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Showing posts from November, 2018

Work in Progress - 25 November 2018

These blog pages are easier to produce than the web pages, so WIP and what I'm reading will appear here in future. Another concession to digital automatonisation. 

There was an interesting anecdote in Peter Ansonge's radio drama Portrait of a Gentleman, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 recently and still available to listen to. The play explores the possible relationship (or lack thereof) between Henry James and Constance Fenimore Woolson during their time in Venice. James is finishing The Portrait of a Lady and Fenimore is examining her life - both literary and romantic.

During the course of the play, James relates visits to writers in Paris and cites advice from Flaubert:

"The business of a writer is to finish a book; get to the end. Forget whether it's any good or not, or that you might be disappointed. You'll always be disappointed. Just finish it! That way, you get to write a second book."

A cursory search has not turned up a source for this advice, but it's tru…

Dark tales for dark evenings

Cherries and other tales - by Ian Thomson
Ian Thomson demonstrated his story-telling ability in Come Away, O Human Child and other Tales, and in Cherries, he continues to show his versatility, sharp observation and wit.
The five stories that comprise the collection each have cherries in them somewhere. Their importance ranges from the central to the incidental; indeed, in at least one, the reader has forgotten about them until they suddenly appear. This is not a literary Where’s Wally? but a clever device to link otherwise unrelated stories.
While there is a darkness to them – death and murder lending themselves to subdued tones – what distinguishes the stories is that their characters are so like people we have known. They all ring true, yet are not stereotypes.
The reader is repeatedly rewarded with wry observations, biting asides or a snigger of recognition: “He brought a particularly Welsh kind of misery to his conversation” (“The Pier”). Or, Paul’s first loves, (“Cardigan”) and his …

Cherries & Creative Writing Classes

My copy of Ian Thomson's Cherries arrived this week and I am happily turning the pages and enjoying these tales.

A full review will be published in due course, but characters, plot and perception are all there. 

"He brought a particularly Welsh kind of misery to his conversation. He was universally known as Dai Hat, and when asked why, he would only reply darkly that he used to have one."

Those are the sort of sentences one never learns to write in "creative writing" classes. In fact, they are the sort of sentences that anyone attending a creative writing class could never write.

Creative writing classes engender a sort of grim "originality" that can be spotted a mile away by the people who should be writing: readers.

Those who read a lot understand more about good writing than anyone who learned writing from a textbook. They know that a good character is like a drawing by Matisse or Picasso: three or four lines says it all, and the viewer fills in the res…