Hello again everyone! I feel terrible, haven’t posted anything in such a long time but it means I have more to talk about today, so here goes!
First of all, my journey with Tolkien’s The Silmarillion has been… remarkably slow going. It’s most definitely an interesting piece of work, and draws on many of the old stories from our own cultures including religion, myth and fables as the human race, but the writing style does leave something to be desired. Tolkien’s imagination is vast. I mean vast enough to hold all of Middle Earth in it and more. And in this vastness, it is quite easy to get lost amongst all the flowery words and strange names. Thankfully, Allen & Unwin was kind enough to include a map in the back of my copy, which has proven useful for navigation.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress through that.
Besides The Silmarillion, I’ve also been reading a few other things, mostly for uni but some for my own enjoyment. Needing a break from Tolkien, I decided to have a browse through my far-too-expansive-for-my-age bookcase and my eyes alighted on the spine of my edition of Hamlet by the good Bard William Shakespeare. Shakespeare for enjoyment, I hear you say? Each one unto their own. Anyway, it was a good read and a refreshing break from normal structure. Maybe all that Milton rubbed off on me (see the earlier post on Paradise Lost). One thing in particular that did strike me was Shakespeare’s use of rhyme and rhythmic change to indicate Hamlet’s ‘madness’. It was very clearly delineated in the book itself, and it did make me wonder how it would have looked on the stage. I would love to see Hamlet played out one day.
On a related note, the reason the use of rhyme struck me in that way was because in my writing class (which, sadly is now over for the year) we were looking through short stories for techniques we might like to use in our own work, as we had an assessment short story due in two weeks from that particular class. In the class, one student referenced a poem and it really made me think about how much poetry can influence your emotions and the ways in which you perceive things. Slam poetry is particularly good at this, notably Andrea Gibson (look her up, it’s fantastic and does move people to tears).
Moving on, for that particular class I decided to bring in two of my favourite authors of short stories. One is Edgar Allen Poe (Specifically his short story “The Pit and the Pendulum”) and Washington Irving (who wrote the wonderfully colourful short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”). I love these two authors for a number of separate reasons, but as I discovered during that class they both share a common element. Their power of scene description and the evocation of mood in the reader. For those of you who have read these two authors, you might be saying to yourselves ‘how are they even possibly similar?!’ Thematically speaking they aren’t, but their skill is almost equal in terms of painting pictures of scenes. Poe in “The Pit and the Pendulum” uses a mixture of refined, emotive language and heavily metaphorical scene description (see quote) to literally place the reader in the story and keep them there, biting their nails and hoping that the walls don’t squash them to death in a burning agony.
I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the apartment. And then my vision fell upon the seven candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me; but then, all at once, there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help.
But Irving’s style, though still highly illustrative, is slightly of a different timbre:
A great elm tree spread its broad branches over it [the Hudson river], at the foot of which bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest water, in a little well, formed of a barrel, and then stole sparkling away through the grass, to a neighbouring brook, that babbled along among elders and dwarf willows. Hard by the farm house was a vast barn, that might have served for a church; every window and crevice of which seemed bursting forth with the treasures of the farm; the flail was busily resounding within it from morning to night; swallows and martins skimmed twittering about the eaves, and rows of pigeons, some with one eye turned up, as if watching the weather, some with their heads under their wings, or buried in their bosoms, and others, swelling, and cooing, and bowing about their dames, were enjoying the sunshine on the roof.
It is simple, yet gives a feeling of warmth and liveliness when read that quite honestly made me get all warm and fuzzy when I read it. It’s not often that you find pieces that give you such strong feelings, and it’s an absolute joy when you do. If you haven’t read these short stories I urge you to get your hands on a copy of them, give them a flick and sit down with some good tea in the sunshine.
So those are the short stories I read. Now, onto the big news. Since the holidays are here, I can finally settle down and concentrate on my novel. Yes, that’s right I’ve finally sat myself down and started to write a proper, hopefully publishable, novel. Most of the reason I’m doing it is because of a competition called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which you sit down for all of November and write FIFTY THOUSAND word novel. The final week is when you send it in to the competition, and all of December (if you get through) is for drafting. Their website is NaNoWriMo (click on the link to go) and you can still sign up and complete the word count if you dare! My profile is up there too, search for ‘AdmiralCarter’ and you can read all about my work in progress!! I’m super excited about it and I’ll be sure to keep you all updated.
On a final note, the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club is holding a competition to find the “10 Aussie Books To Read Before You Die”. It’s worth a browse through, and vote if you feel like it. I think Australian literary culture doesn’t have as big a following as it should, and the more publicity it gets (and the more readers!) the better! Here’s the link: Ten Aussie Books to read before you die, be sure to visit, some great reads up for the vote and they might be worth a read too!
Well, that’s it from me for now, all the best to you all and happy holidays!