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Posts Tagged ‘sharing’

I went out for a writing session today, looking for an hour of different scenery to refresh my mind.  My writing buddy unfortunately couldn’t make it so I took my husband along.  We both had projects to work on so it made sense to do it together.

But instead of writing, we started talking to people, and that talking led to more talking, and soon we were due to head back home without ever taking our notebooks out.

It could have been a wasted evening, but talking to people, learning their stories and sharing anecdotes was a joy.

Recently I sent two poems to a cousin of mine – one biographical and one autobiographical. I have been thinking about writing more in that style, as a counterpart to the more political pieces, and listening to funny stories and observations today made me decide to do it.

Everyone’s experience of life is unique and we all have a share of emotions and expectations. What better way to celebrate our shared humanity than immortalising moments in poetry, sharing them like gifts?

The next few months I just need to convince a few people to share moments that made them, them, and produce something that captures who they are.

No pressure!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I didn’t know what to read next, when I was choosing my new book.  I have piles upon piles waiting for me, including some I have borrowed and need to return.  But it’s too hot to think too much, so I finally decided on another Margaret Atwood.  It’s not a dystopian future so that’s a change, at least!

What I wanted was a holiday read: a book I knew I would enjoy reading, that I could read fairly quickly but was a bit more complex than an airport book, if you know what I mean.  This is a pick for the reader me, more than the writer me.

I will let you know how it’s worked when I finish!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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This week I finished Margaret Atwood’s trilogy, with MaddAddam.  I will try to be concise, but I could write about this one for a while!

MaddAddam, like Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, tells the story of how people existed before and after the plague which wipes out most humans.  At its heart are love stories – Toby and Zeb, survivors of the God’s Gardeners; Zeb and his brother Adam, and Toby and Blackbeard, Craker and student.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It filled in some of the blanks left earlier in the series – such as the reason Zeb was involved with the God’s Gardeners and his relationship with the Adams and Eves, how Crake got the original plague data, what happened to his parents and so on.

More importantly though, it took the story onward.  The disparate group of surviving humans started to develop a new society, with the Crakers as part of it.  People started to hope and plan again.  Toby’s friendship with the curious Craker child Blackbeard showed that however Crake had engineered the humanoids, he couldn’t remove their curiosity and desire to know and understand.

From this friendship, Toby started to believe in a future for humans, and Crakers, that would have been impossible at the start of the series.

I think that is the theme of the book: we can’t foresee the outcome of our actions.  The Crakers were specifically created not to have religious tendencies, for example, but Oryx and Crake were their deities, and the reason for their faith in the world around them.  Zeb chose how to extricate himself from his corrupt father without realising his choice would lead him to bioterrorism and into the path of the world-ending Crake.

Another important concept through the book is that of loyalty.  In a world where people have to be wary of everything, trusting someone is both extremely difficult and essential. That is juxtaposed with the Craker stance of trust by default.

The final thing I will say is that I found the ending of the book, and indeed the series, satisfying.  It wasn’t neatly tied in a bow but the story lived on and that was important to me, having invested in the world Atwood created. I also liked the lack of concrete resolution on the plague itself: we know who, and how, but we can never entirely know why – which is absolutely the way of the world.

I could say so much more but it’ll ruin the reading experience if I go any further!

Tying this back to writing, I am in awe of the complexity and breadth of the world Atwood has created. This is a world she both built up, and then destroyed, and she had to get the details right in both states.

I don’t think this is a standalone book, because even if you could read it alone you wouldn’t get the context.  However, for me, it was a great end to the trilogy.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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It’s gone midnight so I am not going to write a proper post today.  I started one but it got a little bit too political and I felt the need to reflect before posting: things can come across wrongly if I don’t have a bit of space to review!

I can’t ignore the political mood at the moment though – it shapes my work, after all.  And I don’t want to offend people or preach a particular point, but I blogged for peace for a reason and it wasn’t so I could say I’d done all I needed to do.

So tomorrow I will write a bit more politically than normal.  Tonight, I will sleep!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I gave you the background to this novel on Tuesday, but I wanted to spend a bit more time looking at it than I had available then.

As with book 1 of the series, The Year of the Flood sweeps backwards and forwards through time.  There are key differences though: whereas in book 1 we see the world from a point of knowledge about what has occurred, this book shows how people removed from the science and power are able to survive.

The God’s Gardeners religion which was mentioned in book one is a large element of book 2.  It sounds like an eco-cult, with strange saints and a hierarchy where the most senior members are all called Adam or Eve.  There are odd songs and it is made to sound both fantastical and (in light of the world they live in) a compelling kind of fringe society, taking in the waifs and strays left behind by modernity.

It took me a while to get into those elements, especially the songs, because the structure was quite different to book one.

However what worked really well for me was to show the key characters – Toby and Ren – as their situations change over time.  In marked opposition to Oryx and Crake and the pampered lives in the Compounds, Toby and Ren exist in the insecurity and danger of the Pleeblands.  They are at risk, as women, in the world they inhabit, and the risk doesn’t end when the plague comes.

I enjoyed this book, and as part of a series it added intricacy to the world being created.  I wasn’t sure about the God’s Gardeners sermons and saints days but looked at collectively they show how much of the world we know now has been lost to the future, and how mankind has damaged the world in order to keep the Corporations powerful.

I am not sure how well it would stand up on its own but for me that wouldn’t be the best way to approach the middle book of a series anyway!

I will tell you about the final book of the series next time.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Book two of my not really holiday reading was Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.  I first read this about eight years ago (and when I realised that I was a bit shocked!) but it’s one of a series so I got all three to read back to back.

The story is about a man called Jimmy, or Snowman, and is set in a future where science has overwhelmed nature: people, plants and animals are genetically modified.  Society is split into people in the Compounds – the areas of Corporations managing the scientific activities for profit – and the pleeblands, where everyone else lives.

When a global pandemic wipes out virtually all humanity, Jimmy has to save not only himself but the Crakers, a group of bioengineered humanoids created by Jimmy’s best friend, and find a way to survive the new world, with its newly released science experiment animals.

I won’t say more than that because I will be giving away too much of the story!

I chose this book because I enjoy reading Atwood’s work, because I knew I wanted to revisit the book, and because I love a dystopian future.  I didn’t read it for writing purposes.

Having said that, it’s always interesting to read Atwood – the concepts in this book are intriguing and disturbing, and I found myself wondering at what point I would think genetic manipulation had gone too far.  At what point do we as a society move from horrified to accepting?

There is also moral consideration about the behaviour of both Jimmy and Crake in relation to each other, to Oryx who is loved by both men, and to humanity as a whole.

It’s a hard future and much like other dystopian novel, there are elements already creeping into reality which make it particularly unnerving in places.

Reading it on a sun lounger wasn’t really the right environment… Still, I found it moving, thought-provoking and engrossing. It stood up well on second reading, although the gap may have helped 🙂

I have read the next book in the trilogy and am onto the third, so more on the future of humanity will follow!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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I said yesterday that I had three books to discuss, but over the course of today I decided to split them into different posts.  That way, each one gets a bit more space to be discussed!

So the first book to talk about is The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht.  I am going to be totally honest and say I was first drawn to it by the name, and once I saw the cover I was hooked.

This book is a mixture of fact, fantasy, and folktale; from a writing point of view I was interested in how the elements were fused.  This book had a richness to it, a sense of the world being deeper and wider than imagined.   I particularly liked the ‘Deathless Man’ stories, which were like something from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The downside of richness is that you can have too much of something.  By the end of the book I did feel that there were so many stories, so many characters, so many details that I didn’t hold on to them all.  That isn’t always a negative but in this case, it’s difficult to write about the content of the book because I can’t remember it all.

So I will focus on the key elements that remain with me.  Firstly, the names of places are made up, but there is a clear sense that the tales take place in the former Yugoslavia – not only because of Obreht’s personal history, but because of the nature of the conflicts within the story.

Secondly, the tale of the Tiger’s Wife herself is of a woman finding freedom and finding her own path, and that being destroyed by people who are scared of the power that gives her.  In effect, it is the personalisation of the story of war.

Thirdly, this is the story of tragedy.  It feels as though whatever happens, violence recurs. It is not a book that leaves you feeling uplifted but it does make you think about how terrible things can happen, and the ramifications of them.

It wasn’t really holiday reading, and it was a bit too heavy going for a sun lounger, but it was an interesting book.

GoingTigers Wife back to the writing perspective, I have to be honest and say that the fusion of different folk tales didn’t always work form me, but I loved the Deathless Man idea, and how it twined in and out of reality.  I often lost track of where I was in time – Obreht did shift forward and backward in time on a number of occasions and it wasn’t alway immediately clear.  As someone who has used the time shift tool themselves I think it’s better to signpost the shift but it’s a narrative choice to make it blurry.

Overall this book was unusual, and poignant, and focussed on loss in a way I hadn’t anticipated.  It was not what I expected to be reading.  As a writer, I think that’s a brave strategy but as a reader I wasn’t prepared for the content!

I am not sure I will re-read this book but I am not willing to pass it on yet either – mind you, that might just be because I love the cover drawing…

This is one I just can’t quite make up my mind about.  Which I see as a writing positive, because at least I am thinking about it!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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My holiday starts today, so I thought I’d write the posts for the week now…

On Tuesday I will be reflecting on the book, ‘The Tiger’s Wife‘, by Téa Obreht. It won the Orange prize for fiction a few years ago so I will probably be comparing my reaction to that of the judges!

On Thursday I will be pleased with myself for writing down my experiences over the course of the break, and be finding the beauty of the setting a huge inspiration.

On Sunday I will be sad about reaching the last night already. I will be drinking Sangria. These two things do not make for a complex, interesting or coherent post, so I will simply share a song that makes me happy 🙂

Now you know what you’ll be missing you can rest assured you aren’t missing anything…

Have a great, productive and inspirational week and I will be back soon.

Oh, and I am not going to Italy, but I like using the word ciao!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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I read for fun this week.  Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast is a collection of Oscar Wilde quotes, one of Penguin’s Little Black Classics series.

It’s more like reading poetry than reading a novel because you can skip about, read out of order, pick and choose the lines that interest you. In this particular case there’s about 50 pages of quotes covering life, art, Englishness and intelligence, amongst other things.

When you read quotes in a block, you start to notice patterns, repetition, typical language.  You start to notice why one phrase is amusing and one is not, and why some ideas resonate. I enjoy the chance to analyse and reflect; I don’t really stop and think about what I am reading in the same way when I am reading a novel.

I personally prefer the more comedic comments.  They take the words away from lecturing and towards the feeling of a shared joke.  That’s one thing I have noticed over and over: these quotes feel like a friend talking to me.

This isn’t the most standard read, and I fully appreciate that not everyone enjoys reading books of quotations, but from a writing point of view it’s great.  There’s wonderful use of language, witticism that can be reviewed and analysed, and clever ideas worth exploring.

And it’s fun to read. Which is my primary focus when choosing a book for a Tuesday!

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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I tried out my new writing place on Friday, and I think it’ll work well.

It’s good to be around other people, but not focussed on them, when I write.  It’s as though they feed my imagination – maybe it’s an offhand comment or a quirky smile or a laugh that reminds me of something; whatever it is changes my writing and the experience of writing.

It also takes me away from the norm, bringing new stimulus into my consciousness, which in turn helps shift around my ideas until the words slot together like a jigsaw puzzle.

I have written in all sorts of places, and it’s the mix that I need to get right…

So now I have a new place to write, I have moved on to a new poem. It’s currently called The Herald but that might change once it’s completed. I’ll worry about that when it’s done!  I want to get the first draft completed before I head off on holiday next week, so watch this space!

That’s all for today – I am still in the write/revise process albeit for a different piece, so it’s all searching for the right word and being irritated when I can’t find it!  Not much excitement yet, but just wait until I get that perfect word!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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