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Lusty Lady

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Want to read: Break the Skin by Lee Martin

I have this book and plan to read it soon. I was very impressed by Lee Martin's interview at Amazon and other postings I've read on his blog about writing, aside from regarding this specific book, like this post on whether writing can be taught:

Can we teach someone how to write? That question comes up quite often within the community of folks who do exactly that for their livelihood, and I’m always a little puzzled when the answer is sometimes no.

Of course, we can teach someone how to write. We do it each year in our workshops, our literature seminars, our thesis directing, our informal conversations in this place or that, and in writing of our own. We teach technique, we teach the habits of the process and the work ethic that they require. I happen to believe that we can also teach students how to adjust their vision so that they more readily note the contradictions and complexities of the world around them. I believe we can encourage them to think in terms of opposites so they see the plurality of any one character or situation. We do it by talking about published work that does exactly that and by pointing out what a writer has done to make the vision of that story, poem, essay, novel more deeply felt and more multi-layered with different levels of emotion and intellect, often contradictory in nature.

So yes, this tattooed lady, who is just about done with the excellent tattoo mystery I don't want to end, Ink Flamingos, is looking forward to reading Break The Skin.

From the interview with Lee Martin at Amazon by Dani Shapiro that so intrigued me:

Shapiro: Miss Baby works as a tattoo artist, a profession which I imagine you didn’t know much about at the outset. Did you know you were going to write about a tattoo artist when you were first beginning the book? How did you go about your research? (Any tattoos?) Why did it seem important that Miss Baby be in this line of work?

Martin: Well now, what makes you think that I didn’t at some point work as a tattoo artist? In between the years when I cooked crystal meth, robbed banks, and worked as a hit man, maybe I was pounding ink. (Nah, that sentence was just a feeble attempt to establish my street cred.) After all, as one review of the novel says, I’m “crackling with dark deeds and bad intentions...” I love that line! I want it to be part of my introduction at future readings and events: “Here he is, crackling with dark deeds and bad intentions, Lee Martin.” Ha! I told my students that and they laughed so hard you could see how far from the truth of me such a description actually is...or is it? Hmmm...I’ll never tell, nor will I reveal my tattoos, not even the ones that glow in the dark.

My research involved a conversation here, a visit there, some things read, some things watched--just the usual methods of immersing oneself in an unfamiliar world. I’m always fascinated with the details and the lingo of someone else’s job, and as soon as Miss Baby stepped onto the corner of Fry and Oak Street in Denton, Texas, I knew she had to be coming from a tattoo parlor. Don’t ask me how I knew that. I just did. I like to think that my subconscious mind had already started to sense the rich possibilities with metaphor in this practice of drilling into the skin and leaving something to live in scar tissue.

Here's the book's official description, via Lee Martin's website:

Laney—a skinny, awkward teenager alone in the world--thinks she's found a kindred spirit in thirty-five-year old Delilah. "When I was with her," Laney says, "I felt closest to being the person I was meant to be...We could have been sisters, big and little, which some people thought we were." Then the police come to ask Laney questions and she finds herself reconstructing a story of suspense, deceit, and revenge, but also "a story of love, no matter how roughed up and ugly and stained." A story that will haunt her forever.

Seven hundred miles away, in Texas, Miss Baby has the hardened heart of a woman who has been used by men in every possible way, yet she is desperate for true love. When she meets a stranger, a man who claims he can't remember his real name or his past but who seems gentle and trusting, Miss Baby thinks she may have finally found someone to love, someone who will protect her from the abusive men who fill her past.

But Miss Baby and Laney are connected by a terrible crime and bit by bit, the complex web of deceptions and seemingly small misjudgments they've each helped to create starts to unravel. Action, speculation, and contradiction play off one another as the story is told through their first-person voices, which keep you nervously guessing all the way to the shocking, tragic climax. BREAK THE SKIN is a novel about "wanting to matter to someone, wanting it so badly that you did things you never could have imagined, and you swore they were right, all for the sake of love."

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