Some characters’ minds barely make a peep – I always wonder whether their inner voice can really be so still. Other characters spend the entire story chattering away in italics – solving problems, questioning motives, or just reminiscing. What about your character? What do their thoughts sound like? I do hope this worksheet will help you decide!
The sum of some summer observations: sycamore keys turning bright red in the sun; listening to Liszt’s Totentanz while running in a thunderstorm at night – yellow lightning against the indigo sky & radio hiss; intermittent internet; making autumnal plans; giant purple grapes, agape; fennel tea (which smells like rakı); mint kitkats; falling asleep everywhere (“kuş uykusu” vs. “kış uykusu”); skirts & sprawling on the cool stone corridor; “the sea is a jinn not a sin or a kin”; scuds, tilted scuds, ictus, depressions, “x”s & “o”s; writing my Alemmia travel journal; sketching cicadas; Chinese ink & cheap watercolours; notebooks made out of boxes; chocolate with rosewater; notes for future courses; the fool’s journey. As usual working on a hundred things and getting none done. What I like best is reading in the cool morning breeze, and writing in the blue laptop glow at night.
>> Now is the time to start one of those inconsiderately long pieces of literature that you feel you should read in your lifetime. What will it be? The Man Without Qualities, Ulysses, War and Peace, In Search of Lost Time, Cryptonomicon?
Here is the migratory tome, Nabokov’s Butterflies, that winged its way to me across the Atlantic. It landed on my doorstep with a plop of literary aplomb. It really is very impressive and I can’t understand why it’s out of print. The same goes for Poems and Problems. The Penguin Collected Poems includes all of the Russian poems (I think) but not with their original Russian, nor does it have the (very perplexing) chess problems, though it does include 9 other English poems.
Some of my recent discoveries:
- Shrewsbury is the second happiest place in the UK. If you visit, you might like to follow my literary walk.
- Having encountered Nabokov’s beetle theory, I was interested to listen to this podcast on The Entomology of Gregor Samsa.
- Did you know that Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side’ was inspired by the tragic life of Hollywood actress, Gene Tierney?
- This free audiobook of Stephen Fry reading James Falen’s translation of Eugene Onegin is quite a treat!
- I have long desired an orrery (like the one in the film, Was Nützt die Liebe in Gedanken) but for the time being I’m settling for this app.
- A new Lana del Rey song!
What I’m working on:
- Will you answer?
- Finishing a blog post called, “How Marketing Can Help You Write Your Novel” (a companion to How Blogging Can Help You Write Your Novel), so watch out for that!
- Recording lessons for The One Page Novel.
- Writing a new regency short story tentatively titled, On the Shelf.
Nothing defines us quite as thoroughly as the work we spend our lives performing. Occupations are a great shorthand for creating characters too. What do they do? Why do they do it? How to they do it? Did they make the right choice? Use this worksheet to find out; you have a job to do! ;)
cool sepulchral (non-pulchral) metro; night bus; met my darling Andreea at Kuşadası, such a dream!; burner-brewed coffee and one perfectly ripe red-fleshed fig at the campsite; sweet mangy mongrels; a nest of mean, fighting swallow fledgelings; cicadas in cypresses keening for the death of Temmuz/Tammuz; dancing at lughnasa; the setting sun slicing intrados; shared history entre nous; sprinklers of sunlight; scudding feet and photons; hexagonal flares; those faceless gods and guards of museums; glints and guesses of greatness; Hierapolis, the travertine terraces and such an unending Babylonian abundance of roses; Japanese parasols; life in a neo-classical painting; sites and sights I have not seen since school; blushing green pomegranates; dear Andreea teaching me about teaching and chickens and answering my endless questions about Romania(n); more affinity with Afrodisias; amphi & amphibrachic stadium (or is it iambic dimeter?); venus retrograde; “the seven wonders of the antic world”; a phalanx of storks; the play of cool and warm, light and shadow on mottled, striated, chipped, weathered, fluted marble – a subject for lifelong study; being offered a blond husband; artifices and edifices; the temptation of trains; özlem, gözlem, gözleme; parallel texts, parallel lives; home, hale and hail; eva atque vale.
Not managing to keep up with up-keep. I do apologise for missing last week’s hangout and writing worksheet. Weekly write-alongs are over for now; something new will take their stead in the autumn. I had finished the textbook for The One Page Novel (what a simply perfect tense), but I feel myself driven to better lit. In the meantime, I recommend taking the following courses with me this month:
I am, as ever, caught in the net of the old debate. How can I make art that benefits others as well as myself? How can I create something that fulfills my potential (to the best of my abilities) but that is not too self-centred or exclusive?
My writing guru, Andreea, recommended writing for several degrees of understanding:
- For yourself
- For a small group (your “tribe”)
- For everyone
Genius! You could use this framework at any level, from a paragraph to a chapter to a whole novel or course. You could even map out the progression of your entire oeuvre. Let us take our time and savour it.
I began another bildungsroman on the bus back (between ikrams of ice cream and Turkish coffee, what luxury). It will, I think, be about a boy named Orman (or Or, or Norman, or Norm or maybe on occasion, Roman). A roman d’Or(man)? Now I’m just being silly. My Nabokov obsession has been swelling all year. If I don’t finish a few projects soon, I will end up, à la cigale (or should I say, “à La Cigale“?), living on nothing but scrumped summer fruits, rare, extortionate Nabokovian texts and deliciously rich Russian grammars. Well, perhaps not so bad a bohemian fate/feat/feast! His Lectures on Russian Literature are a free lunch: Gutenberg / Archive.org.
… if you expect to find out something about Russia, if you are eager to know why the blistered Germans bungled their blitz, if you are interested in “ideas” and “facts” and “messages,” keep away from Gogol. The awful trouble of learning Russian in order to read him will not be repaid in your kind of hard cash. Keep away, keep away. He has nothing to tell you. Keep off the tracks. High tension. Closed for the duration. Avoid, refrain, don’t. I would like to have here a full list of all possible interdictions, vetoes and threats. Hardly necessary of course — as the wrong sort of reader will certainly never get as far as this. But I do welcome the right sort — my brothers, my doubles. My brother is playing the organ. My sister is reading. She is my aunt. You will first learn the alphabet, the labials, the linguals, the dentals, the letters that buzz, the drone and the bumblebee, and the Tse-tse Fly. One of the vowels will make you say “Ugh!” You will feel mentally stiff and bruised after your first declension of personal pronouns. I see however no other way of getting to Gogol (or to any other Russian writer for that matter). His work, as all great literary achievements, is a phenomenon of language and not one of ideas. “Gaw-gol,” not “Go-gall.” The final “l” is a soft dissolving “l” which does not exist in English. One cannot hope to understand an author if one cannot even pronounce his name. My translations of various passages are the best my poor vocabulary could afford, but even had they been as perfect as those which I hear with my innermost ear, without being able to render their intonation, they still would not replace Gogol. While trying to convey my attitude towards his art I have not produced any tangible proofs of its peculiar existence. I can only place my hand on my heart and affirm that I have not imagined Gogol. He really wrote, he really lived.
“Poor vocabulary” makes me LOL – I think Nabokov would have appreciated that acronym. He also invented the emoticon, as you know. :) Slow, sliding, unsteady Cyrillic script. How I love the Russian profusion of “sh”s and the slew of “fs fs”, like Chinese whispers. I write: a sneeze and a dismissal!