Stuff that has caught my eye or been playing on my mind this week:
Playing the Erland and the Carnival album quite a lot at the moment. Trouble in Mind is easily the best track on an album crammed with top tunes and the video is a corker.
The Library of Lost Books sounds like something that should have been happening well before now. Top marks to Scott Pack and The Friday Project for getting this imprint off the ground. I’ll be buying the Eric Morecambe novel, for sure.
Robert McCrum’s thoughts on the modern propensity for loooooooong novels struck a chord with me. I’ve just finished reading Jonathon Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ and though I enjoyed it, like McCrum, I reckon it could easily have dropped a hundred pages, maybe more, and been a better book for that. Thinking of the best novels I have read this year, they are nearly all slimmer volumes. Chip Kidd’s ‘The Cheese Monkeys’ is a thoroughly reasonable 274 pages and left me both satisfied yet wanting to read more – a good thing considering there is a sequel novel, ‘The Learners.’ Andrew Kaufman’s ‘All My Friends Are Superheros’ is so short as to be practically a novella, but is perfectly formed and as brilliant as its title suggests.
David Mitchell’s ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet’ stands as a contrasting example to the titles lambasted by McCrum in his article. Mitchell is nothing if not that rarest of beasts, a pragmatic literary author, and in interviews has clearly explained his having trimmed this book and his celebrated 2004 novel Cloud Atlas to around the 500 page mark in order to make their translation into other languages more palatable to publishers having to pay translators by the page. Both books have benefitted from this approach. There isn’t an ounce of fat on ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet’ and I would gladly read every single word of its 469 pages again.
As the wonderful Robert Louis Stevenson said, and McCrum quoted in his article,”If there is anywhere a thing said in two sentences that could have been as clearly and engagingly said in one, then it’s amateur work.”
Phillip Pullman’s plea in the Guardian back in September, for writers to stop using present tense as the default for fiction writing got me thinking about my own work. I’ve been guilty of writing a lot in the present tense myself over the last few months and reading this, amongst other things got me thinking that present tense perhaps isn’t the way to go with most work. The opening chapter of my novel written for my final OU assessment is one piece that, in retrospect, I should not have used first person for.
Reading Pullman’s piece has given me the urge to go back and tackle this work again using past tense. That decision also opened my head up to the idea of switching narrative viewpoints. So the structure of this novel in waiting is now up for grabs. Once I get done with NaNo, this project will certainly be getting more of my attention. I think my erroneous choice of tense was perhaps the reason why, without previously really knowing why, I have been avoiding continuing the piece.
In other news, I am in the process of sorting an interview with the talented Claudia Osmond, author of the young adult novel, ‘Smudge’s Mark.’ Those of you who followed my posts early this year detailing my Chinese Whisperings writing experience will recall that Claudia was my writing partner/counterpart producing her story for the Yin book at the same time as I was drafting mine for the Yang. It was my great pleasure to have Claudia feature my characters, Calvinsweetheart and his domineering mother, in her story ‘ The Other Side Of Limbo.’ The interview with Claudia will appear here in the near future.
Finally, two bits of story news. First, just a reminder that my womb exploring flash fiction trilogy, Ultrasounds, was published over at Metazen this week. Second, my short story ‘Third Party, Fire & Theft has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming edition of the print and online journal, Neon. If you aren’t familiar with Neon I suggest you head over to their site and have a rummage in the archives.