Farewell OlympusWriting Over, Designing Begins
I am tremendously excited to have finished my new novel, Farewell Olympus, which was an entirely new writing experience for me. Now it’s time to think about cover copy and book descriptions. I find it difficult to describe my own work, partly because I dislike blowing my own trumpet, partly because I can never decide what it is exactly. Farewell Olympus is no exception: I think it’s funny, but in a dry, seldom laugh-out-loud way. I also think it’s clever and entertaining, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I? It has elements of mystery and thriller, but it’s definitely not either of those. About all I can say with any confidence is that it’s fiction. Here’s what I have come up with so far.
Have you noticed how most of the novels you read are masterpieces that will stay with you the rest of your life? Have you been mesmerized and dazzled by books that are devastatingly atmospheric, compulsive and irresistible? Seduced by the style and elegance of quick-paced, taut prose? Bewitched by tense and enigmatic storytelling? Tantalized by mystery and suspense? Continue reading
‘The door of Henry’s lunchroom opened and two men came in …’
And, we might add, immediately barged their way into the cultural history of the twentieth century. Three thousand words later, Ernest Hemingway’s seminal short story The Killers watches in relief as the two men disappear from the narrative, still intent on killing Ole Andreson, ‘the Swede’, ‘just to oblige a friend’.
In considering the afterlife of stories and how successive versions and adaptations interpret the original for their own times, it can come as a shock to realize just how old The Killers is: it was written in 1927. Yet this tale which appears so closely tied to its particular milieu is extraordinarily amenable to reinterpretation and variation. The Killers is firmly embedded in the small-town America of the mid-1920s, yet it is that very specificity which has rendered it malleable and pertinent to generations of artists. Continue reading
The Tennyson Effect
Now take me to the Cobb, and show me the steps where Louisa Musgrove fell. (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 23 August 1867)
Tennyson (1809–1892), the great Victorian Poet Laureate, was visiting the seaside town of Lyme Regis, on the south coast of England. He was enjoying a guided tour of the local sights, but evidently was feeling distracted. He had read and loved Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion so much that it had come alive for him. He wished to see where it was that Louisa Musgrove – a relatively minor yet significant character in that story – took it into her head to jump from the top of the distinctive harbour wall that curls comma-like into the English Channel at Lyme.
I like to imagine how Tennyson might have been thinking and feeling as he stood at the top of those fateful steps and listened to the waves crashing beneath his feet. For him, the town of Lyme had undergone a kind of doubling, made more real – hyperreal – by the presence of fictional personages and events dreamed up by a novelist he admired. His enthusiasm is palpable, even across the 150 years that separate us from that distant English summer. Continue reading