Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reading literature

I’ve started a creative writing course and it has made me realise that I don’t really read that much “literature” anymore. That is capital L, serious, Booker/Miles Franklin [insert appropriate award] winning books.

Surprisingly, the course is very much about the ‘classics’ with set readings from authors such as: Hemmingway, DeLillo, Ondaatje, Proulx, Naipaul, Carey and Winton.

I am struggling with the readings. And it’s not just the short fiction, but also the critical analysis pieces which have so far relied upon a close textual reading ie. this is an important point in the narrative because it represents this and in relationship to that etc.

Oh god, reading some of these set pieces just reminds me why I didn’t continue with literary studies at university!

The main text is The Best Australian Stories 2010, edited by Cate Kennedy. And to be quite frank I didn’t find anything that great about them! I actually enjoyed about 2 stories in the whole collection.

The frustrating thing is that I am supposed to use some of these stories as a springboard for my own writing. Oh and the fact that I have to produce a peice of fiction that is:

  • literary in style: not specialist generic fiction such as science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery – but you may draw upon aspects of those genres providing your work remains literary in style and sophisticated in approach and content.

I'm a little miffed that it seems that "literature" does not seem to encompass sci fi, mystery or other genres. It's an old fashioned and very conservative view of literature which suprises me because the institution I am at isn't a traditional conservative "sandstone" sort of place.

After all this whining, you may be suprised that I have decided to contiue with the course. The actual creative writing has been fun and it is quite liberating that you get to make it all up! Especially when my day job is all about writing 'key messages' for other people.

That and the fact that I will be writing a genre influenced creative piece for my assesment. Just trying to work out whether to go with zombies or vampires......

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the case: My Sherlock Holmes moment

My Sherlock Holmes moment began after watching the brilliant BBC TV series, Sherlock starring the fabulously named Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (from The Office).

The three part series is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV for a while.

Inspired by the TV series, I thought I should actually read the original Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So I checked at my local library and as they were all borrowed I contemplated putting a reserve on them.

But after googling around I discovered these website that allow you to download the books for free:

So I’m off to download and print these books in preparation for series two of the Sherlock.

As I don’t do things by halves, I’m also reading Nicholas Meyer's
The Seven-Percent Solution (1974). Meyer's book is a ‘modern Holmes novel’ which tells the story of Holmes pairing up with Sigmund Freud to overcome his cocaine habit and also solve a mystery in Vienna.

It's a fun read and structured as a 'lost manuscript' of the late Dr. John H. Watson. It reminded by of another great book I read featuring Freud as a key character involved in solving a crime: Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder (2006).

Rebenfeld's novel follows Freud and Jung's first visit to America and their involvement in solving the muder of a socialite. It's a compelling read and provides fascinating account of the relationship between Freud and Jung.

Oh I'm also off to my library to pick up Graham Moore's The Holmes Affair (2010) which look like a rollicking good read.

Moore's book has to two connected stories: In end of the Victorian era in England, Arthur Conan Doyle teams up with his friend, Dracula author Bram Stoker to investigate a seriel killer. While in the present day, Harold White a young Holmes devotee becomes involved in the investigation of a murder of a member of the Baker Street Irregulars - one who purportedly had a long missing and much sought after diary from Arthur Conan Doyle.

Friday, March 11, 2011

George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones

I started reading George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, the first novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels because I found out that HBO are making it into a new TV series. Plus the added bonus that Sean Bean was playing one of the lead characters Eddard Stark!

The good news is that Game of Thrones is a great read, with lots of interesting characters and a complicated but compelling story. It has been aptly described as, “the Sopranos in Middle-earth".

Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective. Usually, I find this narrative structure annoying and all too easily used by writers who can’t sustain a proper narrative. But fortunately it works here and Martin is able to create a compelling level of suspense while also giving the reader an overall view of the intersecting stories.

In a very short amount of writing, Martin creates a vast world of believable characters and situations. I also liked the fact that Martin is not afraid to kill of major characters in the book, which makes it exciting!

The bad news is that I didn’t quite make it through the second book, A Clash of Kings. I got mid-way and just lost interest. The story seemed to drag on and as more different characters were introduced it all got a bit too long and laborious. Plus I was distinctly disappointed at the lack of fantasy element in the book ie. where is the magic/dragons?

I’m not sure whether I will try the second book again.......

The series is set to premiere on April 17, watch the trailer video here:

Oh and here's pic of Sean Bean in character: