The SVA met at my place for an (almost) Halloween meeting. Spookily, Chris (whose extract we had gathered to discuss) emerged via the dark alleyway that runs alongside the house. To park his bike round the back he had to contend with dustbins heavy with garden rubbish, so ominous rumblings of wheelie bins and mysterious flashes of LED lights presaged his apparition.
Annie was unable to join us this week and the remaining five of us had little news to share. There was talk of taking part in National Novel Writing Month (see nanowrimo.org) from Rob, and of helpful advice received from an editor (Linda), of ongoing bloggery (Izzie), submissions to short story magazines (Tony) and a finalising rewrite (Chris). There was also a lot of debate about a mutually convenient meeting time. The consensus seems to be to stick with the second and fourth Monday in each month, starting at 8pm but ending promptly at 10pm. We agreed we would need to be brisker in both our sharing of news and our giving of feedback, avoiding repetition of comments and generally being pithier.
And, in this spirit, Chris read us an extract from Chapter 13 of his Karl Marx and Careful Driving. The text was full of profundity and humour. In one section, Chris observes that road users are "alienated both from their humanity and from each other by the state's partition of time and space because only the surrender of time and space without direction from another can bring a smile from a grateful stranger." Elsewhere, Chris describes a manager who "might easily be dismissed as a buffoon, but even small-scale tyranny is no joke for those subjected to it."
Izzie found Chris had a gift for making "complex theories palatable" while Linda appreciated the improved balance between personal experiences and the history and philosophy sections. Rob also liked the balance between 'theory' and 'driving' but suggested each chapter could end with a short summary of where the narrator had got to, so far, in his thinking ... and where this might be leading us next. I also enjoyed the frequent switches from macrocosm to microcosm, from the sublime to the mundane and, sometimes, ridiculous.
There was a lot of discussion about the use of deleted expletives, or rather the inconsistent use of, or expurgation of, expletives. Chris's rationale was that some obscene language was admissible, and some was just too obscene to spell out, but the group felt, if you're going to include some obscenities, you can't be this selective. D H Lawrence paved the way for authors to use such language more freely, although sometimes, in print, it still has the power to shock.
The meeting ended with a brief discussion planning Christmas celebrations. And so - though it's eminently subject to change - the plan for now is as follows:
Monday 9 November Venue: Izzie's Izzie to submit
Monday 23 November Venue: Annie's Linda to submit
Monday 14 December or Thursday 17 December: Christmas meal (Venue to be confirmed)