Thursday, August 02, 2012

How we respond to books

My last post I was talking about rating novels. I put All That I Am at the top but only because I think it deserves every prize it wins because of the type of book it is. It's a large book. But this doesn't mean I loved loved loved it. More I was impressed by it and impressed too that an Australian had written it. Makes sense that she lives overseas and has spent a lot of time overseas. This book did not come out of the brain of a person with a small backyard, so to speak.

Foal's Bread made me feel more than ATIA, so while I've ranked it below the Funder-wunder, in terms of heart I think it has more (however one major bone I have to pick with that book is that most of my momentum in reading it came from a need to find out what happened to the baby in the river. We never do, so that was disappointing.)

Just finished Jasper Jones; it doesn't have as much heart as Past the Shallows BUT it has some of the best cracking dialogue, and humour as well, which Past didn't have. ATIA didn't have much humour. Foal's - can't remember. Past the Shallows was lovely, will be interested to see what she does next. Now that story is out of the way.

I like heart and beauty but it doesn't mean it can't be dark. But with the darkness I'm sick of cliches. I don't want dead mothers, or horrible mothers (a la Jasper). I don't want dead fathers or horrible fathers (a la Jasper and Past the Shallows). Probably that's why ATIA worked for me (apart from the incidental things I've mentioned several times) - there are none of those parental cliches.

I'm going to re-try The Man Who Loved Children because I've just re-read Franzen's essay on it.

I'm also going to re-read the first novel of the woman in my writing group. The other night, she reminded me I'd said something about it (I'm terrible at reviewing books to their writer's faces, just terrible).

You said it kind of went nowhere, she said.
Did I? I don't remember saying that. (I didn't.)
Yeah. You said something like it trailed away at the end, or was disappointing or something.
I can't remember. Why didn't you ask me what I meant?
I didn't know you as well. I would now, but not then.

So I'm thinking I owe it to this woman, to read it again and give her a proper response. She has been very good with me and with helping me, ie putting me in touch with two big editors (editrixes?) who have my book, again, looking at it (after revisions.) Which sounds more impressive than it is, really I am not expecting anything (other than deep in my heart of hearts...)

The other thing is I have now put this blog link on a writer bio I had to submit. I asked the friend above whether I should clean it up, remove anything defamatory or nasty about other writers and she said 'nah, leave it. That's the good thing about blogs, they are out there.'

Hmmm. I don't know. I'm not sure about the baggings of various books, eg the piece of excrement about the sister of Jesus, um was the there anything else? It's not good form to be critical of books is it? If you are wanting to gain entry into that world yourself? Don't you have to suck up to everyone and be all bland?

23 comments:

Alex said...

It's not good form to be critical of books is it? If you are wanting to gain entry into that world yourself? Don't you have to suck up to everyone and be all bland?

Then why would you even want in?

Melba said...

Very good question Alex and you're right. I don't want in with the people necessarily it's more the mighty machines of publication. And passing this blog out as one of my writing credentials wasn't part of my master plan, until this woman (who works as a media adviser and has a Walkley for god's sake)said no, no, use it.

But I will, I'll be myself. Sucky and bland I won't do.

Thanks

Alex said...

And passing this blog out as one of my writing credentials wasn't part of my master plan, until this woman (who works as a media adviser and has a Walkley for god's sake)said no, no, use it.

I was thinking about this last night and this morning and, yes, that does seem a little ... unusual to me.

Firstly, yeah, I think it'd be great if we could all be open and honest about everything all the time; but I also understand how fanciful that is. If we all just spoke our minds openly and honestly about everything and everyone all the time, most of us would have no friends and no job. At the end of the day, we still have to survive in society and it's still money and bullshit that makes the wheels of society turn, right? I mean, it would be disingenuous and hypocritical of me to suggest otherwise when the reason I don't use my last name and have photos of myself plastered everywhere is because I like having a space where I can openly speak my mind and not worry about it potentially causing friction in my day-to-day life. I imagine that's probably (at least partly) why you don't use your real name here as well (?)

So, then, the idea of trying to retroactively massage that space into something you can fold into your daily life seems ... I dunno; Brave? Reckless? Counter-intuitive? I mean, if you have to worry about how what you write here might affect other aspects of your life, the benefits of such a space sort of disappear -- unless, once you're published, you transform it into a kind of promotional tool. But then, it might just be better to start something new that has that goal at the core from the get-go. I mean, if you're worried enough about what people might think of your old musings to go back and redact things, then there's the risk that someone'll find a copy of the unredacted stuff and then that looks even worse.

What other benefits are there to linking this to your writerly identity? Is there that much cross over between blogging and fiction writing? Was this brought up in the context of having an online social presence? Maybe I'm just over thinking things now, but I guess the way I see it is that you can either be totally cautious about this or let it all hang out, but trying to walk on the middle ground might be the worst option. I hope my ramblings aren't making things worse.

Melba said...

This is all good food for thought Alex. I'm not inclined to redact. In terms of what point it makes, or what benefits there might be, it's just a body of work, so to speak, and kind of fills a writing gap between early 2000s and about 4 years ago (or cross overs). Also it does count as published even though it's self published. This is the only self-publishing I think (hope) I would do.

It wasn't brought up in the context of having an online presence. I am not intending to set up a personal/writing twitter thing; my facebook I stripped out all my friends who aren't writers/serious readers and made that a public space attached to my name but I don't write there, I just use it to keep up with booky news.

Me on this blog is not so different to me in real life: I am opinionated, can be objectionable and blunt, in both places. Sure it's got my old diaries but they don't embarrass me.

So I guess I've answered my own questions, thanks for listening and engaging on this.


What are you reading at the moment? Sorry we didn't get back to that Afghanistan thing...

squib said...

Some time ago, I stopped adding poetry books to my Goodreads shelf unless the poet was fairly dead. What with poetry being a small world and with poets being editors and judges and prone to hold grudges...

Alex said...

Me on this blog is not so different to me in real life: I am opinionated, can be objectionable and blunt, in both places. Sure it's got my old diaries but they don't embarrass me.

Well two things:

In real life, if you have a rant about how cunty Big Corp X and the people who run it are, it's generally not discoverable by anyone for all time. If that rant ends up being high on the list when people search your name, it could hurt you professionally down the track if you ever want to deal with Big Corp X, someone who deals or would like to deal with Big Corp X, anyone who deals with anyone who used to run ... you get the idea. Also, what Squib said.

Also, if you get in a big row with someone, they can start harassing you, your place of work, clients and (most importantly) your family members. Some people can be incredibly petty and vindictive.

So, I wouldn't try to remove things once I put them out (it's not really possible -- everything is logged somewhere) but I would be careful about what I link my full name to.

***
What are you reading at the moment? Sorry we didn't get back to that Afghanistan thing...

I'm currently working my way through a stack of software manuals and tutorials. I'm looking at an accounting application at the moment.

But recently I re-read the Japanese comic Berserk. It's my favourite action/fantasy/horror yarn and probably in my top ten yarns of all time. Unfortunately, the glacial pace at which the chapters come out means that it's easy to lose track of everything going on in the story (330 chapters over about 20 years) so every few years I go back and re-read it. I always get something new out of it.

You can read a fan translation here; but if you do, there's a few things you should be aware of: Firstly, the translation is not terrific and downright terrible in places. The fact that the story is still great in spite of that fact is probably a testament to how good it is. Secondly, the author was neither a brilliant artist nor a brilliant writer when he started -- he's come a long way. Thirdly, the first hundred or so chapters are backstory and the story proper doesn't start until you get past that. Lastly, it's a horror story set in a fictional middle-ages type setting -- so it's not for the weak of stomach.

***
Actually, remember way back when we talked about the practical role of feminists in modern western society? Anyway, I saw a story a little while ago that's had my moral compass fogged up; and see, I don't really know anyone else who's interested in this stuff; so I wanted to see if you could maybe give me a different perspective? Do you mind if we talk about it here?

Melba said...

Ok so I won't call any publishers cunty and I won't call any writers cunty (unless they really truly ARE) and from now I won't be recklessly cunty myself about reviewing books.

Yes of course, open up the discussion. I'll start a new page.

Alex said...

I know I'm probably starting to sound incoherent now, but I think there's a lot to consider on this one. Sometimes being cunty can also be beneficial. Here's the developer and maintainer of the Linux operating system kernel answering a question about hardware manufacturer Nvidia. Apparently this comment has been something of a catalyst for improved relations between the two. I guess you have to pick your spots.

Melba said...

Interesting, I passed the link onto my bro who is, as you might remember, a big Linux man. So much so that our mother is using a Linux operating system on her laptop (which he installed and set up...)

I think the upshot of this whole thread is really: be yourself. I have to just be myself.

Alex said...

Yep, I think that's the right call.

I wonder what distro your mum's using. I set my folks up with Linux Mint.

Melba said...

I have no idea what a distro is, and even if I did, I wouldn't know which one my mum's using.

Distribution?

I still don't know, sorry. All I know is I had to help her find 'downloads' and delete a few things taking up space. I managed that and she was so impressed. Sweet.

Alex said...

Yeah, distro is short for distribution. Basically there's a thousand flavours of Linux, which are released by entities ranging from big companies to non-profit community groups, to individual enthusiasts.

I don't know if you'd be interested at all in this, but I thought I'd point it out anyway. Basically it's four women who work in the news/entertainment industry (I'm not sure exactly at what point the term "celebrity" starts to apply) doing a monthly bookclub discussion that they post to the internet. I guess it's a bit like that Jennifer Byrne show except it goes for ninety minutes and all the participants are sitting at home in front of their webcams in various states of inebriation. Oh, and they only cover erotic fiction.

I can't imagine sitting and watching it, but I have started listening to it while doing other things. One of the things I find most interesting is the running discussion of why so many books written by women for women feature male love interests that are possessive, domineering and a little bit rapey.

Anyway, what made me think of you is that in one episode they discuss being critical of work when they know the creators, or know they're watching, or move and work in the same circles. Might be episode four, I think.

Melba said...

Thanks for the link Alex but erotic fiction is the last thing I would be interested in. Can't stand sex scenes in non-erotic fiction. Butyour wonderings about trends towards domineering male love interests, and this whole Fifty Shades thing with the BDSM and the female submissive, I have my own theory that I've been thinking about the last couple of weeks. Women are for the most part liberated and have lots of choices. Myself, for example; I have control in my life and quite a lot of power in my relationship. When it comes to sex, though, women like me (who seem to make all the decisions in daily life and might feel they shoulder a lot of responsibility for everything, and who might feel they have a very affable yet possibly passive partner) they (we) don't want to then get into bed and be having to make all the decisions, be dominating and take control. OK, I'm talking about myself here. I want to be more passive (not necessarily submissive), I want the other person to do it all. Maybe I'm just fucking lazy, who knows. Alright, I know it. I am.

But hey I'll look it up on the weekend, check out Ep 4. Thanks.

Alex said...

Shit, I hope it was episode four. They've all bled together in my brain. I'd hate to send you off to listen to something you despise for an hour and a half for nothing. I'd check, but I'm off this arvo and won't be back 'til monday.

It's an interesting theory with the dom/sub thing. I've read/heard a few interviews with dominatrices over the years, and invariably they talk about men coming to them for that very reason.

Melba said...

So then maybe it's strong, dominant women (in daily life) who want to be dominated in bed; this would work for me who are strong, dominant in their daily lives.

Makes sense to moi.

No hurry with the other thing, have a good weekend

Melba said...

This would work for MEN is what I meant to write above

Alex said...

Ha, I'll consider it a Freudian slip.

Anyway, weekend was very good indeed. I got to see the rhythmic gymnastics and synchro swimming complete and uninterrupted on Fuxtel. Got into the women's hammer-throw too, which was a bit of a surprise. I very much think that I am going to paint a picture of this woman. Possibly slaying a horde of the undead or something.(Sadly, the only video I could find of her Olympic performance was from this person who was apparently pointing their phone at the telly)

I also saw Jon Stewart interview an Afghan interpreter who was promoting her new book. It sounded interesting enough that I thought I might give it a look. I can't find a video of the interview that isn't geo-blocked, but I can email the audio if you're interested.

How's it going with you?

Melba said...

Thanks Alex, would be interested in that interview. I've read a lot of books that are along the lines of 'I married a muslim man and had a terrible time of it' or 'I am a muslim woman and have had a terrible time of it' - in the 90s (when I was myself married to a muslim man, and having a sometimes terrible time of it but never AS terrible as those people in the books. I found them comforting.

And with those photos, they are awesome, I like the second one best, the one under 'I am going to' above.

You paint? As in paint with paints on canvas?? Is there anywhere I can see these?

I have always wanted to paint with paint on canvases.

Melba said...

And I am good, really good. P goes away on Wednesday for her three weeks to the Kimberley on a school trip. It will be amazing for her she's very lucky.

And I'm selling my flat on Saturday, will let you know how the auction goes. Might have to talk to Mr E about some of that gold bullion he was talking about somewhere... Not going to buy straight away again...

Alex said...

The file has been sent. I know a couple of women who would like to escape their conservative Christian families, but won't because they're afraid of losing, well, pretty much everything. I'm not close enough to any women who've married Muslim men to know if there's much comparison though. Is there anything about it in the old diary entries you've posted?

P really should have a good time (provided the people she goes with are tolerable). There's some really lovely country up there.

Mr E is almost certainly a better person to talk to about investing in metals; but if there's one thing I've picked up from listening to finance programs, it's make sure you're buying actual physical metal and not a piece of paper pegged to the value of the metal.

And I used to paint on canvas all the time, but I've now pretty much completely migrated to using a computer and graphics tablet. It's much, much cheaper and I also get to play with the software, which I find really appealing. Every once in a while I do a mural or something for someone, but that's about it for getting my hands dirty these days. I have a plan for a blog specifically for this stuff, but it's not progressing very quickly. Which is ironic, since the whole point is to try and make myself do more.

Melba said...

Oh, there's plenty in my old diaries but not in the ones I've posted. My married to a Muslim years were all in the '90s and I won't be putting them up. Maybe they'll appear in book form one day, who knows. I think when it comes down to it, it's about the person not their religion or culture. I know a few women who've made successful marriages across cultures/faiths/languages etc.

I'll look up the file and get back to you, thanks.

I admit I find it hard to imagine that using technology could go anywhere close to giving a person the same experience as using paints and canvas. But then, as we all know, I am fundamentally anti-gadgetry.

Alex said...

You're right in that using a tablet doesn't go anywhere close to giving you "the same" experience as using paints on canvas. It actually feels a lot more like using an airbrush because you don't get the texture from the bristles ... yet. It's in the works.

However, just because two things are not identical doesn't mean one must be inferior to the other. There are many things I prefer about working on a computer. The major one is that it encourages you to be more adventurous. For instance, if you're half way through a painting on a canvas and you get a half dozen new ideas, your options are to either pick one or start six completely new paintings. With a computer, you can paint each of your ideas on a separate layer, which can then be turned on or off. Can't decide what style of tea pot should be on the table? Paint a dozen different tea pots and then flick through them to see which one you like the best. Think that person would look better on the other side of the room? Try and see. If it looks worse, your original work is untouched. Awesome.

I think when it comes down to it, it's about the person not their religion or culture.

Except that a person's beliefs and behaviour (ie: religion and culture) are obviously a big part of making them who they are. I suppose it depends on how scalable you think words like religion and culture are and whether you think they even apply on the family/individual level; but I guess your point is that if you use them in a broad context, don't expect them to be indicative of much? Like, there's no reason to assume that any two Indian-born Sikhs are going to have anything more in common than any two white Australian-born Christians would.

But I think it would be hard for me to be in a relationship where I had to be continuously observing practises that I thought were a load of bollocks. As a very basic example, I can put up with saying grace before meals when I'm at somebody else's place, but having to do it before every single meal in my own home would drive me fuckin' bananas. I imagine it'd be like that with a lot of things.

I guess the counter point to this is that successful relationships are all about compromise, blah, blah, blah, and that's why I'm probably happiest being single.

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