This week I’ve just got started on The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick.
I was turned onto this book after being well and truly, unexpectedly, sucked into the Amazon t.v series of the same name. I never get into any t.v series, ever, and was loath to even give The Man in the High Castle a try, arrogantly assuming it wouldn’t interest me and not wanting to waste my time in front of the tele. About half way through the first episode and I was well and truly hooked. Addicted is not too strong a word to use.
As the layers of mystery began to build up and new layers to the characters emerged, I just knew that I had to get the book and scrutinize this brilliant plot further.
I’m only a couple of short chapters into the book so far so cannot give much of a judgement. What I can say is it is not at all what I expected. For starters there are a lot of differences between the book and the series. The story, for example, picks up in an entirely different place; the series having gone back in time some way to set up the narrative. Also the relationships between some of the characters does not quite match up. The book is far more sophisticated and complex than I was expecting it to be. So far I am finding it reminiscent of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four.
I have been playing around with some ideas for my own dystopian fiction for some time now and was fairly pleased with what I had down so far. The Man in the High Castle has set me back to square one with the harsh realisation of just how lacking my ideas were. Subtleties, sub-plot, deep insight into characters, light and shade. These are all things that I had neglected. Needless to say those ideas have been chucked on the scrap heap. I still plan to write a dystopian novel someday but have now decided to put this on hold whilst I read more of the genre and attempt to mature my ideas considerably. There’s nothing like reading a great book to make you seriously question your own writing! Although, I refuse to give up entirely with the fear of falling short of my idols, but rather I intend to use them as inspiration for my future work.
It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I just seem to find I can’t get started. I find the blank page rather a daunting thing I think and feel a lot of pressure to fill it with something totally worth while.
This is, of course, completely the wrong attitude to have. I just need to write. Write something. Write ANYTHING. I know that the more I write the more inspiration will find me. Inspiration is zigzagging around all the time looking for a empty vessel to fill and unless I am writing how it is possibly going to find me? And, trust me, my mind is the emptiest of vessels and so the perfect place for lots of great inspirational ideas to pour into!
I have discovered that early on in his writing career, back when he still had to keep down a full time job to pay the bills, Terry Pratchett used to write 400 words a night. 400 words seems so little and yet Pratchett managed to complete whole novels this way; chip chipping away until he finally reached his goals. Previously, I had settled on writing 1000 words a day but, although this felt like a fairly small amount, perhaps I stopped because 1000 a day was too daunting for me and I’d end up feeling like a failure if I didn’t quite manage it.
Well. If 400 words a night is good enough for Pratchett then it is certainly good enough for me. I just need to get writing and keep writing and worry about what exactly was spilled out of my brain to make a mess across the page at a later date.
So this is exactly my new challenge. From now on, at least 5 days a week, I’m going to write 400 words a night. Some of them will be towards a new story and some will be writing exercises but either way they will hopefully get me to a place where I can feel proud of myself for accomplishing something.
I’ll make sure to keep you updated on how this all goes!
This week I’m reading, or rather finally getting round to finishing, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote.
The film has been one of my all time favourites for many years and so I felt it was finally time that I got round to reading the book. Too often films fail to do the books they are based on justice but so far I’m finding that the film matches the book rather beautifully. The novel is exquisitely written: the type of writing that I would love to be able to produce myself. Simple, elegant and observational. A true masterpiece in my opinion.
I am finding it an absolute joy to read. As with every great book I read, I try to take something away to try and develop in my own writing. With Terry Pratchett it’s his sense of humor and wit; with Steinbeck it’s his great characters; and with Capote I would like to be able to take some of the simpleness: Capote uses just the right amount of words to get what he wants across; no more and no less. Too often I find that my writing can end up very rambling and I need to try and cut out the wordiness.I find Capote a truly inspirational writer and am thoroughly looking forward to reading the rest of this great little book.
I’ve recently got really into the Amazon series, The Man in the High Castle, and the more I’ve watched of it the more I’ve been dying to get started on the book. Today I finally got my grabby little hands on the Philip K. Dick novel (failing finding a copy in an independent bookshop I resorted to W.H.Smith but at least I managed to steer clear of Amazon!) and am awaiting with baited breath to get started. I’ve got a couple of half-finished books to get through first but look out for a review coming up soon.
So a while back I decided to stop buying books from Amazon in order to support local bookstores and I thought I’d update you on how that is going.
In terms of browsing around bookshops and charity shops looking for nothing in particular, it’s been great. I love just being in bookshops and often find I come out with something I never would have thought off. It’s exciting when you find a real gem or a great bargain and I love the whole experience of spending time mooching around a dusty old bookshop.
However, as I’ve already moaned about previously, there are hardly any bookshops around anymore and so mostly I find myself in charity shops which often don’t have much of a selection. Too often I end a whole afternoon of browsing charity shops for books with absolutely nothing. I have even come across charity shops which don’t sell books at all, and this I find very strange as all these millions of books that are sold each month must be ending up somewhere!
The other problem is when you want to find something specific. This can take an excruciatingly long time, and indeed you may never find a book you are after without having to resort to other big chains such as Waterstones and W.H.Smith. These big chains are so lifeless and devoid of character and I find shopping in them such an uninspiring experience that I end up avoiding them at all costs and simply moving on without ever buying the book I was so excited to read.
I feel that some sort of book exchange needs to be set up whereby book lovers can swap books with others and hopefully find what they are after that way. Perhaps I will set up an event. Everyone will have to bring a book but then can take one back home with them. Who would be interested in something like this? I’m sure book swaps must already exit but I have yet to come across one in my circle. Please inform me if you know of any in South London!
I’m not sure how much this gets celebrated in day-to-day life, but luckily I work in a primary school and therefore get the full blast of the celebrations!
Books, as you may well have guessed from the very subject of this blog, mean a hell of a lot to me and growing up they were an enormous part of my life. I was a serious book worm and would spend hours upon hours totally absorbed in the pages of some fantasy or other. I think it’s vital that children are not just taught how to read but given the opportunity and encouragement to really find the love in books. Teach a child to read and you are providing them with some of the basic and necessary tools for life. But, teach children how to enjoy reading and you are opening up whole new worlds for them to delve into and explore.
It was joyous to see all the children and a few, (I was disappointed to see only a few), of the teachers dressed up as some of their favourite book characters and to listen to them explain just why they chose their particular characters. I, typically, threw myself into the fancy dress element of the day, choosing to portray the Mad Hatter from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carol. This is just such a classic piece of literature and for me, no matter how much the film industry tries, it cannot be overdone. It captures so much of the fantasy and wonder that goes on within the imaginations of children and I simply think it is truly wonderful.
I encourage reading and writing whenever I can at school and it excites me to think that some of these children may grow up to become writers in the future. This is why, for me, it is absolutely vital that we continue to celebrate books in all their glory and make the most of brilliant days such as today. If you didn’t celebrate world book day this year, please do make a note of it for next year; I know we don’t need an excuse to celebrate books but it’s always nice to have an extra opportunity!