Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Inspiration with a Side of Kittens

I never thought it would happen: finals are finally finished. As a junior in college now, it has been my privilege to spend the last four months slogging through biochemistry (also known as “third year chemistry,” also known as “the hardest class on campus,” also known as “the class from Sheol”).  There were definitely times when I didn’t think I would make it, but here I am. I’m sitting on my couch (still alive, oddly enough) with my adorable new kitten gnawing on my fingers as I attempt to write this post.  Beside me is a book and it is not my biochemistry textbook.  Crazier still, it is a book of my own choosing: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.

The Book Thief is set during World War II, a time wrought with darkness, etched by death. And while Zusak does depict the suffering, he also shows light and life in a sort of subtle yet blinding brilliance.  Zusak, I’m finding, is a delightful writer. His words are gorgeous and fierce and breathing.  He finds the remarkable in the mundane. He finds poetry in the dull and in the dreary, and he makes you to see it too.  He utterly refuses to be trite or to use old and worn out terminology, but rather creates some of the most original word pairings I’ve ever read.  He describes places by colors and describes colors by smells.  Let’s look, for a minute, at some of his phrases, for they are most definitely worth a second glance:

“a warm scream”
“a final, soaking farewell”
“a slice of cold cement”
“[eyes] like coffee stains”
“tooth-colored keys”
“a refrigerated voice”
“hair the color of a lemon”

Like I said, gorgeous and fierce and breathing.  And for all of these reasons--and his delightful asides and unique choice of Death as narrator--Markus Zusak is my writing inspiration this Christmas break. 

Who is yours?


Hannah Lokos writes books, studies pre-medicine/biology, and is the proud owner of an adorable new kitten who chews on EVERYTHING.  You can find out more about her book here, or you can visit Hannah's website, or follow her on GooglePlus


Big Mike said...

Of all my under graduate course, chemistry was the worse. Enjoyed physics, differential equations aerodynamics, energy transfer and the host of others, but chemistry sucked...big time.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

A book like that sets the mind dancing.

Throughout this year, I have discovered some fine writing. By book:
Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan;
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng; All the Light We Cannot See; The Chemistry of Tears, Peter Carey, and Turn of Mind, Alice La Plante.

When you read a book like the one you mentioned, it's hard to come down from the clouds and read just stuff.

Liz Fountain said...

The Book Thief is one of my top ten from the past few years. Amazing work. I've put off seeing the film because I'm not sure it can stand up to the novel.

Mary McCall said...

Wonderful post, Hannah, with mind bending points. Clearly made me grasp that I learn more from "writing" than "writing about writing."
It sounds like you've discovered "texturing" in relation to your writing. Way to go! This is what enables readers to "feel" your words. It can win you more than just a published few books. It will land fans who haunt you as they await the next book.
I guess I got lucky with college chemistry. My professor was from Lebanon and didn't speak Engljsh well. He'd have grad students translate all his notes into good English to be written on the board before class. Then all his tests were open note and open book...word for word from his well translated notes. Anyone who didn't get an A deserved less than an F.
At least you're done with that.