Thursday, 24 May 2012

Men only

Our meeting on Tuesday, May 22nd, at Tony’s house, was, if nothing else, innovative: (comma to word ratio 1 : 2.8 so far) alfresco, all male, half the membership absent and over by nine o’clock.
Rob read ‘Great-uncle Hymie’s bequest’, telling the story of Jonathon, whose father has recently died. Jonathon is shocked by his lack of feelings towards his father and later, lying awake in bed, is reminded of Great-uncle Hymie’s death and his strange bequest to all the family – a clothes hanger. Jonathon, disturbed by his memories, gets up, finds the hanger and imagines Hymie’s presence. A conversation ensues between them about the quality of the hanger, attention to detail, and duty. Jonathon falls asleep and when he awakes to return to his bed, experiences a sense of despair.
Tony was spell-bound by the story, finding it resonant, compact and a carefully-crafted description of grief, with the clothes hanger playing a totemic role. Clive was at a bit of a loss, feeling that the story comprised two stories melded into one, and unsure as to its message. Was it, perhaps, about grief, or was it about Jonathon’s feelings of guilt at his loss of Jewishness? Both enjoyed the language – “…could pick a snag from such a finish…”, “…despair rising into my mouth like heartburn…” and suggested some punctuation changes.
Rob felt that he had failed to convey sufficiently strongly the idea behind the piece, which was Jonathon’s guilt at his loss of the culture of his forbears, and confirmed that the story comprised an extract from his novel to which he had added and moulded new material.
News was swiftly put aside after Clive confirmed he had none, Tony was awaiting the BBC et al., and Rob had entered four competitions, three in Winchester and the Bridport. He had done more work on his novel, five hours that very day, though complained at having been obliged to eschew the sunshine for his ‘foetid’ office because his laptop screen is illegible in bright light: is there an answer to this problem?
On behalf of Annie (who was quilting), we jointly presented the news that her Malvern escapade had gone extremely well. Tony remarked that ‘As you read it’ was a rubbish name and wondered why Malvern Theatres didn’t publish the stories in a small booklet and give the proceeds to charity. Rob and Clive agreed and recommended he suggest that to them, which he said he would. 
As the evening hurtled towards its close, Clive suggested we need an AOB as the last item of our meetings and Rob and Tony agreed that a set closing time of 9:45 p m would be desirable. It was still light when we left.
Next meeting at Rob’s house on June 12th, story by Chris, blog by Annie.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Prosecco and lemon cake, emerald rings and grumpy bakers

We met at Annie's where the story under discussion was Clive's offering The Emerald Ring. Reaching new heights in the refreshments department, Annie regaled us with prosecco and home-made lemon cake. This was by way of celebrating Annie’s success in being selected to read one of her stories at Malvern Theatre next week as part of their As You Read It evening. We all look forward to Annie's performance and wish her all the best for Thursday.
Clive read The Emerald Ring with gusto – a curious and compelling tale which left us all wondering how much of it was true family history and how much of it pure fiction. Like Wuthering Heights and Robinson Crusoe the kernel of the story (as recounted in the carpenter's tale) is given an added air of verisimilitude by being a story within a story within a story. Rob commented that he wondered whether this was a well-told tale woven around a nugget of truth, and alluded to the genre of creative non-fiction. Linda said how much she loved the carpenter's tale at the heart of the story and really wanted it to be true while Chris admitted that, if it were pure fiction, he had been completely taken in.  We all agreed with Chris that the 18th-century language was so convincing it almost had to be true. Singled out for particular praise was the comment, attributed to the Truro magistrate William Fletcher: ' ... ofttimes the repast was unrecognisable to me though, judged by taste, it was invariably fish and when distinguishably not fish, then the taste was yet fish...’
So, how much of Clive’s story was pure fancy? Clive explained that Lily Brydges really was his grandmother and the parts referring to her were all true. The wrecking of the fleet was also a true story around which Clive had embroidered The Emerald Ring. Fundamentally the story was genuine, but Clive himself was the author of both William Fletcher's statements and the carpenter's tale embedded within it. It seems Clive reads Samuel Pepys's Diary every day for fun, so much so that he appears to have absorbed the language of the late 17th and early 18th century.  If this continues, he may insist we refer to him as Squire Eardley.
 In our news roundup, Annie has of course been practising reading her story out loud in readiness for Thursday. Chris managed to sell out Stafford Gatehouse and sold 31 copies of Why Don't You Fly? to the enthusiastic audience. Linda continues to work on her novel and is trying to get the chapter lengths down to 1,500-2000 words as her mentor suggests this is a more suitable chapter length for a book with such commercial potential as Linda’s. Rob was feeling more discouraged with his work in progress but has managed to sell eight copies of Olympic Mind Games to a local school that is using it as a ‘reader’ for Year Six children. Clive has had further publishing success with a recipe for Cinnamon Crumb Cake in Take a Break magazine. With the popularity of The Hairy Bikers (pictured), we did wonder whether Clive might be cooking up a plan to launch himself as The Grumpy Baker.