Thursday, 30 April 2009

Creativity & Marginality, exploiting your family and being a pretend writer. Wednesday 29 April 2009.

First session of Creativity and Marginality in Contemporary British and Irish Writing with the Agreeable Doctor. We’ll 'look at key trends and tropes in diverse generic forms; and consider different ways of reading contemporary literature.'

If it wasn’t for heft which is at present featuring in everything I write, trope would be my favourite word. Trope is like paradigm and meme; I want to use them but I’m not exactly sure what they denote and I don’t want anyone to laugh. For a long time I thought scatological meant messy; which I suppose it does - but not in the way I was using it. My friend struggles to remember what phlegmatic means; I don’t use phlegmatic, it sound green-spitty.

Each week of the new module one of us will deliver a presentation looking at different genre: life writing; poetry; short story; novel; creative nonfiction of place. My friend and I are presenting on contemporary place writing on 8 July; a date so reassuringly distant that’ll it’ll probably never happen; what with the credit crunch and other badstuff.

This week we looked at Julie Myerson’s Lost Child. Because of the press furore I would neither have bought nor read Lost Child if it hadn't been required reading (and it’s still in hardback and it's only on order at the library!). I didn’t find much to detain me in the book; it felt rushed and sloppily edited and I was only really interested in sections about Myerson’s son, Jake, and his drug use. I was scarcely caught up in her research into the life of a young woman who died in 1838 at all (and I like old things). I did feel infinite pity for Jake’s cat though; left imprisoned without food and water in his flat after one of Jake's unsuccessful attempts at independence. Myerson’s son accuses her of writing ‘short snappy sentences,’ and the book feels journalistic and self obsessed. I’m preoccupied by trying to be truthful (as apposed to accurate) when I write. The Lost Child feels explicit but disingenuous.

In contrast the other life writing title we looked at is John Burnside’s A Lie About My Father which is so fine I’ll feel denuded when it’s finished. I'm rationing myself so I don’t get to the end too quickly. Burnside examines an uneasy parent-child relationship without sensation or self-pitying censure. To be fair Myerson is still living in her bad time and Burnside’s father is dead; I could see that detachment would make it easier to be reflective.

I tend towards Myerson-type short sentences and fact marshalling but I aspire to write thoughtfully like John Burnside.

One unsettling aspect of the new module is that the Agreeable Doctor defers to us saying he’s ‘not a writer’ which causes a sort of almost audible cog-shifting inside my head; like the realigning staircases in the Harry Potter films. The inference of ‘I’m not a writer’ is that we are writers. Whoa AD! I’ll need to see the certificate before I'm able to presume like that

Had a very poignant mention in Preston's Poppies on Every Day I Lie a Little this week. Thanks Jenn.

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