August 23, 2013

Who Needs a Plot? Or Seeing Beauty in the Ordinary

Most (American) writers and readers can recognize a good fiction narrative structure as including these vital components: inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.

I would argue that Lydia Minatoya's THE STRANGENESS OF BEAUTY doesn't have that pattern, at least not in the way I'm used to seeing. The main character doesn't have a clearly defined goal she pursues with dogged focus. The antagonism she experiences is subtle. And I can't pinpoint why or how she succeeds by the book's end.

Maybe I'm being stupid since I read a lot of YA and not much women's fiction. But to my untrained eye, this book meanders. The main character documents her "I-story," a journal of her life, filled with wry observations and episodes that seem to lead nowhere.

I was surprised to find I really liked reading this book. Maybe portraying the everyday instead of the wildly exceptional can still captivate.

Here's a quote that helps explain the title:
There's a reason why I tell this story. To me these Sunday painters represent myo—the strangeness of beauty—an idea that transcendence can be found in what's common and small. Rather than wishing for singularity and celebrity and genius (and growing all gloomy in its absence), these painters recognize the ordinariness of their talents and remain undaunted.

It's the blessings in life, not in self, that they mean to express.

And therein lies the transcendence. For as people pursue their plain, decent goals, as they whittle their crude flutes, paint their flat landscapes, make unexceptional love to their spouses—in their numbers across cultures and time, in their sheer tenacity as in the face of a random universe they perform their small acts of awareness and appreciation—there is a mysterious, strange beauty.”
Have you read THE STRANGENESS OF BEAUTY? Or any other good books that don't follow the typical narrative arc?

What are your top five ordinary beautiful things you are most aware of and appreciative of lately? Here are mine for today:

1 - My toddler running at top speed, arms spread out to keep her balance. This would be even more strangely beautiful if I had noticed the squeakers in her sandals BEFORE I bought the sandals. (And they were supposed to be for church! Ha.)
2 - My husband sitting at the kitchen table reading a book at the same time and place every day. So reliable.
3 - Avocadoes, grape tomatoes, and some mozzarella cheese on a plate. Easy and delicious.
4 - A drawer full of clean, folded laundry.
5 - Crickets. I always love the crickets. Best sound ever.


Anonymous said...

Simple things:

1) Hearing my parents laughing in the other room.

2) the softness of my 5 pillows surrounding me as I doze off for a nap.

3) The white noise provided by my fan.

4) The sound of nothing. Especially when I turn off my mind.

5)Dirt. it smells great when it is really dry and hit by rain

ps: loved seeing you this weekend!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I haven't heard of that book, but I'll look into it. And I'm definitely going to do the avocado, tomato, and mozzarella. I think that's the description of heaven. :)