Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Past Perfect, Present Tense by Richard Peck

Reviewed by Liesl 

Published: 2006

It's about: A collection of short stories by Richard Peck. He divides the stories up according to the genre they fit into: the first short story he ever wrote, the past (think early 20th century), the supernatural, and the present. He details his experience of writing short stories and how some of his short stories led to his novels; take, for instance, Grandma Dowdel from A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. He also has a small chapter on how to write short stories and what questions one should ask when writing them.

I thought: What an entertaining read! What I love about Richard Peck's writing is that each of his characters have a distinct voice about them, whether it's Blossom Culp's eccentric (and slightly disgusting) personality or Grandma Dowdel's deadpan. I love voice. It's a fabulous way to show off the character's personality, by the things they notice, the slang they use, and their perspective on life. I liked his chapter on writing short stories as well, because it had a good prompt and advice about writing without resorting to a specific formula. (Slight tangent: I often feel that writers (and perhaps artists as well) too often give advice on writing without realizing that the reader might do it differently; that their method isn't completely foolproof. As in, I sometimes feel like all writing instruction books should say: "This is what worked for me, although it might not work for you." Okay, that's all)

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf! Or at least on the table by the bed, or maybe in the bathroom to pass time.

Reading Recommendations: To read it? Honestly, these short stories are good enough to read all at once, or perhaps one per day (in my case, I read them at work to pass time). Doesn't matter. Just read it. Enjoy it. Crave it.

Warnings: Nothing bad, as far as I can tell. Peck is a children's book author, anyway, so there's nothing to worry about, unless you find yourself easily spooked by the short "scary" stories. Believe me, they aren't frightening.

Favorite excerpts: I won't give you any excerpts (seeing as I don't really have access to the book anyway), but I will tell you some of my favorite titles: Priscilla and the Wimps, The Special Powers of Blossom Culp, Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night Above Ground, and my ultimate favorite: Fluffy the Gangbuster.