Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Reading and Recovering

I lost a couple of day's worth of work this week. Something buggered up on my memory stick, corrupting my latest novel file. It was beyond saving so I lost a few hours worth of work. What made it worse was that once I had got over my initial frustration I couldn't rewrite what I had lost. Every time I tried my brain was too intent on remembering what I had written before and reproducing it verbatim. So, I put it aside and got to work on the first draft of a short story instead.

It's finished now and I'm back to work on the novel and everything is progressing again.

No news to speak of otherwise on the story front, magazines are all very quiet.

In June, I mentioned an argument I had had with housemates about what a writer should read and one of the arguments was that a writer should read the classics. I don't agree. I see where my housemates are coming from, if you want to do something start at the beginning, but to me reading the classics is very much like a racing car driver having a go in a Ford Model T; interesting, but hardly conducive to better driving skills.

But, I acknowledged to myself, I can't just dismiss the classics, perhaps they do have something to teach me. They are, after all, the classics. So last week I finished reading A Tale of Two Cities and what did I learn? Bugger. All. It was a fine story for its time as I'm sure are many of the classics but I picked up no real tools that would help me with my own writing.

Perhaps I chose the wrong classic, I don't know. Maybe if I read War and Peace I'll learn something that will make me a better writer. But maybe I won't. Well, how about Great Gatsby? How about Wuthering Heights? Why don't I just spend the rest of my life reading books everyone else tells me are great hoping I'll find in them something I could just as easily be searching for in books I actually enjoy?

The problem I feel with people who insist on only reading the classics is that their reading lists all look the fucking same. Who decided these books were 'the classics' anyway? Dickins doesn't seem all that to me. Wodehouse wasn't that great. To Kill a Mockingbird was fantastic, I did love it, but I didn't feel there was anything to learn from it. Harper is simply more talented than me. Or at least more talented at writing that kind of book, don't know how she'd fair writing sci-fi for teens.

Anyway, rant over. I'm reading The White Tiger, Booker Prize Winner. It's ok so far. Nice in a look-into-modern-India journalism way. No real story to speak of. Classic? Probably not.

Also feel I should mention this. Hannah was a close friend and I miss her a lot and her death coloured my writing a lot. News story seems a bit divorced from reality for me. I never met the guy that killed her and never will. Hard to hate someone you've never met.


Thanks for reading.