Friday, 28 March 2014

My Field of Dreams

When I was a kid, magic and wonder in books was mainly to be found in the Narnia series or The Hobbit. Romance was provided by Jane Austin, Du Maurier or Victoria Holt and Cartland for those who sneaked such frowned-upon books into our school. Conan Doyle and Christie provided intrigue, Lois Stevenson - adventure, Bram Stoker and Shelley - horror.

As I grew older, I discovered a wider world and eagerly worked my way through more modern avenues but at my core, those first literary tastes had shaped my palette. I knew what I liked. Now, the choice is so overwhelming that I often struggle to find something to spark my imagination. I've been bombarded consistently with so much that the magic wore off, romance faded, intrigue dampened, I'd already lived enough adventure in my life and horror? - often gratuitous and repetitive. I found myself reverting back to the authors I used to read. To my surprise, since becoming a writer, I now see patterns, hear the author's inner voice in places I hadn't recognised previously.

But, how I now long to be so lost in a story that I do not see or hear anything behind the tale! Those first heady words that draw me in and keep me there agog just as the first page of Catcher in the Rye did or Zen and the Art... Is there anything new or has it all been persistently re-invented over the years? I read something and I'm reminded of something else. I also now switch off TV programmes for the same reason - long, drawn-out stories that should have ended long ago.

Despite the parade of the "next best thing" I'm still looking for that one unique Voice that will change standards and possibly life as I perceive it. The Voice that doesn't have to shout to be heard or use a string of profanities to make a point. I want a protagonist I can admire, hate, fall in love with and see all doubting Thomas's get their comeuppance. I want to cheer and rage, be lost in the character's psyche, to feel what they do and see through their eyes as well as be the observer from my lofty advantage point.

It is a kind of high perhaps, so long dependent on street-peddled goods that I want to experience the good stuff anew, that one supreme high. As a writer, I can only dream of being able to do it myself but as a reader, a viewer, then I look for it constantly out of the corner of my eye.
Welcome to my field of dreams

Friday, 21 March 2014

Finding a TV gem

I watched the first of a new series on Sky Arts last night, Michael Parkinson's Masterclass. He interviewed the comedian/actor/epic marathon runner (and future candidate for Mayor of London!) Eddie Izzard. I love Eddie's surreal humour and relaxed ability to just go with the flow when performing stand-up but I'm equally impressed with his proficient acting ability, e.g. a serial killer in Hannibal.

By the end of the interview I'd found a new respect for Eddie's work ethic - doing what he wanted to do as opposed to what was expected of him, persistence in the face of adversity, consistent attention to detail and constantly facing his fears. I am sure all performers have to keep reminding themselves of these ethics but they equally apply to writers too.

Eddie also pointed out that he had years of epic failures as a street performer and stand-up comedian before he began to use what he learnt from those failures. Again, a similarity to writers. In this instant-gratification society it was good to hear that being true to ones own self still means something. He was keen to point out that success can disappear overnight and that is where the attention to detail comes in.

What struck me most was how he couldn't explain a deep-rooted thought that if he achieved enough then somehow it would bring his mother back. She died of cancer when he was 6. He was sure that all people who lost a parent early or had a dysfunctional or unloving parent, must have a profound sense of loss in their lives and that is why they strive so much.

Good TV promotes good conversation and after the interview I was able to discuss it with family. Afterwards, I continued to think about Eddie's unexplainable thought and asked myself who did I write for? There is a point during the writing process when it is difficult to re-emerge from its characters and plot. Writing suddenly takes a firm hold and when deep in its clutches there must be that subconscious voice speaking through the words. Is it speaking to a definite someone or is it speaking to an inner lost person or who could have travelled a very different path if given no boundaries?

I reckon its like peeling an onion and after many years of deep and meaningful conversations I formed the general opinion that it isn't necessary to know every single thing about ourselves, what makes us tick or why we do things. People have made fortunes within these fields and perhaps we are missing the point somehow.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and will look forward to the next - Dynamo the magician, a contemporary master of illusion from a humble background. Who can forget him walking across the Thames? I'm pleased to have found a gem on TV.
My personal favourites are Darth Vader at the Battlestar Canteen & the banana/monkey sign language!!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Little D

Breaking with my usual mould, I thought I would write about the struggle I had since last October trying to read a book - Dickens 'Little Dorrit'. I adore Dickens' novels and was expecting to soon become lost in the intricacies of overlapping plots and a myriad of characters brought easily to life by vivid descriptions of physical traits and habits.

Yes, it was partly due to me! I kept putting the book down and wandering away, grumbling because I wasn't about to allow the last Dickens book on my reading list defeat me. I forced myself to continue reading with an almost Captain Ahab stubbornness but something must have happened to change my perspective since becoming an author myself.

And yes, there was that damn song, the one I loved so much - Jamiroquai's 'Little L,' which I couldn't help but hear in my head every time I sat down  to read. I had begun to have the same sentiment towards Little Dorrit; I 'Loved' it' with a little L.

I was swamped with long rambling descriptions, too many characters and I had to backtrack to keep up with who was who. During this time I had one pervading thought:
"If Little Dorrit was submitted to a publisher today would it be accepted for publishing?"
My answer was:
"No."
It stuck me particularly during the first chapter - publishers want to be swept away!

Gone are the days when a serialised novel is then hungrily devoured by readers who relish satirical comment about society, absurd social graces and wrongs forced upon its members. No doubt, Dickens was a game-changer but would it wash today? We have become a cynical public. Publishers would reject and say:
"Not commercial enough"
"Narrative too wordy"
"Who is it aimed at as I cannot see a clearly defined genre?"
It would have become lost in the quagmire.

I pushed myself to read on and when I arrived at page 200 (out of 778) I suddenly found myself mesmerised and found that small nugget of self-comfort, the warmth of being lost in a story. It was only then did I admire the mastery of describing human nature and presenting it so eloquently and without apology. Greed is the theme and how easily people get carried away with themselves.

And so, I am now just over half way through the book and find that I am looking forward to sitting down to read. Ahab has been replaced by Gollum, so precious has my reading time become that I ignore complaints by family when they roar: "put that damn book down and join us!"

Now... the big question is....Would I have done the same for any other author?
Ahab and Little Dorrit