I read Diddy Wah Diddy by Corey Mesler this weekend and it was really good. It’s kind of a dreamlike mythologizing of Beale Street. Lots of sex and singing and just rolling around in language like a pig in mud. If you’re a fan of Memphis, you’ll have feelings about this book. You’ll either love it or hate it.
But the thing that I’m lingering over, just from a technical standpoint, is how he nails the ending–which is, of course, as it must be in a book like this, about Elvis. And I think Mesler gets it exactly right–that feeling of Elvis being so excited about what he was hearing, about him stealing it, about people feeling like him stealing it at least meant that it was going to get heard, and about Elvis being too young to know just what his role was.
Let me put it this way. If Diddy Wah Diddy is a mythology in the old sense of the word (and Mesler goes to great lengths to assure you that it is) and Beale Street an Olympus of sorts, then Elvis is an unwitting Prometheus.
But all that is more about plot. I kind of mean something different when I say he nails it. What I mean is that how he handles that plot point technically, as in how he writes it, is satisfying. The ending doesn’t go on too long, but it hits the right sweet and sad notes that the story is over. I haven’t put the book on the shelf yet, because, as a writer–and one who’s not very confident in her endings lately–I want to understand the mechanics of what he’s pulled off. The physics of it.
Speaking of endings. I finished my short story. I’m not quite satisfied with the ending. See above. But I sent it to my beta reader anyway, because, if there’s a flaw with the ending, its roots are going to be earlier in the story. And, earlier in the story, the parts that I am most unsure of are whether it fits the mythology (in the newer sense of the word) that the guys who created this world have made up. So, I need a sense of whether all that is working.
You know I struggled with how to tell that story. It took me a while to settle on the narrator. I probably wrote close to 14,000 words of what is now about an 8,000 word story. All the same scenes and characters just told in different ways until one clicked for me. The most important thing I cut was a whole discussion of my current narrator’s parents, who had her when they were teenagers and are not doing a great job of co-parenting her now.
That is still the case. But other than the clues that they appear to all be living in her grandfather’s house and that he was a hobo until the 80s and that the narrator is clearly older than 13 or 14 and she mentions a step-dad, I cut all that out. It’s just a thing about her, not some central trauma to her life.
Still, I’m pleased with it. Even if I end up tinkering with it a little more.
And I think that means all I have on my plate for my spare time this month is to make an afghan I don’t have enough yarn for yet and to put together something for the Demonbreun Society about Joseph Deraque (Deratte?) I can feel proud of sharing with them. I just have to remember to bring the John Sevier’s story about Joseph meeting the Welsh Indians, even though I think it’s complete bullshit. Still, who doesn’t want to hear a weird, cool complete bullshit story about their ancestor?
Once that’s out of the way, I’m going back to Allendale. I’ve been having some thoughts and I’d just like to get that into a form I feel satisfied with. Maybe we’ll revisit it in October.