When I read words I love, I must highlight them. (Disclaimer and defender of my integrity: I do not highlight in library books.)
When I started reading The Aurora County All-Stars, by Deborah Wiles, my OHD hit me with a vengeance.
I grabbed my highlighter. (I have many - kept close by at all times.)
The first two chapters of that book blew me away. The writing was so beautiful. The scene - at the risk of cliche here - just achingly poignant. That old man dying! That boy sitting there next to him! (Note: No spoilers here - it happens in the first sentence.)
Here are some of the words I highlighted:
- He died at the simmering time just before daybreak. Crickets tucked themselves under rocks for the day. Blue jays chitter-chattered in the pines. High above the treetops, cirrus clouds wisped across a slate blue sky.
- All night long the June bugs had tap-tap-tapped against the glass panes at the open bedroom window, trying to buzz into Mr. Norwood Boyd's room and touch the lamplight.
- Mr. Norwood Boyd died a quiet death attended by sky, clouds, crickets, birds, bugs, snakes, and one human being: House Jackson.
- Swallow your toads early in the day, his mother used to say, and get the hardest things over with first. When he was six, his toads were easy to understand: Make your bed! Clean your room!...As he got older, toads got harder to swallow: Apologize! ... Tell the truth!
Now those passages are highlighter worthy!
But then, after the first two chapters - no more highlighting!
That's not because the rest of the book was bad. It certainly wasn't. But interestingly, it jumped from dark and sad (with all that beautiful, highlighter-worthy writing) to upbeat and comical in one big leap....
...from that old man dying to that cast of quirky characters (Finesse, Honey, a dog named Eudora Welty).
Maybe I was reading as a writer, but I found it fascinating how Wiles moved back and forth and in and out with the "tone" of the story. She managed to intermingle some rather dark stuff with some rather silly stuff. And she did it very successfully, I think.
Conclusion? I guess all our writing doesn't have to be highlighter-worthy, does it?
I guess some of it can be just good storytelling.