29 May, 2010

A slew of reviews of TM

Well, it worked, pretty much, for NotNessie: "If you're up for a bittersweet and emotionally difficult read, you should give this one a try, it's worth it."

Book Addiction loved the beginning, hated the middle, liked the ending: "And the multiple points of view (constantly changing without rhyme or reason) sort of annoyed me. And confused me. Also, I missed hearing so much from Liga – she was the only character I really liked, so I wanted more from her."

Rhapsody in Books was pretty pleased with it generally: "It didn’t quite win my heart as much as the “Fractured Fairy Tales” segment on “Rocky and Bullwinkle” [well, I wasn't aiming that high!] but I loved the idea of upending the usual patriarchal assumptions."

A solid, intelligent review over at Evening All Afternoon has a lot of questions about the ending:
Is it supposed to be part of the magic of the situation that Urdda has come to complete apathy or acceptance (which is it?) of humanity's violence to humanity, and her own subjugated state as a woman, in the space of a single night? Is this change of feeling engendered by violence? I find it hard to believe that any simple act of retribution could really slake such a deep hurt. Is there some kind of key in the fact that the violence Urdda causes is unintentional, or righteous? Either idea strikes an uncomfortable chord in an otherwise beautifully resonant book.

Nonesuch Book is really not mad about it on a large and small scale (the dialect misfires for this reader):
I think that I have hit upon what bothers me most about the book. Lanagan could not decide whether to write a children's book or an adult's book. It is neither appropriate for many children and young adults or as dark and probing as required by many adults. The feminist themes strike me as simplistic. The second half of the book dragged on in largely uninteresting exposition. And then when I put my children's librarian hat on ...
Comments are interesting on this one, too. (e.g. "also curious how the fans of the novel could forgive Lanagan such pathetic excuses for dialect as 'et by a bear,' 'moon babs,' 'littlee man' and the like.")

This Book and I Could Be Friends thinks it's twice as long as it ought to be: "I almost couldn't get past the rape scene (luckily, it's a fade-out) and was seriously weirded out by a certain episode involving Branza and a man-bear. ...Plus, the dialect - i.e. 'littlee-man' and bab/babby - is half-hearted and ridiculous." And note to Margo: Don't read those comments if you're ever feeling fragile.

...while Piling on the Books
liked the middle part of this book very much, with the outsiders and the daughters dealing with them and their lives and Liga sort of seeing what kind of world she lived in. But the beginning part was squicky, and the ending part dragged on a little long and sort of danced around whatever points Lanagan was trying to make.

Which all goes to show that:
  • You can never get the pacing (or the content!) right for everyone, and

  • a book looks very different from the inside than it does from the outside. In so many different ways.

UPDATE: Ah, three of the above are a non-structured reading group. A fourth member delivers his verdict over here, and the rest pile on again, stacks on the mill.

28 May, 2010

Picture This 2

Today I got my copy of Picture This 2 from Pearson Education, to which I contributed a story, along with every children's and YA writer in the known universe, it seems (well, the Australian bit of the KU, anyway). We each had a picture to start from, and we had to write a story sparked by the picture, and then a short piece for teachers/students about how we got from picture to story, which was published in a separate resources book.

Picture This is put out for educational purposes, but the stories don't read like that, the ones I've read so far. Two of my travelling companions from the Melbourne Writers Festival road trip last year, David Metzenthen and Michael Hyde, have excellent stories in there, for instance, with not a whiff of pedagogy about them.

My story, 'The Golden Shroud', is a Rapunzel retelling. If you're not likely to get your hands on the book (i.e. you don't work in Australian schools), you can wait just a little while and the shroud-story will come out in my upcoming collection, Yellowcake.

23 May, 2010

Listen to me gasbag?

With Simon Schama and Lydia Wevers at Radio NZ!

Watch me burn!

Over at Marianne's blog!

18 May, 2010

Hoot! Hatred and love for Tender Morsels

With apologies to Justine - she hates these review entries.

I just happened to be over at Amazon, and while I was there I jumped over to TM's site and checked out the recent customer reviews. There is the widest range of opinions you'll find of any book, I reckon.
  • 'I don't know HOW an author could produce a book like this and feel good about it. WHY an author would write such a book is unknown to me. The entire text is saturated with sex, figuratively and literally. I have never before in my 20 years of being a librarian said this, but....please recommend this book to NO ONE!'

  • 'I opened this book when I was 16 or 17, soon after it was published. It horrified me, and I can with out a doubt garrentee that it would horrify each and every one of my friends, and many more of my peers - not all of them as innocent as I. This book IS NOT appropriate for children, and should not be classified as children's or young adult literature.'

  • 'aside from all of the violent rapes, the writing in this book is muddled and amateurish [This from someone who is, um, less than well-acquainted with the use of the initial-cap to start a sentence.]- it reads like something you'd find on a snow white rape fan fiction website [Wow. I wish precious_lilywhite had included some links.] the Old Tymey language is inconsistent and was clearly written by a person who has never read a fairy tale written in the time hers takes place, and never talked to another human being. lanagan also introduces every single character she's ever thought of, with asinine storylines that go absolutely nowhere in relation to the story, so that even the main characters barely get any pages spent on their characterization or actions or thoughts. by the end of the book i barely felt like i knew anything about the main characters or their motivations, so the ending was supremely unsatisfying.

    'overall, this was a terrible book. books about rape and sexual assault can be tough reads, but this one was for all the wrong reasons- after the 400th rape in one book with no real resolution or analysis, you have to question the author's sincerity in writing about it and wonder if maybe she was just looking for 'dark' and juicy plot devices and her record broke on that one.'
As a palate-cleanser, here's a really nice impression from Mark Doty, author of Dog Years (on his blog, not the Amazon site - thanks, Eirlys, for pointing me to it!) - I particularly like the absence of warnings-not-to-hand-on-to-the-faint-of-heart in this one.
Lanagan's novel is a fairy tale, of a sort, about a woman so harmed in this world she's lifted to a sort of heaven devoid of conflict, where she raises her two daughters -- and of course, no growing person can remain in a world without tensions and edges. The book's billed as a novel for young adults, but there's no reason it shouldn't be for any reader, especially if you're at all susceptible to the artful evocation of magic, to tales of transformation, and of profound encounters between human beings and animals.

Lanagan's prose is so beautiful and exact that she makes extreme experiences of ravishment -- living through rape, or passing between worlds, or becoming a bear -- feel entirely available to her reader. And despite the darkness of the book, what one carries away is a startling sense of enchantment, of the possibilities with which the slippery and uncertain world shimmers at every moment.

17 May, 2010

'Flower and Weed' podcast at TISF

Over at Keith Stevenson's Terra Incognita (The Australian Speculative Fiction podcast), and also syndicated to iTunes, you can get a taste of the world in which my next novel (and 'Sea-Hearts', my only novella so far) is set, but with an adults-only slant.

I'm reading out 'Flower and Weed', a story set on Rollrock Island; selkies are in the background, but this is a story of a liaison between a selkie's earthly husband and one of the witches who does the magic that's essential to keeping the whole selkie-wife trade going.

It's a typical story from me in that it throws you in at the deep end (not helped, my friends and loved ones tell me, by me reading too fast at the beginning). So listen carefully, and be prepared to be confused, and perhaps replay some paras, to start with :).

I hope you enjoy it.

09 May, 2010

Selkies novel sent off

Both the Supersessions and the Master Class at Byron Bay went well. The individual sessions were pretty intense, as you can imagine, but in a good way!, and the workshop on Thursday was a whole lot of fun. I got 6 more people addicted to using scrapbooks to work their way into stories. I managed to get in a walk along the main beach on Wednesday night, so that I registered that I wasn't in Sydney any more; the drive up to Coolangatta on Thursday night, with Mt Warning coming and going out of the country on the left helped as well.

On the plane up and back, and whenever I got a spare moment in Byron (not often), and since I got back, I've been reading through the revised MS of The Brides of Rollrock Island, looking for typos and howlers and previously-unnoticed chimings and repetitions, and just generally sweating the small stuff (which is quite enjoyable once you've established what the big stuff's going to be). And last night I got to the end of that, and typed the corrections in, and sent the editable MS off to my agent Jill. Wow, it's done—for the moment. Yes, I know, three different editors will come back to me with questions and suggestions, and when they do I'll be glad they did. But for now I can briefly delude myself that it's finished, and that's a very nice feeling.

Now what? Well, there's that colonial NSW novel I promised the Premier I'd write two years ago. The research and experiment phase of that should begin in earnest now. Then there are all the short stories I promised people; when I'm writing a novel, a short story looks so attractive, I tend to say yes to all requests for them, and now I've got so many short story commitments, they'd make a collection if I put them all together. Some are drafted already—one of these drafts, I used for an example of a nearly-there-but-not-quite short story at the Byron workshop—and some are at the floating idea stage, and some I have no idea how I'm going to tackle.

I'm going to have a bit of reading to do over the next couple of months, but not nearly as much as I thought I would, so there will be time to work on both the novel (it's so unformed, I have a working title for it but I don't feel certain enough to say it out loud yet) and some of these stories.

There are also a couple of workshops I have to give, one at the NSW Writers' Centre on short story writing on 19 June, which is open to the public. If you're in Sydney, come along for that one!

Meanwhile, the Vintage paperback of Tender Morsels is coming out soon in the UK. This is the one with 'A WORK OF GENIUS' as the subtitle, in copper-coloured foil. The Lovereading site have taken slight liberties with my bio. I don't know how they know I'm a 'superb' technical writer—although I am, of course! But I don't know that they realise that being a good tech. writer says nothing about your abilities as a fiction writer. Funny.