Sunday, 24 October 2010

Reading and writing

I've been concentrating on books since the boys left. I took up the recommended book The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks and read it in one go. It is a story of a rather revolting character who graphically tortures and kills animals, and describes his three murders, committed while he was a child. Yet somehow Banks manages to write the character so well, that although you are repelled by what he does, you start to concern yourself with his welfare. Somehow you start to see Frank as a real, damaged and deluded individual. The final twist came as a huge surprise to me, though cleverly signposted. It's a kind of Gothic novel for the modern world. Fantastic writing. Truly, a book I would not recommend as light entertainment or bedtime reading, but amazing.

On to poetry, from the snippets I sketched out in Devon and on the train. I have a vague outline, based (at the moment) on James Joyce's interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas' views on beauty: wholeness, harmony and radiance. For me, one of the wonders of the natural world is the way huge flocks of corvids, mostly jackdaws and rooks but sometimes crows too, come together into huge flocks, gathering, lifting into the air then settling like washing in the trees until they set of to make an even bigger group somewhere else. the birds travel miles to do this, and they do it regularly.

Mark Cocker in Crow Country described 40,000 or so in the most gorgeous prose. Meanwhile, I struggle to describe the sight and sound of hundreds of jackdaws assembling last year over the Cairn and the beginnings of a gathering when I was in Devon last week. I was literally breathless, wordless, by the sheer beauty of nature and all the sensory experiences of it. I love it when that happens, but it makes it difficult to put into words. I think it's like sketching, you see a lovely view but the lines on the page, or the watercolors for that matter, don't capture the original. Even photography, by emphasising the visual, kills the rest. Difficult. I have come up with 18 lines, so far, a miracle for me, as I end up with really small poems. My tutor suggested 4000 words of fiction or 150 lines of poetry. I'll never be able to come up with that much poetry, it's like making magical potions ('first find an unopened pine cone that has been nibbled by a squirrel, soak for three days in melted hail...' OK, made up, but you get my drift?).


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