June and July Round Up
Update-o-rama! And yet, nothing much to really update. No news from any of the competitions I entered this spring (and, in this case, no news is not good news). But as each rejection has rolled around, it has been pleasing to re-read the stories I sent off – it’s a bit like they’re coming home to me. And, whilst I can now see ways I could improve them, I look at each one and think that, ‘yes, I did what I set out to do with that story,’ and I’m not sure you can hope for much more than that. We keep trying.
I recently read a couple of novels that I would describe as being the opposite of thrillers – Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine and Tibor Fischer’s The Collector Collector. I wouldn’t say I was guided towards these novels by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin’s The Novel Cure (Ella bibliotherapised me at the Guernsey Litfest in 2012 and recommended I read some short stories by Steven Milhauser, one of which has possibly become one of my favourite short stories) but I had this book of ‘literary remedies’ in mind when I was choosing what to read, and maybe I was thinking of these books as remedies.
The Mezzanine happens to be listed in The Novel Cure under ‘ten novels to lower your blood pressure’. I’m not sure about blood pressure, but something slow and thoughtful was what I needed, and this strange meditation on shoelaces, escalators and various ephemera did the trick. I think there is often something quite reassuring about studying things in depth and finding interest in the everyday objects that usually slip under the radar, and Nicholson Baker is usually worth your attention for 200 pages or so.
The Novel Cure makes no mention of The Collector Collector, but I think that if this title was included, it could perhaps be described as a cure for ‘feeling out of place in time and space.’ It may sound like a gimmick, but the fact that this novel is narrated by a piece of ancient pottery allows for a whole new perspective – one informed by the pottery’s age and wisdom, it’s patience and lack of human desires. And whilst the plot is filled with drama and stories within stories, the narrator’s sense of peace makes all the kerfuffle appear to be nothing more than a drop in the ocean of human activity.
Last weekend we went to London and looked at lots of book-shaped benches that had been decorated to represent different classic books. It was a good way of seeing some strange and interesting parts of London, and I have made a wee video of our trip (see above).
Right, that’s all to report for now. I’m off to remember how to write stories.