Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Sting Inside

I have been sitting here in front of my computer screen for some time struggling to find the right words for this blog. I wonder if I will ever finish my book - if I will ever find the right words - if I will ever add to my own blog, last written in September 2010. I have been attacked by self-doubt, but then I am kicked in the behind when I think of all my fellow writers at SVA. They soldier on, continuing to search for the right words in the face of the minutest odds that their hard work will be recognised. Tony and Annie manage to produce fabulous work in what little spare time they have. Working full-time, making time for family and relationships and finding time to write is a skilfull juggling act.

Chris gets up at 4 a.m. every morning so that he can get a couple of hours of writing in before cycling off to work. He allows himself a lie-in on those days when he doesn't have to work: he gets up at 5 a.m. instead.

Rob also juggles several jobs and commitments beyond writing, but never ceases to come up with the goods. We all know - it isn't easy.

After the dramatic first chapter of The Sting Inside, Rob sets the scene for his characters and their new life in America. He beautifully crafts a sense of authenticity with references to screen doors that slammed shut if you didn't wedge yourself in them and yellow school buses with folding doors that shushed open and the flag that swings out to stop the traffic. He also hints at the difficulties the family face in a new land: Ben starting a new school and the importance of having friends, and Rachel facing long days in an empty house. Annie and I immediately felt sympathy for Rachel and felt that her story should be developed but Rob showed that she was no pushover when it came to standing up for her son and her firmness with the school. I wasn't going to have them mess it up, she says to Jon. Jon comes across as a loving family man and there are nice little touches like Jon embarrassing his son by singing and clicking his fingers 'old-fogey' style, but we do get a sense of his smugness; that this life in America is about his career and the riches success can bring.

Underpinning this depiction of family life, guilt, in the guise of a malignant worm burrowing inside Jon, adds a sinister backdrop. On this occasion 'guilt' speaks, in fact it tells the story. Annie felt that the worm needs to have a persona, indeed a more malevolent one. I liked her question, Is it an English or an American worm? I also have to agree with her point that it seems hard to believe that anyone could forget that their story is going in to print that day.

Tony enjoyed the sinsiter undertones that the worm gave to the story of the (hitherto) good life in America and felt that the epigram by Primo Levi was helpful.

Phrases praised by all of us were: her cereal-commercial brightness and Ben's gangling limbs galumphing about.

We already have strong hints of the conflict to come: the musical Cabaret with its Nazi/Jewish theme, the gay lovers and of course the aftermath of 9/11 and survivor guilt. We all look forward to reading more and to discovering exactly why, as Rob says, Every good thing has a sting inside.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great post, Linda, with a very appropriate depiction of the malevolent worm. Should we give him (why is it a him?) a name?
    You and Annie sowed the seed of doubt about the aspiring writer not remembering it was the publication date of his story - you're right. Solution - the magazine is going to be on the shelf a day early. It happens doesn't it?
    I haven't progressed much since our meeting but your comments have re-invigorated me - which is one of the reasons SVA exists. Thank you.