Monday, November 29, 2010

Ink on paper

Sneak preview of the new book: opening paras. All typeset and loverly. Though you can't tell that from here - sorry. But anyway...

My first love was a book.
It was a tiny thing, made by my father’s hand to fit into my own; inscribed in his strong, sloping letters and with a title page illustrated by him for me, with sketches of angels, horses bearing knights and red banners, roses and snowdrops and holly, and, in the centre, a unicorn.
I believed then that it was a picture of the whole world.
I remember every line of that book – even the creases in the pages – though it is many years since I held it. The year 1640, it must have been, or thereabouts.
‘In the beginning was the Word,’ he’d written on the cover and, inside, the first few words of Psalm 100: ‘Make a joyful noise.’

That's all. You can read the rest in August.

Friday, November 26, 2010


History is a collection of found objects washed up through time. Goods, ideas, personalities, surface towards us then sink away. Some we hook out, others we ignore, and as the pattern changes, so does the meaning. We cannot rely on the facts. Time which returns everything, changes everything.
~ Jeanette Winterson

Saturday, November 13, 2010

From the Hudson River to the Kapiti Coast

I never quite expected the words "Camus" and "Paraparaumu" to appear in the same story, but trust Bookslut to get there first.
An interesting post from Elizabeth Bachner on being transported by the legendary Margaret Mahy all the way from Manhattan to Paraparaumu, as an adult reader of a young adult novel. Margaret Mahy can do that to you.
Bachner has been scouring The Ultimate Teen Book Guide: More than 700 Great Books, and spends some time discussing the nature of best books - the books to which you return, no matter what age you were when you read them:
It makes me expect some new book [which will] thrill me, and heal me, and mutually love me, and make me safe. It reminds me that being full-grown doesn’t mean I have to be stolid, untransformable, bored, or dead. Beginning and ending things does not have to be teenage.

She touches on the question of whether the YA novel's success in a crossover market is because it allows time travel by the reader back to their own adolescence or simply across genre. Or simply about finding a bloody good read.
I was wondering the same thing this morning, as it happens, having downloaded the new Scott Westerfeld, Behemoth, a ripping steampunk yarn set in World War One. Sure, I can put it down as research of my own, but the truth is that the first book in the trilogy, Leviathan, sucked me in good and proper as a reader of any age, so that I felt I had to get the ebook immediately instead of waiting to be able to locate a hardback in the shops.
My critical author brain reads it out of one eye, my breathless twelve year-old self reads it with the other.
I don't even pretend when reading some books - for example, Harry Potter. If I think about the words on the page too much, I wish for a more heavy-handed editor. So I don't think about it. It's not hard. The story and characters inevitably carry me away from my adult self.
Mind you, my adolescent self largely had to get by without young adult novels and spent a great deal of time angsting with Camus too.
So maybe we're just catching up on lost opportunities.

Friday, November 05, 2010

And then you get wrinkles in time

"The concentration of a small child at play is analogous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself. He has thrown himself completely into whatever it is that he is doing. A child playing a game, building a sand castle, painting a picture, is completely in what he is doing. His self-consciousness is gone; his consciousness is wholly focused outside himself.

"When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves.

"A writer may be self-conscious about his work before and after but not during the writing. If I am self-conscious during the actual writing of a scene, then it ends up in the round file."

~ Madeline L’Engle

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Mixing metaphors

Reading some nice posts over on the AFTRS blog about genre films and television: 

Karen Pearlman argues that "Genre is Necessarily Metaphoric", including a claim that:

The purpose of Australian feature film production, I propose, is not to tell our own stories.  The purpose of our feature film industry is to make our myths.
and follows it up with "Genre is not a Dirty Word", which surveys classic genre films and argues:

...when we say Genre is not a dirty word we are not saying “sell out”, we are saying pay attention to audience expectations, create them and fulfill them.  We are saying pay attention to the history and techniques of cinema.  We are saying make stories that are bigger than yourself.  And finally, we are saying: consider the role of myth in storytelling and what stories are for.  
It doesn't seem to be an argument against realism as such, but rather a vindication of the use of myth and metaphor in film, and especially of genre film - and television. We hear the same discussions about genre writing in print. Attack, dismissal and defence.

I wonder whether genre writing has a much healthier future on TV than in film in spite of all the death knells. It certainly seems rosy at present. Period drama, space, procedurals, westerns, even musicals are thriving.
Never mind all the vampires.