It is time once again for what will be the final update in my Year of Living (Actually Reading) Fiction. Those of you keeping score at home will recall I initially promised to read another two books this year. While I will be getting to those next year, I’ll also have more on the major lessons learned from this experiment in a post re-launching this experiment in January.
After taking on Faulkner’s legendary Sound and the Fury I took a decidedly different pivot in my next selection: Exodus by Leon Uris. Published in 1958, it is an epic novel about the creation of the state of Israel after World War II. Uris traveled thousands of miles throughout the Middle East interviewing people and researching places for the book, and this imbues it with a historical sense that engaged me through nearly 600 pages. There are many characters and the book spans half a century, but I will admit the writing is actually quite dry and does just enough to keep the narrative flowing. Here are two lessons I drew as a writer from this monumental work:
While I’m glad Uris was able to keep my interest in the tale, I would be hard-pressed to recommend this book to a contemporary audience. As I’ve already stated, the writing just isn’t that great, and Uris presents the story of the Jewish people in an extremely one-sided way. As just one glaring example, the Arab people making up the states surrounding Palestine are almost uniformly presented in a harsh light, being described as backward and even “dirty” people who only reached salvation through the Jewish farming methods being used in the deserts. While things like this absolutely did happen, anyone who studies history as I have ought to know that things are never as simple as people would like them to be. Especially given the context of recent events transpiring between the US and Israel, it is important to note that this is just one (fictional) version of events, and while the historical narrative is quite engaging, anyone who wishes to truly understand the history of this part of the world would do better starting with some non-fiction sources.
So that’s it for my first experimental year of fiction! I’ll be back next year with a post running down everything I have gained from this experience. But for now I’ll say this year was incredibly revelatory for me. I gained some new favorite books and learned a ton from the masters of the written word that have gone before me. I hope I was able to distill some of this into useable knowledge for other writers out there. I would also highly recommend this type of experiment for anyone who wishes to hone their craft.
Thanks to everyone who read my posts in this experiment throughout the year, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2017.
John Abraham-Watne is an author and freelance journalist located in the Twin Cities, where he lives with his wife Mary and their two cats. This blog is his attempt to catalog all the events that culminate a local writer's life.