Saturday, April 6, 2013

Common people / reading grumpy / see me go

The first ever issue of Common, "The biannual magazine for those with a creative bent and an inquisitive eye", arrived at my house a while ago. It looks a million bucks and was helped into existence thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. Here's hoping there's a second issue (and a third).

Inside there's an interview with me that includes the question: "What do you like about photographing birds?" and, coz the mag has an arty/visual bent, goes on to include a couple of my bird photos...

Regular readers of this blog will know about my birdy-bent, and may have even noticed the lack of bird photos of late. Well, dear readers, it comes with the lack of posting. 

I did manage to take this photo of three silvereyes out of my bedroom window the other day. Anyone who has tried to snap a single silvereye will know how tricky the buggers are to capture, but three in one frame, in focus? I was stoked.

Instead of being behind the camera or at my writing desk, it's been the dayjob, the bike commute (see today's Your Weekend column), fatherhood and the occasional piece of housework-cum-modelling...

Reading summary - February/March

I've been a grumpy reader these past few months. It's probably to do with the fact I haven't had much time for books (biking to work means I can't listen to audiobooks as often as when I rode the bus) and I've spent so much time re-re-re-re-re-re-reading my tedious, flaccid, opaque, snore-fest of a novel (remind me to hit reboot on my emotions re: THE NOVEL closer to the launch date).

So Brave, Young and HandsomeSo Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger (novel, audiobook, US)

This was okay. A bit sprawling and unfocussed. And what/who the heck does the title refer to? Hood Roberts? You mean the fourth most important character? Or am I missing something? Surely I missed something.

The Real ThingThe Real Thing by Tom Stoppard (play, audiobook, UK)

Listening to a play on your iPod should work. I mean, it’s better than reading a script, surely. But, for me at least, listening to a play is a sure way of making it seem thin and lifeless. Sorry Tom S, but this was nowhere near as good as the real thing.

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James (novel, audiobook, UK)

Death Comes to PemberleyMy god, the prologue! What a bore. At least old PD will hit her straps in the first chapter: a dead body, a cast of shifty upstairs/downstairs characters… But no. The text kept circling back to moments “six years ago” (i.e. stuff that happened in Pride and Prejudice), as if this was one long, insufferable cliff note on Austen’s novel. And when death finally came to Pemberley? I wanted to shake the hand of the perpetrator!

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (short stories, Nigeria/US)

The Thing Around Your NeckThese stories did little to arouse any great feeling in me, except perhaps 'Jumping Monkey Hill', which played with the idea of writer’s conferences, the colonial influence still existent in ‘African’ writing, and the old story-within-a-story trope. Things were laid on a bit think with the lascivious, condescending, decrepit English patron of the workshop. Like many of the stories in the collection, he felt functional, formulaic. And there were two - repeat: two - stories written in the second person. I'm sorry, but that's now way to win me over.

We others, new and selected stories by Stephen Millhauser (short stories, US)

We Others: New and Selected Stories (Vintage Contemporaries (Paperback))Hey, I actually liked this one. I’d read Millhauser before, but clearly not his collection In The Penny Arcade, which features the story ‘August Eschenberg’. It’s a darn good story – insofar as it’s masterful and anyone would be proud to have it in their back catalogue – and it’s got A LOT in common with my quaint wee novel The Mannequin Makers that’ll poke it’s head out of its burrow in August: department stores, window displays, the quest for mastery, a rivalry between two practitioners, the old art vs life divide. There are a few differences: Eschenberg makes clockwork figures, the dudes in my novel just make mannequins (hence the title), my novel roves widely, Millhauser’s tale is long for a short story, but sticks to its singular focus on the life of its title character. I’d have no problem if I had read this before (or during) writing my novel, because I think there’s worse things to do than be inspired by great fiction, but that’s not the case. Great minds and middling minds sometimes think alike, I guess.


And finally, for no good reason, here's NZ's answer to Gang of Four:

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