I’m not sure how many times I’ve read The Collected Stories of Heinrich Böll in the last few months. And every time I give the book a second, third… a fifth go, I find reasons to reread it one more time. So I fill my mug with hot and sweet French Vanilla Coffee and invite Böll to enchant my reader’s heart and writer’s mind with the way he reaches across culture, language, time, and out of the page to grab me by the throat and make me want to read his stories even if they are painful—or maybe because they hurt… so damn good.
The first part of Böll’s short story collection reads like a novel. The characters don’t always know each other or focus in the same events, but they exist in the same time and suffer (sometimes enjoy) under the same conditions. I wish I could do that… not the suffering, of course, but the masterful structuring of tales.
I’ve been rewriting most of my short stories. At first, I just wanted to improve the writing, but now I’m interested in harmonizing the collective setting and tone. I doubt I will be able to accomplish Böll’s structural miracle, but I trust that if I keep at it, I will find a warm and lush place where my word-babies can bloom. The process is messy and frustrating, but I’m an Aries—I feed on chaos… and sweet French Vanilla Coffee ;-)
Whose work have you ingested for writing research? And if you are not a writer, whose craft have you examined in an effort to improve your own?