Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Life

You were that kid, weren't you? That kid who always secretly kind of liked doing their homework. Especially if it was for English, or SOSE. (You were probably one of the only kids who knew that SOSE stood for Society and Environment... and the fact that the acronym was a phonetic one rather than one letter standing for one word each really burnt your waffles.) You relished being given the chance to show your teachers that YOU listened. YOU heard them when they showed you how to use all the correct terms for things. You loved that first-time feeling... that is, the first time you correctly used a compound word in a sentence. You got mostly A's all through high school. If you got a B, it was usually in maths or science, and you felt like a failure. You didn't get dux of your high school, but you were friends with the person who did. You probably still are. You aced your TEE; didn't really even have a legitimate cause to think you wouldn't, but you fretted about it all the same. When you saw your score, it STILL could have been better. But it was enough. It was more than enough. You'd known for months where you wanted to go to University, and it suprised you because it wasn't where all your friends were going, and it wasn't the Uni with the highest estimation in most peoples' thinking. You got there, and you loved it. You started to go out to places, do things other than read. Your friendships strengthened. You learned what was important to you. You met someone. It didn't work out, and you broke up with them. You felt like no one would ever love you again, so you threw yourself into your work. You spent time with different people depending on the mood you were in. You found a dress style you liked. You started liking caffeinated beverages. You started liking alcohol but not as much as when you were sixteen. You finally felt comfortable in your own skin, and you got to keep that eager, academic part of you. You met someone else. So far it's worked; more than worked, you're the happiest you've ever been and so is he.

Somewhere along the line, you decided to write a novel. It's nearly finished.

It's like homework, only better.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Some days you just need a little happy.




Dancing to this barefoot in my room after a stupid dumb bad dumb day at work. There almost seems to be magic in this song... I want to feel inspired enough to write before I go to bed.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

When You've Got a Navel as Pretty as Mine, Of Course You Want to Gaze at it.

Navel-gazing... Excessive introspection, self-absorption, or concentration on a single issue: "The optimistic trend masks a looming problem, which has sent the travel industry into a renewed bout of navel-gazing" (Financial Times).

Apparently this is the plight of creative writing produced by people in my age bracket, and people in my situation (That is, students of Creative Writing) in general. It is the creative equivalent of dipping your toes in a freezing ocean but being too cowardly to dive in and swim towards the horizon.

Let me just stop right here and say that the only reason I even care about "the direction of creative writing produced by people in my age bracket and situation" is because of some feedback. Last Friday, in the mail I received a certificate telling me that I had placed second in the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Awards for the under 20s category. And that was pretty awesome. I got a little happy out of that. Won $25 and I got a nice gold piece of paper to tell me I'd done well, so that was nice. But on reading the judges comments that buzz died a little bit. The judge, who shall remain nameless (but he knows who he is), in his general comments, blathered on about the overall poor literary standard of everyone's work, and about how language use and length were neither experimental, nor fully utilized. Now, being general comments, I have to remind myself that this person was not calling me into the Principal's Office, sitting me down and yelling "YOU SUCK" directly into my face. But it was disheartening nonetheless, and several of the comments brought me back to the whole navel-gazing argument.

I recall reading an article in Kill Your Darlings Issue Three by Emmett Stinson which talks about the growing trend in criticism to label works being produced in such a way. Stinson, as far as I can tell, made the argument that this should be applied perhaps more to the American journals than the Australian ones. He also concludes by saying that to insist on all writing having some sort of political agenda or deal with a political issue at least, is an unrealistic notion.

So how can we not navel-gaze?

As a CW student, I am constantly told to write what I know. So largely, that would consist of: working in retail, going to uni, driving around the same old suburbs to hang out with my friends. But apparently, to write about my life is to navel gaze.

Perhaps what all writers should do from now on (in fact, it should probably be made a law) is log onto their twitter accounts and take all the trending topics for that day, and make a story about them. Write about stuff people really care about, like Chuck Bass having survived the season 3 gossip girl finale, and Oprah's tour of Australia. Who cares about the trials and tribulations of leaving home? Oprah climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge! And she's got a Book Club, so she's better than the rest of us humble peons.

It's a post modern thing, guys, that's what it comes down to. Navel gazing is a fact of life. Reading is about interiority and the subjunctive a lot of the time, and perhaps that's what writing is about too. Imagining what it would be like to be someone else. I think I'll leave all the political writing to people who actually understand (read: like or care about) politics.

Congratulations to all the winners of the KSP Short Fiction awards, even the 15 year old who beat me (because you must be really goooooood girly) and especially to my friend Elisa!

And to the judge of the KSP thingy.... THE YOUNGEST PERSON WHO ENTERED WAS TEN. FIND SOMETHING NICE TO SAY TO BALANCE OUT YOUR HURTFUL WORDS.

To see the Judges Report and Winners for the competition, Click Here.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Tudors...

I sit writing this post having just watched the final episode, and all the special features of the final season of Showcase television show, The Tudors. I discovered this show about a year ago, but my fascination with the Tudor dynasty goes back further. For anyone who is an avid reader of the novels of Phillipa Gregory, the period was a time of wonder and enchantment, but also of fear;her books are written from the point of view of those women most known and descriptions of violence are kept expedient. The Tudors series creator Michael Hirst puts a different interpretation before us in showing us the 'real' Henry, subtly taking us on a journey from fun loving young king to tyrant.

Here are a few points of interest about the show.



1. Henry Cavill



I must confess that Cavill became my favourite cast member because I developed a slight crush on him... that being said, the show has overall a very attractive cast, and the first two seasons of the show at least were devoted to making England seem like a very sexy place to live (but also a cleaner one than I know it would have been.) But what amazes me about his character, Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk is his longevity in the cast. While other characters come and go, often without explanation, the Duke remains King Henry's oldest and truest friend. The pair grow old together, and it seems that as Henry's wives come and go, Charles remains a testament to loyalty. (How's that for 'bro's before ho's'?) Brandon's fealty to his sovereign costs him his faith, the love of his wife Katherine Brook, and his youth. His death in the final episode was to me far more touching than the King's final moments, proving to me that my affection for Henry Cavill had developed from a silly girlish crush into respect for the attention devoted to the role.

2. Sarah Bolger




I was delighted to learn that in the fourth and final season of The Tudors, Sarah Bolger had finally been given an opening credit. There is something very human about Bolger's portrayal of the young Mary Tudor that I have found lacking in other presentations of her. She is much more relatable than the old, cruel spinster she is often known as; her hurts are real, she loves, she is strong and she is true to her beliefs, making her a very strong female role model of the period, despite what would happen during her reign (1553-1558). I attribute this humanity to Bolger's charms and her talent.

3. Alan van Sprang... because no TV series is complete without a character who resembles a pirate




This point should not entirely be devoted to van Sprang, but rather to the league of temporary core cast members like him, who often disappear without explanation (and in the case of van Sprang's character, Sir Francis Bryan, appear that way too.) The show is so intriguing that my cries of 'But whatever happened to Sir Anthony Knivert?' (Callum Blue, season one) are forgotten in due time. Other characters who disappear without much explanation include lady Margaret 'Madge' Sheldon. How a man like Francis Bryan could have come into the King's good graces is completely beyond me, seeing as he is immensely immoral.

But also, he's a pirate. It's just funny.

4. The plethora of terrible accents, first and foremost in the acting of Gabriel Anwar

Try as they may, they cannot cover up that a lot of the cast is Irish. Even the King's voice changes and becomes largely false sounding as he tries to make it sound gruffer and older. But it is Anwar's English accent, in her role as the Princess Margaret, that is most laughable. Good times.

5. The host of Harry Potter guest stars

Just an interesting little point; when the King goes into seclusion after the death of Queen Jane, he is entertained by his fool, Will Somers... played by Argus Filch, or in any case the man who plays Argus. And in season four, the Earl of Surrey appears... only it could very well be Harry Potter because David O'Hara was also in the most recent Harry Potter Film (Deathly Hallows Part 1) as Runcorn, the man Harry changes into when he partakes of polyjuice potion to get into the ministry.

Also as a HP related segue... Fleur Delacour was in Gossip Girl the other night. Does this mean HP is really nearly over??? Everyone seems to be working on new projects.




In truth there are many reasons why I love this show, and this period, but it would take me a whole book to write them down. It took me a week and a half to get through all four seasons of the show, and it has been a nice little holiday from being a writer, but I shall get back to work on the Compound now, with fresh eyes and a re-invigoured approach... that is, as soon as I can stop speaking and thinking in Early Modern English.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Why I did not complete Nanowrimo this year, and other tall tales...

The dog ate my manuscript.

Just kidding. For a start, I didn't even print it.

Look, this blog post is not for me to justify what I am doing, and it's not really to explain it, but it's a simple way of letting you all know that my mind has been elsewhere this month. Namely, it's been in 1994, when Winston Keller is old and having a heart attack in his woodworking shed. (If that doesn't make any sense to you, don't worry, he's not a real person.)

I am inspired to continue work on my Magnum Opus as my primary goal for the moment, and Love this City has consequently been shelved.

Seriously though, cut me some slack, I got to 35000 words despite not being finished uni for the semester until yesterday, and I managed to get pretty great marks in my final assignments too so I wouldn't say I failed.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Pulling an All Nighter...



Have you ever been so caught up in a story that you will do anything to stay awake long enough to read it?

Last night I think I washed my face about six times because my skin was growing tight around my skull and my eyes were drooping painfully out of their sockets... but not literally of course. Fatigue had me in its grips. Its bony talons pulled my eyelids shut forcibly. I drank a tonne of water. I washed my face. I got up and did a little dance, jogged around the room, anything to stay awake.

I haven't had this stay-up-all-night feeling for a while. I think the last time I did I was reading... either Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey or Sustenance by Simone Lazaroo, but Sustenance doesn't really count because it was for school. Both great books though.

Last night, my victim... er... I mean choice of book... was The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, who I had the pleasure of meeting last Friday morning at a Dymocks Morning Tea event. Can I just say, the woman is an inspiration. She has my life. She's gorgeous, she dresses the way I like to think I dress when I try hard enough, she has a family, she's an amazing writer and she's smart and funny and... I think I have a girl crush. Hehe.

While we were at the event, mother said "I think you're got yourself a new idol" or something along those lines, and I had to explain to her that Kate was already my idol, but that it was nice Mum had picked up on it. (Mum also said "One day it will be you up there" and that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. Thanks Mummy, I love you!) But yes, for a budding historical novelist, Kate is a dream idol and I learned a lot from her. I've emailed her once before, I think I mentioned this in my previous post, and she emailed back. Lovely, lovely woman.

And her book is lovely too. It's the kind of book that I dismiss when I write them myself because they are fanciful and unrealistic. But I realised last night that if I love them when Kate writes them, why can't I love them when I do?

The Distant Hours is a beautifully crafted book, much in the same vein as her other two novels, The Shifting Fog/ The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden. I recommend reading them in publishing order, so that you can have Kate grow in your estimation and you can watch her go from first novel to mega star.

It was well worth staying up until 3 am to finish, and now, even though I only had a little sleep before Mum woke me up to say goodbye before she went to work... (don't worry, I fell back asleep again, I've had my ten hours)... I'm plenty ready to take on the day. Exam study is needed before HARRY POTTER PREMIERE TONIGHT!!! And yes I am dressing up. As Ginny or Hermione, haven't decided yet. Yes, I am a geek.

Have a nice day.

:)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Since it's November and All...

I figured I'd save myself some time here and write a post so that everyone who wants to know how Nanowrimo is going can find out. I also have a recently attended author event to blog about.

It's the end of Week Two. People on the Nano site often talk about getting "Week Two'd", which I understand as being that feeling of complacency which comes from succeeding on riding the novelty of the project in Week One, and therefore deciding it is okay to rest on your laurels for a week because there are still two more to go after it.

Can I just say, that's a really bad idea? I've been told write every day a lot in my life, and while I'm not a religious follower of that, if you're trying to hash out 50 000 words a day, write every day already. Don't complain. Don't push yourself for that 1667 that's recommended. Don't even worry about plot. Just write something. Open the word document and write "man this character is starting to annoy me..." That's what I love about Nano. I could easily be writing a letter to myself (a 50 000 word letter) documenting how much I think I suck at writing this month. I'm not. But I could be, and I like that idea. Or I could be writing a really, really boring account of the things I think while I stare at that little blinking cursor. But that would probably go something like this: "My eyes hurt. I should get them tested. Nah, I got them tested in March. Maybe my glasses are dirty. Maybe I'm tired. I should have coffee. Nope, too late at night. Tea it is. I'll try the English Breakfast. Or just stick with Earl Grey, no point stirring the pot too much. (Bit of tea humour for you there.)" And while no one would want to read that, I would have gained the practical experience of sticking to a goal that I set out for myself.

Of course, it is much more satisfying to write an actual book. Now, let's put aside for a moment that the week after next, I have two exams to write, and that they both look really hard. Let's forget about those. Let's pretend they don't exist really hard, in case that might make it true...

And let's say I have limitless spare time, and I can get up every day, and write from 11 til 1... you may remember that's the time I do my writing if and when I try scheduling. I've got this whole plot set out. And I've got inspiration, and encouragement. Why shouldn't I actually try?

So, I've actually been giving it a fair go, although more often than not, I skip a few days and then spend one day a week madly catching up. So far, my characters clearly have ideas of their own.

On Friday, I went to a morning tea with author Kate Morton, who's newest book

The Distant Hours I am currently reading. I met lots of lovely people, encouraging, friendly people who genuinely pretended to be interested for at least a little while. Thanks to them, if they ever stumble across this blog, and it was lovely to meet you. I've actually emailed Kate before, all the way back in 2008, asking her for advice about sticking to strict historial accuracy. And she eventually got back to me, wrote me a lovely email.

Well, because I'm a nerd, I saved the email, and I printed a copy to take with me to the talk. I queued up for 40 minutes to get all my Kate Morton books signed, and I proudly presented her with the email and asked her if she remembered sending it to me. And she said she did, which was so so so lovely. I hope she knows that the reason I asked was because it meant a lot to me to receive it. Asking people you admire for help is incredibly inspiring, especially if they write back. (Oh and during question time, I also asked her what her views are on literary agents. She's pro them, if you're interested.) So she signed all my books, told me to keep at it, and when I asked her if she would like to keep the copy of the email, she said yes.

Simple pleasures. That night I wrote a lot. I was feeling pretty motivated. But I'm still behind on my Nano stats.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Thoughts on: Neuromancer (William Gibson)

Hmmm did I tell a fib yesterday when I said it was my last thoughts on... I think I did. Oopsy.

Bear with me for one last post on my uni books? Pretty please? I'll be your friend.

And I'll keep it short and sweet.

First of all, I really liked Neuromancer. It was edgy and it was young and fresh, and minus all the high teck jacking in and stuff, it was sort of what I want my Nano novel to be this year, although I have already given up on making it work the way I want, seeing as the scene in which Dean discovers The Shakespeare has already turned into something of a Magical Realist scene. If you have no idea what I am talking about, but would like to, click here.

Henry Dorsett Case is a really good example of an antihero. He likes drugs. He likes them a lot. He's not all abstinence-guy, "oh no, I couldn't possibly, my body is a temple." And that makes him likeable. I think if anyone is doing research on Anti-heroes, look at Case, because it's really difficult to put your finger on the reason you acutally do like him. I think for me, it was because he was actually a really soft, caring person even though he couldn't admit it. I mean he was tender, emotional, loyal, that sort of stuff. He couldn't admit his own grief about Linda Lee to himself, and he couldn't admit that he was sad when Molly left but it was no secret to me. Trust me to find the romance in Cyberpunk, hey?

And how cool is that genre name? Cyberpunk. Cybernetics and the Punk aesthetic. Love it.

Seriously, are any of you as freaked out as I am that I am saying I really liked a Sci Fi book? No? Still with me? Good.

All that being said, I can't say I really understood a lot of it. Especially towards the end. This is a bit of a spoiler, but in the epilogue where they explain that they failed in their mission, I was thinking "really???" because I'd been so confused by the climax that I'd just assumed their plan had worked.

But that's just me. As Molly would say "that's just the way I'm wired."

Actually had a look for the second one, Count Zero, in the library today but couldn't find it. If anyone has read it, I'd love to hear if it's any good.

AND MURDOCH STUDENTS! Take Popular Literature, Science Fiction and Cyberculture with Prof. Frodsham, you WILL NOT regret it. The man is a legend. He tells amazing stories, gives writing tips, and has obviously had an amazing life. Well worth it. Loved the course, and if you have happened to stumble across this post, Professor, thank you very very very much.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Thoughts on: The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. LeGuin)

Hey again.

There are just a few little things I have to say about this book, and it is my last thoughts on for a while because the semester is over, so it's writing time... and then Barcelona time, which will be amazing!

The Left Hand of Darkness is one of those books that even if you DO NOT like Science Fiction and Fantasy, you have at least heard of it. I think I'd probably seen it for the first time in the library at my primary school because for a while people were constantly telling me to read LeGuin but I was never into it. And aside from a few favourites like Tamora Pierce, I never really jumped on the Speculative Fiction bandwagon. I've always been a realist novel kinda girl.

So needless to say, The Left Hand of Darkness kind of knocked me for six. First of all, it completely wrecked my reading schedule for the semester. I didn't finish it in time for the lecture OR in time for the tutorial the day after, which is just not me. I'm queen of the nerds usually, particularly when it comes to reading. But the theoretical side of the book was so intense. I struggled with the idea that the people on the planet Winter had no sexual characteristics at all. I kept imagining them as like people in morphsuits, or like people in bald caps painted as alien, but basically essentially male. It didn't help that the main character, Genly Ai, constantly referred to other characters by the pronouns "he" and "his". It's hard not to picture something masculine when the description is saying His face, His hands. And as a sometimes very outspoken young woman (ha! sometimes.) the fact that I couldn't imagine a world without gender was quite unsettling for me.

Maybe that was the point of the book. Maybe LeGuin wanted her readers to think about how much of the way they think about their identities is based on gender. Maybe she wanted to show us the way our world is split into all these binary oppositions. Dark, Light. Male, Female. Rich, Poor. Because at the end of the book, when Ai's own people come down in the rocket ship, he realises that he sees them as the ones who are not human, and the Gethenians who are both sides of the human binary at once, as the true humans. And I like that idea. I like it a lot. But even LeGuin has said she copped a bit of flack for the use of he, and the not completely realised notion of ambisexuality. Still, a lovely effort.



And speaking of *ahem* lovely efforts, this is me trying to draw a Karhidian... but I realise that it looks like a cross between a monk and the Last Airbender.... it was an exercise purely to see if i could draw someone neither male nor female. What do you reckon?

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Halloweeners...

This has possibly been the most boring Halloween since I bothered to start recognising it as a fun day to celebrate... Usually my friend Austen (he likes zombies) throws a Halloween party (and when I say usually, I mean he did it last year) but this year I think he's a bit stressed out, which is a shame. But if you look at some of his artwork, it's pretty amazing, the outcome of that stress.

So today wasn't really Halloween for me, it was like the countdown to Nanowrimo... a scary prospect in itself. I'm staying up to midnight to launch this thing.

So heres my blurb anyway, for anyone who's interested:

" Love This City

When Dean Godfrey's life takes a turn for the unsatisfying, he turns to alcohol. And when his favourite bar closes for construction, he's forced to find a new place to drink. He finds himself at The Shakespeare, a super exclusive underground club disguised as a public laundry. Inside are some of the weirdest, meanest, sexiest people he will ever meet.

And if satisfaction is what Dean's looking for, he's got a good shot at finding it there."

Hopefully your Halloweens were better than mine!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Thoughts on: Sustenance (Simone Lazaroo)

As I write this, I am trying to think back to Wednesday night when I stayed up past midnight finishing this book. I remember that it was unusually warm considering that the day had been so rainy, and I remember that my bed and its usual mountain of pillows was very comfortable. I remember turning page after page of this book and being fascinated by the things I recognised from my own life in the story.

Because, you see, Simone Lazaroo, author of Sustenance, teaches at my university, and her daughter is my age. I went to school with her daughter. And the Perth in this book was my Perth, so that was pretty amazing.

I have to keep this Thoughts On (the third last) short and sweet because I only have two weeks left of uni until the nuclear apocalypse also known as the day all my assignments are due happens. I have been writing a plan for a History essay all day and its longer than the actual essay is supposed to be, so that's a bit annoying. Plus it's all quotes. You know how they say work smart, not hard? I think I'm doing that wrong.

But I digress.

Sustenance moved me to tears. The book was beautifully put together, insightful, touching and honest. And it did something I have been trying to do with my own book. It ended realistically without leaving the reader disatisfied. I am flabberghasted, and I will read this book again. And so should you. Just look at its pretty cover!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Thoughts on: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

What if your life is an illusion? What if your life is a myth? What if your entire life has been predestined for you, written in letters that look like clothing on a washing line by an aging gypsy magician who dies not once but twice? What would you do then?




Aureliano Buendia never has to contemplate the answer to this. He doesn't have time. The manuscript, which after 100 years can finally be read, tells of his imminent destruction; seconds later, the village of Macondo is wiped from the memory of the Earth by apocalyptic winds.

This may be one of the most important books I have ever read. It raises several issues which I will briefly outline.

1) History.

I'm not only a student of English Literature, I'm also a History student. It makes for an interesting point of contrast, when I realise under the influence of discourses like New Historicism and Post Modernism, that OFFICIAL HISTORIES do not exist. And just like a novel, history can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. While many read Garcia Marquez's work as the history of the Latin American people, others argue that this is precisely what the author intended not to do. I don't know what the official line is, but by using Magical Realism, perhaps it was his aim to show us that History, capital H for the official versions, is just another fairy tale.

2) Solitude and Love

Being alone, truly alone and isolated from those around you, like Colonel Aureliano Buendia in his silver workshop, making and remaking gold fishes and like Jose Arcadio Segundo Buendia, forgotten in Melquiades' workshop with some fifty plus chamber pots, is like living your death. The line between the living and dead is constantly blurred. I cannot pin point the part in the novel where the original Jose Arcadio Buendia, tied to the chestnut tree, stops being a corporeal being and starts being a ghost. And the only remedy for this living death is love. Lovers in this novel take on almost divine significance. Love has the power to turn sisters against each other, and estrange mothers and daughters. It knows no boundaries, and leads to incest, bringing the novel full circle just in time to obliterate Macondo forever.

3) Disorder

Many of the supernatural events in the novel struck me as not supernatural at all. This is my own interpretation and not based on anything I have read. Rebeca's eating of non food items like dirt and plaster could easily be Pica, an eating disorder that appears to be on the obsessive compulsive spectrum. The birth of children with "pig's tails" to parents from the same blood line could be spina bifida. Even madness is viewed within the context of magic. Thinking about this novel in the context of the late 1960s, when it was written, it becomes clear that these sorts of things were not widely known about or discussed. And literature's purpose is to make sense of our lives; look how far we've come. Depression is a theme used by every television program aimed at teenagers. Asperger's Syndrome appears to be the popular disorder of the time, appearing in countless books and movies and TV shows this year.

I've written an article on Pica with this in mind for the next issue of Metior (themed Disorder) which should be on stands come exam time.

So those were just a few thoughts of mine. I'd like to end with a quote from the end of the novel, which I thought was perhaps the most amazing ending sentence I've read yet.

"...races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth."

Monday, 11 October 2010

Thoughts on: The Hunt for Red October (Tom Clancy)

I don't think that it's for no reason that there is an essay question option for my class that claims the characters are less important than the technology they use. Had the manuscript been rejected by the publishers, the rejection letter might have read something like this.

Dear Mr. Clancy,

It is my regretful duty to inform you that we will not be optioning the publication of your manuscript "The Hunt for Red October." As you know, we only take on a small number of new options per year, and your work narrowly missed the cut.* Your writing shows great determination and commitment, but is not what we are looking for at the current time. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

Sincerely,

Joachim Bennett**
Big False Publishing Company, Elimy's Desk, Australia

P.S. You might consider sending your submission to the United States Navy, as many of your passages read EXACTLY like a technical manual. If fiction is definitely the course that you would like to pursue however, you might want to try a) having a plot and b) not hiding it under the world's most comprehensive list of acronyms which may or may not actually exist.

Notes on the above fictional letter:
* Have you noticed that rejection letters and emails nearly always tell you that you narrowly missed the cut? I sometimes wonder if this is even the truth. Would they say that to me if I submitted the dietary information from the back of a box of corn flakes? Or am I always NEARLY good enough, because where I am sitting, that seems to be worse than being told I totally suck.

**Aren't I good at making up names? And Perth-ites, if you're listening to Hamish and Andy right now, isn't it funny that Andy pronounces this name Huck-eem rather than Waaack-eem?

Anyway, regretfully, back to Tom Clancy.

Can you tell I didn't like the book much? It took me way too long to read, considering I had about a week to do it in. Now I have 8 days to read 100 Days of Solitude! EEK.

Also, the movie of this book is funny in its complete suckiness. When Sam Neil dies, his dying words are "I would have like to have seen *death rasp* Montana!" *Dies*. Oh the hilarity, oh the kitchiness. And how funny looking is Tim Curry! Grow your hair out, mate, and put the fishnets back on. Rocky Horror forever!

I hope I never have to read another Thriller. Way to ruin the Cold War for a history lover, Mr. Clancy.

Friday, 8 October 2010

It's the Most Won-der-ful Time of the Year!




That's right! It's almost time for Nanowrimo 2010. Who's excited? I certainly am!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

E-Books

Some of you may know of my fellow blogger Jade Carver. If you don't already, I suggest you get acquainted.

This morning, she posted a short blog about why she likes what she has come to experience of e-books. I would like to do a brief counter-point to her argument, all in the spirit of lively debate.

I do not own an e-book reader. And while I like the novelty of new toys as much as the next girl, I am all for preserving the print industry. After all, it is my industry of choice. If we all take up reading e-books, this will reduce the demand for print books. While in some cases, this will be a blessing... just think, fewer books about sparkly vampires on the shelves!... in others this will be a problem. Jade talks about the fact that her e-book reader gives her access to books which are out of print or not available in Australia. Well. It is lack of demand which makes these books not available. And if people use their Kindles and whatever elses to read these books instead of buying them, demand obviously goes down. So yeah, it's cheaper. But if you work in publishing, it's actually a lot more expensive. I think in the long term (and sadly, despite my own feelings, this is the way we are headed) the e-book industry is going to severely damage the publishing industry. We will probably see the demise of the small independent publishing houses, although I most certainly hope not.

When it comes down to it, ordering a book doesn't take all that long. And when you receive that book you found on Amazon, or where-ever (The Book Depository is also good), it makes you smile, doesn't it? Simple pleasures in a brown paper envelope.

I'm being a bit dramatic here, but imagine a world without books! And yes I mean to say without books, because novels on screens are not BOOKS in the thingness of them. I don't honestly know what they are, but I'm reminded of that paper that used to come out of fax machines that was all joined together sheet by sheet like a concertina, and had the perforated stuff down the sides that I used to love stripping off. Except in pixel form.

On a more personal note, I don't like e-books because like a lot of people, I wear glasses to read, and I don't think that staring at a screen to read is particularly good for my disintegrating vision. If I sit at a computer at length (and I frequently do), it can make my vision blurry for a little while afterwards.

I want to appeal to the public here and ask you what you love most about books in their coporeal form (hehe)? I love them for the simple reason that they smell comforting. The smell of inky pages (even second hand or from a library) has always been one I associated with parts of my childhood.

Jade's reasons for liking e-books are very good. And I think she certainly has a fair point to make. But there are always going to be some people, like me, who resist. I like being the weird chick on the train with the bag so full of books she can barely carry it. I take a book with me everywhere. And some day I want to see my own novel bound and in the hands of a person not unlike myself. Or even totally unlike myself. I don't think I would feel the same sense of accomplishment if you could buy The Compound only as an e-book. E-book readers probably mean that in the future, it will be possible to self publish on the internet and sell your own novel. And that's going to give rise to the praise of a lot of mediocrity. It's going to blur that line between the true craftsman, and the one who takes the technological shortcut. That's actually probably very hypocritical coming from a blogger...

Look, when it comes down to it, make up your own mind. Yes, e-books will save you money. Yes, they are convenient. Yes, they are snazzy. But some things are worth preserving.





So many books... so little time...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Thoughts on: The Rights of Desire (Andre Brink)

Don't ask me why, but when I bought this book ($10 at the guild second hand bookshop), suffice to say I was less than enamoured with it. For some reason, I looked at it and it seemed thick; the other thing that struck me was that it seemed like a depressing French book. Is that just me being culturally ignorant about the name Andre? Perhaps. More than perhaps. I kept thinking about it along the same vein as the book Perfume. How stupid I was.

The Rights of Desire is a charming, deep novel set in South Africa, around the time of Mandela's long walk to freedom. I think the historical setting tells you a lot about the tone of the book; the weight of history hangs low throughout the lives of the protagonists, and the sadness and futility of the way they live their lives immediately puts me on their side even though the things that they have done, and continue to do I sometimes find reprehensible.

Although by the final section I found that I could predict what was going to happen, for the first time this was right. There really was only one correct way to end this book, and the fact that Brink chose to end the book the way I would have had him end it (albeit not a happy ending, but what is these days?) was heartily satisfying.

Please, please read this book. Maybe then you might understand why I read it in cars, at parks, in bed, out by the pool and every other place I went. This book, to be sentimental, was a friend to me.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Thoughts on: Dr No (Ian Fleming)



I would like to introduce you to some friends of mine. Not close personal ones or anything, but people that I've spent some time getting to know over the last week or so. You're probably going to say "That's Sean Connery and Ursula Andress." Well, actually you'd be wrong. Because I'm not talking about the actors. I'm talking about James Bond and Honey Rider. Or if you read the books rather than just watch movie versions, Honeychile to be perfectly accurate.

I'm not exactly a Bond fan. But I've watched a lot of the films. Dad and I went through a phase of watching them when they were on foxtel. I may have been in year 12 at the time but it could have even been last year. My memory isn't the most reliable, and therefore it won't surprise you if I say I don't remember much of the movies. I can tell you that the first one I saw was one with Connery in it, and there was a shark, and it may have been... no I was going to say Never say never again, or Die another day, and I think those are both Pierce Brosnan. I've never seen any of the Pierce Brosnan ones I don't think. I've seen the Roger Moores, the Sean Connery's, the George Lazenby (which is fun to turn the sound off on and redub over with friends, if you're looking for a party game. Alternatively, 10 points to anyone who invents a Bond drinking game. Perhaps every time he says a cheesy line...)

I'm a little off track. So for class I read Dr. No. And in the middle of reading Dr. No, I watched Dr. No. And is it just me or is the movie villain a) up to a lot more bad stuff than the book one and b) a lot more sadistic. Also, I wouldn't thought this possible, but the book is overtly... kind of romantic, aside from the whole fact of him moving on to a new girlfriend in the next book. In the movie, Bond has... 3 women that he uh... hooks up with... and in the book there is only Honey. And the way he thinks about her is as more than an exploit, which was nice.

I can't say it was the best book I've ever read because the language was a bit over done and sensationalist, but hey, it passed the time.

And oh my god, I love Ursula Andress in that film. I love the way she talks. It makes no sense at all.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Shall I Map My Influences? I Think I Shall.




This was done at the request of the lovely L.

There are many things which are not on that list; to name a few, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, The Young Ones, Phillipa Gregory Novels, John Hughes Movies...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

And If You Edit When You're Angry, You Only Wake Up Sad...

My year ten teacher used to say that in writing it is necessary to kill your babies, which I can only assume is an approximation of the well known phrase kill your darlings. What she meant was that you can't let your own feelings about a piece of prose stop you from editing it for the better.

I can see the merit in that.

Well, tonight I am in a bad mood. I won't make excuses. I am just in a bad mood. I came home from uni today wanting to write and I spent about half an hour writing something and then deleted it all because it wasn't going anywhere. Then I did some laundry etc, came back and tried to write something else. And I started off really well. But that sort of faded when I realised I have NO IDEA how it feels to be someone's step father. Plus the story had a bit of a Lolita vibe going on.

And I sent it to a friend, so if I do get grumpy and delete-button-happy, it won't be gone for good.

What really frustrates me is that I haven't had anything published except in Metior for maybe more than a year. And that makes me almost want to pack it in and get a real job. (See? Bad mood.)

But because you can't do anything about that at 10 34 pm, I did something else instead. I took a story I've been sitting on for ages and deleted a huge part of it.

And it really does feel like committing a murder.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Thoughts on: All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy)

That's right... I finally finished it. And this edition of Thoughts on contains SPOILERS.

Those of you who know me, know that I was struggling to get into this one. I carried it around a lot, but often I would read only 3 or 4 pages every few days because it was driving me crazy. McCarthy kind of has an aversion to using the same punctuation as normal people, but I guess that's his style. I can respect that. Everyone has their own style when they write and I'm sure I manipulate the rules of English in ways that annoy everyone. For example, I use way too many commas. My motto when it comes to grammar is "Commas are a Priviledge, not a Right."

This book really didn't make sense much in the first section. I couldn't work out who was being talked about sometimes; was it John Grady Cole or his father (the places where I wasn't sure, it was usually his Dad), and Lacey Rawlins was a character which I expected to be female. Oops. The fact that there are no quotation marks when people speak is difficult to get used to (but hey it happens in Cloudstreet too) and when Spanish is used, it is not translated. I could guess at some of it, but most of it I just had to pick up the tone. It was that or have a Spanish dictionary with me and even working out each individual word wasn't guaranteed to give me the meaning of each sentence. On the plus side, I think I have learned that Caballo is Spanish for horse.

I'd read reviews of this book on Shelfari, and people were saying things like "if you just get through 50 pages, it gets interesting". Because more than one person said it, I wanted to think it was true. Generally, with reading, there is a 50 page rule anyway; if you don't like something after 50 pages, stop bothering. Being a uni text, that rule alters slightly and becomes if you don't like it after 50 pages, suck it up Princess. So I kept reading, even though page 51 came and went and I still wasn't sucked into the world of the book. I would say I really started to love the story in the middle of section 3. And that's more that 150 pages in. These last two days I have been reading it voraciously. I don't know whether the text got better or my attitude did, but it was nice to be really into a book like that again, even if it was preceded by a big gap in reading caused by the same book.

What I liked about it most was the depth of characterisation. And what he did with tying up the loose ends of the romance. He did what I do, he wrote an anti-romance. I like that. I like non endings. They make me feel more in the world. Escapist literature is good for on planes and in the holidays and stuff but if a book has "One of the greatest American novels of this or any time- Guardian" written on the front of it, I don't want it ending all "and John and Alejandra got married anyway and had lots of really attractive children, and Lacey met someone too, and they got to keep Blevins's horse, plus it turned out he wasn't dead anyway and neither were John's father or grandfather, and the prison thing was part of a reality TV show."

That would really annoy me.

But a lot of things about modern writing do.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Competitions update

Today is a lovely sunny day, and I am in a good mood. I just took a drive down to my local Australia Post to buy stamps and an envelope so that I could send in my entry for this year's Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction competition. I'm so glad I'm not over 20 yet because I can still enter for free. Hooray. Cheap thrills. (Although the envelope and stamps cost me about $8.70....) It would be really nice to place this year... last year I didn't (and rightly so, I wrote something in about two hours and just sent it off... and it included an intertextual link which was really important but to a book I haven't even read) and the year before I came second.

I didn't end up entering the Wet Ink competition but I did enter the John Marsden Short Story Prize, so I'm still waiting to hear on that... in the meantime I think I will go and sit on the lollabout chairs in the backyard and read some Cormac McCarthy for class...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

"It just doesn't feel like a night out with no one sizing you up."

I've had a song stuck in my head for days.

More specifically, a few lines of Panic! at the Disco's (before they dropped their exclamation point and two of their members... so the first album)song "There's a good reason these tables are numbered Honey, you just haven't thought of it yet". For the record, I haven't thought of it either. And I've always suspected that the long abstract title thing was an attempt to be like Fall Out Boy. But who knows who's copying who anymore?

The lines in my head goes as follows "I'm the new cancer, never looked better, you can't stand it, or so you say so under your breath, you're reading lips, when did he get so confident?"

There are other bits (The title of this post for example...). I'm listening to it now. And I'm trying to work out why it's in my head. It's not on my iPod. It hasn't been on the radio. No one I know was talking about me. And it's so bizarre that it probably didn't come up as a result of someone talking about something else that was vaguely related.

Sigh.

This is definitely not getting my novel written.

(But to clarify, I did work on two short stories last night.)

Oh and Happy Birthday STC, you are now officially old.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Thoughts on: On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)

You might recall that some many moons ago, I said that Ian McEwan was one of the writers I aspire to be like. Well. The man has been nominated for the Booker prize umpteen times, plus his stuff is very entertaining, so can you really blame me? I've read Atonement (finished it within minutes of having to go and meet friends at the cinema to see the film), Amsterdam and as of a few hours ago, I've also read On Chesil Beach.

Let me tell you the best thing, in my opinion, about Mr McEwan's books; He makes the little nothings of life seem like everything.

I find myself always able to relate to his characters, even when they are so far removed from my own situation that without his help, I would not be putting myself in their shoes. I am Briony Tallis; I amFlorence Ponting. I am even a little bit of Edward. It makes me wonder if I am little bit like McEwan myself. Does he wonder about the same trivial things that I do? Does he search for significance in every thing he does?

I find myself amused also by this quote: "There were rumours that in the English department, and along the road at SOAS and down Kingsway at the LSE, men and women in tight black jeans and black polo neck sweaters had constant easy sex, without having to meet each other's parents. There was even talk of reefers. Edward sometimes took an experimental stroll from the History to the English department, hoping to find evidence of paradise on earth, but the corridors, the notice boards, and even the women looked no different" (McEwan, 2007, 40).

I guess that just tickled my fancy, being both an English and a History major. I don't know how much truth there is in it, even in my own time and location, let alone London 1962.

The other theme that always strikes me about McEwan's work is that of communication and understanding. His characters can often misunderstand each other and take years to truly come to grips with what was meant. I recognise that in daily life too. Old events take on new significance in time. I respect McEwan's ability to recognise that.

He remains on my list of those I aspire to be like. Others will not be so fortunate, I fear.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Those old familiar places

Some days, you would be forgiven for not knowing that I am a writer. I don't act like one. I act like a student most of the time (that is I procrastinate and spend a lot of time on Facebook). And it's actually been a really long time since I worked on the current manifestation of The Compound. But yesterday, I watched Atonement, you see, and it reminded me of my book, it reminded me of the kind of writer I want to be.

If only I knew how to end this damned thing.... I know what I want the outcome to be but I can't make it happen...

All of this makes me think of Marcel Proust, writhing in agony on his office floor (much to the alarm of his housekeeper), just agonizing over one sentence or one word. And Swan's Way is really wordy so he must have done that a lot I think. I haven't quite gotten to that stage. To be honest, if the words are not coming, I go to something else. I know that's not really a way to meet a deadline but, well, I haven't got one, have I?

Perhaps I should set one.

Perhaps I should say that from now until the end of this draft, I will complete one chapter a week. That should help me finish within the next few months, in time for Nanowrimo...(I will do that again this year but I think I will write the same story as last year even though that is kind of cheating. It unsettles me to have so many unfinished manuscripts.)

There is a touch of darkness in my current draft. Perhaps this ending around I will not be so nice. One thing I have learned is the best writing comes from making your characters as miserable as possible.

On the topic of misery, I am going to watch Phantom of the Opera. Gerard Butler makes me smile.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Thoughts on: Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)

I read this script in about two hours last night.

As far as screenplays go, this was a super readable one, but I would not recommend tackling it without seeing the movie first. I found myself remembering the scenes and imagining the actors in their roles and things.

Isn't it funny how you associate a particular movie with the first time you watched it? Isn't it even funnier when you think back to that day and feel nothing; no nostalgia, no sense of lost. Looking back on watching that film with a boy I used to date, I realise that I am a different person now. That girl in the memory reel I am watching is not me, but she sort of looks like me.

I digress.

I like Tarantino films because they deliberately fly in the face of taboo. Adultery, drugs, sex, gangsters etc. all feature in Pulp Fiction in a round about sort of way and yet it manages to remain remarkably kitsch, rather than deep and meaningful. I remember when I was small, seeing the movie poster framed in someone's playroom and thinking that because the movie was rated R, it must have been pornography. How naive I was. I also remember being shocked to see the video on the shelf of a family member. (I guess these are more just thoughts than thoughts on the movie itself...)

After I finished reading it, I lay in my bed in the dark listening to my iPod and trying to have deep thoughts about what I had read but I couldn't really come up with any. I guess that's part of Kitsh though... superficial, aesthetic entertainment value, with no hidden meaning or existentiality or whatever. I was disappointed though. There would be brag value to actually understanding a Tarantino flick on a deeper level probably. But I guess that's what we want in this Two Minute Noodle world. We want a visceral experience to entertain us and take us out of ourselves for an hour or two. We don't want to have to work and dissect this experience, we just want it to come to us.

I started to think about my own novel too. There is a lot of difference between the two stories, that is for sure. And I really wanted to write. But that drive has gone again. Perhaps it will be kind enough to return for the weekend.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Thoughts on: Curtain; Poirot's Last Case (Agatha Christie)

Just a quick post... I must say that I am growing somewhat tired of blogging about Uni stuff all the time. On Friday, I did try to work on the Compound, but I was so incredibly tired and brain-sore that I only managed to write about one hundred words about Winston's first shower on the ship that rescues him. Well, no actually, I managed to write a bit more than that but I suddenly realised the impracticality of writing about a warm shower... it would have been a fairly cold one probably. I will try to finish off that chapter this week though because my lack of writing is fairly ridiculous.

Anyways, on to our main event. Poirot.

What comes to mind when I say that name? He's one of Agatha Christie's most famous creations, the 1930's detective from Belgium with the adorable curliqued moustache. And I must say that reading his last adventure was much like playing a game of Cluedo. Or Clue, if you happen to be American, I suppose.

We are given a series of old murders. We are told that a person who shall not be named has been present in each case. And then we are told that another murder will be committed. All the possible suspects, victims and weapons are available within the house and it is up to the reader, and the protagonist Captain Hastings to guess what will happen.

And I did have a theory. I had a theory about who would be killed, by whom and why. I didn't give much thought to how though, because I would like to think that I do not possess a criminal mind.

Well, I was only a third right. I guessed who. I did not guess how, although it was fairly obvious once it happened. I incorrectly guessed who had done it. But the thing occuring in the life of my suspected murderer was true, if that makes any sense... I am trying not to give away spoilers.

What I really liked about this book was the way the clues were given quite regularly, but were disguised as non clues. Now that I have read the end of Poirot's adventures, I should like to read the rest of them. Perhaps in the right order though, haha.

And now, I go to write an essay, and possibly some novel.

Adieu.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Thoughts on: 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane

I had been dreading reading this one. Drama? Gag me. (And yet ironically I have somehow ended up friendly with a lot of people who LOVE drama. Weird.) And then weird, freaky, shock you to your senses until you fall out of your socks kind of drama? Double gag me. But Sarah Kane is fortunate that I was being made to read her book for uni, because I actually really enjoyed it.

I don't know if you remember, but I read the Monkey's Mask for Australian Literature and Film last semester, and I really liked that. It was great because it was so precise, all these pretty images/ not so pleasant ideas were put forth in a lovely, concise, understandable way, and I was able to just read and read and read... 4.48 Psychosis was like that. I'm definitely going to need another read of it to get my head around some of the core ideas but as a work of art, it just really spoke to me. My interpretation is probably wrong, mind you. But what I got from it was a sad, lost, lonely person searching and searching for themself/ someone to love and to love them back/ absolution etc and instead finding disappointment at every turn, someone who was told they were crazy because they couldn't just be happy, and someone who was plonked in front of a psychologist who didn't quite get that they were talking to a person and not doing a case study. I love the way that it's the disenchantment with the confidante/ psychologist that is the real trigger for conflict, as usually they are characters who are simply vessels for moving the story along.

But this is a play... and I have no idea how it would be performed... hmmm.

Seriously, read it.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Thoughts on: Bridget Jones' Diary

It's really, really hard not to think of the movie instead of the book version of this, but the book came first. Bridget probably was never supposed to look like Renee Zellweger, and it was a bit of laugh to have Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy no doubt, but as is the case with novel adaptations which enjoy considerable success, the sad fact is that most people now can't separate the two.

There's a rule I tend to respect, which was (I think) probably taught to me by my Grandpa: If you see the move first, you hate the book and vice versa.

I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

Bridget Jones' Diary is basically Pride and Prejudice and I cannot believe that I never noticed that before. I think it's probably because Bridget is infinitely LESS likeable than Elizabeth Bennett. (Seriously, chain smoker, obsessed with dieting and appearance, believes perfect boyfriend will mean ultimate life happines... what kind of a role model is she trying to be?) Yet despite this I have read this book twice now, and both times with ravenous intrigue because it is very entertaining. The book is written in diary style and afterwards I find myself typing to my friends on messenger like this:

"Feel v. hungry. Might make snack."

Like most work that would fall into the category of "chick lit" (I used inverted commas to show my lack of faith in this label) BJD aspires to be... funny, uplifting, empowering etc and to a certain extent, it is. It has the familiar tropes (which might have started with this text perhaps in a way) of the group of girlfriends/ token gay guy who deconstruct emotional eff-wittery on a regular basis (their term, not mine), the meddling but clueless mother who causes problems but sometimes also manages to help without trying, the sexy but emotionally unavailable love interest etc. etc. etc.

It's not exactly a favourite of mine but I did enjoy it. I hope I am managing to sound like I enjoy it even though I am focussing on the critical side of things.... anyway, it was a nice flipside of the coin to Devil's Cub and I will hopefully now write a prizewinning essay on the two... or at least get myself an HD on it for class. Also, this morning, finished 4.48 Psychosis (gosh that spelling always looks so wrong) in about 20 minutes but I think I want to read it again before I post my thoughts.

Entry has been sent off to the John Marsden awards. Have also resolved to get physically fit again to improve self confidence and stop being so tired all the time. (See, there's the Bridget speak.)

Too-raa everyone.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Thoughts on: Slowness (Milan Kundera)


I do not speak French.

Well. I do not speak much French. Like most of my generation, I know the lyrics to Art vs. Science's 'Parlez vous Francais' and also that bit from 'Lady Marmalade' but those sorts of phrases are hardly the sorts of things that you can walk up to a normal French person and say without either being slapped or lead into an inappropriate situation.

Nor do I speach Czech. (I actually don't even know what language they speak in the Czech republic...)

One person who would definitely speak both of those languages is Milan Kundera, prolific writer of modern literary fiction. And for my World Writing Today course, I have been asked to read a little novella of his called "Slowness."

First, an overview. Milan Kundera and his wife soujourn to a chateau (see I can use French words)in the French countryside which has seen two instances of... shall we say corporeal expressions of spontaneous love. Each of these events is one hundred years apart from the other. The first event takes place in France's decadent past... Mme de'T takes a lover for the night, a Chevalier who is already the paramour of a Contesse. Their lovemaking is an expression of daring and slowness. But come the following morning, the Chevalier learns of its farcical nature. He was only invited into Mme de'T's bed in order to throw her husband's suspicions aside as to the identity of her true lover, a Marquis. What the Chevalier must determine is whether or not to remember the moment in all its slowness as a beautiful thing, or to be ashamed that he has been had. The second event happens seemingly in the modern day. A young political commentator (I think that's what he is, anyway) attends some sort of political event in which he is made to feel impotent by the men he associates with, and so he picks up a young woman in order to prove to himself, and all of them, that he is more of a man. But in his haste to do so, the moment is spoiled and the woman leaves without a trace. Vincent feels worse than before.

The beauty of this book is in its simplicity. Everything Kundera says is so obvious. He picks up on the little truths of life that the rest of us overlook and points out to us all that in our "2 Minute Noodles" lifestyle, we focus on the end result and ignore the beauty of the process or the journey.

It really was a clever little book although I failed to see the outright comedy I was promised by my lecturer. And even better still, it fits perfectly into even the fullest bag. Perfect train or bus reading material.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Thoughts on: Devil's Cub (Georgette Heyer)

I think I probably owe Georgette Heyer a bit of an apology.



The other day I was at work, sitting in my boss's comfy chair and eating some lunch while reading Devil's Cub and our Jeweller asked me what I was reading. I said "The kind of novel you buy for five dollars at an airport and then throw out when you reach your destination." You see, in my head, the works of Georgette Heyer were much akin to Mills and Boon novels. I think this largely comes from an earlier reading of a book called The Fiction Class, in which the main character has been named after a Heyer book by her vapid mother.

Well. At the time of making those comments, I was fairly sure I was right. I'd only read the book a chapter at a time and it seemed to be all heaving chests and duels. And then of course, I started to like it. I found that I really connected with Mary Challoner, being the older, less... popular sister, and even though I could predict the ending, I wanted to watch it all happen. It was a little more realistic than I had expected even. And I've spent the past two days lolling about in the sunshine finishing it.

Basically, the book is about Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal, who by today's standards would be deemed something of a "player". He's the son of the Duke and Duchess of Avon so naturally every local busybody wants their daughter married to him and while he 'enjoys' feminine companionship (if you get my drift) he's not ever met anyone who he respected enough to marry. But, as is the womanly way, most girls believe they will be the one to change him. In the novel, his latest pursuit is Sophia Challoner, a blonde... well lets just call her the Barbie character. Sophia likes pretty clothes and to be flattered and flirted with. And then one day, Dominic has a bit too much to drink and shoots a man near-dead for insulting his honour. So Dominic writes to Sophia and tells her to run away with him to Paris. But Mary, the plain, bookish older sister (think... librarian type but feisty) gets the letter by accident and she decides to save her sister's reputation by going in her place. No prizes for guessing what happens.




The ending does seem somewhat rushed however, and Mary DOES run away an awful lot. But as an aspiring historical novelist I have to commend Georgette Heyer for her ability to make me speak very formal English for the next half an hour after I finished it.

Also, I found a small typo in my copy of the book.

"Mr Comyn said sarcastically that he was happy to be a source of so much interest, but since he spoke no English, no one understood him." (p.230)

I had a bit of a giggle at this. Mr. Comyn speaks English very well, actually, and other characters remark on it often. It's French that he has no grasp of. And the idea of an Englishman being unable to speak to French servants because he can't speak English is quite funny. Oops, Avon Publishing.

I've only just found out that it is part of a trilogy, and not the first part either. I think it's great that it stands alone, although I did expect that perhaps there was some volume to come before it about the courtship of the protagonist's parents. I suppose that is all gobbledegook to most of you though...

Well, I just hope that I enjoy the rest of my uni books as much as I enjoyed this one. I shall endeavour to review them all on here for... ahem... research purposes.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Glimpses of Inspiration

Last night I had one of those moments.

I don't know if you've ever had one yourself, but its that want that bubbles up in you when you read a story or see one acted out that you wish with pretty much everything in you that you had written. And don't laugh, but this metaphysical yearning in me was caused by an episode of Cold Case.

At my house, watching Cold Case on a Monday is just something we all do lately. It's right after dinner, it's the only thing on, etc. etc. We've had the same thing happen with Bones on Tuesday nights, or CSI on Wednesday. What can I say? We all have a penchant for formulaic crime drama.

Last night we were watching an episode with a murder from 1945. As I said to my mother, that's a really really REALLY cold case. But as some of you may know, the 1940s are probably my favourite decade. It's something about the way people dress, the quality of film, photos and artwork and also the way the world was just changing from a super innocent place at the turn of the Century to a place that had seen more evil and destruction than anyone could have ever imagined 45 years later. That's one person's lifetime. And this episode of Cold Case really captured that for me. And it did what I've struggled to do with my novel. It spread the word... take notice; True love does not conquer all.

I won't go into detail of what happened in the episode because I know that some of you might not have seen it. But that final scene, on the platform at the train station when the ex-Nazi who had been impersonating a Jew begged his American journalist girlfriend to say that she could still love him though she knew what he had done? It took my breath away. There was such intensity, such... realism. And I wanted to write it but the moment passed too quickly.

Plus, I am pretty sure that is plagiarism.

Friday, 30 July 2010

The End of JulNoWriMo

With a superhuman burst of strength, the final 6000 words have been written. (I am referring to the last 6000 words of my JulNoWriMo quota though, and not of the novel itself.) I think I will be very happy to have my life back... although now I think about it I believe I have had more of a life these last two months than ever before. How odd.

In case anyone was wondering, I am almost three quarters of the way done with this draft. Things currently stand at 101 pages (sadly not dalmations. That was for you, Lauren.) and 50 144 words, although I think that counts the fake jacket review I put on the cover page I made that says "More fun than a barrel of Monkeys- E.P." I have also made a few changes layout- wise, including splitting the whole book into not two but four sections and trying to make each section a fully realised mini journey. I am getting encouraging reviews from my friends.

As I have met this month's goal, tomorrow night I will celebrate my progress by dressing as a little sailor girl and partying with some friends.

I think my goal for next month shall be to finish reading up about World War Two era Japanese occupied Singapore. It's really quite a fascinating subject; heartbreaking, inspiring... these are the first hand accounts by the way.

I am also going to make it my goal to stay very positive about the endeavour. Or maybe about things in general might help.

Uni starts again for me on Tuesday... (I don't go Mondays this semester).

Sigh.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Writer’s Retreat

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What do you get if you lock five people all interested in Literature(or six depending on the day of the week) in a house by a beach and tell them to write?

(In case you were wondering the answer is bad amateur photography.)

In all seriousness, I think that the little break from the norm was exactly what I needed.  I would (and frequently do) describe myself as a somewhat uptight person.  I live by the mantra of “What Would Mum and Dad think?” and when I usually go away to my Grandparent’s beach house the week can have the effect of turning me into Scary Prison Guard Dragon Lady.  But so far, every time I have taken people with me down there without parents, I have managed to become a little more laid back and enjoy myself a little more. 

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Every night this week, The Writers did some cooking.  (This was a nice break from consuming a lot of raw cookie dough/ chips/ chocolate and in some cases wine.)  Every day, there was much lying on blankets on the lawn in the blissful sunshine, enjoying the fact that Mandurah refuses to recognise the concept of Winter.  I think I must have gone for about fifteen walks, including one night time one.  I also tried to finish Eat Pray Love, but I didn’t quite manage, what with all the beautiful nature and inspiration.  (But I did spend the whole week spouting cosmic wisdom and saying things like zen and chakra.)  At times, with all four of us curled up over our laptops at the table it did tend to look a little bit like a LAN party or a hacking operation.

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I climbed a tree, also.  It may or may not have had footholds nailed to it… (but any small victory over vertigo is one I will take.)

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There were even some silly boys going body surfing at one point, that’s how nice the weather was. 

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We discovered this architectural gem on one of our walks.  It’s practically inviting you in! (The second time we looked for it, I swear it was GONE.  And then I found it again, so I took a picture… ghost shed?)

Being back in Perth is much less inspiring but I will soldier on.

How bummed am I that Uni is starting again in a week???

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Blank Pages

writing 006 Is this not just the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?

Okay, well maybe that’s just me then. 

New notebooks have always felt like new chapters in my life.  When I start a new notebook, I feel like maybe I am not tied down by what I wrote in the old one.  All the whinging and pining and the rants (my gosh, the rants!) are closed up. They are over.  They are stuffed into a pile of old notebooks. 

I actually have a lot of notebooks.  Waiting.  Waiting to be used.  People give them to me for birthdays and stuff like that, and I’m rather behind on using them.  I really miss being able to just buy a fifty cent composition book and cover it with pictures as I go on, but I understand that buying me notebooks is how the people around me try to say that they “get me.”

writing 004 Front view.  Do you like my funky calculator? 

writing 005 Back view.  When you put them together they actually say Know Your Rights.  And the words are the Declaration of Human Rights, if you are wondering.  My friend Jess got it for me to go with my 18th birthday present.  (Yeah, it took me a year and four months to get to the notebook!?)

So I’m going to take it with me everywhere for a while and break it in.  Because notebooks are a little bit like shoes in that way.  You reach into your bag looking for your old notebook and come up with the new one.  “Oh yeah!” you say, remembering that the old one is gone.

writing 002 Now if only I could find some space in my bag…

Monday, 12 July 2010

Reading James Joyce's Ulysses for the First Time

June 16. Its a date that won't ring true to many of you, unless its your birthday or the birthday of someone close to you. But I want to introduce the concept of Bloomsday to you all.


James Joyce's Ulysses, a modernist novel spanning a whopping 600+ pages of train-of-thought, takes place over the course of a single day, June 16. And Joyce fans everywhere like to celebrate this special day by reading it over the course of Bloomsday. Or at least starting it.

I'm pretty sure I came across the idea of Bloomsday in a column by Danny Katz once. Of course, back then, Ulysses was just a really thick, scary book.

So how, you may ask, did I come to read it?

Well, first of all, read it is being used relatively here, because I actually didn't finish it. I got through 150 pages, which is pretty impressive because a lot of sources say that if you're going to give up on a book you need to at least give it 50 pages. And I gave it three times that. I gave it a week and a bit of my life. And then something shiny came along and I got distracted...

But like a lot of things in my life, reading Ulysses was about the glory of being able to say "Oh yes, I picked up Ulysses once, tried to read it one winter." A friend of mine sent me an article about those Kindle things... which are a terrible idea by the way... and it was about how when they make the e-Book of Ulysses they have to take the sexy bits out, remove the illustrations and whatnot. (How disappointed was I to discover that my version didn't have illustrations anyway?) And I started thinking about Ulysses. About the kind of people who sat down and tried to read it.

I mean just look at Marilyn Munroe! Image Respectfully Pilfered From: Ordinary Finds

I wondered how many people in the world had read it all the way through. I wondered how many people in the world had understood it. I wondered where the government had hidden these people to make the rest of us look smart. And I realised there was only one way to find out. I had to BECOME one of those people.

Now it just so happens that I vocalise (or raise the subject via online conversation) nearly every thought I have. And someone that I was talking to happened to reply with a statement along the lines of "it's funny you should ask me if I have read it because it's sitting on the pile of books I have yet to read." We decided to have a race.

My intention was that we would read it, and then join that elite club of Joyce readers, and sit in coffee shops wearing berets and tinted glasses, drinking coffee blacker than our skivvies and talking about the magic of Joyce, all the while being extremely pretentious.

Well. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

My grandpa's reaction when I told him that I was trying read it was something along the lines of "People who start that book rarely finish it." I know he's read it. I know that he's read some other Joyce too. And I know that he probably understood them because my grandparents are without a doubt the smartest people I know. And I'm not just saying that because they're reading this. Grandpa probably knows what island the government are hiding the Joyce lovers on. And I, poor fool, said to him "I intend to finish."

I said this to him knowing that the book had sat on my desk for five consecutive days without being picked up. I said this to him knowing that I had no idea what was going on. I said this to him, and even as the words came out, I knew that it would not be true at this point in time.

Saturday night officially marked the end of the reading race. Ironically, it was a draw. Both of us made it to page 150. I think that's 8 chapters.

This quote from Ulysses is ironically appropriate to my efforts this first time around.

" We were always loyal to lost causes, the professor said. Success for us is the death of the intellect and of the imagination. We were never loyal to the successful. We serve them." page 110


Aw now look how sad I've made poor James Joyce! I'm guilt ridden! I vow to try again one day in the future, fear not Mr. Joyce. And maybe I'll even read some of your other work too.

Image Respectfully Pilfered from: The Mad Aardvark (You can read about their attempts to celebrate Bloomsday there too.)

Yours Faithfully,

Elimy

P.S. I am digging the eyepatch. Very Captain Hook.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Review: Kill Your Darlings Issue 2




The powers that be tell us never to judge a book by its cover.




But that is exactly where I am going to start. Jeremy Ley is responsible for both the cover illustrations so far, and I have to say that the cover is what attracted me to the journal in the first place. There is something about the noir look, the cloak and dagger, the stunning girls in trench coats, that makes reading this journal seem impossibly sexy.
I first stumbled across Kill Your Darlings when it was reviewed in the West Australian Newspaper. I can't remember exactly what the review said, but I do remember that I was intrigued. I am always on the look out for places to send my work, and the feel of KYD just screamed at me. It was exactly the kind of publication that I would want my work in.
Issue One was fantastic. I had high expectations for Issue Two, and living in W.A. made things particularly cumbersome, as I had to wait an extra weekend to get mine. But on Monday... a day which was anything but jolly, I may add... it arrived, in all its brown, padded envelope glory.
It was worth sidelining Ulysses, I tell you that much.
It's taken me five days to get through all of it, and that's including stopping to watch Gilmore Girls season five and write for JulNoWriMo. I also took a break to go ice skating. Hilarity ensued.
To date, Kill Your Darlings is the only Journal which has made me want to read everything in it. The fiction especially, but I also really love the reviews and essays. More so in issue one because of the novelty factor I suppose, but issue two was also extremely informative. I have found that if I let them, a good writer can not only make me think about things outside my comfort zone, they can also make me enjoy it.
This issue began with Monica Dux's essay "The Temple of The Female Eunuch." Now, I'm not a feminist, although in the past I have been labelled one... (outrageous) but I know a lot of people who are. This essay raised a lot of very valid points about Greer and about her relationship with the feminist movement she has been associated with. She is, if you will a metonym for feminism. The first article or story in any journal sets the tone for the rest of the piece, and I'm just not sure if I really connected with this one. I would have liked to have seen "Lunch in Mayfair" by Ruth Starke kick off the commentary section. From a writer's perspective, this article was both funny and helpful, and if you happen to NOT be a feminist, doesn't make you feel a little left out when the writer begins talking about famous people you've never heard of. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the Dux essay. I loved that she made the point of Greer's main crime being that she allowed herself to age. But I did not connect with it on the level the writer intended. It was for a target market that I do not fit.
The fiction section this time around appeared to have a theme. Each and every story involved identity fraud on some level. I don't know whether this was pure coincidence or whether the editors at KYD just decided to be whimsical, but I really did like this unexpected theme. The first story was by Pierz Newton-John and it was called Shock. I read it on Wednesday before Ice Skating and talked about it in the car the whole way there. Of the other stories, I also liked Comfort Inn by Samuel Rutter. The other two stories, while very good, where somewhat confusing. In A Terror Story by Leanne Hall, I was neither terrified, nor did I know whether the narrator was a woman or a man. That's all well and good if you don't subscribe to gender, but it did leave me somewhat undecided on the tone of the piece. Was I reading a story about a beautiful lesbian black widow who captured our narrator in a green house? Or was she a nutter who lured old men back to her apartment for kicks? I don't like not being sure. Friction by Virginia Peters was actually quite well done once I finished it and thought over what I had read. But the formatting of the story, the constant switching between 'Fiction' and 'Non-Fiction' and the not so obvious time difference between the two threads had me scratching my head for a while.
Hannah Kent's interview with Phillip Pullman was an interesting study of the writer in a post-religious world. It prompted a conversation with my sister yesterday morning about where the public evil in religion truly lies. These sorts of conversations are most infrequent; a true testament to the intrigue contained in that interview.
Finally, the reviews. There were more of these than last time. I skim read most, but my final verdict is that I now want to a) read some Barbara Trapido, and b) watch Love My Way.
So there you have it. That's my breakdown of Issue Two. Next issue I would love to see way more fiction.
Ta Ta For Now, TTFN

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Marathon Month

T.S. Eliot said, "April is the cruelest month."


If April is the month for cruelty, then July should be the month of marathons.

While I am all for doing things to excess, July is really the only month that this is a possibility, because Uni is over for the whole month, unlike June where I have exams for part of it. Things that I finally have time to do include writing, reading and watching far too much Television.

So far, this holidays I have watched 4 and a half seasons of Gilmore Girls, read 8 chapters of Ulysses (and finished numerous other books but reading Ulysses was for a race... one I think I might be losing) and written 10 012 words on the new and improved "The Compound."

This morning, I took in a Write-In at Il Cibo cafe on Market St in Fremantle. If you ever get there, have their coconut bread. It is to die for. My friend L and I grabbed their biggest table, which was was fortunate because there were five of us there by the end... more might even have showed up after I left. What I have discovered about myself is that I am strictly a desk writer. I must have no distractions, and people count as a distraction. So does creepy piped in music.

By midnight I need to have come up to 11 669 words. But I'm not going to push it too hard.

There is no better feeling in the world than fetting exactly what you want. But if it happened all the time, it wouldn't be anywhere near as big a deal.

Stay tuned for my review of Kill Your Darlings Issue 2.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Letter to a Future Law Student



I use to love talking on the phone with you. Back then, it didn't have to mean anything. I remember the time that you were cooking bacon, holding the phone to your ear with your shoulder and grease kept flicking out and burning you, so you put your older sister on the phone. She wanted to know if I was your girlfriend. I wasn't. I don't even think I wished I was yet. I just liked talking to you. You were the smartest person I'd ever met who wasn't grown up.

I must have liked you at some point though because I remember a girl in our Japanese class telling me you used to have a crush on me in Year 8. I felt stupid at the time because I'd liked you too, and I'd moved on. It was like we'd missed a turn off on the freeway and now we were driving around in different parts of the city from each other. Things might have been different if we'd been able to talk about something other than school that first year. But I was twelve. I was twelve and you were thirteen.

Another time, I had an older girl over at my house, a friend of the family, and you rang. I think I was mad at you at the time. I wanted you to think that my friend was a model. I told you her name was Courtney Bean and we cut out a picture from Girlfriend magazine of a girl in a bikini with her back to the camera for her to sign for you. I don't think you ever fell for it though, so I think I might smile too much when I lie or something.

Sometimes I wonder if it hurt you that I went out with your friend from the debating team. You two were hardly Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble, but you did eat lunch together. Didn't you have an imaginary girlfriend or something? Was her name Courtney too? Is that how the model joke started? Oh I don't know. The past is fragmented. I only knew you for three years and you've split into a kaleidoscope of different colours and dispersed, just like you left our school and went to a private one for year 11 and 12. The you that I am writing to now could hardly be the same version who my best friend wanted to date in year 9. That boy told her that he wouldn't spoil their friendship by dating her. And he couldn't possibly be the same person as the boy I was surprised to meet at a party, who went around back with a girl he'd only just met, only a year after you left school.

There's a version of you that I will never stop hating. I sometimes take that memory out and dust it off, replay it on the warped gramophone of my memory and it sounds a little distorted. But I cried, I want you to know that. The day you left, you told me that you couldn't talk to me any more because I am too opinionated. I want to think that you did that because you didn't want me to miss you.

That was the first time I realised that you didn't belong on the pedestal I had reserved for you. You weren't as smart as I thought.

It still sits wrong with me that we don't talk anymore.