Saturday, 31 October 2009

Something from the archives...

Thought it was time to share something a little light-hearted for once - as with all my writing, any critique(positive or negative)very welcome.

Final Fling

Love, so they say, changes everything.

For Tim Forsyth, the timing couldn’t be worse. He is not looking for love, he is looking for a First. Not any old First either; no, he wants to get the highest Economics mark the university has ever seen. He aims to be the Economist of his generation, to create a twenty-first century approach to the subject, win the Nobel Prize. He has a schedule to keep up. He simply doesn’t have time for love.

Tonight though, he has let Ed drag him away from his text books to a party at the Union Bar: the Final Fling. By day, a café of dubious reputation; at night, cheap alcohol is served, and the tables are pushed back to reveal a wooden dance floor that has seen better days. For one last night before the exams people are determined to party hard. They huddle together round tables littered with empty beer glasses and bottles of wine. Couples fondle in corners. The dance-floor is crowded, the music is thumping, the room is ringing with shouts and laughter. It feels hot and sweaty.

He notices her as he reaches the bar. She is a few people down, waving a ten pound note. She is dressed
simply in hipster jeans, a blue camisole and a white wrap-over shirt on top. As she gives the barman a note, he catches a tantalising glimpse of breast. She has a heart-shaped face, and a soft mouth; her dark brown hair is tied in loose plaits. She picks up her drinks and floats back to her table. She serves her friends and sits down. Tim can’t take his eyes off her.

“Wow.” Tim turns to Ed.

“She’s fit all right.”

“I saw her first.”

“I’m sort of taken at the moment. She’s all yours.”

Drinks purchased, Tim wanders over to her, leaning forward with a smile,

“I bet you look good on the dance floor.”

She smiles back at him.

“Watch me,” she says, studying his walk back across the room.Her friend Siobhan is dismissive,

“What a cheesy line.”

“He’s got nice eyes,” she says, “And he dresses well.”

In his crisp white shirt and tight blue jeans he looks like he’s stepped out of a frat boy movie.He’s cute, she thinks, though Kaz Whiting is not looking for love either. She aims to enjoy life, wherever she is. When she is done here, she is going to go round the world. Love would interfere with her travel plans: she simply doesn’t have the time. But… he has a look about him that is rather tempting. And… it’s been a while.

“He’s a bit too good looking, don’t you think?” says Siobhan.

“Naa, he’ll do nicely tonight.”

“Kaz!!” the table laughs in outrage.

The girls get up to dance. The music is playing a loud repetitive beat. Kaz loses herself to the rhythm. She moves her body in one fluid motion: she is dancing for the handsome boy. She unties her wrap around shirt and pushes her arms down her body, caressing her hips. Seeing his appreciative reaction she turns towards her friends, twisting her bottom and lowering her shirt down her back. She gyrates to the increasing tempo, the shirt falling off the end of her arms. As the music reaches a crescendo, she turns back to face him, pulls off the shirt and throws it on the floor. Sweat rolls down her back, and trickles down her nose. She picks up her shirt, drapes it over her bare shoulder and saunters towards him.

“Coming then?”


“My place, of course.”

I can afford one night, he thinks, just one.

He follows her out of the bar.

But once is simply not enough. They meet again and again. Still they come back for more. They are creatures of the night: tangled limbs locked in wordless embraces that end too soon. As darkness makes way for watery dawns, even Kaz is forced to creep away to the constant drumbeat of revision.

Daylight brings frustrations. They meet for brief lunches, crammed between the endless hours of study. Their conversations are somewhat unsatisfying.

“Why do you smoke dope?” he asks. “It’s illegal, smells foul, and rots your brain.”

“It makes me feel good. You should try some, it would relax you.”

He shakes his head, and wonders whether she is too much of a distraction. He has work to do and she seems a little… well… shallow. But as she gets up to go, he glimpses her marvellous breasts and his doubts disappear.

“If you didn’t run so much, we’d have more time together,”she says.

“Running helps me wind down. You could always come with me.”

She thinks, as if. She wonders why they are together, he seems a little… well… driven. Then he smiles at her with those blue eyes and her reservations vanish.

What we need, they think, is more time together. What we need, they say, is a holiday. They sneak away from studying to browse on-line holidays. They dream of just the two of them, no distractions, undiluted love.
They settle on a barge holiday.Just the thing, thinks Kaz. We’ll snuggle up cozy at night, rise late, meander down river from pub to pub.Can’t wait, thinks Tim. We’ll plan a route, do ten miles a day, get round the whole circuit in a week. It’ll be great.

How they long for that time to come.

The exams end in a blaze of celebratory sunshine. They part company for a while, visiting family and friends. Their next meeting will be at the boat-yard. They cannot wait.Creatures of the night, how will they fare by day?

Tim sees her first, his spirits rising at the sight of her breasts. Then he hugs her and smells the cannabis in her hair. For a moment he wonders if this is such a good idea. Kaz grasps his hand, dragging him onto the deck of the narrow-boat and his spirits rise again. They go down below to explore the living quarters. The roof is low, Tim bangs his head and curses. They squeeze through the thin corridor into a small sitting room, two benches with drawers underneath and pink cushions on top. Beyond this is a tiny toilet and shower room, a double bed with lurid purple bedspread, and a minute kitchen.

“Small is beautiful,” he says, “So are you.” He pulls her towards him. They fall on the bed together laughing.

“That was lovely,” says Kaz afterwards, thinking how nice it would be to linger here for once. But Tim is up
almost immediately, pulling maps from his kagoul, planning a frightening looking schedule. She wonders for a moment if this is such a good idea, but then she is caught up in his enthusiasm. She, too, is eager to get on with it.

The first few miles of their journey take them through the outskirts of the city. It is not a pretty sight. The footpath is covered with nettles, littered with shopping trolleys, rusty bicycles and broken glass. The canal runs through an industrial estate, disused red brick warehouses, a scrap yard, a large car park. The water is rank and black, their prow forcing its way as if through treacle. Rain begins to fall softly. They make slow progress till the city is eventually left behind. A field of red poppies blazes beside them, but they barely notice it. All they are conscious of is grey rain and the smell of manure; even the cows look miserable. Their clothes begin to get damp. Water trickles down Kaz’s nose, and down the back of Tim’s neck. This is not quite what they had in mind.

At first Tim takes control, planning early starts, thrilling to each milestone passed. This is no kind of holiday, thinks Kaz. Water trickles down her nose, this is not quite what she had in mind. By Monday, she is in a state of rebellion. She refuses to get up and they are late getting away. When they finally get going, Tim is
fretful. Water trickles down the back of his neck, this is not quite what he had in mind.

Sometimes, when Kaz is steering, Tim goes for a run. She watches him disappear up the towpath in the driving rain, and feels deserted. When he returns, he laughs at her for being a slowcoach: a joke she doesn’t appreciate. When Tim is steering, Kaz often takes herself downstairs. She rolls herself spliffs that leave the cabin rich in aromatic smoke. If he comes below, the smell irritates his nostrils. He returns to the surface, impatient to breathe clean air.

The narrow-boat fills with steaming wet clothes that are never quite dry. The windows condense constantly. Below deck they get in each other’s way. Even the bed feels crowded. They begin to argue about everything.

How they long for the holiday to end.

On the penultimate day of their holiday, their results are due. The rain stops and allows a watery sun to come out, as they go to the pub to phone Ed and Siobhan. Their simultaneous cries ring round the garden,

“A 2:1. I don’t believe it!”

Kaz knows that this is more than she deserves. She skips about, shrieking out loud.Tim sits with his head in his hands. After all his hard work. He deserves more than this.

“What’s the matter?” she says.

“It’s not a first.”

“You got a 2:1 – that’s great.”

“It’s the end of everything.”

“Lighten up. It’s just an exam. Come on share a spliff with me to celebrate.”

Now she is laughing at him. He sees her in a new light. If she hadn’t come along flashing her tits, he’d have done it. It’s all her fault. He marches back to the narrow-boat and collects her stash, cigarette papers, lighters, hash. He throws the lot overboard. She watches as they float away in the current.

“Why did you do that?”

“I’ve blown my career, thanks to you.”

She looks at him as if seeing him for the first time. He’s so fucking uptight. That cannabis cost her a lot of money too. Well two can play at that game, she thinks. She dives below and returns with his running kit.
Before he can stop her, she is throwing things in the water: one final fling, and the trainers sink with a loud plop.

“You silly bitch, they’re worth a lot of money”

“I don’t care. This was supposed to be a holiday, not an endurance test.”

She storms off. It has started raining again. He thinks, sod it, I’ll moor here for the rest of the day. She’ll be back.

She does not return.

She walks across the fields shaking with rage and tears. The rain soaks her. He’ll follow her, surely he will.

He doesn’t.

She hits a road, stands there with her thumb up. A passing motorist takes pity on her, and drives her to the nearest town.

When love ends, life resumes.He finds solace in the salary a Merchant Bank offers. By Christmas, he has enough to buy a flat in London’s Docklands. She works two jobs to raise money for her trip. In April, she boards a plane for America.

Time passes. Love comes calling again. Kaz literally runs into Bob at Golden Gate Park. When they catch their breath, they like what they see.

“Been running long?” he asks her later.

“Only since I’ve been travelling. My ex used to run and it drove me nuts. Now I find I can’t get enough. Funny, isn’t it, how lovers change you?”

Tim meets Susie at Ed’s birthday party. She is plump, and blonde. Above the noise of the music, he shouts,

“My, you’ve got curves in all the right places.”

She laughs, and beckons him to sit down. They start to talk. Presently she fumbles in her bag, drawing out cigarette papers and some dope.

“Want some?”

He hesitates, then thinks, why the hell not? “Alright, then. Thanks.”He takes a drag of the sweet smelling cigarette, puts his arm round her. Ed winks at him, and he winks back.

Love changes everything.

Copyright c Virginia Moffatt 2008

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Probably the best bookshop in the world...

As the above picture illustrates, the Parisian bookshop,  Shakespeare and Company , deserves to be called a bookshop. The place is heaving with books. Also the odd chair, bed and enthusiastic volunteer. I was lucky enough to spend a Faber Academy workshop here two weeks ago and it didn't disappoint.

The story of Shakespeare and Company is a romantic one. Sylvia Beach, an American living in Paris, set  up the first shop by that name in  rue de l'Odeon in 1915. It soon became a centre for Anglo-American literature, due to Sylvia's excellent catalogue and her support for writers young and old. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Joyce, Gide were among the regular visitors that she helped out financially and practically. She championed freedom of speech, printing Lady Chatterley's Lover when it was banned in England, and Ulysses, when Joyce could not find a publisher.

In 1941, when Germany invaded Paris, Shakespeare and Company was forcibly closed. Although legend has it that Hemingway liberated the shop at the end of World War 2, Sylvia Beach never re-opened. But ten years later, a new bookshop was set up on rue St Boucherie, by another American, George Whitman. Called Le Mistral, it continued in Beach's traditions, welcoming new and old writers, and providing a hub of literary activity in the Left Bank. Writers who passed it's doors then included Ginsberg, Burrows, Miller, Nin. In 1962, Whitman received the ultimate endorsement from Beach, when she attended a literary reading, and gave permission for him to take on the name Shakespeare and Company.

Today George Whitman still lives above the shop he founded. His daughter Sylvia and her partner David, continue to run the place with the same warm welcome. Young writers or "tumbleweeds" are encouraged to stay, sleeping in beds among the bookstacks, on the condition they help out for two hours a day and read a book a day. As my daughters said when I told them -  what a deal. Published writers can spend time sleeping in the writers studio that looks out across the Seine to Notre Dame. And unpublished writers like me, get the chance to sit in workshops in the small library, with books piled from floor to ceiling, listening to church bells and soaking in the wealth of writing history around them.

As publishing gets more cut-throat and independent bookshops struggle to make ends meet, it is a wonder to find such a place as Shakespeare and Company. Even with Sylvia's modernisations, it still feels like a place that puts people before profit and books above business. In this day and age that seems nothing short of a miracle. A truly magical place, and a must see for any writer and/or book-lover who visits Paris.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Short Cuts

I  had to laugh when I read this article on Raymond Carver. Carver is held up (rightly) as master of the sparse and the subtle. But blow me, his first collection of stories only turned out like that because his editor Gordon Lish ruthlessly scythed his way through some very purple prose. And apparently the author hated what Lish did so much that his widow has republished them in their original form. Which leads me to wonder, is Carver, Carver because of Lish, or because of himself? And which is better, unadulterated or edited Carver? I must get both collections and find out.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Plug of the Month

It gives me great delight to announce the publication of Karen Annesen's poetry collection - "How to Fall". Not only is Karen a good friend and my personal creative writing therapist, but she is a damned fine poet too. Don't take my word for it, this is what the experts say:

Annesen is one of those poets whose cumulative effect is greater than that of any individual poem - Sheenagh Pugh

A poet of the very first order - Bernard O'Donoghue

I'll let you know the launch date, but if you can't wait till then, "How to Fall" can be ordered on line from Amazon or via the publishers. Get your copy to day...

Monday, 12 October 2009

Thanks be to...Faber Academy

We writers often hear about the dire state of publishing in this country (as if we haven't got enough reasons to put us off writing), so it is refreshing to discover a publisher willing to try something new. Faber and Faber launched the Faber Academy in 2008 and since then they have run writing workshops in London, Dublin and Paris, as well as day schools on writers, and six month courses in novel-writing, screenplay and poetry.

Having just come back from their second Paris weekend, I can't praise them enough. To be able to learn and talk about writing from two highly-regarded novelists, Sarah Hall and Andrew Miller, in the enchanting setting of Shakespeare and Company (which deserves, and will get, a whole post of it's own) was an experience that will stay with me for many, many years. It wasn't cheap, but it was more than worth the money to be in such an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. I know creative writing courses are ten-a-penny these days, but the Faber Academy comes from the point of view of a publisher interested both in nurturing talent and supporting independent bookshops, and that - for me - makes it unique.

So very many thanks to Patrick Keogh at Faber for his enthusiasm in initiating and organising the course; Sarah and Andrew for great classes; Sylvia and David at Shakespeare and Co for their warmth and generosity; and to my lovely course mates. Highly, highly recommended.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Art and Craft (2) William Golding

I wasn't a great fan of William Golding, I have to admit. I studied
"Lord of the Flies" when I was 13 and found it too painful for words. But I have recently been converted to his writing on the back of having to write an essay about "Darkness Visible". I wanted the essay to reflect my response to the immediacy of the first few pages,which are extraordinary, so I deliberately didn't read beyond them at the time. And I managed to miss that "Darkness Visible" is a line from Milton's "Paradise Lost". This means some of my guesses don't quite hold up. Still, I think this piece does point out a few of the techniques he uses very effectively, and I learnt a lot about writing from reading this novel. And the rest of the book is terrific too.

I'm posting it today, because I happened to be in the Oxfordshire Records Office yesterday (they are very nice people, have a cafe and it's close to my children's school). They currently have an exhibition celebrating 500 years of Brasenose College, complete with Golding's Nobel Prize award, which was a sight to see on an otherwise uneventful afternoon.

Reading "Darkness Visible" prompted me to return to the "Lord of the Flies" which I enjoyed a lot more this time round. So I hope this whets your appetite enough to give Golding a try...

Illuminating the Darkness - An analysis of the opening of “Darkness Visible” by William Golding (pp 9-14)

The beginning of “Darkness Visible” is deceptively simple – a group of fire-fighters watch a blaze in the Blitz. World War Two has been in shown in literature and film so often, a scene like this can seem quite trite. However, Golding is not a common-place writer: in his hands, it becomes something quite extraordinary.

The novel opens in the Isle of Dogs, in London’s Docklands. The word “evacuated” indicates that we are probably in war-time, which is confirmed by the presence of barrage balloons, bombs and searchlights. This setting is so familiar to us it could be a clichĂ©. However, Golding’s take on it seems slightly unusual. A less skilled writer would have shown us a German Dornier bombing ordinary houses, resulting in casualties being pulled from dusty rubble. Here, the bombers aren’t mentioned till they depart, the bombs seem to appear “mysteriously” in the sky. So we see the devastation of war, not in the physical effects it has on people, but in the poignancy of their absence,

“there had been as many languages spoken as families that lived there. But just now, not much was being said.” (p9)

The second comment is slightly humorous, but it is humour tinged with sadness, a subtle effect that piques our curiosity. We are drawn in further by the film-like technique that moves from a broad sweep of the landscape to concentrate on particular details. We start with a description of the streets, before focussing on the fire, then the “men” watching, and finally on three particular crewmen: the musician, the bookseller and their leader, the captain. We are given no physical descriptions of these people, but we are allowed to eavesdrop into their thoughts. The little hints Golding gives us about them - the musician has learnt to understand the sounds of war, the leader seems to be struggling with his emotions - help us develop sympathy with them, and bring us into their story.

There’s enough in this opening to attract our interest as a reader, but what else is Golding doing to maintain our involvement? He uses a very effective technique by placing two vital facts early on. One is that the area has been “evacuated officially”. The other, that the crew are waiting for the “delayed action” of the unexploded bomb. The first is there to emphasize how unlikely it is that there could be anyone in the fire. The second shows that, even when the bombers leave, the danger is far from over. Having laid these narrative seeds, Golding then proceeds to tell his tale, which he paces well using a second technique – interweaving a vivid description of the fire with the thoughts and emotions of the crew watching.
For the majority of the passage, the men are motionless, held still by their impotence in the face of a blaze which is “out of control”. In fact, it is the fire that seems to be the central character here. It is a “great fire” - only natural windbreaks created by burnt buildings can hinder its path. It is a “furnace”. Its light is so strong it illuminates the whole street. It consumes everything. It seems “permanent”. It is vibrant - a “red curtain” with a “white heart” that makes a “roaring” noise. It is so powerful that even the “least combustible materials” are melting. The author wants us to understand that nothing can possibly live in these flames. However, he counterpoints this by showing the crew-men remembering improbable escapes, such as the bookseller living through a wall crashing on him. This helps create a seeming contradiction in the reader’s mind: it is impossible to survive such a conflagration, yet people survive the impossible. This sets up the idea that such a miracle might be about to happen here.

There is a shift in emphasis on page twelve, as Golding slowly builds up the dramatic tension. First the musician stops listening for bombs and starts “attending to the fire with his eyes”. The bookseller notices and swings round, to see what the musician and crew are looking at,

“where now, humanly speaking, the street was no longer part of the habitable world…. something moved.” (p12)

The bookseller and the others look away, perhaps because they can’t quite believe it, perhaps because they are frightened of what they might find. It is only then that the captain sees what they see. Simultaneously, the bombers leave, suggesting that the men might now be safe. This is a moment where another writer might reveal what they have seen, but Golding continues to build up the tension by delaying the revelation, creating uncertainty in the reader’s mind. Like the firemen, we are not sure what to believe, until the captain says “look again”, and we are finally told, “what had seemed impossible” is true, a “figure” has appeared in the glare. But still it is “impossibly small”, because Golding reminds us (bringing us neatly back to our starting point) the place has been evacuated - there should be no children there. This is quickly followed by the second narrative seed coming to fruition. As the men finally move into action, the bomb goes off. The passage ends in a climax that is doubly dramatic, the men are in danger, and the impossible has happened - a child is emerging from the flames. The reader is left with two important questions that will drive the story forward - how did the child get there and what happens next?

Golding uses language in many interesting ways in this piece, but there is insufficient space to account for them all, except in relation to the narrative tone, which is particularly interesting. The opening pages are packed with long words, such as “lambent”, “diminution”, “augmentation”,
“perception”, “interpretation”. This has a rather distancing effect and can be off-putting for the reader. Distance is also created by the fact that no-one is referred to by name, and the events themselves are at arms-length – the bombers are invisible, the sounds of explosions are far away, even the fire is down the street. I think Golding might have two reasons for doing this. One is that war has a numbing effect. Even though the events we see are dramatic, they have lost their power to shock - illustrated by fact that the fountain of water from the bombed pump doesn’t draw a crowd, as it would have in peace-time.

A second reason is more subtle. The language may be deliberately formal and distant to invoke a spirit of the times – the avoidance of showing feelings known as the ‘stiff upper lip’. This is built on by the use of understated dialogue such as, “I’m not happy”, and “chaps”. Golding deliberately undermines this tone through his sarcastic comment, “Indeed none of the chaps was happy” – how can they be in these conditions? The description of the captain does this further. He is literally trying keep his lips stiff, they “were set so firmly together” that “the front of his chin trembled”. His men seem almost embarrassed by this, yet it is the captain who acts when they see the child, the captain who rushes on, despite the bomb. Golding seems to be suggesting here that showing emotion does not necessarily make a man weak.

The narrative is thus structured very effectively, both to build dramatic tension and draw us into the story, and the ambiguous tone is intriguing. But what is Golding’s artistic vision, and how does he achieve it? I think it is obvious from the title, “Darkness Visible”, that the author is after something complex - after all making darkness visible is a contradiction in terms. I would suggest the “darkness” Golding is trying to illuminate is illustrated by two key passages.

“whereas Pompeii had been blinded by dust here there was if anything, too much clarity, too much shameful, inhuman light where the street ended. Tomorrow all might be dark, dreary, dirty, broken walls, blind windows; but
just now there was so much light that the very stones seemed semi-precious, a version of the infernal city. “ (p11)

I think Golding is suggesting by this, that, whilst Pompeii was a terrible tragedy, it was a natural disaster. Here, the destruction is being done by man, and the light of the flame, makes the “darkness” of man’s ability to kill momentarily visible. Further on, he returns to the same idea by describing the child’s face. One side is bright, but this is not an effect of the light, “The burn was even more visible on the left side of his head”. Just as the fire makes the damage to homes and communities evident, the burn on the child’s face shows the true darkness that bombing does, it harms and mutilates children.

The striking use of biblical imagery in this section, suggests to me that Golding is also writing an allegory. The fire is described early on as “a burning bush”, which immediately brings to mind the story of God speaking to Moses, the implication that God is making some kind of announcement through the blaze. This is further suggested for me by the use of “white” lights that look like “tents” in the sky. This reminds me of the transfiguration scene in the New Testament, when Jesus is revealed as the Messiah, bathed in white light and attended by the prophets Elijah and Moses. His apostles propose that they build tents on the mountain for them. It is a story that also has parallels with the moment Jesus is baptised in the river. A white dove appears in the sky, telling everyone that he is the son of God. I think it is possible that Golding is using these images to suggest that the fire is announcing something special. The child who walks out of the flames is a representation of an important Christian idea - the sacrificial victim who could be the salvation of the world. There is a little bit of ambiguity about this though. It is easy to assume the child is good because it is a victim, but the description of it “condensing” from the smoke and flames does feel a little sinister. It is possible Golding is playing with the idea of good and evil through the physical features of the child, half damaged, half pure. Presumably this question will be answered as the novel progresses.

The fire seems to me to stand for the whole world, and indeed, Golding tells us this more than once. The “very substance of the world” is burning. The fire seems to be “permanent”, the “world” has become an “open stove”, “the world was being consumed”. Like the flames in the Book of Revelations, this is an apocalyptic blaze that seems to suggest the end of everything. It may also represent the need for the world to be cleansed of its inhumanity, before it can start anew.

The use of the phrase “infernal city” seems to reference the city of Dis, in the hell of Dante’s Inferno. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, Dante’s poem is also allegorical, and deals with the themes of good, evil and the possibility of salvation. Second it provides us with an allegorical purpose for the presence of the bookseller and the musician. I would suggest, like Virgil in the Inferno, they are there to remind us that art helps us to face up to sin and evil, and to transcend it.
The captain also seems to be there on purpose. He is the first to act when he sees the child, and he shows immense courage when the bomb goes off. I would suggest he symbolises the importance of compassion and bravery in the face of unbelievable horrors.

Golding is using his initially ordinary looking story to address several important themes: the nature of good and evil, the futility of war, the possibilities for human survival, the need for salvation. He adds weight to this by clearly placing his novel within the literary tradition. References to Pompeii and Artemis, remind us of the classical world, whilst Dante provides us with a link to modern literature. The fire, river and the title seem reminiscent of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. The subject matter and allegorical aspects are similar to Thomas’ poem, “A Refusal to Mourn the Death of a Child by Fire in London”, whilst the fire reminds me in places of Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland.”

The novel was published in 1979, but like any good historical novel it says as much about its own time as it does about the period in which it is set. Golding is writing from a post- nuclear world, which seems reflected in the description of the white heart of a red flame - exactly what a nuclear explosion looks like. The horror of the Holocaust seems to be referenced in the idea of the world collapsing, which was how many felt at the time. Golding is also writing a few years after the end of the Vietnam War, which was considered particularly horrific because of its effects on civilians. A famous image from that war is the picture of a burnt naked child running to safety. Surely Golding had this in mind when he wrote this passage?

For a novel to work, it has to engage the reader from the outset. Does Golding’s opening achieve this? I think this might be a matter of taste. The rather distant tone at the beginning could be off-putting to some, and they might be deterred from reading further. I did have that initial reaction, but a second glance drew me into the narrative. I became hooked by Golding’s development of dramatic tension, his complexity of thought, and juggling of contradictions. As a writer, I feel I have been presented with a master-class in writing that will stand me in good stead. More importantly, as a reader, I am desperate to read on, which seems to me the ultimate mark of success.

Copyright c Virginia Moffatt 2009

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Not quite plug of the month...

...because I've already done my lovely twin, Julia Williams once. But thought it worth mentioning that she is author of the month at ChicklitBlog this month. Hurrah.