Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas books

Waking from the chocolate-flavoured, carol-sound-tracked, new-clothes strewn oblivion of Christmas Day, life surfaces again chez nous. This afternoon the Bass Player, the Other Half and I went shopping with the Waterstones’ cards we got for Christmas. The Ultimate Frisbee Freak was too busy doing payable chores around the place (severely broke after Christmas) to come with us, though he did send us off with instructions to see if the Dalai Lama’s autobiography was out yet – v. attracted by the Dalai Lama is the UFF.

Once over the threshold of the only bookshop left in town (sigh…) I was determined not to just go for the three-for-twos, partly because I’m beginning to feel dictated to and partly because I want to support authors whose publishers haven’t stumped up for a place on the front tables. And, if I’m totally honest, I’ve read all the three-for-twos I fancy anyway…

The results are in the pile on the right – three chosen by the Other Half, three by me. All will be read by both with much gusto.

Not that I’m going to get to these for a while, still got the birthday haul to enjoy. I’ve just finished reading The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris which I raved about here a couple of days ago and which I loved more and more as I read it. There’s something timeless about Joanne Harris’s books, as if they’re purely about the people and their predicament and don’t relate to the rest of the world, be it political situation, cultural context (whatever that might be) or historical time-scale at all. it’s a clever trick if you can pull it off, and she can. Apart from the one mention of the internet (to say that Yanne and her family didn’t have it) and the fact that one character is welded to his mobile phone (which immediately puts him beyond the pale) the modern world doesn’t intrude into The Lollipop Shoes any more than it did into Chocolat. The result is a kind of fable, a timeless story with a uninversal meaning. And I love that kind of thing.

But, though I love it, I don’t write it. My stories are much more time-bound. Testament is full of very specific historical references, both in the fourteenth century where Simon’s life and ambitions are bounded by the heresies of Lollardy and in the contemporary world where neither Damia’s campaign to save the college nor her long-distance relationship with Catz could possibly survive without constant use of the internet. Of course, the internet has its down-side as Damia also discovers.

It’s the same with the current work-in-progress. A memoir written about a single summer in 1843 and a contemporary story based very firmly in the West Wales of the twenty-first century. But, as I say, I do love fables and I’ve put one in to the w-i-p, though whether it will survive beyond the first draft, I don’t know. Stephen King (whom I seem to keep quoting as if all I know about writing comes from him instead of twenty years of practice) says that we should kill our darlings, ie cut out those bits of our books we cherish the most as they’re likely to be dead, purple weight. We shall see.

Meanwhile, am I getting any writing – or even editing, as predicted – done this holiday? Not yet. But tomorrow may be another day in that respect…

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