Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Polar Blast / Dear Diary / Naked Lunch / Melons

Mini-playlist for a Polar Blast

1. 'Hail, Hail' - Pearl Jam
2. 'Sleet' - The Futureheads
3. 'The Ice Covered Everything' - Shearwater (no clip on You Tube, but here's their almost-as-apropos 'Snow Leopard')
4. 'The Snow Fall' - Band of Horses (no clip on YouTube but you can listen to pretty much all their songs and imagine snowflakes falling...)
5. 'Similar to Rain' - Warren Zevon (argh, I had to pick the most obscure one... oh well, there are plenty more Zevon tracks I can link to that fit the theme: 'Steady Rain', 'Fistful of Rain, 'Frozen Notes'...)

Dear Diary

Roger Hall had an interesting piece on diarists (or the lack thereof) in the Sunday Star Times over the weekend. One thing it failed to address was where blogging features in the mix. The big difference between a blog and a diary is that one is immediately public (though may not be widely read...) while the other is only ever published after the writer is famous and prepared to publish, or more likely, famous and dead. (I guess there’s a third category of diarists who weren’t famous for much but, like Samuel Pepys, their diaries serve as important historical documents and gain personal fame posthumously).

While a blog and a diary do slightly different things, I’m sure no one does both. There's only so much time to reflect and rehash!

I’m sure there’ll come a time when I’m talking to the younger generation about weather events and might find it useful to retrieve some evidence at the recent one-in-fifty year snow-dump (okay, snow-sprinkling), so here’s some photographic evidence (which is pretty blah compared to some of the stuff people have posted on Facebook; my excuse: it took me over an hour to get home on the bus on Monday – the #23 only just made it up the hill past the zoo and I think all buses thereafter just dropped passengers off at the bottom and expected them to walk the rest of the way – and by this time it was dark and the southerly was ripping up the road which meant I couldn’t hold still enough to take a video that wouldn’t induce motion sickness)…

Snow falling in Thordon, Monday morning.
Monday night, Melrose
Then on Tuesday my bus didn't make it up Manchester Street, but it wasn't due to snow but a sudden heavy pelting of hail which froze as a layer of ice. About a dozen cars were stranded ahead of the bus. I know because I had to walk up the hill and the rest of the way home.

Cars stuck heading up Manchester St, Melrose, Tuesday 16 August 2011
Snow-laden clouds rolling in from Antarctica
I also saw snowflakes land on the sea and melt at lunchtime on Monday as I walked along the waterfront (on my way to Writers on Mondays at Te Papa).

Those white dots? Snowflakes! (photo taken on my phone)
Okay, so nothing to compare to snowier climes, or even the South Island. According to the internet, this is what it looked like in Christchurch:

Not quite a namesake, but

I have a thing for Jimmy Cliff. I have a thing for covers. So it was cool to hear Jimmy's version of The Clash's 'Guns of Brixton' here. (It was also uncanny timing, what with the rioty carry-on in Londres last week.)

No Troubles With Fire

The Trouble With FireOn Saturday I spoke to Fiona Kidman's class of budding memoirists, auto- and bio- graphers (and I'm sure some closet fictioneers). It was an interesting situation for me as guest speaker, having made my name as a distortionist and liar (a.k.a. short story writer*). So I spoke a lot about selective truths, careful omissions, mashups and wilful distortions, as well as answering questions about the general stuff like routine, my route to publication, and writing a fortnightly column (which should be more truthful than fiction, but in some ways is not).

The day before I had just finished reading Kidman's new book, the short story collection, The Trouble With Fire. Here I was, trying to field questions about being a writer and Dame Fiona, she of the decades of writing and catalogue of accolades who has no doubt tried everything I've tried on the page and then some, is sitting there, quietly interested. I managed to bring the conversation around to linked stories and Part Two of TTWF and it was interesting to hear Kidman's thoughts on the value of linked stories (turns out we're both big fans of Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge).

From Under the Overcoat
I really enjoyed The Trouble With Fire. In a strange way, it reminded me of Sue Orr's From Under The Overcoat, which came out earlier this year. I say 'strange' because if influence flows one way, it should be from the more senior Kidman to the newer kid on the block in Orr; but I'm not sure the link is one of influence, but rather sensibility. Both writers seem to steer stories in quite deliberate directions. In Orr's book, each story is inspired by a famous short story from the golden age (to lapse into comic book lingo). In TTWF, it's more to do with genre: there's a travel story, there are the linked stories, there are two historical stories (quite different to each other). All of them twist a little in their generic suit without being overtly experimental or loudly subversive. But just when you think you're in for a nice polite tale, she'll drop the c-bomb!

(The) Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch: The Restored TextI also recently finished listening to the audiobook of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch.  Now there's a book you hope people can't overhear while on the bus. Taken en masse it's not obscene, it's actually quite moral in a strange way, but try explain that to the Sister of Mercy sitting next to you.

I have now read the three most heralded works of the beat generation (On The Road and 'Howl' complete the triumvirate). I find each invigorating in small doses, but I don't find the prospect of reading any more Beat prose particularly enticing. Conclusions: 1. I can deal with more confusion in poetry than prose. 2. I'm not crazy about pharmacologically-centred fictions. 3. While there's a lot in each of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg that was ahead of its time, there's also something dated in their transgressions (though some of where we've got to in gender politics might be traceable back to these same transgressions...).

"The Next Generation of Melons"

From paper book to audiobook to film adaptations: critic David Larsen has posted parts one and two of a promised four-part digested take of the Harry Potter films, having watched all seven again with his children in the week before the final film hit cinemas.

So far, so interesting.  Actually, I'm getting antsy for part three (it's been over a day!), but I'm not sure if I'll read part four... not having seen HP7 part II.

I had never watched any of the films until earlier this year, when reading/listening to The Prestige got me thinking about magic in fiction. I have not read any of J.K. Rowlings' books. Maybe once I have kids... But for now, watching the films in quick succession was enough to fill me in on the basics. I now know about muggles, mudbloods and port keys, and for that I feel slightly less of a social outcast.

It's interesting to read Larsen's take on the various directors of the HP films and their relationships with the texts. It doesn't make me a) want to watch the films again in a hurry, or b) read the books, but I feel wiser for having read his thoughts, which is a kind of criticism that isn't all that abundant at the moment.  (Yeah, yeah, I'm just looking in the wrong places.)

Anyway, this has all been a long and serious way of letting me post this gif of hilariously inept subtitles from the HP films (HT: ):

Click on the picture and you'll get a series of gaffs and head-scratchers.


*Footnote: It has been bugging me for sometime that someone who writes novels is a novelist, someone who writes poems is a poet, but someone who writes short stories is a short story writer. Short storyist? Short storet? Of course, there's always plain old 'writer'. But I might try 'distortionist' on for size when the opportunity presents next.

No comments: