Friday, March 25, 2011

Old Brain Juices

Right, I'm about a quarter of the way through the first draft of 'Water's Deep,' which is about 23,000 words for those who like stats. This book, so far is writing itself, and at the current rate I should have it finished by mid-April. However, I want a holiday with my good lady wife and I'm flying to Hong Kong tonight and then on to Australia and New Zealand this evening, so there I will leave it. Whilst away I'll get the old brain juices ruminating on plot issues and characters and keep my writing hand in by penning the odd article for Edinburgh Libraries and make some ground on my comic book idea.

I'll see you anon, or on the road if you're going my way. I'll send in the odd photo and blog post when I get time. Look after each other.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Apart from never really being sure how to pronounce his surname (is it Pala-nee-uk or Pala-newark?) I’m a big fan of the few works of his that I have read. This is literary fiction, but a type that never forgets its genre roots. His work is experimental, but grounded in a style that is both readable and enjoyable. You never quite know what is going to happen, but you can be pretty sure your first impression will probably be wrong.
Rant is about many things. He is first and foremost a young man with ‘issues.’ Buster ‘Rant’ Casey is attracted to the intoxicating effects of spider and animal bites, and seems to carry within him a virulent strain of rabies which turns him into one the most successful serial killers in American history. Unless that is a lie made up by others to discredit him. Rant is also a shout and a scream from the part of an urban society forced underground, or into darkness anyway. Nighttimers are the waifs and strays, forced to work the graveyard shifts, and it’s is to this section of society that Rant graduates. They entertain themselves with Party Crashing, driving around the city, decked out in wedding gear, identifiers on the car roof as they crash into each other, in a mini destructive demolition derby.
The book is written as a series of oral histories, eye witness accounts from people who knew the boy, or have heard of him through hearsay and rumour. Some tell the truth, others just make it all up. Or do they? The truth is hidden deep in this work and it is stranger than you think. Some of if might be the truth, or then again, perhaps not.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

If you think ‘Rant’ is confusing, try reading this massive 700 page plus tomb which is a work of fiction, written as a treatise on a missing film that might be a prank and not even exist.
‘House of Leaves’ is an academic work by a dead man called Zampanò with additional notes added by Johnny Truant. Johnny might once have briefly met Zampanò, he is certainly living in his old apartment. It’s there that he finds the manuscript and starts to read it. The work is about a film called ‘The Navidson Record,’ a documentary made by a famous photographer that purports to record the lives of his family in a house in the country. A house where walls move and a passageway to a labyrinth is discovered. This labyrinth seems to exist in a space outside of the norm and changes size and shape regularly. It might also contain a fabled beast. Several people die in its exploration including Navidson’s own brother. Some say the documentary exists and is an accurate representation of what happened. Others claim the whole thing is a scam. At the same time Johnny reads the work and adds his own comments about his waste of space life, a life that becomes dangerously unstable as the book influences his decisions and actions.
The book is experimental. Sometimes it’s written in straight forward academic prose, other times the whole text fragments to represent the maze. Footnotes and endnotes send you off in different directions throughout the book, pages of appendices instruct you about characters past lives, there are photos to decipher, poetry and collages. This is metafiction, a book of contradictions and multiple interpretations. It’s a horror story, a love story, an academic satire and a reaction to the possibilities of the printed word.
This book came out in 2000, before ebooks made it big and readers were readily available. It would be interesting to see now how this book will translate into a virtual text. The possibility of the book/internet melding into one.

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