Friday, 20 May 2011

The Slaughtered Lamb

Who remembers 'An American Werewolf in London'?
The book I’m reading at the moment is The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons. It’s an interesting story and Simons makes it rattle along while employing some interesting point-of-view trickery to give it a literary quality. But, occasionally, I find my reading pace checked when I come across something which, I believe, should have been smoothed out by a diligent editor.
There are times I read a piece of writing that is so simpatico, my internal editor switches off and a preternatural connection transmits the meaning from the writer’s pen straight into my brain.  Our member Linda produced prose of this order in the latest extract from her novel-in-progress, A Head Full of Budgerigars.  This was from a chapter headed Magnetic Socks in which Linda’s protagonist Lily spends a day in her Shrubshire home but contrasts the current idyll with a remembered life on a French farm where:
Trevor dragged the frightened lamb on its back across the unkempt farmyard in Sainte BĂ©atrice, to a piece of rough ground in front of the kitchen window. … He slit the lambs throat and the blood dripped into the bucket below. Lily had expected it to gush out in a hideous torrent. He cut open the stomach and removed the liver with a knife that flashed in the sunlight. The liver flopped into a chipped enamel bowl. ‘Do you want to fry this up? It’s beautiful when it’s fresh, not like that crap in the supermarket.’  … She [Lily] grimaced, ‘I’d rather not.’

The humour in the pay-off line is typical of Linda’s novel which is also characterized by a wistful, elegiac tone for the pieces about the English countryside. We all hope that when Lily finishes the book she can find an agent or publisher who loves it as much as we do.

In other news, we discussed the current round of competitions and it looks as if at least three of us will attempt to have a story in the Summer Guardian Weekend Short Story special. We also floated the idea that if we can’t afford to go to writing retreats organized by other people why can’t we do-it-ourselves? Five Go (Writing) Mad in Dorset beckons.  

Monday, 9 May 2011

Our last meeting was at Rob's house where we listened to Chris read an extract from Karl Marx and Careful Driving. It was generally felt by the group that Chris had got it just right this time, ie more about the journey and less philosophy. Marx (as the title implies) is central to the theme of the book and Plato is becoming equally significant, so Chris didn't quite agree.

I felt that this was an exciting extract from the book - real swashbuckling, romantic stuff. The loneliness and isolation of the long distance truck driver really came through. Tony appreciated the 'dark' humour and Annie enjoyed getting a bit closer to life on the road. Rob was a little disconcerted about Chris's thoughts on speeding: 'The Inquisition is wielding radar guns on the Minsk bypass'. Hopefully this contentious subject will attract interest and discussion and we will soon be listening to Chris being interviewed on Radio 4, while we eat our cornflakes. Doesn't he bare a striking resemblance to Errol Flynn?

Apologies to Annie for missing my turn to blog on her latest short story Aspirations and Ambitions. We all agreed that this was a well constructed story with an excellent twist and the requisite happy ending. This is the sort of story that women's magazines love and hopefully she should do very well with it. Several of us felt that the title should be changed. I suggested Keeping up with Monica.