Sunday, 27 July 2008

You can please some of the people some of the time, but...

The_seaWas beginning to think there was something wrong with me.

Almost every book I’ve picked up in the last few weeks has got dumped before I reached the end. And this despite each one coming with some heavy-duty recommendations.

What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for somebody else. It’s a matter of taste and the preference of the moment, and is all very subjective, which isn’t a bad thing. It’d be a boring world if we all enjoyed the same things, and for the same reasons.

All the same, the process forces me to Then_we_came_to_the_endquestion what I’m looking for in a piece of writing, and how I might address this myself. And how to sustain a reader’s interest when they might be feeling a little flighty and not easily hooked.

First off the rank was John Banville’s The Sea (winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize) which I stopped reading at page 40. This was followed by Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, which won a Richard and Judy British Book Award for 2008, and which my sister and my wife both enjoyed tremendously (whereas I came to an end with it by page 51). Then I tried James Frey’s ‘memoir’ A Million Little Pieces, which grabbed me so A_million_little_piecessoundly for 160 pages that I carried on reading for 130 pages more despite feeling that nothing new was happening, and eventually stopped reading with 210 pages to go. After this catalogue of failure on my part as a reader, I was determined to finish Penelope Green’s autobiography When In Rome ... and did. T'ra-t'ra!

Somehow I had to break the jinx.

I won’t go into why I put three of these books down prematurely, When_in_romealthough I try not to reject a book until I know why I’m doing it. The important thing to remember is that each of these books worked well for big numbers of other people. Who knows, but perhaps the planets were out of alignment or something as far as I was concerned. Perhaps I chose the wrong book for the wrong moment. Selecting a book to read can be a random process at times.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Things are happening

Work on Number Two got seriously delayed in the second half of the holidays recently, but all in a good cause. The final layout for The Snowing and Greening of Thomas PassmoreLayout arrived, prior to being sent to the printers, and I was bouncing about the place with a mixture of nerves and excitement as I worked my way through it, checking that everything was as it should be. It’s interesting to see ‘house style’ applied to punctuation and formatting (double inverted commas versus singles, for example) and to see what the words look like on the actual page. The process also made me realise how easy it is for a typo or two to slip into 84,000 words, even when you’ve drafted and redrafted dozens of times---probably because of that redrafting---but I hope and trust that every little i is dotted and every little t is crossed now. Having said that, I recently came across a typo in a recent edition of Nineteen The_view_from_here_coverlargeEighty-Four, which goes to show that these little blighters can even slip into the pages of modern classics.

Also heard that Borders (UK) have offered to include The Snowing and Greening in their Independents promotional bay for six weeks, from September through to mid-October, which will be a tremendous kick-start, following its release on 30th August. Great stuff!

And still on the good news front, The View From Here has been launched as a print magazine in the United States. Mike French, editor of The View From Here, has put together an attractive and exciting literary magazine using articles and interviews from the online version, and has generously given The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore a significant promotion. Today the States, tomorrow the world! To preview the print magazine, follow the link in Mike’s announcement.

Monday, 14 July 2008


Been out of town and down to the city for a few days. A matter of making the most of the last precious days of holiday before heading back to work.

It's always good to spoil ourselves in Melbourne, to meander through a few galleries, catch up with a few exhibitions and sample a few new restaurants. It's good to do this even in the middle of winter ... particularly in the middle of winter.

Art Deco 1910--1939 was at the top of our list of exhibitions this time, although we took in Photographers in the circle of Alfred Stieglitz and a few others besides. And we seemed to lean towards Italian and Greek cuisine on the whole, although this was by chance more than design.

Whilst it made a break from sitting at a keyboard and constructing fiction, the interesting thing is that these expeditions always spark a frenzy of ideas and I always want a few days afterwards just to ride on the energy they provide. There doesn't have to be any connection whatsoever between what I'm looking at and what I'm working on, but the interesting thing is that being surrounded by other people's ideas and interpretations of the world sharpens my focus and sense of what can be achieved. It leaves my head bouncing with new directions and fresh layers of ideas, and needing to write, write, write, before I explode, or forget.

Here's a flavour of the Art Deco era to get you tapping your feet and courting and sparking.