the understanding of the narrative. Please.

I am happy to report that after that wonderful declaration, MacDonald went on to only describe things that you needed to visualize (namely, the library, and who doesn't like to hear about a wonderful library), and not the entire house.

Lilith. First 20 pages (minus the Thoreau)? Complete win.

Now I have questions for you relating to each of my confessions:
  • Do you like super descriptive books?
  • Do you enjoy poetry? (If you do, tell me your favorite. Maybe you can convert me into a poetry lover.)
  • Do you ever skim over long pieces of poetry or songs written in books?


  1. I like some description...but I don't feel the need to know what each character in a story is wearing. My pet peeve: when two characters kiss, and the author feels the need to describe what the other person tastes like. WHY?

    I don't like poetry. Not one bit! And yep, I skim over those parts in books.

    1. Ewww! I agree. I never need to read what someone taste's like. Never.

      It is good to know I'm not alone in my poetry skimming.

  2. Curious - I take it there was no table of contents?

    1. There is, but it begins at chapter one, and the pages with the quote are not listed on it.

  3. I totally agree! I really don't like heavy descriptions and tend to do a lot of skimming!

  4. Do you like super descriptive books?
    No. I probably am happier with a slightly higher level of description than you, I'd guess, but I still don't need to hear about 20 irrelevant outfit changes over the course of a novel. ;)

    Do you enjoy poetry? (If you do, tell me your favorite. Maybe you can convert me into a poetry lover.)
    Oh goodness, so much yes. I don't think my favourites would make good conversions because I'm just not sure on what you like, and I'm not good at favourite anythings -- but here are three very different examples of poems I adore:

    Andrea Gibson's spoken word poem "Blue Blanket" (some SA references):

    Anchor - a piece of Found poetry with entwined artwork:

    Growing Up - free verse:

    (Alright, and another bonus spoken word poem, this time by Taylor Mali-- What Teachers Make : )

    Do you ever skim over long pieces of poetry or songs written in books?
    Despite my great love of poetry, absolutely yes unless the poem itself catches me. If I wanted to read a poem, I'd have gone to my treasure troves of beautiful poetry/poets! The exception is if the poem is particularly relevant/enjoyable.

  5. I confess that I don't really have a love of poetry - I just never grew on me.
    But I do usually read it - and songs - in books, because often I find they convey clues or important messages about the story as it unfolds.

  6. Poetry is not my deal...I have a hard time with it! I don't know why...I wish I understood it better!-Ashley

  7. No I do not like super descriptive books either. I love Emily Dickenson's poetry. I'm not a big poetry fan otherwise. yes I skim over long pieces of poetry or songs written in books. Lilith sounds like a great book. I'm gonna have to check it out.

  8. I love action in my books. Long descriptions seem to bog down my interest in reading a book.