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.


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.