Today I have my first meeting at the book club I recently joined since moving back to Essex. Mum and I are both going as I thought this was a great thing we could both share and we have already talked a little about what we thought of this month’s choice: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. I will post a review on here after the meeting and I hope some of you might have read this or read along with us. I will share next month’s read when I have it too.
This is a literary novel and it’s in the crafting together of the lives of people living in the same street it starts to weave its magic. Having not been enjoying Richard Madeley’s far more commercial The Way You Look Tonight, which I thought was going to be so much better (bought because of the Kennedy tie-in but the American narrators are for me not capturing the American voice well enough) and the plot has holes, it was refreshing to immerse myself in the literary. Mum said something interesting to me about the style being simple but really well written and it reminded her of some of my short stories. Wow compliment indeed! I wish I did write as well as that but I think what she means, joking aside, is it is just about capturing people; about how we think, what we do. And when people say to me you must have a great imagination I say all you have to do is look around you. The stories do not have to be massive plot-driven high concept huge stories (and yes in a way I did have that more in mind with While No One Was Watching) but it’s in capturing people and all their idiosyncrasies where the real power lies.
Looking back at the short stories I have had success with, I realise it’s not anything to do with having immense plots, but in creating people who seem to live on the page, blemishes and all. So sure, you need some imagination, but you also simply need to look. Capture the odd ways people think and we can relate to it, right?
After reading this novel I have taken a break away from writing the tension at the end of Isle of Pelicans to write the short story that has been bubbling away for a couple of weeks now. This also is more about character. Oddly as I met my old man in the story and his grandson, the young disillusioned lollipop girl and the teacher — all just about hanging onto life by a thread, I realised they all had magical voices. And in their finding me I have felt great satisfaction this week. I am returning to the writing I know well when I write shorts, but pushing myself too — so we have the way the teacher thinks in broken sentences because in school everything is always interrupted. What a gem that was when it fell into my head. It’s in the way these come to me as challenges in discovering new voices I feel the most at home. It’s where I get to experiment and some of these devices might not be sustainable for an entire novel but can work brilliantly in a short story. It’s in pushing the boundaries and taking the risks you might just find that all elusive WOW. Or you can try!
While this new story is nothing like the wonderful novel I have just finished reading, not in terms of story, I do think it has made me think in the right way and that is without doubt testament to good reading.
Read well and the rest will follow.
Watch me wave my banner for the short story — again!
Oh and remember the giveaway is still open on Goodreads for another week as we count down to the 51st Kennedy anniversary.
Have a wonderful day everyone!