Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Other Voices, Other Rooms

I'm sure I remember Maggie saying that we should mention atmosphere when we talk about selections for the Southern Reading Challenge, but danged if I can find the actual post now.

So here are a couple excerpts from Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms since I spent the last post yammering about mules.

First, the view out Joel's window at the Landing:

Below, under a fiery surface of sun waves, a garden a jumbled wreckage of zebrawood and lilac, elephant-ear plant and weeping willow, the lace-leafed limp branches shimmering delicately, and dwarfed cherry trees, like those in oriental prints, sprawled raw and green in the noon heat. It was not a result of simple neglect, this tangled oblong area, but rather the outcome, it appeared, of someone having, in a riotous moment, scattered about it a wild assortment of seed. Grass and bush and vine and flower were all crushed together. Massive chinaberry and waterbay formed a rigidly enclosing wall. Now at the far end, opposite the house, was an unusual sight: like a set of fingers, a row of five white fluted columns lent the garden the primitive, haunted look of a lost ruin: Judas vine snaked up their toppling slenderness, and a yellow tabby cat was sharpening its claws against the middle column.

And when Joel is first told the story of the abandoned Cloud Hotel:

Drownin Pond. That was the name colored folks gave it. Slowly old creek-slime, filtering though the limestone springs, had dyed the water an evil color; the lawns, the road, the paths all turned wild; the wide veranda caved in; the chimneys sank low in the swampy earth; storm-uprooted trees leaned against the porch; and water-snakes slithering across the strings made night-songs on the ballroom's decaying piano. It was a terrible, strange-looking hotel. But Little Sunshine stayed on: it was his rightful home, he said, for if he went away, as he had once upon a time, other voices, other rooms, voices lost and clouded, strummed his dreams.


  1. Oh, I would love for participants to get a sense of place from their reading and share with others. I promised to take photographs of my south to help achieve this goal, but a dead mule. I never been so stumped!?! :D

    These posts are great BTW!

  2. Thanks!

    But please don't post a picture of a dead mule. Don't even think about it. :)

  3. Now that's atmosphere! Thanks!

  4. I took a writer's workshop once and took this one thing away from it: placing the landscape of the sense of place under your characters' feet is the single most grounding, connecting element that allows a reader to slip from reader to immersed participant in the story you're trying to tell.

    That single piece of advice has stayed with me, as a reader, all these years later.


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.