Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Wired by Martha Randolph Carr

WiredWired by Martha Randolph Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My experience reading Martha Randolph Carr's Wired reminds me of leaning against a post in the MoMA a few years ago and staring at Van Gogh's Olive Trees.  The subtle variations of stroke, color, and layer kept me glued.  My eye traced each undulating curve and zoomed in and out from foreground to horizon.  I experienced the same trance as I read Wired.  I'm not necessarily calling Carr "Van Gogh" or Wired the Olive Trees. But am I calling Carr an artist and I am saying Wired is a piece of art.

The reaction I felt standing and looking at the Olive Trees and sitting and reading Wired were, in this case, similar: "I can't teach that. I can't do that. I admire that."

I didn't want to walk away from that singular painting in a museum full of painted, sculpted, filmed, and photographed life and emotion. Only a few feet away were paintings my some of my personal favorites (Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock), yet I couldn't walk away from the Olive Trees.

I teach a creative writing course to 8th graders and over the past few years I've found myself reading books as a writer as much as a reader. I can provide a list of techniques with Carr used in Wired. I can take an excerpt and show it to my students as strong examples of setting...or suspense...or showing vs. telling...or text as camera...or indirect dialogue...or symbolism and foreshadowing...

I can show them these things. I can tell them these tools exist as much as any art teacher can show a student the colors Vermillion, Paris Green, Iris, and Eton Blue right out of the tube. An art teacher can demonstrate with a palette knife that artists blend colors according to their eye and imagination and purpose. But, as a painter, just knowing the tools or techniques doesn't make what you paint the Olive Trees.

Nor does knowing the tools of writing make what you produce another Wired.

But budding writers should read Wired--if you can read it as a reader, then do it. But if you are a writer and can't help but read something as a writer then this is one of those books you should read. Not to instruct, but to have something you can't walk away from because of the talent and see the tools we all study and try to employ in our own writing.

During a winter break in the 1980s I visited the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and was awed by what I found. Immediately, I was on a singular mission to find art stores supplying sandstone and carving tools. When I emptied my wallet and bought everything I needed (without ever taking a class in sculpting and not having the benefit of the internet as it was not in the public consciousness yet) I set to work as a sculptor in the back of my parents storage area-- pings, grinds, and scrapes along with chip-chip-chip and tap-tap-tap fell from the back room over the course of several days. I learned as I went.

My dad's friend jokingly called to me "DaVinch! Grab me a beer!" several times throughout the weekend. My hunched over body, sculpting supplies, and thousands of fragments of dust and stone blocked the beer fridge.

I produced nothing until at the very end of several very long days of experimenting--an accident occurred. A small chunk of stone fell in the raw shape of a heart. I left the rest of the mutilated block and filed and sanded and polished and made a heart about the size of your thumb out of a block of stone which was originally size of your head and shoulders.

I used the tools without any training, and didn't really produce anything but an accident. I find that happens a lot in writing classes. So many young writers come to me with a love of writing and reading and write and read with freedom and love. Then we teach them that tools exist and the writing can often go to pot. The tools get in the way.

Martha Randolph Carr is an artist and Wired demonstrates that she knows how to use the tools...with subtle strokes, colors, and layers.
Tour Notes: Enter to win 1 of 3 free paperback copies of this novel on the official Wired blog tour page. The winner of the give-away will be announced on Wednesday, October 26 – be sure to enter before then! Just can't wait to read Wired? Pick up your copy in the Kindle, Nook, or iTunes stores or visit Smashwords with the coupon code AK95A to receive a discounted price (just $2)! Don't forget to vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins an Amazon gift card and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Wired blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom. Learn more about this author by visiting her website, Facebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with her on Twitter. You'll definitely want to check out Martha's Mystery Blog--each week a new short thriller is serialized Monday through Friday. The entries are nice and short, easy to read via smart phone or tablet. It's all at

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