Saturday, September 29, 2007
This book log entry was written in early September but somehow I haven’t got round to putting it on the blog until now.
My daughter is doing her A-levels at Sixth Form College. The college gave all their students £50 worth of Waterstones book vouchers. Whether this act of generosity springs from the college itself, or from Waterstones, or from elsewhere I do not know. Nevertheless we were pleased at the prospect of fifty pounds worth of free books, which seemed like a lot. Woo-hoo! - we thought - we’ll be able to go into a book-buying frenzy! Of course, you can only buy six or seven paperbacks for £50, which, though generous, is not quite the cornucopia of reading our excited but mathematically-challenged minds had imagined it out to be. Nevertheless, we paid a visit to the large Waterstones in Piccadilly, with its low stair-rail preserved for historic reasons (I forget what those reasons are precisely – something to do with the shop’s original use. As a hotel, possibly, or a department store?). There I saw a book that filled me with apprehension. The Road. I knew I had to read it.
The intention of this Book Log is to talk about children’s fiction. Cormack McCarthy is definitely not writing for children – dear me, no - but his books have had such a powerful effect on me as a reader that is seems foolish not to mention them. So here goes.
THE ROAD by Cormack McCarthy.
I’d read the reviews when it first came out. The premise is chilling. One man and his young son on the road to nowhere, with the whole world in ruins all around them. And I knew from reading books like Blood Meridian and Inner Darkness, Westerns peopled with humans and demons and humans behaving like demons, books of a biblical intensity, filled with searing poetry, from those books I knew that McCarthy is a writer well-equipped to describe the last days of life on the Earth. The Road is set in a post-apocalyptic America inhabited by a benighted human race in the final throws of extinction. I was afraid to read it, knowing it would upset me. But once I’d turned the first page, sitting in the Underground on our way home from Waterstones, I couldn’t stop reading until I’d finished it. Though agonisingly bleak, and often utterly horrifying (some gangs of survivors have turned to a life of predatory cannibalism) The Road is also infused with a deep sympathy for these last frail humans crawling on their dying rock, in spite of the hideous depths some have sunk to in order to survive. It coveys a sense of yearning tenderness for the world we still have, which highlights how vulnerable it is, and what an appalling thing it would be to lose.
The titles mentioned above all have their share of disturbing scenes and haunting images. However McCarthy is also author of All The Pretty Horses, and The Crossing, among other books, and these are both a little easier to take (though they too have their occasional moments of gut-wrenching violence, if I remember rightly!). The way he writes about people and animals and landscape and wilderness I find both gripping and moving. In all of his books that I've read, he seems to be writing about the mystery of the human condition. The atmosphere, the feelings and the images he manages to evoke, once read, are unlikely to be forgotten.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Reviews of Books I have enjoyed
Notes on My Current Ideas and Projects
Some thoughts on How I Write, influences, inspiration etc.
MORE CURRENT PROJECTS – THE DRAGON AND THE WARLORD
This is a retelling of a Chinese folk story called The Dragon’s Pearl, which I’ve expanded and altered a little from the original. I’ve written it for the publisher Barrington Stoke (see also the blog entry entitled BOMBER BOYS, below). They suggested the new title, which I think suits the way I’ve retold the story very well. I came across The Dragon’s Pearl just after I’d finished writing the first draft of WORM IN THE BLOOD. I was astonished. I’d just written a book about a boy who turns into a dragon and here was a folk tale on the very same subject! WORM IN THE BLOOD ends with a flashback that shows Sam, the main character, in his early childhood. It’s a scene where his mum is telling him a story. It didn’t take much to change things so that the story she is telling Sam is the story of the Dragon’s Pearl. It was great to be able to write my own version of the tale. I’ve completed the first draft and sent it in to the publisher. Now the editing has to be done, which, with Barrington Stoke, can be quite a lengthy process (again, see BOMBER BOYS entry below for more details). The story will be published as part of a series called “Re-booted”, sometime next year, I think.
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