Friday, November 14, 2008

Doctor confusions, Hallsfoot and short story musings

Have been battling (sorry!) away at Hallsfoot's Battle again today, this time focusing on Ralph Tregannon and what's going on in the Lammas Lands. Well, I don't want to forget him entirely. He is key, after all. I suspect the encounter with the mountain dogs will strengthen his resolve somewhat - we'll see ... Anyway, it's another 1000 words in the proverbial bag, which brings me to 55,000 or so, so that can't be bad. After finishing the Ralph/evil dogs scene, I'm going to have to think about the Elders again. Not to mention the snow-raven's opinion so at least I'll have things to worry away at. Which is always good. And that damn bird always has an opinion or three, I can tell you.

And I've been for my post-op appointment with the nice GP and ticked off all 9 of the items on my list that I wanted to talk to him about. So that's something anyway. The confusing thing however is that he's decided to take me off the Metformin that the scary Consultant put me on as I "absolutely, must have it", so I now have to finish the few I have left and see how I go. It's all very confusing and actually rather upsetting - I'd thought the doctors had got over their inclination to keep undermining each other's treatment of me, but that is obviously not the case. Deep sigh. I do feel very pulled about in the middle of their variant diagnoses. The only slight glimmer at the end of the tunnel is that I'm due to see the original nice Consultant again at the start of January, so maybe she'll be able to make sense of it all. And get me on whatever drugs I am (or am not) supposed to be on. Again, we'll have to see ... But at least I don't feel enraged about it all this time (which is I suppose progress of a sort) - just resigned and very tired.

Anyway, after seeing the doctor, I went shopping in Godalming to try to cheer myself up, though I forgot to buy a local lottery ticket (which I was meaning to do) or look at jumpers. Lordy, but these days I have no brain, you know. Or at least no memory. Still, I bought some nice flowers for the flat instead, and made a feeble attempt to think about Christmas presents for Mother. No solutions on that one yet, I fear.

I've just finished reading Carys Davies' short story collection, Some New Ambush. It's rare that I'm deeply annoyed by a short story collection, but this one truly irritates me. Not, I hasten to add, because it's rubbish. It most certainly isn't. Davies is a fantastic writer. But there are a significant number of stories in the book which - to put it bluntly - don't have endings. They ... um ... just stop. As if she's got bored and couldn't be arsed to finish them, or as if she's gone away for a cup of tea to think about her ending and then plain forgot to do it. And, believe me, there's nothing more annoying in a story collection than an unfinished tale. To my mind, 90% of the power of a short story lies in its finish. Writers who fail to understand that are not doing themselves or the stories any justice at all. You can get away with a poor ending in a novel, as only 10% of a novel's power lies in its ending (eg Joseph Hansen could never do endings in his gay crime series, but that didn't matter as the rest of his books are always shit-hot). You can't do the same for a short story.

In Some New Ambush, tales that don't have endings include: "Waking the Princess", which just fades away and feels as if it really should be much longer; "Gingerbread Boy", for which ditto; "Rose Red", which has a ridiculously romantic ending that totally belies all the wonderful pain that came before; "Boot", where I think just another paragraph or two would have driven the point properly home; "Scouting for Boys", which does have a good end paragraph, but the few that come before that don't really help the reader to see what's going on (or at least didn't help this reader); "Historia Calamitatum Mearum", which has a similar problem to "Boot"; and "Ugly Sister", for which ditto. On the other hand, I know Davies CAN do kick-ass endings if she puts her mind to it as the following stories - and their endings - are quite simply brilliant: "Hwang" (a cliched story of an affair but very powerfully and humanely done); "Pied Piper" (a perfectly crafted story of lost children); "Homecoming 1909" (two perfect pages about how a change in fashion ruins a man's livelihood); "Metamorphisis" (a clash between hopeless love and simple friendship); "In Skokie" (again, two perfect pages, this time about a man's relationship to his car, and my favourite of the collection); and "The Visitors" (which focuses on Dickens' visit to a lunatic asylum and the ending totally, utterly makes it sing). So. It's a 4 out of 5 rating, but it could have been 5 out of 5, if only Davies had worked out all her endings! Still, I hope the next collection (and surely there will be one at some point) will clear up this problem, and then we'll have a classic short story writer on our hands, hurrah.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Flowers
3. Thinking about short stories

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - it's all in the ending, you know ...


Jilly said...

I always hate that when the medical profession disagree over a patient's treatment. I wish they'd remember what it does to the poor patient in the middle! Hope you get it sorted. Hugs

Anne Brooke said...

I know - it's a real nuisance!!


Still, never mind - it's the weekend now. Hope yours is good.