Sunday, 23 November 2008

Much, much harder than I thought. Wednesday 19 November 2008

Much, much harder than I thought to redraft the Funeral into third person. Tried to do it without naming the me character; replacing every ‘I’ and ‘me’ with 'she' and 'her'. Might not have been so bad but the work is monster heavy with lady-characters so I ended up tied in knots trying to make it explicit who is being referred to. Bit of a pickle. My friend who's hot on syntax was helpful in her critique of the original first-person piece. She said the narration was confusing sometimes because of all the characters; she’d had to go back and start reading again. I think that effect will be amplified in the redrafted third-person version. She added that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it indicated there are plenty of interesting characters to write and she suggested I make the paragraphs smaller. I quite often need to go back to sort out characters when I’m reading, especially if two names start with J or something. Sometimes I have to draw the matrix around the characters; although mostly I don’t bother because I’m indolent and I think it’ll all come clear in the end. But I do think I’ll have to make my writing more lucid; maybe by allowing more time to introduce each character and to stop trying to be economical with words.

I watched Pan’s Labyrinth on Friday; I’ve taken this long because the reviews and friends who’d seen it spoke about a particularly violent and unlikable scene. I resolved just not to look when it was happening; I did look, but only sideways. Pan again, only it was a faun really and del Toro has said that the faun in the film is not Pan (Wikipedia) but used in the title so that English speakers would not confuse the faun of the Spanish title, El laberinto del fauno, with fawn, as in deer. Do they think people who opt to watch subtitled films are daft?

The film reminded me of my eldritch list, weird stuff that makes me feel funny, paintings of the Tower of Babel; waterwheels; Poll na bPeist; mazes; all those structures amongst the trees on the hillside at Rivington; clockwork anythings; ziggurats; Celtic heads; migraine; hedgehogs; warts (look what's happened there, JK Rowling obviously made her list a while ago)

Last week the lecturer talked about second person. As I understand, second person pronouns and verbs are used to refer to the person addressed by the language in which they occur. And I couldn’t see me managing that. But then someone’s redraft started out in third person and ended in second person. As in, ‘you made it’, which was very effective, because of course we do speak to ourselves all the time. I was reminded of a funny poem entitled, ‘Didn’t see that coming’ that one of us wrote. When I look back at it it’s written in first person but might work well in second.

There wasn’t time to critique the work of my competent friend and I this week. I’m calm because I’ve been here before and it all comes out ok next time; although we’re back to poetry next week; all comes out ok the time after next, then. Anyway, I’ve realised now that critiquing is competitive too; the who’s-most-insightful-stakes, so if you’re astute you can show off without even being vulnerable.

Out for a birthday meal at the weekend; I noticed the man across from us had a relatively new hair transplant, if that’s what it’s called. I told El (after she’d eaten) because she’d have been livid to have missed it. Of course my friend, Auntie Pam wanted to know what I was saying too. I swore her to discretion and we both examined the Sicilian painting on the wall in the opposite direction whilst I told her. "That man has a hair transplant." It was fine, moments lapsed and then she said, “That reminds me I'm going to the hairdressers next week, roots and perm otherwise it’s as straight as straight.” All the time that poor man must hear conversations about hairstyles and hairdressers striking up around him, and yes I know it was my fault this time. I was reminded of taking my dad for a hospital appointment. I’ve been told by a friend who knows about child development that diplomacy and discretion are some of the last human attributes we acquire (you walk a three year old near a one-legged man at your peril) and amongst the first we lose. My dad would never knowingly hurt anyone but it was like sitting in a cramped waiting room with a three year old. “He doesn’t look a bit well does he?” and “deaf bugger” when someone failed to hear their name being called. A slightly swarthy man with a stethoscope tiggered, "they want us to face all the beds to Mecca you know". "Who said that?" he tapped his Daily Express. If anyone slightly worthy of comment enters or passes I’d try to distract him with something in the Express or on the wall. A very fat lady walked by; she was attractive and well groomed and I thought the risk had receded but her companion entered close at her plump heels. She was a rather messy chubbier version of her sister. In Alan Bennett mode I’d made it that the spruce lady was accompanying her ill messy sister for an appointment. I held my breath, my dad had already been warned, two beats, then in steady clear tones,
“Remember Lisa? Now she was a big woman”
Me hissing, “Dad!”
“What? I’m only saying”
Nobody looked, at us or the fat sisters, but it was perfectly clear to everyone in the tiny waiting room what had prompted the memory.

I’ve been thinking about ideas of beauty - hair transplants, makeup, tattooing, intentional cranial remodelling, breast implants and stuff and I’m finding my standards are a bit on the double side, what a shock.

Ellie had a birthday. We’ve magnetic lowercase letters and (curiously) magnetic shopping list words on our fridge. They’ve only ever been used to compile amusing and generally mucky comments and phrases. A boy at the party was standing looking at the fridge and asked El what ‘dnos’ was. She was stumped and they stood together heads at an angle looking at, and repeating the word for a while. Finally, and presumably in frustration, someone else came up behind them, reached between their two inclined heads, swivelled the word till it read soup, and then testily swivelled it back again.


Wilcool said...

Really enjoyed the magnetic word story, very funny.
Pans Labyrinth is one of my favourite films ever, and I think I know what scene you are talking about, does it involve a bottle and a nose? Shocked me as well, and I really don't get shocked at all.

I'm finding the critical part in the workshop difficult to join in. I just end up saying things like - I agree with everyone else, or, I liked it, apart from this. I'm sure everyone else knows more technical words and stuff (good use of a word there). I think I just write without thinking about all the technical bits, so can't really pick out from other people. So I'll say sorry now for when it comes to analyse your work, cause I'll be rubbish and no use to you.


kim mcgowan said...

With one or two notable exceptions I'm sure we're all the same Joe, I don't know my assonance from my imagery from my narrative movement, I have to look stuff (to borrow your technical jargon) up every time. But I would like to discern it; whilst I can see why some feel there’s a conflict between creativity and being analytical, I do like knowing stuff that helps me to be systematic in understanding what's going on. And from a selfish viewpoint I want to know why what is good actually works - so that I can write it.

Congratulations to you and Claire, your sonnet was breathtaking. You should read it at your wedding.