Tearing sentences to pieces

June 20, 2017 at 9:00 am | Posted in Tim Ferriss, writers' habits, Writing | Leave a comment
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Schine novel

They May Not Mean To

Your worst fears

According to Tim Ferriss, ‘the worst fears of contemporary men and women are getting fat and getting too many emails.’ Well, no wonder we’re all having anxiety attacks!

The Slow Carb diet in Ferriss’ book The Four-Hour Body should solve the first problem and spending regular time unsubscribing from unnecessary emails will liberate more time to spend on what’s important. Easier said than done, I know!

My subscription to the Literary Review (hard copy plus online) is as important to me as my subscription to the Guardian Weekly. I’d unsubscribe from anything before these. The Literary Review is ‘for people who devour books’ and the editors recently warned me that if I let my subscription expire I’d risk ‘missing out on everything relevant and stimulating in our society’. That kind of chutzpah can only be rewarded; of course I renewed. (Even though it eats up too much time!) Reviews are one page, in plain English and reviewers are clearly chosen, apart from their profound experience relevant to the book’s topic, for their wit and intellectual dexterity. You can subscribe at https://literaryreview.co.uk/

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Brave books about love

October 20, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, Australian novels, Democracy, English journalism, Father/son memoirs, Writing | Leave a comment
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unexpectedelementsI’m back after an orgy of reading. I was still putting piles of library books in the basket of my Trek bicycle and racing home to devour them when I suddenly got another writing job. Before that, one of the many authors I read was the person everyone’s talking about: Liane Moriaty and her recent Truly, Madly, Guilty.

I was a bit annoyed at that title, derived as it is from a favourite Anthony Minghella film, Truly Madly, Deeply (1991; you can watch it on You Tube though of course you’ll get more out of it on a big screen). It’s a film I loved and which could be categorised as Blithe Spirit meets Night of the Living Dead, in other words, a bereavement film told in a truly original voice. Continue Reading Brave books about love…

Patricia Highsmith’s handbag

May 5, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Posted in creativity, writers' habits, Writing | Leave a comment
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Writers' daily rituals

Writers’ daily rituals

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995), prolific author of crime novels plus the novel Carol, recently made into a film directed by Todd Haynes, was a prolific drinker and smoker as well. She smoked a packet of Gaulloises a day. Famously not very good with people, Highsmith had an intense connection with animals.

She loved cats. Snails made her feel tranquil.

‘She eventually housed three hundred snails in her garden in Suffolk, England, and once arrived at a London cocktail party carrying an enormous handbag that contained a head of lettuce and a hundred snails – companions for the evening, she said (p. 12).’

Such details of writers’ habits can be found in Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (Knopf, 2013), the book published from the author’s blog, Daily Routines.

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A Sense of Style

April 15, 2016 at 4:32 am | Posted in English Language, Winston Churchill, Writing | 3 Comments
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chapbook2Style is ‘the mirror of an artist’s sensibility’. That was what Truman Capote thought. I think style is what comes naturally because it’s an expression of who you are, a projection of your personality. Edith Wharton wrote about the ‘unassailable serenity’ of being at home in ourselves, just as the French talk about being ‘happy in one’s skin’ and when we express this self acceptance with clarity, that is our style.

I heard a young Police Officer say on TV: ‘Oh yes, we got a massive haul of … I mean, a significant amount of cocaine …’ He started off in his own voice, with his own style. This came across instantly with all his enthusiasm of being proud of a job well done, along with his instinctive expression of an exciting narrative. But then he corrected himself to talk in the way they must be trained to talk to the media, which was dry and boring.
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Putting the world into words – Tim Parks and why we write

March 10, 2016 at 6:36 am | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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Tim ParksI’ve been fond of English writer Tim Parks since he cheerfully admitted to ABC Radio interviewer Margaret Throsby that he had had ‘enough rejection slips for his novels to paper Buckingham Palace with!’

Parks wrote seven novels over six years before one was accepted for publication. Rejected by twenty publishers, Parks tells us in Where I’m Reading From: The changing world of books (Harvill & Secker, 2014, p. 130) that his seventh novel eventually earned him a £1,000 advance. This anecdote is appealing because it gives hope to writers who are struggling to gain a publisher’s contract.

Yes, there are now alternative ways of getting one’s writing into print. We can be liberated from the gatekeepers in the publishing industry. But some writers still want to be published in the traditional way, not least because of the time it takes to self-publish and to generate enough publicity to prevent one’s work being another drop in the ocean of self-published works, and to get on top of the technology to do all this.

Tim Parks has written seventeen novels and ten non-fiction books plus much translation, and prolific amounts of literary journalism, including Where I’m Reading From.

This book contains over thirty thought-provoking essays. In one, ‘Does Money Make Us Write Better?’ Tim Parks tells us that with an advance like that, clearly he wasn’t writing for the money. He was about to give up after that seventh novel so it wasn’t that he was in it for the pleasure of writing.

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John Tesarsch – sophisticated and uplifting

March 3, 2016 at 12:17 am | Posted in Australian novels, Books, Writing | 1 Comment
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John Tesarsch's brilliant novel

John Tesarsch’s brilliant novel

John Tesarsch’s The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffmann (Affirm Press, 2014) is a masterpiece. I’ve reviewed a lot of books in the past twenty plus years, (in local magazines and 85 for The Canberra Times, and more recently in this blog) but I have never described a novel like that. This one deserves it. I simply could not put it down and I am in awe of the author’s mastery of the form.

The novel deals with the theme of death as a catalyst for examining life – the past life, in this case with its extraordinary secrets, and life in the present for the survivors, who include the three children of Henry Hoffmann. When Henry unexpectedly dies they must deal with his idiosyncratic will.

The eldest of Henry’s progeny, Eleanor, very bright like her father, is teaching at a boys’ school and trying to find the time to do her PhD. Sarah used to be a concert pianist and now simply immerses herself in her music, after suffering debilitating stage fright. Robbie is the black sheep whose real estate deals and secrecy have led him into financial woes and made his wife Carla very unhappy.

Tesarsch’s first novel The Philanthropist (Sleepers, 2010), also a story of family secrets, was very readable and competent but this second one is lifted to another level. With its engaging and increasingly compelling plot The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffmann moves through the settings of Melbourne and to its north during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, to Vienna during World War II and to contemporary San Francisco. The plot moves at a fast pace while simultaneously we gain a deeper knowledge of the characters.

Continue Reading John Tesarsch – sophisticated and uplifting…

My Little Brother Typewriter and Andrea Goldsmith’s Not Nostalgia

January 19, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Books, Writing, Writing - tools of the trade | 1 Comment

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NOT NOSTALGIA

January 19, 2016 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Books, creativity, digital technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Andrea Goldsmith

A little over a century ago, E.M. Forster wrote ‘The Machine Stops’, a short story that depicts human civilisation some time in the future. I expect Forster was projecting into the far-distant future – millennia not centuries – but in certain respects the world of his story bears a remarkable resemblance to human society today. In Forster’s story people live by themselves in their own room (children are raised in special nurseries). Within these rooms everything necessary for life is available at the push of a button. When you are hungry you press a button and food appears, when thirsty, another button produces a drink. When you want to sleep you push a button and a bed materialises, when you wish to wash, the right button will conjure a bath. If you are feeling ill, a thermometer, stethoscope and other diagnostic tools will appear to test and diagnose, following which…

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