November 13, 2014

Read, Write, and Be Merry

In the past I have used this blog to accompany my various reading and writing projects (some more successful, some less) and I am hoping that this tactic may also be of assistance for my current project, a sort of private and belated NaNoWriMo, or actually, a NaShoStoCoWriMo (as I am working on a short story collection rather than a novel), or most accurately a PeShoStoCoWriMo&1/2 (personal-short-story-collection-writing-month-and-a-half), but enough with the acronyms.

What I actually have is an idea for a collection of short stories - more than just a bunch of stories I want to write that could add up to book length, but also not one of those novel-in-stories doodads that kids today all love to write for reasons far too depressing to get into right now. The closest exemplars I can think of would be something like Borges's A Universal History of Infamy or Bolaño's Nazi Literature in The Americas.

There's another way Bolaño factors into this project; in his posthumous collection of articles and speeches Between Parentheses there is a characteristically short piece called "Advice on the Art of Writing Short Stories" (you can read it here), which seems to me just as much a parody of such articles as an actual collection of tips and list of writers that should be read or avoided.

I found his first few points the most interesting:
(1) Never tackle stories one by one. Really, if you tackle them one by one you could be writing the same short story until the day you die. (2) It's best to write short stories three at a time, or five at a time. If you've got the energy, write them nine at a time or fifteen at a time. (3) Careful: the temptation to write them in twos is as dangerous as deciding to write them one by one...
Though the first point seems instinctively to be a greater danger when writing many stories at once, and though I'm sure Bolaño himself wrote some of his own stories in pairs ("Two Catholic Tales" from The Insufferable Gaucho immediately come to mind), and regardless of whether he was joking or not, I am going to try and work on all of my stories more or less at once.

Of these stories, one is already completed (and published), in other words, dead and buried, leaving me with eight stories, plus two or three more ideas that might develop into stories later. There are a few reasons I've decided to try this method. First of all, some of the stories require a lot of research, which can get boring and lead to general passivity and/or random internet browsing. Second - since the stories all have similar themes, I'd like to avoid repetition as much as possible, and I think that constantly moving from one story to another will make me more aware of any similarity that occurs between situations and/or characters.

I'm still not sure how much I'll be tracking my progress with each story, or even the whole project, on this blog. Naturally, actually writing the stories is the priority here, but I'm sure that if something interesting comes up I'd want to blog about it. I'm also not too sure how to go about the whole thing - I'd probably start on one story until I get stuck, but then instead of procrastinating for a while I'd just move on to another story, and so on, but there's no telling before I get started. For now, I'll just leave you with an cryptic list of code names (NOT titles) for the planned stories:
  1. Prague
  2. Footnote
  3. 100
  4. Heir
  5. Detective
  6. Utopia
  7. Homeless
  8. Futurism
  9. Zealot (?)
  10. Ionia (?)
  11. ???
P.S. Since I have been away from this blog for so long, some of you (not many, I'm sure) might be wondering about my other projects and/or life. In a nutshell - the novel I started all the way back in NaNoWriMo 2010 is now finished and looking for an agent / publisher. My play (in Hebrew) is currently running in Tel Aviv, plus I'm happily married and have a wonderful 16 month old son.

October 18, 2013

My Short Lived Career as a Literary Hoaxster

It has been very long since I've written anything new on this blog, but it seems people still occasionally visit it, so here's a little piece I wrote that was published on Tablet Magazine, which also has an interesting back story:

October 11, 2011

The Bolaño Reading Challenge
(and Other Obsessive Reading Lists)

It seems that for the last year I have been unwittingly participating in the 2011 Roberto Bolaño Reading Challenge. Participants in the reading challenge, which started in January, have the fairly straightforward goal of reading a bunch of Bolaño's books, in any format or language, throughout the year.

the reading challenge badge

The participants are also assigned "levels" according to their accomplishments. In my case, for example, since I've read 6 books so far I would be considered a "Poet", which places me above a "Vagabond" (5 books) but below a "Detective" (7 books). There are also levels for rereading books and for reading books published in 2011 (two were published in recent months, two more are expected in November).

Bolaño books I've read

To place matters in perspective, Bolaño is hardly the first writer whose entire oeuvre was placed on my reading list. Kafka, Beckett, Camus, Borges, Pinter, Coetzee, and Nabokov were all there ahead of him. Frisch and Hemingway are also nudging me, "come on," I can hear them say, "you've already read so much of our work, just two or three more books and you'll be able to say you've read it all!" (though I'm not sure I can forgive Hemingway for the terrible triumvirate of To Have and Have Not, Across the River and Into the Trees, and The Torrents of Spring).

Bolaño is probably not even my most-read writer of the year (well, maybe in terms of word count, but certainly not in number of works read); that distinction goes to Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin (16 plays read this year, along with some prose, poetry, sketches...), which I have been reading a lot of in the last couple of weeks as I was finishing up my own play (my first!).

Bolaño books I haven't read

The Savage Detectives was my first encounter with Bolaño, it was a real discovery and remains my favorite. I've enjoyed all the others as well, some more (Distant Star), some less (Monsieur Pain), but I have to admit that in spite of all the breathless praise that's been piled upon him for the last few years, I don't consider him to be a literary genius, nor an heir to Borges. The excesses, surreal touches, and unflinching portraits of darkness, along with his outsider status, his intimate knowledge and profound love of literature, and his mashing together of literary and popular culture all work together to create the image of the romantic vagabond author. Thus, it's quite tempting to declare him the first international literary genius of the 21st century, a literary Che Guevara, perhaps, simultaneously an underdog and a bestseller as only a mostly posthumously published writer can be.

Of all the writers I've placed on my "must read everything" list I think Bolaño is most like Philip K. Dick. With both writers there is a certain familiarity among all the works, perhaps because both worked on the outskirts of certain genres (Sci-Fi for Dick, Hard-Boiled detective fiction with literary namedropping for Bolaño) never quite conforming to them but always aware of their rules. With Dick, after reading a slew of books in 2001-2002 a certain exhaustion set in, and now I only read about a book or two a year. I can almost feel it happening with Bolaño too, though 2666 is still waiting on my shelf and I'm looking forward to tackling it, I feel like I'm starting to see through him a little - the incessantly unsolved, perhaps unsolvable, mysteries, the repetition in certain character traits, certain moods. But I still enjoy it, and perhaps all I need to do is switch to his poetry or essays for for a while so my faith and passion may be restored

In the end, however, it's never really up to me; there will always be someone like Beckett saying, "Wait a minute, you still haven't read my letters!" or Faulkner teasing, "Only two novels? I've so much more to offer!" or even an indignant Andre Breton giving me harsh looks from the bookstore shelf since I've never read any of his works.

September 18, 2011

Israel's Charing Cross
Finding English Books in Tel Aviv

Last weekend my girlfriend and I visited every bookshop on Tel Aviv's Allenby Street for an article she wrote (in Hebrew) about this small, local version of London's Charing Cross Road. One of my constant gripes about Tel Aviv is that it's very difficult to find decent English books at a decent price, and this little tour served as a great example of this problem.

Steimatzky, lower level

There are 12 bookstores on this stretch of less than one Kilometer (a little more than half a mile), including three Russian bookstores (two new, one used), one Spanish bookstore, one store that specializes in music and chord books. There's also one independent store, Lotus Books (Allenby 101), that has a well-curated collection of new and used Hebrew books, and one chain store - Steimatzky (Allenby 107) which has a relatively large selection of English books on the lower level. Four more used book kiosks have mostly Hebrew books, with a few English paperbacks, usually in miserable condition.

Halper's Books

The main store on this street that caters to readers of English is Halper's Books (Allenby 87), which probably has the biggest selection of used English books in the city. I used to come here quite often when I was an undergrad at Tel Aviv University, but after living in New York City for almost 4 years, I guess my constant trips to the Strand have made me a bit spoiled. I try to avoid mass market paperbacks, especially used ones, and hardly ever purchase a book with markings inside. Halper's, unfortunately, has plenty of both. Granted, the really miserable looking books are usually very cheap, but I think every used bookstore should have some minimal standard for the books it sells, and heavily marked, crumbling, or torn books do not only make for a miserable shopping experience, but also reflect badly on the books around them.

Lev Hasefer (Heart of the Book), Allenby 97

The selection offered by Halper's, though broader than most other bookstores in Tel Aviv, is still fairly limited. I don't know whether they imported books at any point in the past, but it's certain that they have not done so in several years. You may find bestsellers from recent years, but don't expect to find any recent literary gems. This is also true of Israel's two bookstore chains - Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim (The Books Junction) - both have one or two flagship stores that contain a larger selection of English books (Steimatzky, aside from the Allenby branch, has another store at Dizengoff 109; Tzomet Sfarim has the "Library" branch at the Dizengoff shopping Center and the "Prose" bookstore at Dizengoff 163) but their selection is fairly hit or miss. You can find the "big" books of recent years - the best sellers, the prize winners, and so on - plus a selection of classics, some big name authors, some sci-fi / fantasy, lots of Grisham, Coban, etc. But don't come looking for anything too obscure or specific because you're bound to be disappointed, especially if you're looking for anything translated into English (other than books by Israeli authors).

An abandoned building right next to Bialik House
(current museum and former home of Israel's national poet);
what better place for a fiercely independent bookstore?

I've been dreaming of opening an independent English bookstore for years, but I realize this would be a significant investment in something that's probably not going to make a lot of money, and as a starving artist of sorts I can't really afford to do that. I envision this store as a sort of public service to fellow anglophile - bibliophiles, a place where they could also attend readings and other cultural events, so if there are any generous book-loving millionaires out there willing to invest, I'm open to all offers (as for a suggested location - see photo above).

July 9, 2011

What I've Been Reading (a lot)

It's been a while since I posted anything on this blog so I'll try to ease my way back into it by using the crutch of my recent readings. I've been reading about two books a week for the last couple of months, partially because I bought so many books on my recent trip to New York (over 30) that the proportion of unread books in my library started making me feel a little guilty. In addition, my insanely optimistic New Year's resolution to read 100 books this year seemed very far from being fulfilled (see table at right). Still, if I keep up this pace I might be able to get to 80, which is still over the annual average of about 50.

Some Short Novels

Nabokov's Mary, his first novel, very reminiscent of his early short stories, takes place in the Russian émigré community in Berlin and features a selection of mostly pathetic characters and situations, but not much of a plot. James M. Cain's Double Indemnity is as well written and tightly plotted as his earlier novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, though the characters seemed to me a little less alive and palpable, perhaps lacking that bit of existential angst which made Frank Chambers such a compelling character.

Mario Bellatin's Beauty Salon is an interesting take on the "mysterious plague" genre (from Camus's The Plague to every zombie fiction ever) focusing on a gay hairdresser who turns his beauty salon into a home for the dying. The plain language used to describe everything from the narrator's fish collection to his transvestite outings and the strange plague sweeping over the land (a metaphor for AIDS?) works remarkably well to ground the whole narrative in some sort of reality and, short as the work is, it makes a lasting impression. At the other end of the "mythical events interfering in humdrum reality" spectrum is David Garnett's Lady into Fox, where a British gentleman tries to deal, practically and calmly, with the fact that his dear wife had suddenly turned into a fox. Though this was a pleasant enough read, I kept waiting for something a little more interesting to occur, but aside from the initial transformation the whole narrative progressed quite sedately and sensibly towards its somewhat pat conclusion.

And Some Longer Novels

Steve Erickson's Tours of the Black Clock, #98 on Larry McCaffrey's list of the Twentieth Century's 100 greatest works of fiction, is an odd and sprawling narrative mixing alternative history, erotic fantasy, hard-boiled literary clichés, and melodrama, with a consistent but unconvincing underlying romantic/fantastic sensibility. There are at least three separate narratives here, all of them going on for far too long and connecting to each other very clumsily in terms of the overall narrative.

Francine Prose's Blue Angel presents itself (or its author and blurbs present it) as a biting satire of Creative Writing workshops, teachers, and attendees, but after a promising set up the story very quickly dissolves into a typical narrative of an older professor enamored with a mysterious young student who turns out to be, quite predictably, his undoing. The setting is a typical small New England college, the characters are pedestrian (the formerly successful writer turned professor, the supportive wife, the alienated daughter, the "not-as-innocent-as-she-seems" student, the man hating Über-feminist female literature professor, the gay deconstructionist who loathes books and writers, the moronic students and their terrible writing... believe me, I could go on), the writing is thankfully straightforward, which makes this a relatively quick read, though the dénouement is cringingly predictable. Throughout the novel seems more concerned with the challenges of teaching in the era of political correctness (though published in 2001 it feels very mid 90's, post Lewinsky scandal) than the actual personalities and motivations of the characters that inhabit it.

You don't need me to tell you that James Dickey's Deliverance is worth reading. Though at times it feels like Dickey is pushing the dramatic tension a bit too much, and I'd be hard pressed to find proof of its true literary merit, it's a gripping read nonetheless.

And Some Graphic Novels
This field is still relatively new to me and I'm still trying to figure out what's worth reading and what my personal preferences are. As for superhero comics it seems I'm far less tolerant of collected comics than one-shot narratives. the storylines in Doom Patrol's The Painting that Ate Paris, for example, were brought up and resolved far too quickly and easily for my taste, which is a shame since there were some pretty interesting ideas there (e.g. the villain who only has super-powers as long as they are unimagined by others, or the brotherhood of Dada which seeks to make the world more ludicrous).

That said, The Dark Knight Strikes Again proved an even bigger disappointment, a mostly uninteresting and incomprehensible sequel to The Dark Knight Returns. Both of these later Batman stories pale in comparison to Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween and its sequel Dark Victory, the first is a well-constructed detective story which draws heavily (and successfully) on The Godfather film series and the latter, though heavily dependent on the former and almost imitative of its structure, is nonetheless a good read which, unlike The Dark Knight Strikes Again, does not require intimate knowledge of the DC universe in order to be enjoyed or understood.
Finally there's Dino Buzzati's 1969 Poem Strip, a beautiful and spare retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice through surreal and erotic drawings (recently republished in English as part of the NYRB classics list, of which I can't get enough).

February 16, 2011

The Great Gatsby - The Video Game

You might have already heard about the new(ish) "hidden object" Great Gatsby video game, but did you know there is also an NES video game? You can play the game, allegedly found at a garage sale, online at GreatGatsbyGame.Com. Most people suspect this is not an authentic NES game but something made up by some Nintendo fans with too much time on their hands (actually, the website's contact page admits it's a fake created by Charlie Hoey and Pete Smith). At any rate, it's an enjoyable  time-waster, with appropriately ridiculous touches such as a gold hat as the equivalent of Mario's mushrooms and Dr. Eckleburg's giant laser-shooting spectacles.
I haven't played the game through (those giant laser-shooting eyes are tricky, and I'm no gamer) so I don't know how it turns out for Nick, or who else he has to fight later on (Dutch ghosts, apparently). Now let's wait for the brave and bored fan who'll make Ulysses: The Game.

January 27, 2011

New Website!

As part of my never-ending effort to look more like a real writer, I put up a minimal website where you can read the first 3 chapters of my novel, and a bunch of shorter, funnier texts as well:

January 10, 2011

Minor Annoyances

So every quasi-literary person I know seems to be in an uproar over the attempt to bowdlerize Huck Finn by replacing every instance of the word "Nigger" with the word "Slave." I almost feel sorry for the guy for this public and collective flogging he's receiving, though admittedly it's a pretty dumb thing to do. But in fact I think the backlash says far more about the current literary culture than the initial event - SO many people are SO outraged and spend SO much time debating something SO stupid. If it hadn't been brought to such broad public attention, who would have even heard of this person, or seen this version of the book? But by now the public outcry has been so vocal it even reached the Israeli news.

I haven't heard a single voice defending this edit, even if they do express some understanding of the logic behind it. I'm not surprised everyone's flocking to criticize him, as Jean-Baptiste Clamence says in Albert Camus's The Fall, there's nothing sweeter than attacking someone whose guilt is verified and agreed upon:
The essential thing, after all, is being able to get angry with someone who has no right to talk back.

There was certainly no such uproar when Joseph Conrad's 1897 novella was published as The N-word of the Narcissus in 2009 (and yes, all occurrences of the word inside the book were also changed to N-word). Why? Because no one heard about the publication.

Personally, I'm more annoyed at Peter Sís, whose dreadful illustrations fill my edition of Borges's The Book of Imaginary Beings. Seriously, who exactly decided that the great writer's compendium of fantastic creatures deserved such amateurish and childish illustrations as these:
The Leveler
Just think how much better it would have looked illustrated in the style of Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities or Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts:
Dürer's Rhinoceros, woodcut, 1515.
Well, I'll be sure to hire a worthy illustrator when I finally have enough entries in Cycloped to fill a book (rather than rely on my own weak illustration / photo shopping / pilfering skills).

January 6, 2011

Dream the Impossible Dream + Musical Interlude XVI

The start of a new year is always a good time to take on ridiculously ambitious tasks, since from this vantage point the year seems so long, so much of ahead of us, so much time to accomplish all the stuff we haven't accomplished this year. Well, if there's one thing my NaNoWriMo experience taught me it's that it's good to set these goals, because even in attempting to achieve them and failing, I usually get more done than I would have without said ridiculous goal.

So this year I'll set not one but two ridiculous goals, the first is to complete a full draft of the novel I started working on this past November. This might not seem that ridiculous, but considering how long it usually takes me to write (my first novel, which I admittedly did not work on constantly or exclusively, took over 3 years), and all the other stuff I'll be busy with (work, bloggings, hopefully a longish visit to NYC, maybe another trip somewhere else, my never-ending quest for love, plus my other ridiculous goal), it calls for a lot of commitment.

My second ridiculous goal is to read 100 books this year. This is about twice as much as what I usually read in a year (roughly a book a week), and on top of all the stuff I've mentioned earlier. Of course the purpose of blogging these intentions rather than keeping them to myself is the perceived public shaming I'll face if I fail to meet these goals (possibly imagined, but still a motivating force). I haven't chosen the 100 books yet, but I've decided to divide them into 10 (somewhat overlapping) categories to make them easier to handle:
  1. 10 books I haven't finished - I'm sure there are more than 10, including a lot of essay and story collections, but also some novels I have (shamefully) failed to complete and still haven't given up on.
  2. 10 novels by writers I've never read before (Philipp Meyer, Jane Bowles, Steve Erickson, Dino Buzzati...).
  3. 10 short story collections - some of these could fall under the first category as well, such as the collected stories of Malamud and Nabokov, but I'm sure there'll be enough books to fill both categories.
  4. 10 plays - admittedly these are usually not strictly book-length, but might balance out with the lengthy collected editions included in the previous category. 
  5. 10 graphic novels - this will require some research.
  6. 10 books in Hebrew - continuing my mission of reading more Israeli literature.
  7. 10 books from the Modern Library's list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.
  8. 10 books by/on Kafka - again, a lot of partials here - diaries, letters, notebooks - plus the three novels in their new translations. If there's any room left I'll add Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature.
  9. 10 books written before 1900 - Mostly 19th century, I guess, some Dostoevsky, Some French, some British, maybe some ancient Greek/Roman.
  10. 10 more novels - deliberately open category for whatever comes my way (I do plan to read Bolaño's  Nazi Literature in the Americas soon, not sure what category it would fall into).
And to make the guilt complete I'll add a little chart in the sidebar:
    And since we already have the title...
    This power pop rendition of "The Impossible Dream" by Carter USM is, in my humble opinion, the best version of the song - defiant rather than maudlin (like most stage  and talent show versions) or downright silly (like Elvis's version). The video is also clever, and shows that at least someone there actually read the book.

    December 27, 2010

    Season's Greetings

    I don't usually cross-promote my bloggings, but it's the holidays and I'm sure everyone can appreciate a break from semi-serious literary matters for a short and humorous holiday-themed story I wrote for 2log (die hard literary nerds may also enjoy the references to James Joyce and Herman Melville). The story is part of a 12 part series my fellow 2log bloggers and I concocted, where each one of us wrote about one of the gifts named in the "12 days of Christmas" song; my contribution is for day 8:


    December 9, 2010

    NaNoWriMo recap

    Though a post summing up my NaNoWriMo experience is by now long overdue, I feel like I’ve already stated most of what I had to say on the matter in my last few posts, when it already seemed I was not going to successfully complete the task before me, and was already in an elegiac mood. I can offer the following image to sum up my successes and failures in the only field that actually counts:
    As you can see, in spite of a significant gap between where I was and where I should have been, I had a pretty good pace there for a while, until I stopped completely (that little jump in the end came from bringing together all my various documents into a single MS Word file, and feeding that text into the NaNoWriMo site’s word counting feature (that feature, by the way, is notoriously severe, and shaved several hundred words off my MS Word counter's figure, which was almost 30,000).
    So of course I’m glad I participated, and a little disappointed that I did not get to cross that finish line, but not too much. The main thing now is to find some way to keep writing with the same relish during the scattered days or hours that are available to me. Here’s hoping the (very) gradually cooling weather will find me at home and in front of the computer, writing furiously.

    November 23, 2010

    NaNoWriMo - Day 23 - Just As I've Feared

    Number of words translated today: 11,170.
    Number of NaNoWriMo novel words written today: 160.
    Barton Fink failing to write
    Oh well, there's always the weekend. Or next month. Or next year.

    November 22, 2010

    NaNoWriMo - Day 22 - All is lost (?)

    There's hardly a writer, or any other user of a word processor, this has not happened to. You spend several hours writing something and then, due to some technical malfunction or human error, it's all gone. You try to restore it with every possible means at your disposal - technological, mental, spiritual, necromantic - but it is hopeless, your great burst of writing, its value heightened by its very loss, is gone forever.
    This is exactly what happened to me last night - three hours of vigorous writing wiped out by a single moment of distraction. Then I naturally attempted to create exactly what I have written, with only partial success - the scenes are all there, but certain words and images still elude me. And of course, as I kept telling myself, if I was writing longhand or using a typewriter this could not have happened.
    Miguel de Unamuno at his desk
    This whole ordeal naturally led me to think of my numerous literary predecessors. In a certain way, I was my own person from Porlock, irretrievably disrupting the flow of words, just as that unnamed character had disrupted Coleridge's composition of Kubla Khan. A closer and more prosaic story involves the fate of the first volume of Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution, which was accidentally burned by John Stuart Mill's maid, forcing Carlyle to rewrite the whole thing from scratch.
    Finally, of course, the attempt to rewrite the exact same words another has written before brings to mind the Borges story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote (you may argue with me whether or not the person who wrote the first version of those lost thousand words is the same person as the one who wrote the second version; you will certainly grant me that the latter is somewhat more bitter, if none wiser).

    So naturally yesterday's NaNoWriMo session did not amount to as much as it could have, and then today I was called back to a big translation project which will probably keep me very busy for the next few days or weeks, so it seems I won't reach the 50,000 word goal but, as I mentioned in my previous posts, I think this undertaking has already done a lot for this particular project and for my writing in general.

    November 21, 2010

    NaNoWriMo - Day 21 - Pinter on Writing

    Some words on writing from Harold Pinter's speech upon being awarded the German Shakespeare Prize (1970):
    The language used, the opinions given, the approvals and objections engendered by one's work happen in a sense outside one's actual experience of it, since the core of that experience consists in writing the stuff. I have a particular relationship with the words I put down on paper and the characters which emerge from them which no one else can share with me...
    I believe myself that when a writer looks at the blank of the word he has not yet written, or when actors and directors arrive at a given moment on stage, there is only one proper thing that can take place at that moment, and that that thing, that gesture, that word on the page, must alone be found, and once found, scrupulously protected...
    ...You create the word and in a certain way the word, in finding its own life, stares you out, is obdurate, and more often than not defeats you. You create the characters and they prove to be very tough. They observe you, their writer, warily...
    I am aware, sometimes, of an insistence in my mind. Images, characters, insisting upon being written. You can pour a drink, make a telephone call or run round the park, and sometimes succeed in suffocating them. You know they're going to make your life hell. But at other times they're unavoidable and you're compelled to try to do them some kind of justice. And while it may be hell, it's certainly for me the best kind of hell to be in.

    November 20, 2010

    NaNoWriMo - Day 20 - The Present and the Future

    As far as I'm concerned NaNoWriMo has already achieved its purpose, I'm engaged with my novel on a daily basis, I've made significant progress, and I've already written a lot more than I would have written in this time if I was not participating in it. I'm still going to try to reach that 50,000 word goal, but given my current rate of about 1,500 words a day (which is actually pretty great when compared to previous successful writing streaks) and the gap between where I currently am and where I should have been by now (a pretty steady 10,000 words for the last week or so), chances are that's not going to happen.
    J. M. Coetzee writing
    I assume I'll be taking a break at the end of the month and turn to reading (I've hardly read anything other than short stories and articles since the month began; Coetzee's Summertime is at the top of my list) for at least a couple of weeks, then return to the material and hopefully complete a first readable draft (as opposed to the pre-first, or zero draft I'm currently composing) within a few weeks. Then it's revise revise and revise until I can't stand to look at it anymore.

    November 19, 2010

    NaNoWriMo - Day 19 - Musical Interlude XV + E. M. Forster

    Here's a song for the weekend:

    And a few words from E.M. Forster about basing characters on people you know:

    We all like to pretend we don’t use real people, but one does actually. I used some of my family... In no book have I got down more than the people I like, the person I think I am, and the people who irritate me. This puts me among the large body of authors who are not really novelists and have to get on as best they can with these three categories. We have not the power of observing the variety of life and describing it dispassionately. There are a few who have done this. Tolstoy was one, wasn’t he?

    ...A useful trick is to look back upon such a person with half-closed eyes, fully describing certain characteristics. I am left with about two-thirds of a human being and can get to work. A likeness isn’t aimed at, and couldn’t be obtained, because a man’s only himself amid the particular circumstances of his life and not amid other circumstances... When all goes well, the original material soon disappears, and a character who belongs to the book and nowhere else emerges.

    November 18, 2010

    NaNoWriMo - Day 18 - Over, Under and Around

    So turns out I was wrong. I didn't work on chapter 2 yesterday, since at some point I decided I would have to do some more research and take some more notes before I understand exactly what I want it to include and/or achieve. I did, however, make a lot of progress on chapter 3. The point, I guess, is that I have to choose my battles, and while writing will probably always be a struggle (for me, at least), sometimes when I find myself constantly avoiding a certain chapter or scene I have to recognize that it's because I'm not ready to write them just yet (this is not always easy to tell apart from my natural tendency towards procrastination).
    John Gardner writing
    This sort of thing has happened before, with my first novel, and often delayed me for weeks or months, due to the linear and cumulative structure of that work, which did not allow me to skip ahead and work on a different part. The novel I'm currently working on is a bit looser and "jazzier" (a term borrowed from John Gardner's The Art of Fiction) so I am able to move about the various sections a little more freely.

    P.S. If I wasn't doing NaNoWriMo this month I probably would have written something about Ben Greenman's article in The Daily Beast: Hey, That's My Line, and perhaps somehow applied it to my writing. Maybe I'll get to it in December.