Sunday, 26 September 2010

In the beginning were some words.

I’m being workshopped tomorrow. Right now I’m heartily regretting sticking my hand up when they asked for volunteers for the first week. Actually, that’s only half-true – I’m also massively excited about having all my wonky little words torn to bits by MJ Hyland and my fellow scribbly postgrad types (who, on first meetings, give the impression of being a first-rate bunch).

Also, I wanted to put this up:

This door is outside my flat in halls. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to resist opening it. I’ll be sorely disappointed if whatever’s behind it doesn’t have claws and/or teeth.

Finally, since I’m not doing proper reviews at the moment, brief comments on what I’ve read recently:

Light, by M John Harrison. Amazing. Definitely lives up to the hype. To my surprise, I didn’t find the prose as magnificent as in some of Harrison’s other work. However, there’s a similar underlying melancholy to that in The Course of the Heart, which gives the wild, futuristuc plot lines a haunting human edge. A good one to throw at people who are skeptical about the literary potential of science fiction. In this, the spaceships aren't just there for the sake of it: they’re a medium for talking about humanity, loneliness, and trying to run away from one’s self.

My Life as a Fake, by Peter Carey. My first of his novels, and not one of the massively celebrated ones. Still first-class, though – some great writing and mucking about with different voices. I can see why he’s hot stuff, and definitely want to check out some more.

Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas. Not a sequel or a follow-on to The End of Mr Y, but sharing a similar approach to writing: take a genre (thriller for Mr Y, romance for Our Tragic Universe) and layer it in fun but serious discussions of literary, scientific and philosophical ideas until it makes your brain go a bit melty. I think this one’s better, but that might be because it’s so much about the structuring of stories, which is something I’ve been worrying about myself recently.

Madame Bovary, by Gustav Flaubert. Matches its reputation. Simple and tragic in structure, its strength is in the amazing depth of character and ability to describe life in detail without being dreary. Wonderfully careful in what it says and does not say – bar a few awkward references to ‘corruption’ it always lets you judge for yourself, so the characters, while universally weak and flawed, attain a humanity that it’s hard not to feel some affection for them.

Why must I read a string of really great books just as I stop reviewing the buggers?

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