Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Sidetracked by Deep Hanging Out

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Since Korakas is set in Crete, I couldn’t resist picking this up and having a read. I thought I’d check out how Richard Gwyn tackled the place. Funnily enough, although his book is far from what I am aiming for, we have the same feelings about the place – Crete that is – a land of stories and mis-information, myths and legends which tip over into reality. There’s a fair amount of sex in his book, and little more than sexual tension in mine. Mind you, his sex is very clear and unfussy, does what it says, no more, no less. Not gratuitous, just there. His book is set in the 1980s. My ex lived on the island for a while in the 70s and much of what he remembers is echoed in Gwyn’s version of the place, which is pretty close to how I remember the place when I lived there during the late 80s and early 90s.

I don’t suppose I would have picked up Gwyn’s book to read were it not for the setting, but I’m glad I did. It’s easy to get into habits with books and I enjoyed reading something that I ordinarily might have passed over. I did have the odd inward groan that he discusses topics which I cover in my as-yet-incomplete book, and writes passages in italics – as I do in parts of mine – although his italics are a stream of consciousness and mine are for the character of the mother. I suppose it would be impossible to write about a place like Crete without echoing some other book which has come before. At least it shows that if Korakas were published it may well pick up readers curious about the setting as much as those curious about the story.

If you have ever visited Crete, Hania in particular, I think you would enjoy reading Deep Hanging Out. If you enjoyed his last book The Colour of a Dog Running Away I reckon you should give it a whirl. If neither of the above apply, you could give it a whirl anyway. It took me a while to settle into, but I did eventually and I’m glad I did. I wasn’t too keen on the young protagonist, Cosmo Flute, but I don’t suppose I was meant to be. There were moments where I felt it was a bit over-written and Gwyn packed in too much factual/political information, perhaps a bit heavy handed in places, but the politics of Crete is quite heavy, so he’s forgiven. I may even have to lend my copy to the ex – much as it pains me to share with him – but I think he would appreciate the book, if only to reminisce about his home from way back.

windswept and interesting…

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Well – found a photo for the book jacket – all I have to do now is get a book to go inside it. Had the letter saying no thankyou for my one-to-one at the Writing Conference on Saturday, so that’s another avenue temporarily closed. Ah well,  back to the grind, done 3,000 words today, not bad going. If I can get this thing finished I think I might be able to write a decent synopsis or outline – that seems to be the hardest part for me. What is Korakas about anyway? Is it about a girl, a mother, a daughter, an island, a man, a beast? Is it about magic or is it about control? All of the above, but so hard to pin it down and make it sound interesting.

The photograph was taken by the other half last year, possibly the year before. In Norfolk on the beach, I think. Might have been Dorset though? Both holidays under canvas where nature and the wind played a great part in proceedings. I found the picture stuffed behind the computer, a real print of a real image printed on real photographic paper from an actual negative – how old fashioned. Not having a scanner, I snapped it on my mobile phone and transferred it here that way – how very modern. I must say I still prefer good old prints to digital – but the quick fix of digital makes this blogging thing more colourful.

Just time to post this before doing the school run. So my day of writng will come to a halt and the afternoon of cooking several meals to placate the disparate tastes of my lot will commence. I swore I’d never do it, but one of them only eats veg, the other won’t eat any veg at all and likes fish, the third will eat some veg, likes meat with gravy, but won’t eat casserole. Added to this the oven has broken, so somewhat limited as to what I can produce. You get the picture, I’m sure.

Notes from…

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It took a while to get through On Chesil Beach, a few weeks ago. I enjoyed parts of it, but I must admit I was left feeling a bit in the lurch. Not really a novel and not really a short story. I know, I know, a novella. But honestly, I wanted more. Maybe it’ll make a great film one day – I found the last part a bit tedious and a bit of an ‘information dump’ (a Graham Joyce phrase which I think describes perfectly that thing writers do when they just drop a whole load of facts on the reader instead of weaving them into the story piece by piece).

I set to on my own writing for a while, but then the computer went on the blink and I had to send it off to be fixed. Then my aged laptop decided to follow suit. So, I grabbed a cheap book at the supermarket – Patrick Gale’s Notes from an exhibition. What a great book. It is about a bi-polar painter and her Quaker husband (and their four children) and the truth about her life, which is revealed after her death – set for the most part in Penzance – it sounds dreadful, but it isn’t. He switches the narrative from view point to view point effortlessly, skipping from the present into the past and back again, allowing the reader to learn about every family member. No point me explaining any more, but if you fancy a good read, then read it.

The computer is back with a brand new hard drive (thanks to the extended warranty I didn’t even know I had) and I am inspired by Patrick Gale to attack my own stuff again. I have two viewpoints in my book (mother and daughter) and the narrative flips between the past and the present in turn, so reading Notes from was really helpful. I think so hard about how I am writing and which view or what time I am in, sometimes it seems quite laboured – having read Gale’s notes at the back of his book I realise that he planned and plotted to achieve a seamless result, so there is hope for mine yet.