01/9/12

Down in the River 2

I always wanted to fix the hat on that pic I did of Gwynn dressed in wallpaper-like clothing. It was too big. So I fixed it. The complete dissonance between the patterns on his clothing also needs fixing, but maybe I should just do another painting, since the anatomy’s crappy too.

Mucking around with Photoshop, I got this effect, which I really like. It’s only a dark strokes filter over a paper background, but somehow it just worked with this picture. I’d rather like to see if I can make another picture in the same style.

downintheriver3

01/9/12

Hearts & Guns beta

Done it — finished the story collection, still with the working title of Hearts & Guns. It’s about 76,000 words and covers material from 1997 to 2010. It includes most of my published short fiction, a new story, and some odds and ends of poetry and ultra-short things.

Generally the older the story, the more I’ve revised it, though I’ve tried not to go overboard (and I brought The Art of Dying back closer to its original form than its other revised versions).

It does need beta reading. If anyone would like to volunteer, please email me. I’ll have your babies reciprocate any reading/critique.

ETA: Thanks everyone who offered, I’ve got enough now!

01/8/12

Digested classics

By John Crace at The Guardian. Cheeky fun!

Le Grand Meaulnes
The Sheltering Sky
The Thief’s Journal
The God of Small Things
Crash

and many more (plus opera)…

Speaking of cheeking literature, I would love to have this book, Literary Blasphemies, by Ernest Boyd. “The best traditions of English letters seem to present to him an endless and enchanting vista of abstract crockery to be broken with loud pagan snorts and bellows,” says this ancient review.

01/3/12

The to-read pile

Crikey, the pile’s getting high:

Shogun – James Clavell
The Voyage Out – Virginia Woolf
Doc: A Novel – Mary Doria Russell
Monday or Tuesday – Virginia Woolf
Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Homes – Eds. Charles Prepolec and Jeff Campbell
The Country of the Pointed Firs – Sarah Orne Jewett
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Condottiere: A Knight’s Tale – Edward John Crockett
The Sound of the Mountain – Yasunari Kawabata
Seven-Tenths: The Sea and its Thresholds – James Hamilton-Paterson
The Outlaws of the Marsh – Luo Guanzhong
The Berlin Novels – Christopher Isherwood

Currently reading The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s, by Peter Doggett; James Clavell’s King Rat, and Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes.

Impulse-buying books way more than I did before the Kindle, that’s for sure.

01/1/12

Thinks

- Life is a cracked surface at best. Fiction is a nice edifice.

- every word/sentence/paragraph gives a writer an opportunity to reinforce or deliberately crack the edifice by screwing with meaning, structure, grammar, the fourth wall, etc.

- different types and degrees of cracking produce different arrangements of order and chaos. Order and disorder become aesthetic elements that can be arranged like colours or textures or musical sounds to create…something (that incorporates decay as well as growth, that implies change in a different way than the change over time in a linear narrative, and that may fight its own narrative or enrich it?)

- cracks make for interest (to some) but can sap the vitality of narrative (for some). A total ruin has a strong historical narrative but a weak sensory one. However, partial ruins with trees growing out of them appeal to many people.

01/1/12

Maldoror Abroad @ Weird Fiction Review

An old story of mine, Maldoror Abroad, originally published in Album Zutique, is online for a limited time at Weird Fiction Review. The story is a riff off of, or love letter to, the original, inimitable 1869 work of batshit genius, Les Chants de Maldoror by “Comte de Lautr√©amont”, nom de guerre of Isidore Ducasse.

Also at WFR is an essay by Mark Valentine on Sarban, another pseudonym, and one which caught my attention because I randomly gave one of the cities in my head-world that name. “Sarban” was John William Wall, a diplomat who spent many years stationed in the Middle East and North Africa and who published three books of strange fiction in the 1950s. I was intrigued enough to buy The Doll Maker, which is now sitting on my Kindle.

Agan for a short time, WFR has Sarban’s A Christmas Story online. I like this story a lot. It goes from:

“We always gave the meteorological data of Good King Wenceslaus with feeling”

to:

“Far and wide we could see now over the immense, sad taiga: a¬†level, lonely waste of drab brown and faded grey, every particle of life in it stilled by that one terrible grip of the Lord Frost and its dead body stabbed through and through by the bayonets of the snow-wind. When the wind ceased we knew that the winding-sheet would fall from the black sky.”

My favourite contest — between irony and sincerity. The world of emotion under the groomed convivial facade and the agreed rules, even the rules of celebration. A time of carnival opens a wider than wanted door? And isn’t that what Christmas is about?