While making a serious attempt to de-clutter another linear plane, I came across a copy of The Sun. It was clouded by a collection of sundry paper items. I freed it from the pile and placed it near the dining room chair where I do my reading and writing.
The Sun is a literary magazine out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A friend gave me a subscription once she learned I was a writer. Unfortunately, I’ve given my attention to a variety of writing books and haven’t given much thought to The Sun.
This day was different. I decided to take The Sun with me to work. As with any magazine, I spent a few minutes browsing from front to back and back to front. Several articles looked somewhat interesting. I felt a man’s agony as he grieved over losing a breast: his wife’s. Intense, but short-lived: all within 500 words. Maybe less. I started reading a longer piece, but didn’t have time for it. But, as I flipped the pages back and forth, one article kept drawing my attention.
My Life in Vegetables had an affect on me. It was six pages of short little quips about cooking, but not like you might think. Each piece was so exquisitely written, as though Sparrow (the author) was setting a feast of words before me. Here are some examples from the piece.
Finally, I was conquered by a loaf of white bread from a bakery in Manhattan while home on winter break.
Conquered by a loaf of white bread. I would have said, I gave in and bought myself a loaf of sourdough from Panera’s bakery. My phrase would have been clumsy. The way Sparrow used personification had me visualizing this huge loaf of bread holding Sparrow face down in a huge snow drift. Another sentence that caught my attention was
The way one might use the word porcine in a poem, one adds rosemary to a stew.
Porcine. Just the sound demands italics and boldness. Such distinction. The whole sentence would have made a turn for the worse had Sparrow used the word pig.
Sparrow turns the act of cooking into a romantic interlude. Every entry was a poetic element. What’s more, he wrote in very small segments. Maybe 100 words a piece. They were like dainty bites of some delicacy, a manageable little petit four that I placed on my tongue with great care. I found myself poring over them again and again in order to extract every last ounce of flavor I could.
Writers move beyond the simple act of reading. We read to study, especially style. Sparrow took mundane acts of cooking and turned them into precious literary gems. He crafted each piece so well all because of his word choice. Each succinct in its brevity. I savored each one, individually. My Life as a Vegetable didn’t come from an ordinary garden.
(The Sun has a list of upcoming topics, deadlines, and publications dates for submissions. If you’re interested in finding out more, go to www.thesunmagazine.org)