November 28, 2009

Nobel Prize for Literature

Because she won the Nobel Prize for literature I got a book by Merta Muller from the excellent Wellington Public Library called The Appointment. I didn’t enjoy reading it on the whole, but once I had finished I started appreciating it.

First of all I kept thinking of Kafka’s The Trial, though the woman in The Appointment did at least know why she was being interrogated, just not what was being gained by her being interrogated in the way she was. Romania under Ceausescu was clearly grim and bleak, the picture is one of stagnation. The protagonist looks out for chances of happiness. She is being interrogated, on random days, because she put a message saying 'marry me' in pockets of men's shirts going from the factory where she works to Italy.

It was shocking, in the context of New Zealand mores, that she found the fact of her and her friend Lilli having sex with father or step-father to be nothing much. Lilli said, “He never became repulsive to me … but in time he did come to seem ordinary. The fact that we’d be at it as soon as my mother left the house became more of a habit than using the door handle.” I found that shocking.

There is some lovely prose. “When I stepped outside everything was preparing for the night, the sun had already spread itself red across the sky, every shadow in town had lain down.” It’s a translation from the German, so there’s no way for me to know how well it conveys the original.

A friend who has lived in Germany for a long time admires Muller and the way she speaks out since she emigrated from Romania, which she had to do when she refused to spy on her fellow-workers.

November 25, 2009

Write, write, I say

My excuse for not doing a weekly entry is the 'write a novel in a month' thing at I just had 50064 words validated on the website. Now I can do something else, like update this blog.

Going to Melbourne slowed me at the beginning, but catching up wasn't so bad. Yesterday and today I was really fed up and wanted to get finished. I felt as though I had run out of plot again - this happened in the middle, too. The trick that worked for me was to make myself keep writing the most banal detail and drivel until some plot happened. Not quite as bad as, 'She got out of bed and put on her slippers, then washed her face and cleaned her teeth. The bed was soon made, the tidy way that she liked it and she went out into the cold morning to get the paper.' Not quite that bad, but nearly.

Now it's time for the big edit, which will involve some research. I'll wait a while before I start that, take a break from this thing that has gripped me by the throat.

What I found interesting about the process is that I was forced into whatever plot I could find in a corner of my brain and sometimes that worked well in terms of my overall themes for the story. I even ended up with a whole new character that I got to really like writing about.

I'm not sure I'll do it again, this is an annual event. The only way to write is to write, after all, and I can probably do that without a competition. Nonetheless, I was frustrated that I was not writing more and this certainly overcame that.

November 9, 2009

How the words count

I'm in Melbourne,so the writing has been s l o w. Only a thousand or so words since I left home. Total about 8000. Should be 15000 at this stage in the month. When I get home (tomorrow) I'd better get my writing shoes on and get going.

It is so hot here I can't believe it isn't January. 35+ degrees today, and a breeze that is hot, too, so gives no relief. I can feel the moisture being sucked out of me. Beautifully cool in the Victoria State Library, and free internet access for 15 not-well-monitored minutes at a time. A queue forms.

I'm taking notes for my novel in odd moments. Need a completely new subplot and haven't found it yet. Have something that might turn into one. It's a whole new thing for me writing to get the word count up, without editing as I go. I have to put notes to myself in caps to check things (like how long does a fast train take from new york to washington DC)which is not what I usually do).

Am reading a book by Brazilian Clarice Lispector, because a friend said CL was her favourite writer. It is seriously weird and compelling. From p12, "Happiness? I have never come across a more foolish word." Think about that for a moment. I think the idea of happiness, what it is, if anything, what it does to or for us etc etc might be making its way into my novel. Maybe. She takes on the persona of a male writer in the novel, and talks about words, and how the story she/he is/is not writing is all words. A different notion from my current preoccupation with numbers of words - word-counting in a adifferent kind of way. I saw an ad for a biography of Lispector in lrb, might have to follow that up.

Have to go from this computer. Odd, when one is used to being in control of the period of time. More soon.