Archive for May, 2013

Could You Repeat That?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

tripletsI’ve blogged before about the power of three (unless you’re The Simpsons) in both story and joke telling, where there is always a Frenchman, an Englishman and an Irishman (or whatever your local variant), but what about just plain repetition?  You know, where you say the same thing over and over and over again?  The example that most readily comes to mind is T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men: “this is the way the world ends, this is the way world ends, this is the way the world ends” and only then does he come to the bit about not with a bang but a whimper.  Another example is by Jack Kerouac in On the Road in his description of people who “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”  Surely people only need to burn once and, as for the world ending, I heard you the first time.  But then again, spare writing is overrated, overrated, overrated because “burn like candles” is a bit bare.

Are You Finishing That?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

While I did not consciously make this a new year’s resolution, in retrospect I seem to have determined not toPrince Charles pointing to food finish reading books that don’t grab me within in the first, oh, I don’t know, 50 pages or so.  Enough last year of ploughing through to the end because the reviews were good.  Sure, at times, there was a real pay-off but what work to get there, and work is overrated.  This has meant that at more than four months into 2013, there are very few books I have read all the way through (books that sit unfinished by my bedside include Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, winner of the 2009 Costa Novel Award, longlisted for the Booker, and shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Award).  So disappointing were the first 50 pages of so many books, I started to revert to The Economist (that old standby but not exactly light fare) as bedtime reading.  I was even beginning to wonder whether my lifelong (well, at least since grade three when I first read Anne of Green Gables) love affair with fiction was at an end.  So thank you Tim Winton and his book The Riders.  Beautiful, engrossing writing right from the start with a wonderfully understated menace.  Sure, there is the odd thing I might quibble about but these are oh so minor compared to making me feel enthusiastic about fiction again.  (And, woohoo, that Winton turns out to be a prolific writer.)