–a split-second pink flash…Moira Burke on detail

Losing It, Moira Burke. Text, 1998.

Losing it is written in the rare, second-person style. This, and the sparse punctuation and stream-of-consciousness manner force you to read quickly, forcing you to tumble over your words. It’s engaging, and addictive, and Moira Burke’s beautiful way of getting inside the detail has the words exploding on the page

“…you’re going to training on a blue train. You’re standing in the open doorway letting the wind come in bringing with it the soft drizzle in bursts. The train’s going over the bridge between Macaulay and Flemington and you look down, down to the wet black street the wet red houses and suddenly there’s a black wet tree. Blossoms all over it shining pink and wet swooping out of nowhere down below, the trains going fast its only a flash a wet flash from nowhere, the trains riding fast, bumpy, you’re in the open doors looking down going over the bridge a split-second pink flash and you go oh! And lean out to keep seeing it, it’s made a print in you like a photo all bright and black outlies in rainshine but it’s gone, gone.” (121)

Particularly engaging for me are the references to 80s Melbourne. Josie’s family holidays in Queenscliff, she hangs out in Melbourne train stations, and she frequents bars with names I remember seeing, or going to—I feel like I’ve even bumped into Josie–that’s how good she is at drawing you in. For me it sits up there with other coming of age stories written in teenage-speak style that we all know, Puberty blues, Catcher in the rye, The Incredible Here and Now.

Losing It was published in 1998, and re-released in 2017 as a part of Text’s campaign to support Australian authors.

For a comprehensive review see my page Agnes Water-books reviewed

Word Play

You know that I love a great messing around with words, right? The opening passages from The God of Small Things are just dripping with it. Lots of alliteration, lots of rhyming syllables, lots of  repetition of strong sounds and individual letters: K/C, J, F, B. And the sentences oscillate and create a rhythm that is musical!

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpains and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

But by early June the south-west monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn mossgreen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads. oats ply in the bazaars. And small fishappear in the puddles that fill the PWD potholes on the highways. (From Page 1 of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Booker prize winner)

Creating space in writing.

In the excerpt below, I love the space created by a simple change in focus. The grandmother pauses within the story to brush flies from the child’s face, and we just know there is something wrong! Love it.

“The little granddaughter came, picking her way through the long grass. She told the grandmother that the new baby was going to have a bath and she was going to have a bath as well. Her mother had said so.

‘Is mother going to have a bath too?’ the grandmother, brushing flies away from the child’s face, asked.

‘Yes,’ the child told the grandmother. ‘All, her and me and baby.’ The grandmother was surprised….the baby and the granddaughter had been bathed.”

(P116. The Orchard Thieves, Elizabeth Jolley 1995)

Sentence: description or construction?

I want to show you something I’m reading about sentences. Let me know your thoughts.

The main point is this: “There are no descriptions in fiction, there are only constructions.” (this reading is from Philosophy and the Form of Fiction by William H Gass)

We start with a paragraph describing a character named Magister Nicholas Udal. (from The Fifth Queen, Ford Maddox Ford)

 

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Next, we look at removing the colon, and placing that sentence at the end of the paragraph to see how that changes our comprehension of the character.

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Next, the possessives related to clothing are removed, the ‘his doctor’s gown’ is changed to ‘a doctor’s gown’ and the same with the cap.

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And then the same is done with Udal’s features.

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Next, he plays around by letting him own his clothes but not his face:

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from Philospophy and the Form of Fiction by William H Gass.

William H Gass & Metafiction

 

 

 

AS William H Gass was said to be the first to coin the term metafiction, I thought I’d post the paragraph in which he does. It’s from Philosophy and the Form of Fiction, an essay from his 1971 collection, Fiction and the Figures of Life, and he entertains us with a bit of attitude.

There are metatheorems in mathematics and logic, ethics has its linguistic oversoul, everywhere lingos to converse about lingos are being contrived, and the case is no different in the novel. I don’t mean merely those drearily predictable pieces about writers who are writing about what they are writing, but those, like some of the work of Borges, Barth, and Flann O’Brien, for example, in which the forms of fiction serve as the material upon which further forms can be imposed. Indeed, many of the so-called antinovels are really metafictions.

 

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