Pack of Hounds

‘Fiction. It’s a pack of hounds in the forest, isn’t it? Chasing out the truth.’ ‘Fine. Give me a story then.’

I love this line in Toby Buck’s BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award winning story “Islands in the Stream” (and don’t we children of the 60s and 70s just start humming that song in our heads straight away … thanks Toby !).

Go read!

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Inspired! Writing the Landscape

Jill of Jill’s Scene has inspired me to write a blog entry once a week! So I am reinvigorating inchsquare and giving my writerly self a kick up the soft pants area.

Today my writer friend Paula and I organised a ‘get together’ of other slightly lost and disembodied writers in Hawke’s Bay.  Such a talented bunch of women who were so happy to have a place to sit and write together. And to chat about writing and books.

We decided to set a theme ‘Writing the Landscape’ to 1)give the get-together some focus and …. because:2) landscape gets little focus in writing classes, 3)  its an essential component of writing (albeit down the list from story, character and theme!) and 4) all the WtL courses overseas (London, Wales, Iowa) would be hideously expensive even with a bouncy little NZ dollar.

My thanks to Stephanie for pointing me in the direction of ‘Long, Hot Summer’ by the late and fabulous Barbara Anderson for a Hawke’s Bay landscape text.  The novel is centred around a fictionated (yes a new word from me) Waimarama Beach.  There was a lovely segment in there that did so much more than I could have asked for – it is description with strong memorable elements, action even playfulness, characters are revealed and strengthened, and, even better, she drops in  the culture and history of the place, which for NZ readers drops us into the deep pool of the Maori knowledge of our land.

And I also found a non-fiction piece by the marvellous Elizabeth Knox – although knowing her work, she brings a creative edge to everything (I think having a z and and x in her name has something to do with it … in the same way I value my w and y!).  It describes the back country and the light of Hawke’s Bay which is enough to make us all think about how we see the familiar and unfamiliar.

So today on a blustery election day in Napier we came together, talked some, learned more and made a commitment to write more… and me, well, to use the great gift of the internet to share thoughts and ideas and words.

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Otago Rail Trail Holiday

Otago Rail Trail Holiday

Adrienne scooting down the trail – some kind of record for not peddling until way, way, way down the bottom of this hill. Look at those wide open spaces!  We had just come through tunnel (very dark, who’d be a miner?!) and over bridges crossing deep gullies…magic!

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A Note to Bruce Willis

Bruce, please pick up the movie rights to Eoin Colfer’s Plugged because my friend Ceri and I think you’d do a good job.  We can see you tackling the bad guys …but how are you with an Oirish accent? This book is funny, bizarre and action packed…Carl Hiassen without all the spooky gator swamps. This has nasty back streets, shabby casinos and a large refrigerator.  Oh, and the arguments with the voice of his missing friend in his head … good fun! 

Thanks, Ceri – I should have been reading the book club book (which was good and suspenseful – shall I review it here) but ‘Plugged’ was the perfect holiday read.

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Ba-a-a-ad Movies Always Make Me Sigh! But Aloha…

The word is out on “The Word”!  The script (and direction – warning bells on that combo which is a recipe for not-so-good) has to be as good as your subject if your film is about a so-so novelist who fails to fess up when a book he didn’t write becomes a best seller. Aghh the irony of it all. This film deserved to be sharp and clever and an incisive look at celebrity … not to have obvious plot directions (saw those coming) or to drag in the middle, or to have the whole thing run out of energy.  What was with my fave Scotsman dashing in in absurd spectacles and dash out, never to be seen again?  A whole character wasted!  And why was the wife a cipher with no family, girl friends, anyone to talk to and reflect what we were thinking…. and she was a good actress that deserved more to play with.  Jury still out on Bradley whatsit … not convinced yet.  Thank goodness for the good red wine at my elbow!

However ‘The Descendents’ (seen on DVD) was finely tuned, nuanced and had some subtle and often funny surprises. Not least the fact that it was filmed in a Polynesian/Pacifica society that I recognised … not the Hawaii 5 Oh version, but something that felt more like Auckland and Bay of Plenty … and home.  I really recognised the land issues … so Polynesian and valuable.

Oh and George Clooney stars – and its odd that I don’t rush to a film just because he’s in it, but then I can’t think of a film he’s been in that I haven’t enjoyed.

And then there’s the uplifting polynesian movie soundtrack. Another one is the gorgeous soundtrack to NZ’s own ‘No 2’. Echoes of red hibiscus.

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The Colour Orange

It occurred to me last week that the Christchurch earthquakes may have had a strong influence on fashion this year. The colour orange is in all the shops – stronger and brighter than last year.  So my thinking is that the orange road cones, barriers, hard hats and overalls seen in Christchurch over the last year has led to orange being the colour of bravery, action, comfort, rebuilding. And fashion designers and stylists have responded!

And now the streets of Napier are awash to orange too thanks to the broadband project. Lots of orange barriers, road cones, handbags and shoes everywhere … we have to keep up with the trends!

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My Year of Reading Ann Patchett

So the deal was to read the latest Ann Patchett novel ‘State of Wonder’ for book group this month.  The trouble was I had resurgent guilt about not having read her highly recommended ‘Bel Canto’ that Steph loaned me years ago (I still have it, Steph, but at last it’s been read).

You may recognise that feeling – it should have its own name, that peculiar mix of elation/happenstance/guilt/revelation!  The opposite of schadenfreude, perhaps. This is the joy of discovering wonder ….that you love a book while feeling guilty that your friend was right to have thrust this novel into your hands several years ago and said “read this” so now you have but you have to belatedly fess up that you dawdled and did nothing about it, but now you have and it’s a revelation and you want to read it all over again because you think you missed some wonderful subtleties and like the experience of reading it and enjoy tracking all the little details and can you please rewind reading it for the first time again as you want that experience all over again!   

Gladly this is the second book that has done this to me this year… my $2 battered and stained old copy of ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck was another.  Although it was not recommended to me in the same enthusiastic way.  It hovered out there as a classic that didn’t immediately appeal.  But once read, I wished I hadn’t read it so I could read it for the first time all over again.  My comment at book group for that novel was “It’s somewhat wasted as a school text, as kids miss that moment of revelation that they would get as an adult reading it for the first time”. An intriguing point that was a little misunderstood by people who thought that kids should read the classics.  But should they … are these adult books wasted on them?

Anyhow back to Ann Patchett.  I had read “Truth and Beauty” and thought she was a strong, admirable writer.  But now I really admire her – her dispassionate sympathy, empathy, whatever it should be called is an amazing attribute. 

So now I am well into ‘State of Wonder’ and am in that state… wondering how she does it.  Where are we going, what’s going to happen.  Having canoed up dark remote streams on the Whanganui River, into our own mysterious, entwining bush, I really understand the remoteness, the otherworldliness.  Perhaps in a way that urban Americans in particular would have missed.

A writing friend thinks ‘Bel Canto’ is the better novel, and perhaps it is. But ‘State of Wonder’ is less tightly wound, more relaxed, which is nice.  There is still the lovely attention to detail – themes picked up and put down, like threads of embroidery.  A style I aim for in my own writing.  She likes people – cranky people, disabled people, annoying people, naiive people, native people, sweaty, awkward human beings.

So I will let you know, world, when I get to the end…

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