Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts on Agatha (Jillian)

I have been hiding from the internet lately, in case somebody noticed. I've been languishing in creative silence for a while - to give my craft some room amidst a very noisy, self-important world. But something has caught my eye this fine day in August, and it again involves Agatha Christie... and the Daily Telegraph.

Today, in the DT, Laura Thompson makes the point that the publication of Agatha's private notebooks "will do nothing to reveal what made her tick." She does make an interesting point. Her novels were so clever it is no wonder that readers (or is it really the publishers?) are still dying to know how she was able to pull it off... believing that there must be some sort of magic embedded in her stories to make them work. The notebooks, apparently, reveal the scribblings and the notes she made that eventually gave way to her books... perhaps offering a glimpse into her own special writing process. But thinking as a writer, myself, I wonder: would I want my random, often-disorganized mess of proto-novel writings to be put on public display? After all, writing is such an intimate, highly personal art...

Thompson says:

She [Agatha] would have rued the publication of the notebooks, that is for sure. She gave away nothing; and that was how she liked it. Only in the six straight novels that she wrote between 1930 and 1956 did she reveal anything of herself, within the protection of a pseudonym. She was devastated when her secret identity, "Mary Westmacott", was exposed in 1949, even though the novels received reviews that most authors would have been glad to claim. The pseudonym, like the facade of "Agatha Christie" that she wrapped around herself, was a means to keep the world at bay.

She is herself a mystery - such that became the centre of the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp". But when one attempts to open up her life and spread it out so that others can have a part of the mystery... it ceases to become sacred, respectful of how she preferred her legend (if it can be called such) to be carried on into history. Of course, very rarely does one have the choice to write one's legacy.

My thoughts about this article are mainly in regards to preserving Agatha as she is: a writer who chose to keep her writing protected under a mask, her secrets remaining secrets... and finding contentment in that.

I must return to work now. Trying to blog and answering the annoying phone is a daring feat all its own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's at Stake (Michelle)

Pardon the pun; but everyone's talking about vampires these days. Good ol' Twilight and that.

Here Neil Gaiman very thoughtfully and respectfully points out that our friendly bloodsucking fiends may be suffering from overexposure, recommending that if they "go back into the coffin" for another 25 years, they might reemerge as something new and interesting. I don't get the sense he's attacking any particular story (except maybe Anne Rice which he finds "mopey"), just that he's suggesting that it might be okay to stop now. Of course, everyone freaks out.

Here one blogger at the Guardian's books blog agrees, and scores of commentators weigh in. (Gaiman himself seems highly bemused that his little remark has become news --- see his blog.)

But here is a great commentary, very much worth reading, from Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan's Labyrinth and the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, exploring where our fascination with fangs comes from and what folkloric, primeval, and philosophical strains it speaks to.

I'm going to keep my two cents on the subject, since I'm saving up to buy a collector's edition of the Twilight saga. Ho ho.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wolf II (Michelle)

Here is a picture of a wolf, perhaps more appropriate to the one Billy Collins is describing. Not a cartoon wolf, that is.

Wolf (Michelle)

I'm getting back into fairy tales --- I'm honestly never that far away anyway --- having just bought an anthology of essays by male writers on their favorite tales. This is a counterpart to Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall by women, which I read back in the fall.

And today I ran across a lovely poem by Billy Collins in my niece and nephew's poetry anthology (Poetry Speaks to Children) which got me thinking in fresh ways about the tales. No matter how much I think about fairy tales, there always seem to be new angles.


A wolf is reading a book of fairy tales.
The moon hangs over the forest, a lamp.

He is not assuming a human position,
say, cross-legged against a tree,
as he would in a cartoon.

This is a real wolf, standing on all fours,
his rich fur bristling in the night air,
his head bent over the book open on the ground.

He does not sit down for the words
would be too far away to be legible,
and it is with difficulty that he turns
each page with his nose and forepaws.

When he finishes the last tale
he lies down in pine needles.
He thinks about what he has read,
the stories passing over his mind
like the clouds crossing the moon.

A zigzag of wind shakes down hazelnuts.
The eyes of owls yellow in the branches.

By the way, if anyone knows where I can find a good computer wallpaper of classic fairy tale illustrations (Rackham, Dulac, etc.) please tell.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing = Toasting Fork? (Michelle)

"Are you writing again? I can always tell when you're writing. You get this stunned look like you've stuck a fork in a toaster."
--- Bones, Season 1, "The Boy in the Bush"


to a blog by three people who write, for anyone else who wants to write. It's a cruel world for creators, and here we promise support, whimsy, and curiosity that will hopefully keep your pen moving and keyboard tapping!

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