Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “fiction”

Reading Round Up: October

The ability of freely reading after a long day of teaching and grading becomes an increasing struggle. Books are still a go to for defragmenting my brain, yet I find myself falling asleep way too soon as I relax while reading. It’s taking sooo much longer to get through my TBR stack. Sundays are becoming my reading days. And napping days. I do a bit of both.

Here are October’s highlights:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Realistic slice of how one neighborhood copes with diversity.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Overall, a thoughtful contemplation about what to do when the realization that life might be shorter than initially expected. While the foreign names and places were sometimes difficult to keep straight, the challenge of absorbing deep truths proved worthwhile.

NOTE: As much as I appreciate Jeremy Irons, I found the film adaptation so different from the novel I had to resort to my “the movie is the movie and the book is the book” philosophy. The book, of course, is so much better.

  • Reading Goal Update

Though my usual reading time is cut almost in half with my attention diverted to school again, I’ve managed to read past my yearly Goodreads goal of 101 books, and I am now at 121 titles for the year. Should I reach for 135 like I have previously? Ooh, that might be a challenge to consider…

The Morphing of the Omni Narrator

Right now we are toughing out poetry with my freshmen. *sigh* “We study poetry because oral storytelling came before the written language came into existence, plus many of the elements we study in poetry exist in fiction–you know, like imagery, diction, syntax, metaphors, analogies–so get to know poetry and you’ll understand and enjoy fiction that much more.”  And the question? (Jeopardy music, please)

Why do we study poetry?

Returning to the anticipated second quarter…(quick, quick, I’m losing them)

Once I get to short stories in the curriculum it’s pretty easy sailing, since my students are versed in plot, characters, setting, and such. Theme sometimes throws them; however, point-of-view gets them pondering. For instance, trying to explain the omniscient narrator is tricky these days. Back when, I used to say, “The Omniscient narrator is a lot like God–you know, everywhere and knowing everything about everybody.” I’m getting less comfortable about using that analogy in such a forthright manner.  I still believe it’s a valid analogy, yet don’t want to offend any of my students.  Let alone get the ACLU or other NSA types coming after me.

Cover of "The Long Winter"

Cover of The Long Winter

Another problem with trying to explain the omniscient narrator is that the old-fashioned version of the narrator filling into the details has changed into something quite different. For instance, I recently reread The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (don’t snicker, it’s a great read, besides it’s for research–really) and Wilder includes in the story what’s happening to the town’s people and to Almanzo and Cap who are all caught up in a grueling blizzard, in an inclusive fluid manner.  I rarely come across this type of narrative style today. As Bob Dylan once said, “Times they are achanging.”

In the last few years I have noticed a trend where the omni narrative is now designated as separate chapters.  This at first proved quite annoying because the point-of-view kept changing. One chapter would be one character, the next a completely different one.  I felt like I was juggling characters to the point of wanting to run an Excel sheet to keep it all straight.

The last few novels I’ve read have run this narrative style, and every new book I’m pulling from my suggestion list and review newspapers seem to be pandering this new style. I keep checking them out though.  I’m either getting used to this new kaleidoscopic style of story-telling or I’m so starved to read I’m willing to put up with it.

Here are some examples of recent titles with the switch-hit character changing technique. Enjoyable reads all, but fret and nuisance, doesn’t anyone write in the old-time omni narrative style anymore?



















Any thoughts, Book Boosters?

Paper Angels

Paper Angels by Billy Coffey

Not everyone who wishes on a star gets an angel.  Andy Sommerville does though.  Childhood tragedy has Andy wishing, praying underneath the stars for an angel to come and watch over him.  When the star winks, The Old Man appears, and stays with Andy throughout his life.  As Andy matures into adulthood he begins to view The Old Man as a blessing and a curse, since no one else can see him but Andy, and people, especially prospective girlfriends aren’t always receptive and open to men who talk to themselves.  The Old Man stays with Andy up until he needs him most.  A senseless crime puts Andy in the hospital and Andy struggles with the aftermath of the tragedy.  He can’t believe The Old Man is leaving him, yet he says God has sent Elizabeth to take his place.  Can Elizabeth help Andy sort out his life?  Will she have the answers to his questions?

Ambiguity.  There is something about a story that leaves us wondering, that makes it become a standout.  Think back to your high school English class and when I drop “The Most Dangerous Game,” “The Sound of Thunder,” “The Interlopers,” and of course, “The Lady or the Tiger,” into your memory chute, you know exactly what I am talking about.  Billy Coffey stretches out Andy’s story, and leaves the reader blinking and thinking a bit at the end, wondering if the ending is really what it is supposed to be.  As for me, I’m content to believe there are angels, aren’t you?

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