Monthly Archives: November 2012

Currently Reading…

Another review by the lovely C. Psycogeography is fascinating and there will be more of it in this blog as soon as possible. Enjoy 🙂

Writing the Long Way Around

…Scarp by Nick Papadimitriou

I saw Nick at the Edinburgh Book Festival and it was the link to psychogeography – and the presence of Will Self as the chair – that convinced me to attend his event. Nick is an unassuming, ordinary looking chap. The kind of chap who might be in front of you ordering coffee, the kind of chap who might pick up your discarded newspaper to read on the bus. Except it would seem Nick rarely uses the bus or any other form of transport other than his legs.

Although I have only started Scarp, Nick’s reportage of what he thinks and what he feels is honest and far-reaching, even though it comes in the thinnest wrapping of personal context. Reading, I felt a  renewed sense of confidence of how to locate myself in my own scarp. I suddenly felt my flights of fancy – not just…

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Review: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Definitely on my To Read list, although at some point I’ll have to prioritize it. Thanks to Ever for the review 🙂

blood on forgotten walls

Cosmopolis

After immersing myself in the wonderful prose and brilliantly perverse dialogue of Cosmopolis I’m convinced my reading and writing life will be clearly demarcated as pre-DeLillo and post-DeLillo.

Packer, an asset manager billionaire living in Manhattan, crawls through the gridlocked streets in his white sound-proofed technology-laden stretch-limo. He’s going to get a haircut at his childhood barbers, and on the way he has various encounters. His interactions with other characters can hardly even be called that; it is as if there’s a glass wall between them, as if they’re talking to and for themselves and not with anyone else. It’s also a coded, insular, language – the language of capitalism, that of big business and bankers. The dialogue comes in short bursts, precise sentences that almost seem cut off, as if the remaining words were edited out. I’m convinced DeLillo had a dominatrix standing over him to hand out full…

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Steampunk Fashion, Orientalism & the Ethics of Art on the Steampunk Chronicle

I’m very keen in discovering alternative views on orientalism and steampunk. When I went to the Historical Novel Conference in London, I did bring (and wear) my first attempt at an Oriental (Far East) inspired steampunk costume (photo incoming). Interesting article:)

Beyond Victoriana

Wilhemina Frame posts the second half of our interview at the Steampunk Chronicle

An excerpt:

WF: That brings up to me the whole Victorian concept of Orientalism, which was an art concept, a popular fashion concept, and a fascination that was held in the Victorian period especially in England but in Europe in general. Orientalism as I interpret it now, and this is my own personal interpretation, goes back to the concept of “The Other”. It has no foundation in reality. In Steampunk, if people are using that, but not being “travelers”, and they’re not trying to present an accurate viewpoint of a certain culture at that time — but they are referencing the historical aesthetics of Orientalism — how do you feel about that?

DP: (Laughs) Sorry, I’m laughing because you just asked a very long version of “Is this offensive if I do X, Y or Z?”

Part…

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Note of (short ) Absence

Hello 🙂

Just to let you know, I  won’t be able to post for a few days (again!I know!), but only for a few days. Regular posting will resume Friday at the latest.

The second module of the Relational Dynamics coaching course was even more intense and challenging than the first one, and yet three days felt like a short afternoon.

I’m in London right now, so if I have more urban London adventures I’ll let you know 🙂

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Steampunk Carousel | Brussels

I’d love to get a ride on one of these! Brussels is not that far away…*ponders*

Mesmerizing images (and a video) of steampunk carousels, in this blog:

Steampunk Carousel | Brussels.

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Too much or too little?

In the spirit of presenting diverse and varied points of view, I’d like to link a New York Times article titled A Short Defense of Literary Excess.

The contemporary preference seems to be for the economical, the efficient, for simple precision (though there is of course such a thing as complex precision). Books, it appears, should be neat and streamlined. Language shouldn’t be allowed to obscure a good story. There is a craving for easily relatable and sympathetic characters. Among critics and reviewers, the plain style is more likely to be praised than the elaborate or sprawling. Embellished prose is treated with suspicion, if not dismissed outright as overwritten, pretentious or self-indulgent. Drab prose is everywhere.

Yes, adjectives and all those ending in -ly should be exterminated…or at least cautiously sprinkled on our pages. Or not? Raymond Carver and Angela Carter: what a meeting! I love Cormac McCarthy’s sparse prose, but equally long for vertiginous sentences to sweep me away with them.

I don’t want to be suffocated, over-told, but neither I want to walk on shard-like words for too long. It’s so subjective, at times, and yet, when it works, scarcity or richness, it doesn’t matter.

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From Lancaster: Relational Dynamics couching course module 2

In Lancaster now for the second module of my coaching course. I’m looking forward to it, and after having done several hours of practical experience, I’ve focused on areas of strength and weakness.

Working on one self, whether is your writing, your attitude, your knowledge, is the best tool we have to live a better life, with ourselves and with others. Uh, that does sound like a platitude! Sorry about that 😉

But truly, this course is highly challenging but highly rewarding.

More interesting posts will follow, this is just a personal update. However, on the writing front, I’ve almost develop a structure for a short stories series, and I’m very excited about it. Not because I prefer short stories to novels or novellas (as I said before, each story needs its space/length), but because I love writing and new opportunities to challenge myself are welcome.

Challenge yourself now and then, the results will please you!

 

 

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Time for reading: what’s in a short story?

A relatively short time ago, writers were able to support themselves by selling short stories. I don’t know if any writer can still do that, (let me know if you or someone you know do 🙂 but it seems not as feasible anymore.

This article, The State of the Short Story, argues for television and changed habits being part of the influence in the lack of interest in the short story. It also poses longer narratives, such as novels, as occasions for losing oneself in another world/time/character, whereas the short story requires a stringent attention by its readers, and delivers a punch which makes for a less relaxing reading experience.

I’m not arguing with that. I want to point out how happy I am when I travel on the bus and the tube (in the UK) and realize how many fellow travelers are reading: a book, an ebook, doesn’t matter. They’re still reading.

Short stories don’t have the market they could have, not mainstream. But there are plenty of magazines seeking short stories submissions, and plenty of writers skilled in the genre. What I think is missing, and it resonates with my post on Ian McEwan’s preference for the Novella vs. the Novel, is a certain fluidity of the literary/genre market.

The short story is mostly seen, these days, as a trampoline for writers to get noticed, and then move on the more remunerative novel form. Instead, all forms of writing, no matter their word count, should be considered at the same level.

Just because a short story has a smaller word count, doesn’t mean it’s easier to write. Nothing is easy to write, in a way. All forms present their challenges, their flaws, their advantages.

If you’re interested in the short story, you may appreciate Object Lessons, The Paris Review’s collection of short stories and essays on the Art of the Short Story.

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Short Story advice

Short story writing advice by Bolano: irony and wisdom in 12 simple steps, and many stories and writers to add to your To Read list.

Biblioklept

Originally published in World Literature Today. Images via Defining Myself Secondhand.

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On Chesil Beach, McEwan and Novellas

At the recent Cheltenham Literary Festival, author Ian McEwan declared his support for the novella against the novel, a work of more or less 25.000 words. You can read a short piece reporting his words in this Telegraph article.

In 2007, McEwan’s On Chesil Beach was nominated for a Booker prize (even if it was quite short and more a novella than a novel, so in theory not eligible).

I’ve read On Chesil Beach. I would have happily thrown it against the wall, but my love for the printed paper didn’t let me. It wasn’t the book’s fault if the story made me want to growl and roar. McEwan’s prose is elegant, fluid, a pleasure. His characters well rounded and interesting. And yet, the story felt more like a treatise on the results of untreated flaws and trauma, with an outcome which was decided from the start.

Perhaps that’s where the writing talent is, in making you hope to the last page that things may be different, and making you believe it’s possible.

In any case, I hated On Chesil Beach with a passion, which I think it’s a very good result. The worst thing that can happen to a book is to leave you indifferent.

However, I completely agree with this statement by McEwan reported in the article mentioned above: brevity is good because

“you can hold the whole thing structurally in your mind at once.”

In an era where writers have to adhere to publishing houses’ requests in terms of word count (80.000 words for a novel, 120.000 for fantasy or sci fi, etc.), where the creative challenges of flashfiction attract more and more authors and where the short story seems to have found a more permanent place, McEwan’s statement points at something different.

The relationship between writer and reader and narrative, where the reader can partake of the narrative’s form as much as its content. Brevity is not just a creative challenge, but a chance for the writer to offer a text the reader can appreciate in its full potential.

Because most readers don’t have much time, to re-read a book several times until all the nuances and subtleties of the story are made clear. Some do, but there’s nothing wrong in considering other forms apart from the novel (in my opinion, not better, just different).

I personally believe in each story needing exactly the word count it needs, whether a novel, a novella, a short story or a drabble. Many classics in diverse genres, including the literary, published a long time ago, didn’t need a word count to find a place on the bookshelves.

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