Monthly Archives: September 2011

Poetry … Well, Kind Of

Poetry is … something of a difficult topic for me. I have no faith in my poetry. I don’t write it any more, or at least I don’t of my own free will, which is not to say I don’t read poetry. I’m just inherently terrible at writing it.

And yet, something urged me to take a quick look through some of the older files on this computer … I say that, but of course, I mean files that have been transferred from computer to computer, account to account. Either way, The file labelled ‘My Poetry’ became rather difficult to avoid looking at. There are only about six or seven files in there, and every file contains a poem I wrote when I was, roughly, twelve years old.

They’re ultimately silly little things, albeit very morbid, which I find startling. I’m not denying that my work is dark; but the fact remains that I’m nineteen, and morbid, disturbing things are far more accessible to me now than they were when I was twelve. Was it bereavement, I briefly wonder, and I know that this was the case with one poem in particular. One, the one I consider the best of all the poems in that folder (though they’re all terrible), was brought about by nothing in particular, just the fact that I tended to speak with people much older than myself at that age. It’s something of a juvenile attempt at writing about more adult issues.

Several things are immediately apparent. I loved ellipses wildly when I was twelve, more so than I do now. Most of the poems are overly wordy in a way that does detract from their overall quality, but I am an overly wordy person; I am someone who complicates simple matters. One or two have a genuine emotion behind them that is very, very difficult to remember now, but I actually do remember writing the poems themselves.

Therefore, in a way, looking through my old work, I’ve perhaps picked up on something new about poetry, that in those days, it felt like a much purer way in which to vent my emotions on the page. My writing doesn’t show any of this, which is a topic I will eventually come to, instead displaying some convoluted politics that only someone just entering high school would really understand … considering I had no grasp on politics back then, anyway, but nurtured the philosophy I had heard plenty of times over; ‘the government is bad.’ A pointless conclusion, really.

And yes, every line smacks of not so much an overly emotional young girl (perhaps a few years before I should have been feeling this), but is highly pretentious, melodramatic and theatrical in a way that would make it unbearable to read to most. It has the imprint of a pre-teen who desperately wanted to be edgy, most likely had self-diagnosed depression or some other disorder that she – that I – never really had. Not so much attention seeking (I wanted to disappear, but maybe that’s just as bad) as dying to stand out from the crowd. Why else did I dye my hair red (2005; you hear that, Cheryl Cole? I did it first), or black, and cut it short, and wore swathes of liquid eye liner to school, and painted my nails black, and wore black sweatbands with red dragons on them? I was the kid in the oversized ‘System of a Down’ t-shirt on non-uniform days, too cheap to afford real Converse. I suppose, really, this is just the type of high-schooler to write morbid poetry; I look back and I seem like an obscene stereotype, seeping so ostensibly into popular culture that I find it difficult to believe that once I was mocked for dressing like this. I wanted to stand out, not to be noticed, but to distance myself from other people my age, and writing ‘depressing’ poetry (it was called that, once, when I used to show it to people) seemed to be more of a side effect, something I was conscious of doing without knowing how contrived it was at the time.

I can’t bring myself to hate it; it’s not often I do or say this, there is plenty of my work that I hate, but in this case, I feel that to hate it so vehemently would be to hate what I was feeling at the time, and even though whatever I was feeling wasn’t pleasant, it isn’t something I want to deny. I don’t consider myself to have suffered, not really, in spite of that fact that I did, and still do, write about suffering. The only time I feel justified in writing something so emotional was a poem I won’t title and I won’t show; a sensitive time in my life that I don’t need to bore anyone with.

In short, you won’t see any poetry here (hell, I’ve only shared, what? One second-rate short story?), which is maybe something I should have cleared up a lot sooner.  Most of the work is stuff that, I feel, is too personal to publish now. I’m not satisfied with the quality, no, but I don’t see the point in publicly bringing up feelings that are best laid to rest.

I won’t write any new poetry, either. I don’t feel as though I care enough to be able to do it, now.

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October is Almost Upon Us


National Novel Writing Month

Of course, I only realized this fact today. The significance of October besides Halloween and getting to try out the costume I’ve spent the better part of the past few months piecing together? (yes, I like dressing up) NaNoWriMo. Or more specifically, planning for NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo? I hear you ask. Well, if you’d rather not stick around to hear my explanation, the link is right there. Just underneath the image. I’ll indulge anyway.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an event held every November; the goal is for participants to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, through hell or high water. Simple, huh? The method works for some – the idea of letting go, writing a novel, and not stopping to edit until the the month is over and done with. No, it is not to everyone’s tastes, but I find it to be a necessary approach if I ever want to get any work done.

I feel justified in stating that yes, NaNoWriMo does work for me. No, nothing I’ve written during it has ever been entirely publishable (not without a lot of work), but don’t most, if not all, first drafts tend to go this way? The fact of the matter is, in no other month have I found myself able to get 180,000 words down on the page in the space of 30 days. And no, I didn’t even think I was capable of it before I did it; naturally, this only served to encourage me, and why not? I’d rather have something that can be worked on than have nothing written down on the page at all.

But what does this have to do with October? Well, this post may seem rather ironic now that I have published Not Plotting. Because I may very well start plotting … not for the same novel I’m not plotting for of course, but I feel it only sensible to do it prior to NaNoWriMo, given that I’m going to be writing at a reasonably fast pace (if the past couple of years are anything to go by), and I don’t think that I have the ability to formulate, or react to, plot elements quite so quickly than if I set them all out beforehand. This, and I feel as though my novel will be quite a different experience than it has been the past couple of years – not least because I plan to write it in the first person, and am somewhat hesitant to call it a novel. The intention, since the outset, was to write it as a series of short stories. I’d rather lace them all together while I can than rushing to do it and butchering the entire thing.

So, October is almost upon us and I have relatively little idea of what I’m going to do, which is to say, I have a basic concept. How I’m going to orchestrate this, the characters, and what happens to them are all things that I need to start focusing upon, I feel; I’d very much like for this to be an opportunity for me to be a little more … creative with some of the events, some of the things that happen to the characters, and to really get the ball rolling on what it is I would prefer to write. I get the feeling that anything I have written up until this point is simply not enough, that I can push much, much further and at least give my supposed ‘dream’ a shot.

What is that ‘dream’? Well, I have some far-fetched designs on being a female Easton Ellis or Palahniuk. Of course I feel pretentious for even saying that, and of course I know it is never going to happen. I don’t think that fully discounts me from having a little fun with that idea while I still can. I don’t think that it should prevent me from experimenting with my writing – if nobody is ever subjected to reading it, then who am I harming, really?

In other words, at the infancy of the novel I started, perhaps, a little too late in the day, I’m most likely already going to abandon it in favour of another. Aren’t I the promiscuous writer? Perhaps I’ll try doing something I seldom do and write both a story and an outline almost simultaneously, making fleeting attempts at not confusing elements of one with the other and getting myself into … well, a complete mess. One thing’s for sure, I will have this outlined before November gets here!

I’m sounding rather indecisive right now, aren’t I?

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‘Teens Can Write Too’

I’d like to take a moment to mention a blog that I feel is worth supporting.

Teens Can Write Too

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been fortunate. My family have been extremely supportive of … what little of my writing they have seen. However, I’m well aware that this is not a philosophy nurtured the world over – something that needs to change, at least a little.

Yes, I do tend to identify myself as a ‘teen writer’ or ‘young writer’, despite the inevitable fact that I’m headed at full-pelt for twenty sooner than I’d like to admit. Everything I’ve written of my own free will, however, has been written in my teens. It’s been a learning curve, but I don’t feel that there’s any need to judge a writer on the basis of age; all should be judged on the basis of skill.

So yes, I do believe that teens can write, too, and that they can do it well, and as such, I urge you all to check this blog out; you might find out a couple of surprising facts. I know I did.

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The Reading List #1

Or maybe that should be the first reading list. Or the October reading list. Or the ‘I don’t know how I’m possibly going to afford copies of these books but I’ll do it somehow’ reading list. I should probably add that I’ve been intending to read these books for anything from two to six months, if not more, and yet for some strange reason, I haven’t yet gotten around to it. So without further ado:

Less Than Zero
Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis

So, July was American Psycho month and August was Lunar Park, but I haven’t been able to shake the fact that I started reading B.E.E’s work in the wrong order. This is mostly due to the fact that the aforementioned novels were the only ones on sale within my price range, and I haven’t placed an order on Amazon since … last July, I believe. Goodreads lists this under ‘Books I never should have read’ and ‘the movie was BETTER than the book’ … but since when has that ever deterred me? If I believed at all in these lists, I wouldn’t even know about Bret Easton Ellis, I’m thinking.  On the other hand, it also appears in such lists as ‘Best existential fiction’ and ‘books you can’t live without’; a confidence boost , I suppose, but I was always going to read it anyway. I’m pretty determined not to ruin this for myself by reading too many reviews about it, or reading too much into it, so I can’t really say much other than I plan to read all of B.E.E’s works before the year is out. Whether or not I sleep after doing so is questionable, but will be well worth it.

Haunted

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

I first heard about Haunted from the same friend who, essentially, introduced me to Fight Club. (I can’t thank him enough for doing that) The infamy of one of its short stories, Guts, speaks for itself, and appears to be something of a precursor for the events to follow, but I’m a little … obsessed with reading more of Haunted, I have to admit. Goodreads will tell you that it is ‘one of the most disturbing books ever written’ and is one of the ‘books that should be made into movies’, but my interest stems from more than just testing my own personal boundaries. In spite of being penned by the same author, I have a distinct feeling that Haunted may be a rather different reading experience than Fight Club was. Oh, and I promise I won’t faint.

The Curse of Lono

The Curse of Lono – Hunter S. Thompson

The first thing I’m going to say? I would gladly shell out £594.99 for a signed copy of The Curse of Lono. I’d spend my entire book allowance on it. I’ve never read it before, so I’m as unprepared as they come, and yet I have the distinct feeling that it’s almost impossible for me to dislike HST’s work. The redundancy, then, of striving to own a copy of this book may seem apparent, but I don’t feel as though I can go without. Unfortunately, I don’t own a comprehensive collection of HST’s writings, but I’m working on it – believe me when I say I’m working on it – and one day I’ll make it happen. As such, there are plenty of other books that might have taken this spot on the list, but I’m more enthusiastic about reading this than, perhaps, any other book here, and the only reason it features in this spot rather than at the very top is because I have my doubts about getting it before October; should I manage it, you can expect to hear me raving about it in due course, I’m sure.

Meat
Meat – Joseph D’Lacey

The most annoying part of me entering this book into my list is that I saw it in store. I saw it, and wanted it; the unfortunate truth is that I only briefly glanced at the shelf before moving on, and I was curious about Meat, but nothing came of it. I wish it had. Again, I’m determined not to spoil the reading experience by indulging too much in Goodreads’ reviews, and already have a minor grasp on what the narrative entails, but thankfully not enough to put me off reading. This slight idea is what I’m basing my desire to read off – unlike with Easton Ellis and Palahniuk, I’ve never read anything by D’Lacey before, but I have the feeling that Meat may be a good place to start.

Snuff
Snuff – Chuck Palahniuk

The second Palahniuk novel on here, in part because I fear I might never read it if I don’t ‘bite the bullet’ now, as it were, and read. And that just wouldn’t do. My curiosity won’t let it lie, not at all, and so, here we have Snuff. I read a fairly comprehensive review of this that made my head spin, and the prospect of experiencing a similar sensation while reading this is almost too much to bear – I can’t pass up that chance, not right now. That said, I have the distinct feeling that I may eventually walk away and forget about this book, or be a little too perturbed by its contents to want to visit or revisit it. So, I’m seizing the day and scheduling this for an October read, before it’s too late.

The Rules of Attraction
The Rules of Attraction – Bret Easton Ellis 

Sean Bateman appears in American Psycho, the brother of its central character, Patrick Bateman. I’m not going to lie, this was what got me interested in reading The Rules of Attraction, and I’ve searched for a copy to no avail. I read the first page on Amazon, and this was enough to convince me – as with Less Than Zero, I feel that I should have taken the time to read this before both American Psycho and Lunar Park, but the fact remains that I didn’t, and there is no way in which to change it. Does that mean I’m going to abandon reading this altogether? Absolutely not. Three of the four authors of the books on this list are authors I need to read everything by, and B.E.E is one of them.

So there we have it – there are many, many more, but I feel that I probably couldn’t read much more than this over the space of one or two months. What started out as a reading list designated for October has … escalated, to say the least. I’ll take the time here to register the fact that some of these choices may seem either shocking or depraved, that there may be the question of ‘what is wrong’ with me raised; what would possess me to want to read some of these books? All I’m saying is that I’ve had a little head start. I don’t think any of these choices could disturb me more than anything else I’ve read.

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Not Plotting.

So … on any normal occasion, I can’t glorify the benefits of having a sound plot outline before starting a new project. Such benefits should be obvious; channeling numerous and varied ideas into a coherent structure, having a sound knowledge of the plot direction and pacing, and having a thorough understanding of the project’s cast of characters.

Therefore, I doubt anybody could be more surprised than I was when I jumped headfirst into a new project without doing any of the aforementioned things.

I don’t tend to outline the short stories that I write, the main reason being I begin writing them with every intention of seeing where, exactly, they might take me; the term ‘short story’ may even be incorrect considering most are quick writing exercises to make sure I keep up the habit, not that that always goes according to plan. I have fun with them. I start with an idea and let that lead me on, allow the characters to adapt to the situation that is, essentially, dictated by the first line of the story in most cases.

Perhaps it is this, then, that had led to a new, slightly foreign, habit of mine. Perhaps it is because I’ve chosen to write at a much slower pace than usual, too, and that I don’t feel as much of a need to have some … slightly more polished thoughts at hand this time because it’s something I’m focusing on more as I write. Perhaps it is the fact that I have, essentially, written this story before, albeit with a different protagonist, a different antagonist, and a slightly different chain of events but when push comes to shove, the basic motivations of my characters remain the same. Some of the concepts are more believable, and the narrative viewpoint has changed, but the intention was always to take something I wasn’t so pleased with and rework it into something I’m at least halfway proud to put my … pseudonym on.

So for all I’ve said in the past on various forums about having a concrete plot outline, I can say just as much for not having one. I lost faith in this after my first year of NaNoWriMo; the resultant story was a mess, something I had wanted to put into action for a long time, but once I did, I handled badly and didn’t particularly want to look at it when the month was over. I still consider it irredeemable. There are a multitude of reasons why this is so, which I won’t bore you with.

I don’t feel quite so restrained to taking my story in a particular direction, said direction being the one I already set for myself perhaps a few weeks or days prior.  I had thought I might actually feel quite lost without anything to refer back to; no doubt once I get past maybe chapter three or four and things start to spiral a little more out of my control than I might like, I’ll get back to the drawing board with the outline, but by this point I think it might become something that is beyond me. All or nothing, if you will. Either I outline before I start writing, or not at all.

And who is to say where this will lead anyway? Most likely to the middle of a story that will be mercifully abandoned in the near future, forever damned to the depths of my ‘Writings’ folder, which in itself is a hellish place to be. It’s a kind of limbo between the story graveyard and the projects that came to life; anything that is still stuck there and hasn’t already been relocated to its own folder will most likely remain there for ever more and may never see the light of day again. Inadvertently, by writing this, I have probably assured that they will. I’m curios to see what I left there.

At this point in time, I can’t fully grasp what I would really need to put into the outline for this project; the most I have is a few bullet points written after harnessing the setting of the first chapter, brief things like ‘the detective’, ‘the shrink’ and ‘the tapes’ – I know what they mean, and this should suffice. The character work was mostly already done. I’ll start giving people heart attacks if I mention Jannah one more time, I’m sure, so none of that. Suffice to say, however, I look upon this more as breathing new life to characters I can’t abandon rather than recycling them; their first less-than-stellar outing, while not quite being tossed into novel limbo, is in a file that I very much doubt I will touch again for quite some time. It’s not a failure, but I’ve already shown myself what it could be, had I gone in a different direction … a direction I probably wasn’t ready to take when I first wrote it.

In conclusion? I’m not plotting. Actually, I very much refuse to until things start going awry. For once, I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

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And The Moral Of The Story Is:

Never run a quick Google search of your central character’s name. You may get more than you bargained for.

I only have myself, and my own curiosity to blame, of course,  but the results were both frightening and amusing. One result I don’t even want to think about. The rest have simply caused some excessive reevaluation of whether or not I should actually keep the name.

Naturally, I’m going to indulge in a little story. I was looking through my blog’s stats for the day, redirects, search terms and the like, and one in particular caught my eye; someone appeared to have searched for the name ‘Jannah Reid’ and had been directed to my blog. This seemed all fine and good; it could be someone I know who either knows about said character or Where Jackals Lie. Fine. I’ve had stranger hits (someone searching for ‘Patrick Bateman Lifestyle’ for example. My blog is on the third page of Google’s search results which is a little unnerving) although at the same time, this caused the initial question of whether or not the name was too unoriginal. Being a curious creature, I typed the name into Google for myself.

Aside from some social networking profiles belonging to a woman who is actually called Jannah Reid, and a few posts of my own on the NaNoWriMo forums, the rest were, predominantly, adult websites … or so I can only assume from the link descriptions. I didn’t think it wise to go much further than this. I don’t want to see up-skirt photographs of someone named ‘Jannah Reid’ who I don’t even know. I also don’t like the odds of AVG blocking out so many viruses, thank you very much.

And so, here we have a kind of identity crisis. Not for me, but for Jannah; do I risk keeping the name, thus damning her to be likened to a porn star without my consent? Admittedly, she was intended to be the femme fatale. I don’t believe these are entirely one in the same, however. On the other hand, there was never meant to be a clear-cut connection to begin with; the name was, simply, one I liked the sound of. Shallow and such, but ultimately, this was what it came down to. There is also the prospect that, through establishing her as a character, that no connections will be made … or at least, very few of them. And of course, here we come back to the self-indulgence, the idea that she will even become an established character, which is doubtful.

It is quite amusing to consider, though. Embarrassing search results, spam, redirects … as long as the legal and, to an extent, ethical implications remain out of the way, and as long as my computer doesn’t somehow degrade from the inside because of them, I guess laughing is the best way in which to handle it.

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Book Review: The Rum Diary

There are those books that you read, and that have an impact on you; either you empathize with the protagonist, or the events haunt you for long after you read them, or you can feel an inexplicable connection with the author. Then there are those books that you read in the blazing hot sunshine in an impossibly beautiful foreign country, where it feels as though, in a strange twist of fate, you have somehow landed yourself within the narrative. Where the sights and sounds, walking along the beach at midnight, looking up at palms and a clear blue sky and walking dry, dusty roads all seem to have spilled right from the page into reality. Where, whilst sitting poolside in the incredible heat with a cold drink in hand, you read, and read, and cannot possibly put down the book because you are trying to figure out exactly when it actually started to happen. The Rum Diary was this book for me. After reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was desperate for more Hunter S. Thompson, and finally extracted this gem from my hand luggage after boarding the plane. Within the first ten minutes, Paul Kemp was doing the same. Not … extracting The Rum Diary from his hand luggage. But he was boarding a plane, with, honestly, more hilarity than my own journey contained. (aside, perhaps, from the episode involving my mother and a lost-but-not-really-lost passport)

Undoubtedly, this has led to the book having a certain resonance for me that I have never been able to shake, not that I would want to. I can,  unashamedly, state that this is one of my favorite novels, even if Thompson himself initially had little faith in it, and some critics appear to agree. This is, perhaps, owing to its pre-Gonzo nature, and thus, is not as widely received as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – mention Hunter S. Thompson to almost anyone, and this work will be the most natural conclusion to all but those who absorb themselves in his work. The style, too, in decidedly one of a younger Thompson, but as Paul Kemp is essentially this, it is unsurprising. The unfortunate truth is that plenty of readers have put this down, and that I find this difficult to stomach, while not wanting to seem so intolerant of their opinions. There is the chance that this appeals more to me, that I enjoyed it more, because I am both a young reader and writer – approaching twenty myself (faster than it seems, I am sure), and reading something that was written by Thompson at twenty-two, is most likely going to have more of a draw for me than had I read it well into my thirties.

Ironically, this is something that underpins the entire novel. Paul Kemp’s own fear is that of going ‘over the hump’ as it were, a quality he sees clearly reflected in photographer Bob Sala. Similarly, his youth is reflected in hot-headed Yeamon, who seemingly ‘has life by the balls’ and whose girlfriend, Chenault has Kemp ‘stewing in his own lust’. It is this sense of weariness brought about in but a few short years, however, that dominates throughout; that Kemp is aware of the fact that many of the journalists around him have given up already, and that he acknowledges that he will most likely do the same gives the reader a sense of ambivalence, not towards the prose itself, but more towards the narrative.

Another overarching theme is that of ‘trouble in paradise’, that appears to permeate the entirety of the novel, right up until the point that Paul Kemp eventually leaves Puerto Rico.  Often, this is paralleled with vivid descriptions of natural beauty, conveyed in a more visceral manner, the most prevalent being the initial view of Vieques where he describes both a ‘wild desire to drive a stake in the sand and claim the place for myself’ and the need to ‘take of all my clothes and never wear them again’, both sensations elicited by the island’s natural beauty, white-as-salt sand and turquoise water. Here, he counters this with the ‘ugly chattering’ of Zimburger’s voice, which not only brings Kemp, but also the reader, back to earth, and reinforcing the idea that even the most gorgeous of landscapes can be ruined. This then takes on a more literal meaning when we learn that Zimburger has plans to redevelop the land and build a hotel on top of it. Chenault’s eventual fate, too, is at complete odds from the way in which her relationship with Yeamon is at first projected; their ‘idyllic’ moments standing waist-deep in the water and clinging to one another that cause Kemp to feel so old and frustrated, for example, as well as the way in which Kemp views her every time he encounters her. While she is supposed to come across as wild, both innocent and promiscuous simultaneously, the eventuality is that she almost seems to fade away, something perfect and beautiful that brings more heartache than joy.

I’ll take the time, here, then to say that Chenault was probably one of the characters that intrigued me most, not least because Thompson’s precision with the characters in this work is something that struck me right away. She is the exact kind of character that I have always found myself captured by; I recently read a review that argued against her being labeled a ‘whore’, and the injustice of this (unfortunately, they skirted over everything else in favor of focusing solely upon this) – I could go so far as to say that her personality shows some signs of histrionic tendencies, but I am no psychologist, and it would be presumptuous of me to say it. She’s daring, certainly. The aforementioned wildness of her character is displayed in multiple ways, from her behavior around Yeamon to her subtle and not so subtle promiscuity that seems to take root in a kind of exhibitionism rather than anything else. (sunbathing in the nude being the most vivid example) By the end, when we see her weakened, it is difficult to tell whether or not she is actually remorseful, or whether she is simply moving on through boredom, restlessness … she is described frequently as a child, or shows a plethora of childish tendencies, and so it seems only natural that she is constantly on the move, not in the same way as the many journalists are, but instead because everything suddenly seems new and exciting.

The supposed romance here is not played up to a point that it actually feels like romance. While often referred to as a ‘love triangle’ between Kemp, Yeamon and Chenault, the fact remains that there is little or no romance there at all. Initially, Kemp’s feelings towards Chenault come across as a kind of obsession – not unrequited love, but instead, the notion that he is drawn to her and wants more. The relationship between Yeamon and Chenault is somewhat reminiscent of most fleeting love affairs; undeniably sexual, and fueled by changeable personalities, restlessness, and a need for something akin to adventure. We know that they will not make it to the end of the novel together, an admission that Yeamon goes on to make in a less-than-pleasant manner, and while there is an element of wanting to root for Paul, too, there is a sense that nobody will get the girl. She’s virtually impossible to pin down; Yeamon’s temper shows quite often when dealing with her, yet she taunts him by suggesting the ‘natives’ watch her sunbathe in the nude. Kemp says nothing during these conversations in an awkward, evasive way. It is never so much a question of who deserves the girl as who is actually to blame for the events that later transpire.

As I have already stated, the voice is undoubtedly one of a younger Thompson, and yet even while reading there is some semblance of who he will grow to be, rather than who he already is; the madness I had grown used to after reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and to an extent, The Great Shark Hunt as well is strangely absent, and yet, this initially seemed to define the book for me. Once I grew accustomed to this, the experience became rather different to the ones I had had before. And, very much in spite of the fact that I was already in what I deemed paradise, it certainly inspired a need to move on further afield. In the end, this was purely limited to promising myself I would take a trip up to the pool minutes before I turned eighteen (this never happened), and having an overwhelming desire to break free of my planned route wherever we went (the actual ‘breaking free’ never happened either), but it is this that is far more prevalent. Naturally, there is the undercurrent of danger, of disappointment and of broken dreams or maddening lust. In the very same pages, there is a feeling of being in a place that is supposedly untouchable, something that is set up for a fall by pressing on with coverage of hotel development and political corruption.

In the same way, I have been attracted to characters who do things that are considered ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, or sometimes ‘evil’. As such, what might have struck me as despicable instead hits with a kind of dull impact; I found it difficult to find any character completely abhorrent, even for all their faults. There is something morbidly intriguing about Moberg, for example, especially in a particular moment of insanity where he remarks ‘once down at the jail they beat a drunk until he almost died – I asked one of the cops if I could eat a chunk of his leg before they killed him …’ all the while laughing. Striking as this may seem, he follows it with a short comment about human flesh being no more sacred than any other meat, the twisted logic almost seeming to take away any of the shock built up by the facts he has already stated. Moberg is, perhaps, the most vibrantly illustrated of all the characters, if only in his supposed insanity, however, it is this, more than anything, that comes across; more than the locale, there is a care taken with the characters. In some ways, almost all of them are exaggerated when it comes to the finer points of their being, yet I could not bring myself to look upon this negatively, if only because it made San Juan, and in particular, the San Juan Daily News seem like a breeding ground for drunks and misfits from every walk of life – the exact thing Lotterman makes clear. And virtually the very first thing we learn about Lotterman is that he is an ex-communist.

There is a distinct draw, for me, to The Rum Diary, but now I feel it only prudent to bring up something that I originally intended to at the start of this review; in part, the release of the trailer for the film adaptation of this novel caused me to make a quick decision about what my next book review would be, (I was idling between Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lunar Park) and I can only hope that I am taken back to where I was when I first read this. So far, however, multiple things have become clear, the most obvious being that very few people are willing to give the film the benefit of the doubt.

Personally, I cannot seem to make up my mind just yet. I have grown to become wary of adaptations, but I doubt that this is at all uncommon; oddly enough, most of the time, I seem to discover novels after the film adaptations have been made, (sometimes after watching, sometimes without truly knowing about it) and so, this is something of a rarity for me. There are things that I adore about this novel that the film will not capture; I doubt so much emphasis will be placed upon Chenault as a character, and instead it will come across as romance for all kinds of censorship and viewing related reasons. That said, at first glance, I have a feeling that I’ll be gripped with an urge to wear my sunglasses and swim shorts to the cinema … in spite of the fact that this the film is slated for a November release here.

The Final Summary:

Appealing to me for a variety of personal reasons, it is clear that this is an early work of Thompson’s, irrespective of publication date. This novel will demand that you read it, or want to read it, in a hot country, and later demand that you find the nearest beach and go swimming at midnight (something I wouldn’t recommend if you happen to live in the UK and it happens to be Autumn), and later make you realize that the most perfect of places, or the most perfect of moments cannot truly be perfect; this biting realism is what may cause this book to seem bleak at times and apathetic at others, but the pace is constant and like most of Thompson’s work, will have you in tumults of laughter or will leave you questioning why, how, and most importantly, what just happened. A great read for Thompson fans, even if some reviews concerning it have been disparaging.

A Few Links:

The Rum Diary on Goodreads
The Rum Diary (Film) on IMDb
Hunter S. Thompson on Amazon.com

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A Suspicious Lack Of …

Work. No, I’m not talking about the job market I am so inclined to complain about, but simply there being a suspicious lack of work here.

On the plus side, I find myself having increasingly more to say, and now that the school year has started up again, an increasing amount of time in which to say it. Whether or not this is actually a good thing is down to you; the pointless jabbering of a waster might not seem all that illustrious at all. It is fun though.

Anyway, by work, I do mean things other than posts about writing. But, that’s normal for a writing blog! Yes, of course, but both my Excerpts & Short Stories, and my Book Reviews sections are seeming a little neglected at present. The Excerpts & Short Stories more than the Books Reviews, of course, as I am taking a little time to write more reviews at present. Perhaps it is a certain lack of conviction that holds me back from submitting anything else. Perhaps it is a lack of direction.

Pointless musing, really, and a small feeling of guilt that perhaps I should try harder in this respect. It’s one thing to constantly write about writing, and quite another to actually write.

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Why Write?

For me, this question inevitably pops up time and time again; and every time it does, I see fit to answer it rather than ignore it in the hopes that it will go away. After all, what is the harm in doing so? Every time I think about it, I recall more and more things that I thought I had forgotten over the passage of time. That’s always entertaining, if highly embarrassing at times.

Now, there is no real need for me to point out the obvious, but of course, I will go on to do so – the obvious being that there are a great many reasons why people actually write. I won’t bore you with a list, but I will say that such reasons can be both selfish and selfless, and I don’t feel that it particularly matters which as long as the process itself is enjoyable.

I could make this an extremely short post and state that this in itself is why I write. Because I enjoy it. But I’m a little more self-indulgent than that, and yes, I am going to take the time to make what might have been a simple response into something more like an essay. Besides, I have the feeling that I might look back upon this answer in the near future and wonder what, exactly, I was taking when I decided to write this, or else whether or not my perspectives on this have changed. While it may seem highly unlikely now, there is always the chance that I will quit writing forever; while I would like to think this an impossibility, the fact remains that nothing or this ilk is inevitable.

On with the show, however. I started writing through a simple need to place myself in the story. Yes, I was a shameless fan of this, I did it to death; the worst part, possibly, is that I didn’t even notice that I was doing it until it was too late. My excuse is that I was perhaps eight or nine when this idea started, and twelve when I actually penned this, and so, it was an occurrence that did not seem so out of place. Nobody pulled me up on it, either. Ultimately, this did not matter to me at the time because there was an incredible kind of fun that came from writing this character – essentially writing myself into the story – that made me feel untouchable in this respect, regardless of whether or not I decided to share this with the world. In the end, I did.

Fanfiction was never going to be enough for me, however. The unfortunate limitations of a world that someone else has labored over begin to feel a little cheap after some time, and it is always possible to feel like a cheat for using them. Of course, I did not have such adult emotions and conflicts to guide me at this stage, simply the notion that I wanted to continue to have fun, because this was what it was for me; if I could ‘create’ (I say this under duress) a character and a plot to revolve around her inside this world, then could I not create something entirely from scratch, utilizing what entertained me?

Praise, I will admit, spurred me on somewhat. Honestly, what twelve-year-old wouldn’t want to be bolstered by credit to both their own ability and feeling of self-worth, especially when my self-worth generally lest a lot to be desired? My writing back then was not exceptional by any means, but of course, I was not aware of this. What mattered was that people enjoyed it. I did not have any particular message to send, or any complicated, adult emotions to deal with, only a sense of what entertained and enthralled me which I used for my own dealings. I supposed late adolescence changed all of this somewhere along the line.

And so, in time, I would learn that nothing stays the same forever.

By the age of seventeen I felt a contrived need to place an excessively political message in anything I wrote, undercutting what might have been a story. All of the social injustice I felt, the cruel truths I had come to learn, the things that I was so blissfully unaware of young came to be, and honestly, any writing I did shot through with what I considered to be a just cause did not come out well at all. There will always be factors in our lives that influence our writing. It is learning to harness them, not allowing them to overwhelm us that is the complicated part, and something I so clearly missed I am stunned that I did not see it sooner. Such is life, however. At this time, I was writing because I felt like I had a message to send, that I needed to stand up and say something and the world needed to listen. Naive? Me? Inconceivable.

I cannot say I have ever resented writing, however. I have had varying reasons to do it, but the reasons I have kept doing it aren’t particularly quantitative; I enjoy it. There is more to it than this, of course – the most prevalent part is the freedom I feel it gives me, just like when I was younger,  my imagination, for the most part, has free reign. There was the stage where I had no concept of an audience, the stage where I wanted nothing but an audience, and now I feel I am at the stage where I am ambivalent towards this. There is some work I am willing to show off, and some work I write purely for my own amusement. There are short stories I write for the sake of writing them, for the sake of stretching my, uh, fingers and getting back into the habit after time off. There are articles I write to do little more than boost my own ego, fantasizing that I am a well-paid journalist whose work is in high esteem with most readers. There is little else I do to entertain myself; that portion of writing I do not do anything with is, quite simply, that.

Now for the part that is not particularly novel. Writing is an escape for me, too. Like most people, I have hopes and dreams. Like most people, I also have things that I wish to escape. When concentrating on a life so far removed from my own, this is exactly what I am allowed to do.

So I suppose you might say that I am one of those writers who is mostly selfish. There was, and to a lesser extent, still is a spark within me that hopes that my writing might just touch one person out there, like the works of various authors have done for me. There’s the idea that my writing, one day, might give someone something to look for again, something to aspire to or hold on to, because losing faith in everything is dark, it is a dull and hopeless place to be. The smallest of passages can re-ignite a spark and thus the notion of caring for something – anything – once again. I would be lying if I said I didn’t write for myself. I would also be lying if I said that I thought this was likely to happen any time soon, as it most likely won’t.

It might though.

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Insistent Characters

First of all, forgive me; it’s not that I intentionally neglected this place for two weeks. It’s not that I actually expect forgiveness, of course. Don’t you just love figures of speech? Anyway, I don’t have much of an explanation for the lack of updates, other than I really didn’t have much to say.

So now let me get down to it. Now, I have discovered, I have much more to say than I initially thought I did. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is designing characters; I wouldn’t call it inherent, but I will say it is something I have always enjoyed, much like a child who creates imaginary friends and thus refuses to grow up. Now, however, these friends take form within a world, within a narrative, and they suffer from all the ills that humanity is used to. Now, the characters become somewhat less imaginary, and begin to exist on the page as though they have always existed.

Sometimes, however, a particular character whose piece has long since been put to sleep, refuses to go. This is paraphrased, to an extent, in Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park, but I am reluctant to call my experience with this a haunting, because it is not. It’s more to do with a character who is dissatisfied with her post; who deserves far more credit than she has received, and she knows it. Being the character she is, she wants an entire story devoted to her, and she’s going to get it.

Already, I have made the effort to place her in a short story (Girl Talk) in which I, unknowingly, did something akin to Ellis’ eventual manner of dealing with the Bateman-esque spectre. This was a mistake. She will not forgive me for it until such a mistake is rectified.

Jannah, herself, was actually one of the few characters I have written who insisted upon this, although it does seem to be a common trait in anyone I have placed in Where Jackals Lie. Maybe it is because I feel dissatisfied with the way the story turned out, and am looking for a way to re-vamp it without entirely re-hashing it. Of all the characters in that story, though, Jannah was the one who enticed me most; and, in a fit of resolution, refused to give such attention out of fear that she would detract from Bryson’s limelight. The fact remained, however, that she was simply a more interesting character, and having started her story, I have come to terms with the fact that she comes across effortlessly; that the events in her world come more naturally than I expected them to. Instead of her being the unreasonable, cruel and eventually, one-dimensional antagonist, she has become human, not just a prop, a driving force for Bryson’s misfortunes.

So, given the context of her first appearance,  it would be so easy for this to take a similar track. Yet, and I say this with caution as I have only just started working on it, there is something far more real and honest that comes across with her, that I have been unable to achieve in the past. Before, given both my age and the nature of my writing, it was all too easy for my work to come across as slightly hyperbolic in nature, unrealistic, a kind of hyper-reality that was born of a childhood immersed in anime and manga. Teen years that branched out to graphic novels and video games. Now, edging towards my twenties, my tastes have changed (though not digressed entirely) dramatically, and in a way, my work is forced to reflect this. Yet, I think this still has everything to do with Jannah. Her reasons for cruelty, for socially unacceptable behavior, for materialistic urges that border on the insane and for her capricious nature are, incidentally, all symptoms of brewing personality disorders, and also born not of any unrealistic trauma, but simply rooted in her childhood (as so many are). They are not the result of biological warfare, or any kind of trauma too far removed from what the average child may or may not go through.

But all of this would not stand if I did not have a desire to return to the character myself. While I feel that, to an extent, she is forcing my hand (yes, that sounds insane and yes, I am aware of it) I also feel that this is the only viable way for me to go, right now. A character I have become somewhat comfortable with, in spite of the fact that she almost inspires discomfort, means that I can now take the chance to observe the goings on around her, rather than, as seems to be a recurring fault of mine, taking the entire novel to get to know the character for myself.

In short, I’m enjoying this outing perhaps more than I should, given that it is yet another attempt at exploring human indecency.

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