Sunday, 29 July 2007
And then a walk down Charing Cross Road, where I only fell over and dropped my shopping once (though I once thought Londoners would laugh, I now suspect someone could spontaneously combust without provoking interest, so that was no big deal) and, after getting some ideas from a magazine (how memories are laid down -- what could be more important to a first person narrative about what we remember, and why we forget, could there be?) over a salmon roll for lunch, I was into the National Gallery looking for paintings that feature water. It's a much easier place to look around once I'm looking for something in particular. Of course, I still got lost but that's half the fun.
I wish I could paint. Or even draw. The visual arts bring artist and audience more closely together than the literary, because brushstrokes reveal the hand of the artist at work. The printing press is brilliant, of course, but removes this closeness from readers. The properties of water seem more poignantly revealed in the impressionist paintings than in earlier artwork although early naval battle scenes are frighteningly impressive in sheer scale, reminders of the difference in size and power betweeen what we can build and what forces the ocean can throw at it. Other paintings show water being bridged, forded, fought over, identified, measured. All those temptations to imagine it is under control! To gaze at certain of the Dutch paintings is, as the text beside them claims, to feel as though standing beside a river. I love rivers. Despite the delights of writing the strength of the ocean in its tides and surges, there is something so purposeful in the winding and the coursing of a river. The ocean simply is, vast and pulled by the moon, but you feel like you can understand a river. (I have already written a river story, however, and must move on.).
Again it is the genius (I do believe in genius, however unfashionable) of Van Gogh that struck me more forciably than any other artist. I won't post any images here because there are already too many copies of them. The museum gift shop seems likely to collapse beneath the weight of sunflower-painted mugs, and collapsible wooden sunflowers, and sunflower-decorated pens and notebooks and magnets. Some of the aura must preserved! Though the banal chatter around the originals was even more striking. Why do so few people have anything interesting to say? Has it all been said? The dullness of others made me glad I had no one to talk to. Although there has to be something original under the sun, to say about these works of genius that are all originality themselves. Half the people there prefer their guidebooks to the actual art, many of the others simply stare blankly into the crowd, or at their feet. Then I left the gallery, walking down to the real river, crossing the Thames (dark swirling water, various vesssels churning thickly through it, connected to the floods not far from here.) If I'd been travelling with someone else, I might have had a better visual record of mysef being a part of my day than this,
Monday, 23 July 2007
The book is not all disappointing. Although, after the exuberance of the early books, imaginative possibilitis seem to occur with pitiful rarity, here we do have dragonpox leaving pock marks and green hued skin, and Hermione has perfect answer to tiny evening bag problem in her. extension charm. It seems literally anything can fit into her beaded purse from invisibility cloaks to tents to paintings and a library of books. For first time since flying broomstick, I think I want one of those. And the book explains some mysteries of muggle tragedy that we attribute to ordinary bad luck, negligence or misadventure, transferring them to a world where such accidents are granted meaning. For example, wizard-caused deaths are seen as train crashes and gas leaks. Shifts in cultural mood can be attributed to the presence of dementors, whom muggles can’t see though we can feel their despair.
The three children are on a quest for three objects, as on a grail quest. Perhaps most interestingly, Rowling disconnects the grail from the cup imagery and returns it to the stone it is in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival I wonder if Rowling might have been laying the groundwork for a more interesting story that she later abandoned? Because Percival is also the name of the oldest Weasley child, who separates from them but comes good in the end, prodigal-son-like. It is Ron who withdraws the sword from the lake. It seems as though they were being set up to be revealed as the rightful kings. But this story is not pursued.
Here are just a few of my main objections:
Bewildering lack of drama: TOo much chatter, not enough action!Other people, and occasionally elves, pop in to fill in yet more of the backstory. Annoyingly, we don't see what would have been far more interesting scenes; Ginny trying to steal the sword, the fall of the Ministry of Magic. Instead, we watch never-ending chatter and hand holdings. Which brings me to:
nauseating romantic relationships: dressing her couples in the literary equivalent of matching sweaters, Rowling can never resist an opportunity to point out who is with whom. All weddings are boring but this one is tedium infinitum (or it might be if there were a spell to create it, but why would anyone bother?) Worse still are
inconsistencies in Rowling’s conception of death: Rowling doesn’t seem to have a strong idea of what death actually means in her imagined world. She can't hold back from over-simplified expressions, for example, death is like a nightmare she writes at one point, which is utterly ridiculous, the image stripping the ultimate crisis of meaning and dignity. Later, despite continuous warning that death is the end and you can’t bring people back, when ever they are needed, the deadest of characters manage to turn up.
Repetition, especially, of Polyjuice potion: This transforming potion was refreshing when first used but it’s past its use by date now, becoming a virtaul much of a get out of jail free card. Disappointments: for instance the domestication of the main characters. Fleur, who once represented her country in the tri-wizard tournament is last seen worrying about dirty dishes and about where her houseguests should sleep. No, Fleur, no! Be haughty and superior and French and don’t do this! Please, JK, have something better in store for Harry, Ron and Hermione! (The ‘nineteen years later’ bit stuck at the end seems almost tragic).
Another most adult image that sits very oddly with the tediously juvenile romances is the phallic symbolism of the wand, which is almost blush-worthy. Voldemort demands Lucius' wand and compares its length to his own, a foe conjures a white handkerchief from end of his and came quietly. For his birthday, Harry receives a book from Ron: how to charm witches and proclaims with all the excitement of adolescent discovery, that ‘it's not all about wandwork'. Later, wizards boasting of their wands. Why would a woman write this? Could it be an expression of penis envy? I doubt it. Freud may have been to attatched to his own to realise this, but most women are rather like Seinfeld's Elaine who on learning about shrinkage 'I'm glad I don't have one of those'> But by the end, there has been so much discussion of wands, of what wood and which hair they are constructed from, that I couldn’t help but thinking of Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia. To misquote; Respect the power of the wand. JK, how could you?
(image is from a medieval manuscript of Wolfram's Parzival)
Friday, 20 July 2007
Because I find, 20 years after university, that his words are more alive in my head than then. Because we are both 37 though he is also much older and dead. Because he wrote this;
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
and continues, asking
Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much?
have you reckon'd the earth much?
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
Writers who follow nature rather than generic conventions, who try to stay true to rhythms of their own, mean much to me at the moment. I'm stuck in full second novel crisis mode and need to find my own path, and to accept being lost for a while. (If only it were as easy to feel comfortable about as it is to type!)
Saturday, 14 July 2007
I've been flicking through artwork of various water spirits (mainly just on Wikipedia, the good thing about creative research is your sources can be crap and don't need to be reliable at anything except inspiring you) and found a whole lot of different ideas I can use -- I'm writing in a realist mode, not horror, but it's still good to have lots of images available. One picture I found of a water spirit was so like the creepy Sadako in Ringu that I suspect one of the reasons she’s so frightening is because she represents some archetype of fear. Some archetype that connects fear to water and women and childbirth to drowning. As humans, our first practice breaths are in salty fluid, being born is in some respects like coming out of the sea -- as our long ago ancestors did. And going back to Ringu there is something uterine about the enclosure at the base of the well, where the evil spirit gestates, something natal (is that the right word?) about her exit from it that I shiver to consider this connection. Because while childbirth is amazing it is also scary as hell. At this early stage of writing I tend to make connections all over the place, or try to. I won't be using a well. But I want to be able to frighten people, so it helps to untangle what frightens me. Who knows what I'll end up using? I do seem to have caught a current of ideas, though. Yay!
Saturday, 7 July 2007
Meanwhile, on the domestic front, I've had decorators in, painting for the last three weeks and they are finally gone. Its been really hard to work, with strangers popping in and out of the house and appearing, brush in hand, at different windows whenever they're least expected. But now I have a beginning, an ending, my initial long-courted idea, some quiet space, and I'm ready to be off!
Thursday, 5 July 2007
Ooh, this looks promising. This might work. I quite like Sky Tier Rambler although, on deeper thought, meaninglessness probably does count against it. My Briar Kestrel loses out on the same grounds. Ye Skirt Rambler sounds right for the sort of naughty log I don’t want to write. And Me Library Treks sounds authentically Australian, but I pronounce the y in my, honest. At least I think I do.
There are no other promising suggestions for Kimberley Starr. What then of anagrams for Kimberley Starr’s Blog? I’m quite keen on including the word ramble -- except that most choices I’m then offered include unpleasant sounds or images like brisket and gerbil. Looking for an anagram title that includes the word remarks (I think, how appropriate!) brings me a long list of options concerning slobbery bellboys and bigotry. Gerbils make a repeat appearance, this time accompanied by giblets.
Abandoning the hope to include specific words I fancy, I ask the computer for any three words from any combination of my name and other appropriate others like writing and blog. Something meaningful might yet turn up. But honestly, I don’t want anything about bakery monsters. And Try Berserk Globalism might have been interesting if I was considering discussing politics. But I'm not -- though now and then, it might get a passing mention.
A long time later and I’m not getting anywhere with any variations and I’m finding it increasingly easy to be distracted by emails. I’ll give it one more go. This is the best I get. Grim knits literary brew. It’s only superficially appealing. Looks like I’ll be sticking with this for a while. Kimberley Starr’s Blog.
edited 14 July because I was flipping through the pages of Aspects of the Novel and finally found something that both sounds right for the sort of blog I want to keep, and goes some way towards summarising my own feeling about writing. Thankyou, E.M.!