Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Has Seen the Wind

The first time I picked up W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind I was in eleventh grade, and was dreading it. I needed to read it if I was going to pass the test the next day. My lack of enthusiasm came more from my English teacher than anything else. She was an over analyzer. She killed To Kill a Mockingbird for me, by the endless symbolism I couldn't see.

But with Who Has Seen the Wind I sat down and began read. Six hours later I was done. I can even remember being curled up on my dad's chair , turning the pages and occasionally sending my mum dirty looks when she asked me questions like "Have you done your homework?"

I'm not sure where that instant love came, and even after reading it again, slower this time, over the past month, I still can't place my finger on it. A literary novel is not normally my type of reading. I much prefer romance, mainly because I like a tear-jerker as long as it has a happy ending.

Mitchell bounces around between points of view, although Brian remains the central character. And while I still wish he'd given more from Brian's father just before he died, he more than made up for it with Brian's grandmother's last days. Her constant need to hear the world, the wind while she prepared to die, was heartbreakingly shut down by her daughter's desire to keep the window closed in what I see as a desperate attempt to make her mother want to keep going.

So many times, I've read that writers try to emulate their favorite authors, but for me the difference between Mitchell and myself is what appeals to me. He is description heavy, uses dialects I sometimes had to reread, and allows the reader into the minds of multiple characters.

I had originally started reading this book again to do a book review on it, but I've since decided that reviewing isn't what I need as a writer. It's published and I need to learn from what Mitchell did that worked.

The way I see it, he set out to give us a picture of life on the prairies on the 1930's. He captures the simplicity of the people, while at the same time showing how complicated their love and prejudices are. He shows how a young boy faces death, the grief of losing his dog, the emptiness when his father suddenly dies and the disbelief that his grandmother has finally passed.

As for myself, I'm going to take a page from Mitchell's book and focus on the little details. I've always had difficulty with setting, so I'm going to go back and see how I can develop this in some of my own pieces.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Sounds like an excellent work. Anything that can push us forward, to compel us to improve our own craft, is a gift to be treasured. Thanks for sharing!