24 October 2013

A Dickens of a tale...

"It was all very different from the crowded, complicated, and overly formal atmosphere of the Barbours, where everything was rehearsed and scheduled like a Broadway production, an airless perfection from which Andy had been in constant retreat, scuttling to his bedroom like a frightened squid. By contrast Hobie lived and wafted like some great sea mammal in his own mild atmosphere, the dark brown of tea stains and tobacco, where every clock in the house said something different and time didn't actually correspond to the standard measure but instead meandered along at its own sedate tick-tock, obeying the pace of his antique-crowded back-water, far form the factory-built, epoxy-glued version of the world."

Could be Dickens, yes? Propelled into the future, although a future not very different from 19th century London. However this is NYC, in the new millennium, but the writing might as well have come from the quill pen. Not Dickens, Donna Tartt, in the new novel, "The Goldfinch." I'm just half-way through nearly 800 pages. I rarely commit to novels so long, feeling always that they don't need to be, and I'm not convinced this one needs to be, except for the remarkable narrative propulsion, so each page is devoured, every minuscule detail of value. The tale of an orphan, orphaned repeatedly, struggling to correspond to rules he doesn't understand and dealing with demons and fears he cannot, will not, confide.

It's a marvel, such writing. Rare. No wonder Tartt took ten years to write this book, as the two others: just three all together in twenty years. When I finish, probably next week, I will review, but wanted you to have an advance word. For those of you who loved Dickens once long ago, you have another chance to embed yourself deeply in characters and setting and the constant sense of foreboding, needing to know what comes next, thus turning every page with anticipation. A marvel. A true Dickens of a tale.

18 October 2013

The Power of Twitter

I've come to love Twitter. I follow writers and book reviewers, and a few humorists for good fun, and of course the great and glorious Maria Popova @Brainpickings. I learn, I link to interesting facts and stories, I feel part of a literate community.

So imagine my surprise when I tweeted about reading a great novel by Iris Murdoch [Under the Net] that I'd not read before, and got a reply from Iris Murdoch. Specifically, @IrisMurdoch. Dame Iris passed years ago. And yet she tweeted to little me, from the great beyond.

I followed the lead and discovered that @IrisMurdoch is the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies at Kingston University, UK, in conjunction with the Iris Murdoch Society. They must carefully track via keywords all that is written about the great writer, and respond accordingly. Out of curiosity, I "followed" @IrisMurdoch and @IrisMurdoch now follows me @ocbookblogger.

Suddenly I feel a greater responsibility to tweet intelligently, and meaningfully, more than even before, as Dame Iris is watching. Although, were Dame Iris alive, I'm not sure what she would make of this mode of communication. Likely she would scoff at it.

What a hoot! Who would have imagined that I might reach a point in my life that a writer of such renown would be reading my tweets? Metaphorically of course, or as Dame Iris might have thought, metaphysically. Whatever the descriptor, in effect, a connection has been made, and it makes me proud.

Thus, the power of technology. The power of Twitter. The power of one writer reaching out from the grave to inspire another. I'd like to think that in another life and time, Dame Iris and I would have been, if not friends, friendly acquaintances. I would admire her spirit and existential wisdom; she would appreciate my perseverance and good cheer.

A lovely fantasy, compliments of Twitter.

15 October 2013

Booker Winner

Writer Eleanor Catton

How wonderful that a lesser known writer like New Zealander Eleanor Catton won the Booker for her novel "The Luminaries" which only just published in this country today and might otherwise have faced obscurity.

I'm told she is the youngest ever to win [28] and the book is the longest [over 800 pages.] She is in great company now, on the heels of Hilary Mantel last year, Julian Barnes the year before, and in the recent past, Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel, A. S. Byatt and Iris Murdoch.

She is also a triple threat: talented, award-winning and beautiful. I might hate her if I wasn't so pleased for her.

The first Man Booker award for fiction in 1969 went to a writer named Newby for a novel named "Something to Answer For" proving once again that even with a prestigious award, a book might disappear from the shelves and/or the public consciousness.

The Booker has a history of naming more eclectic titles as winners, although consistently good writers, and the National Book Awards have also become very hard to predict or comprehend. Awards are not the measure of talent nor skill, and too often political, but I daresay less important to writers than celebrities, even if an award will catapult a book to far greater sales. Writers simply have to write and they can only hope for readers.

14 October 2013

Lady Iris

Iris Murdoch

Swamped by the piles of new books, and so many good ones this season [must reads: Elizabeth Gilbert and Alice McDermott] I fled for a break back to the grand dame, Iris Murdoch. Lady Iris wrote 24 novels and lots of philosophy, and I've read much but many more to go. Finally got to "Under the Net" a Booker winner and what a winner it is.
Murdoch writes literary page-turners with eccentric and eclectic characters and simple plots that often go a bit wild and often hilariously funny. However, within her deceptively simple narratives, short sentences and easy dialogue, there is buried treasure - deep sometimes dark explorations of human connections and Net is a great example.
I found myself often stopping to re-read a few pages, in fact I had to go back several times, because I was swept on the current of a fairly linear plot when I realized that between the lines was a fascinating depiction of the power of language and communication, the losses of love and friendship and trust when people make presumptions based on circumstance, and the self-deception game we all play.
Read Iris Murdoch for the fun of it and then enjoy the pondering that will surely follow.
I especially recommend "The Sea, The Sea" and "The Bell" my favorite, and the more well known, "The Black Knight." I also recommend watching the decade old film, Iris, where Judy Dench and Kate Winslet play Lady Iris old and young, a  truly touching film.
Now and then, there is nothing like going back to the greats.

13 October 2013

Another Beginning

Should anyone be watching, or reading, I have moved my blog to a new blogspot which I will shortly integrate into my new website: randykraftwriter.com.
Here, hopefully, blogs will build on the tradition of philosophical ramblings and all things writing and reading. Follow me here and @ocbookblogger.