Tuesday, November 20, 2012


With "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!" set to be published this week (I expect to see it on Amazon by Friday, and it can be pre-ordered here directly more quickly) I have been thinking a lot about the source material of this little work. As I have said, it is based on a sentence-by-sentence exploration of Tolstoy's novella, "The Death of Ivan Ilych."

Now I've never really been a Russian Literature buff, bigger on American Lit actually. But there are a lot of folks whom I admire that rave over Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Turgenev and of course - Leo Tolstoy. So I figured that I had to read me some Tolstoy. My cocky, confident side thought I should tackle "War and Peace," but good common sense prevailed and I chose "Ivan Ilych" instead. It was the smallest Tolstoy in the bookstore!

Even though it was small, I found the concepts and the writing to be quite large. Ambitious, dense, huge. The sentence structure was amazing to me - and I wasn't certain if it was the translator or Leo that had made it so. I tend to give Tolstoy the credit.

No writing I have ever encountered has featured such convoluted run-on sentences within sentences within parenthetical phrases within asides and lists and more lists. Being almost dialogue-free, it practically scared me off. I was tentative of digging in, but it was ultimately well worth it. I felt it was almost precisely opposite of my usual way of writing. I tend to truncate. Eliminate articles, subjects, predicates.

So I started dissecting it clinically. Then it hit me. To take that structure, but me-ify it. It was some of the most tedious writing that I've yet encountered. But still I feel that I found my voice within it, and began to feel that rhythm strike me. It fit the tone of the story I wanted to tell, and it fit me. Fantastic exercise, and an incredible experience all the way around.

It isn't a perfect mirror of the original by any means, but then again it was never meant to be. Ultimately, it was meant to be book that I hope you will all want to read. I know it is the book I wanted to write.

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