As a perpetrator of clunky writing (and I’m sure you can find examples in my recent posts), I wondered if there was some joke when I read the first paragraph of “Child, Maiden, Woman, Crone,” by Terry Bramlett.
The music filled the valley as Johnny Nobles coerced the strings on his Gibson. He ended the song with a flourish and sat still, eyes closed. The March sun warmed the rock he used as his stage. He waited for applause, but the new corn stood silent.
The sentences don’t stick together. They’re all about the same length. Things seem to appear out of nowhere. I kept stopping to pick them apart.
And on and on. There are some decent passages, but mostly the clunkiness persists, not to mention wooden dialogue and vague descriptions. It doesn’t help when I find bad lines I’ve written myself:
He looked into her eyes and found compassion.
If stuff like this gets published and nominated for an award, what am I failing to see?
Anyway. Deep breath. The story. Johnny used to be a singer, but it didn’t work out, so he went back to his grandfather’s farm. There he meets Changing Woman, though she tells him to call her Natalie. And there’s a guest appearance by Kokopelli, just to spice things up.
While Natalie’s appearance fits Changing Woman, mirroring the growth and harvest of the corn in Johnny’s fields, she acts more like Graves’s White Goddess, inspiring Johnny to write a new song. There’s an interesting passage describing how he worked on the melody. Of course it turns out to be good enough to get him work as a musician again, and of course Natalie pushes him to enjoy his good fortune.
It’s all so nice, I had to reread the story to decide what he did to deserve her favors. His half-Navaho grandfather was also a musician and her lover. Johnny played in the corn fields as a child. After trying to make it as a musician, he returns to the same fields. Basically, Johnny put himself into the right place to receive a goddess’s grace.
Not very satisfying.
Tomorrow: It has to get better from here.