Review: The Kite Runner

I finished reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini a few days ago. For me, the book is typically better than the movie, and despite the excellence of the movie, The Kite Runner is no exception. As a writer, I’ve trained myself to look for the points in a novel that we all learned in high school literature: the inciting incident, the buildup, the turning point, the climax, the resolution. (You may remember them by the proper names; I’m going by memory.) For the terrible books, it’s obvious that they’re just following a formula: possibly because the education system is failing us yet again by churning out barely literate citizens, and possibly because they haven’t spread their literary wings and tried to write without the formula as a crutch. For the wonderful books, the formula may still be there, but the reader doesn’t notice because they’re too engrossed in the story.

One thing in particular struck me while reading: the character-driven story. It’s tempting at first to say “But there is no plot! People are just wandering around and doing things!” Character-driven stories are centered around people, not things, and Amir and Hassan’s childhood turns one unfortunate incident into a life story worth telling, especially when you figure out the significance of the prologue. In fact, the character-driven story made me remember why I love writing so much to start with. With characters leading the way, there’s more room to explore the world around them, and you get to hear the voice inside them that just wants to have their own way.

The verdict on the book: Would read again. I’m keeping this one. It’s a good thing, too. I think I got some water stains on it at the bus stop one morning.

Book vs. Movie: The book, hands down. The movie is great, but there are only so many themes one can explore in a feature-length film.


A connection to writing

Despite the rise of computers, I still can’t edit anything on a computer screen. Yes, I can catch most typos and even rewrite paragraphs, but rewriting anything more substantial requires that I have a paper copy in front of me. This copy can be marked, just as all my teachers did to my essays, though few made a hobby of tearing them apart until I arrived at college.

There’s something concrete about marking up a piece of writing on paper. The piece is in front of you, and you’re able to hold the physical piece, giving proof that in fact it does exist. You can hug it, write on it, fold it, and (horrors) burn it. You can stab a hole through the middle of it and leave it to the elements. Suddenly the writing feels so much more real, the connection so much more alive, all because the writing is so much less protected by the paper. Perhaps this is why ritual burnings are so talked about.

It’s different with a computer, though. Reaching inside a computer and tampering with a piece of writing is more difficult. Instead, you modify the work with a keyboard, which is hooked up to a computer. If you haven’t already tried it, destroying a computer is hard. Yes, you can put a computer out of commission by dropping it a few too many times, but properly destroying a hard drive to the point where no one can recover data is difficult. You are less connected to your writing with a computer.

I crave that connection.


Thought of the day: writing

I’m getting into the habit of writing something down every day just to force myself into doing so. Writing is a fickle thing. You can’t just wait for the muse to come, as I’ve been so wont to do in the past. You have to grab the muse by its horns and steer it like a bull in the direction of your choice. This is what writing for more than sport is about. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. At some point you must simply sit down and write.