2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review: Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine

What an AMAZING story this was – and so utterly original! McAlpine has created a meta-tale about writing, characterization, and the vagaries of life (real and imagined) that is not only a delight to read, but also a delight to analyze…

Woman with a Blue Pencil is a brilliant imagining of what happens to the characters who are cut from a work in progress. But more than that, it is an interwoven tale about the process of writing, compromise, editorial direction, American history, the nefarious nature of timing, and the lies we tell each other to keep daily life plodding along in the direction we want it to go… In prose so crisp it could cut bread, McAlpine weaves together a working manuscript, a tale just to the left of said manuscript, and the letters between an author and his editor about said manuscript into a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts that the cliche sounds even more ridiculous than usual, yet remains perfectly apt – a gestalt realization that I didn’t self-edit, despite almost doing so several times (largely because of the very nature of the book it describes), that I recognized as such even as I was writing it…

Did that last bit sound a little trippy and head-cockingly odd? Welcome to McAlpine’s world – only he’s masterful and it never sounds odd when he does it, only mind-bendingly intriguing.

Sam (the original, Japanese, cut character) offers a fascinating voice of a man lost in the wilderness (of San Diego) of a world that has done an about-face around him in the blink of an eye (or flip of a movie reel). He is complemented by Maxine, the editor at whose “request” (requirement) he has been cut, and by his replacement, Jimmy, the commercially viable Korean-American (heavy on the American) alternative that has been proposed due to the events of December 7, 1942… By intertwining the three voices, McAlpine has managed to offer a study of American racism and post-Pearl Harbor paranoia, literary integrity vs. the commercial practicalities of publishing, and the ever-changing nature of reality that is engaging, witty, clever, and just plain fun to read.

This is a short book (less than 200 pages), but unpacking all the insights and ideas behind it would take ages. It read quickly and easily – McAlpine is nothing if not clear and concise with language (using one word when one will do and nary a syllable more), and he has mastered the exceedingly difficult art of paring things down to the absolute minimum without surrendering an ounce of descriptive magic. McAlpine is – without a doubt – one of my new favorites…

My review copy was generously provided by the publisher, Seventh Street Books. If you are a mystery/crime/thriller fan, you should DEFINITELY check them out – for a small house, their stable of artists is incredible…

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