A TO Z STORIES OF LIFE AND DEATH by D.Biswas (A Smashwords e-book, 2011)
There can be freedom in constraint and our short life span is the biggest constraint of all.
Embracing these restrictions, can be liberating but is undeniably challenging. It means accepting endings rather than fighting against them.
Writing is, like all forms of creative expression, a discipline. Imagination and inspiration are useful too but these aren’t much good without application.
A quote, generally ascribed to William Faulkner, makes the case for less sexy prerequisites like dedication and perspiration: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired ar 9 o’clock every morning”.
Organization and a well-defined framework is invaluable for writers and is also good for readers.
Several movies by Peter Greenaway use the alphabet as a structural device and Walter Abish’s experimental debut novel Alphabetical Africa was even more rigorous with the first chapter containing only words starting with the letter ‘a’ and the next 25 chapters introducing words starting with each letter in turn before doing the same thing in reverse for the remaining 26 chapters.
Damyanti Biswas’s book is practically disencumbered by comparison. The only rule she is bound by is that each of each 26 short chapters must begin with a different letter of the alphabet, taking us from A for Aquarium to Z for Zone.
The collection of micro-fiction is drawn from her own blog and was in response to challenge posed by Arlee Bird to write 26 posts on 26 days of April with a day of rest allowed only Sundays. View full article »
THE WASP FACTORY by Iain Banks (Abacus, 1984)
This is a story of murder, insanity and insects. The blurb warns: “Enter – if you can bear it – the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen and unconventional to say the least”.
Critics are torn between regarding it as a depraved product of a sick mind or as an exceptional Gothic horror story. It’s probably safe to say it’s a bit of both.
I like the fact that my paperback edition (of 2003) includes negative reviews alongside positive ones. The Irish Times said: “The majority of the literate public will be relieved that only reviewers are obliged to look at any of it” while the Sunday Express dismissed it as “the lurid literary equivalent of a video nasty”. Far from driving away potential readers, reactionary reactions like these are enough pique anyone’s curiosity.
Banks’ death earlier this year at the age of 59 prompted me to pick up this book now. I had always had the intention of reading but never quite got round to. It is the best known and most notorious of the 26 novels, both mainstream and Sci-Fi, he published in his lifetime.
Its enduring appeal lies in the delight the author takes he takes in getting inside the head of a tortured and vile individual with an uncontrollable urge to take life and inflict pain. View full article »
’Bring Up The Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel, which I blogged about yesterday, has much to say about the nature of political manoeuvring and power games that seem as relevant now and as in the 16th century.
This quote, for example, could apply to any age:
”What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door”.
BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, 2012)
I enjoyed this historic novel but didn’t find it quite as enthralling as Wolf Hall. Possibly this is down to the fact that I knew more what to expect but also could be because Thomas Cromwell seems less Machiavellian this time around. I missed the fact that he had no intellectual equal to play off against. Thomas More fulfilled this role in Wolf Hall but, by the time the sequel starts, More has gone the way of many others by being executed.
More’s fate served as a reminder that no one was free of the threat of public execution simply for disagreeing with the royal policy. An abrupt end hung over anyone who falls out of favour with Henry or the church, which in England, after a rejection of papal rule from Rome, amounted to the same thing.
The novel begins in 1535 with a hunting scene and “riot of dismemberment” and ends a year later in similarly bloody fashion with human victims.
Cromwell is well established as Henry’s trusted advisor but is under no illusions that, for the most part, he is treading on thin ice. One false step could prove fatal. View full article »
THE IRON MAN by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin (Walker Books, 2010)
At a recent British Library public discussion on Ideology in Children’s Literature, editor, and now independent publisher, David Finkling raised the question as to whether it is right to make a distinction between books for children and adults.
His point was that this largely arbitrary separation is often nothing more than a marketing tool which ignores the fact that many titles can and should be enjoyed by all ages.
This might not apply to Peppa Pig publications but is most certainly the case for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, both of which were edited by Finkling.
Ted Hughes’ poetic creation The Iron Man has a message that isn’t confined to fledgling readers, nor has it anything in common with the Marvel comics’ superhero. View full article »