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.