Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Names and Teardrops

A long blog, for which apologies – but I’ve put a fairly in-depth review of Lisa Glass’s Prince Rupert’s Teardrop at the end – well worth a read (the book – and the review, I hope!). Had great fun at the Goldenford meeting last night sorting out our upcoming book signings and fairs etc. Christmas is always a busy period. So if anyone’s in Farnborough at all on Saturday 24th November (this Saturday) between 11am and 1.30pm-ish, do pop in and see us in Book Boyz bookshop in Kingsmead, Farnborough – we’ll be happy to see you!

Still no definite date for the Thorn in the Flesh launch, as it will be easier to see how much production time we need once the edits are done. Ooh and talking of edits, Jennifer wants me to change the names of my two secondary characters. Which is fair enough as I’m rubbish at names – at the moment they’re Kevin and Jane Fletcher. Which she thinks is way too dull. She’s right too. So I’m thinking about rebranding (ooh, a managerial word – hush my mouth …) them to David and Nicola (Nicky for short) Fletcher. Or maybe it should be Nicki? Hmm, I don’t know. She’s definitely not a Nikki – far too modern and twenties for a mid-30s woman.

Funnily enough, I had the same problem with Pink Champagne and Apple Juice where up until the very last minute, my heroine was called Angie Soames – which I’d basically taken from a friend of mine (hello, Ang …) with a very similar name at the time. Jennifer queried it just before we went to print and I cast around for another surname, looked desperately at my colleagues here at the University and took the surname of our Dean of Students – so goodbye Angie Soames and hello Angie Howard. Much better indeed.

And since then I’ve taken to using colleagues’ surnames in my novels – Thorn in the Flesh also has a McLeod and a Dickinson, and I’ve got a Clutton (briefly) and a Langley in The Bones of Summer. Not sure I can really find a place for a Faux (the Deputy Dean) though – as no-one can ever pronounce it properly and I probably confuse my readers (that small and blessed band!) enough, without adding in something they can’t say in their heads as they read.

Popped into the lunchtime concert again today – very enjoyable. And tonight it’s Scottish country dancing – my eye seems a lot better today, so those agonising moments of Lord H holding me down and forcing eyedrops in whilst I scream may have been worth it as I’ll be able to go to the ball, ho ho.

In the meantime, here’s a poem – it’s vaguely seasonal:

Carol conflagration

We left the candle on
the night we went to church

so while others were singing
of shepherds on cold hillsides,

mysterious loud angels
and babies in sheds,

all I could see were great swathes
of flame devouring

carpets and tables,
pictures, wallpaper, books

and all I could hear
was the crackle and hiss of destruction.

Later we arrived home
to a still night only, a steady room

and a guttered, quietened

And, as promised, here’s a review of Prince Rupert’s Teardrop by Lisa Glass, which I’ve just read:

This is an utterly fascinating and incredibly literary novel. Extremely poetic and as dark as a winter night without the Christmas glitz. The main character, Mary, is a tour de force – ageing, prickly and a complete misfit, she provides a piercingly perceptive voice on the world around her. Which is also the world around us, of course. Through Mary, we understand again the utter strangeness of the world we live in, and feel the edginess and potential danger of our everyday lives. Yes, it’s the story of a loner and how she collides with the threatening world around her – but in that sense it’s the story, surely, of all of us.

Interestingly, the actual narrative, concerning the disappearance and possible murder of Mary’s mother, is almost irrelevant – what counts is the poetic power and literary nature of the text. This reminds me of the best passages in Lawrence or even Joyce and I wonder in fact if, in years to come, the character of Mary in Prince Rupert’s Teardrop will be seen as one of the forces driving the novel to a different type of expression. Not that narrative and the need for it will ever be left behind, but it’s exciting to see that the genre can be moulded into a significantly new shape. As a result, the ebb and flow of the surface story here becomes the least attractive part; even the glorious chapter about the Armenian struggles is, admittedly, a work of art, but out-of-place in the context of what is being done with the book. This kind of novelistic oddity is, however, not uncommon; Hardy occasionally does the same.

Before I read this work, the author asked me to let her know if I thought the secondary character of the killer, a man who may or may not be called “Roo”, was real or simply a product of Mary’s wild imagination, as this was one of the points which had apparently come up in discussions. Actually, bearing in mind what I’ve already said about this work, I think the issue is irrelevant. A novel of course is never “real” and the characters in it are always made up. Even Mary. But the fact that we don’t know about the status of “Roo” within the text is another, very subtle way of playing with reader expectations concerning what a novel is or should be.

In conclusion, there are three questions which need to be considered:

1. Is this a difficult novel? Yes, in the sense that, for me, it stands outside the novel genre and is more comfortable with the “label” (if we must have them) of poetic prose, or prose poem.
2. Is it a novel worth reading? Absolutely yes, but slowly and giving yourself time to savour the experience. Much like Lawrence, a page or two a day gives the optimum pleasure.
3. Is it a novel that will stand the test of time? Though I say this in a novel culture where the best-written and most interesting works are sometimes shunned, I’d like to think so, yes.

Finally, I would state that if this is the standard of Glass’s work, then I’ll be first in the queue when her next offering comes up. And if it’s a poetry collection, I’ll even pre-order! Fascinating stuff indeed.

You can find it here.

And, to cap it all, Equinox magazine has just accepted one of my poems for their next edition, hurrah! So thank you, Equinox!

Today’s nice things:

1. Thinking about Thorn
2. Reviewing Prince Rupert’s Teardrop
3. Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers


LG said...

Fascinating review. Thank you so much. Lxx

Anne Brooke said...

No problem - it's a fab book!!