Month: November 2013

Authors who inspire

I’m usually not one for lists or favourites. I can never decide, I always want more options. And if this list, inspired by Christopher Shultz on LitReactor, shows anything, it’s that I’m not good at choices. But a list of authors is a wonderful thing, even if there are some dreadful decisions and gaps. Authors I want to read and haven’t yet (Jo Walton, Doris Lessing) Authors whose books I’ve read and loved, but who I haven’t read enough of. (Salman Rushdie, David Mitchell, Russell Hoban, Marilynne Robinson, Nikki Gemmell, Isabel Allende, Susanna Clarke, Kate Griffin, Karen Lord, Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lev Grossman, Ben Aaronvitch …) Almost another list in itself. But this, for what it’s worth, is my just-at-this-moment list of authors of profound influence.

Isaac Asimov
Iain Banks
Angela Carter/Arthur C Clarke
Douglas Adams
Jennifer Egan
Frederick Pohl
Neil Gaiman
Haruki Murakami/ Alice Hoffman
Ian Mcdonald
Justina Robson
Kazuo Ishiguro/ Philip K Dick
Margot Lanagan
Margaret Atwood/ China Mieville
Neal Stephenson/Audrey Niffenegger/Nicola Griffith
Ruth Ozeki
Terry Pratchett/Philip Pullman
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ray Bradbury
Shirley Jackson
J R R Tolkein
Ursula K LeGuin
Kurt Vonnegut
William Gibson
Stephen Baxter
Dianna Wynne Jones
Zadie Smith

Who would you include?


A little older, a little…

I love these aging superhero paintings by Andreas Englund. You can see more of his work here.

Maybe I’m not as old as the man in this one, but I know the feeling – do I really have to fight these ninjas on my way back home?Aging-Superhero-10-650x387

But I also love the way the series addresses that pervading view that an old person is uninteresting and incapable, that their time is over. The world already looks at me that way sometimes, but I feel like I’ve only just begun. Especially now that my children are beginning to free themselves and there are specks of time that are completely my own. I’m just beginning to make the superhero suit, let alone learn how to fly in it. Bring on those ninjas!

Characters, story and very long tales

My husband watched the final of the most recent series of Mad Men last night. We both of us cycle between love for the show and not being able to bear watching. Depression sets in! He was pleased (and this is a little spoilery) that Don Draper’s character was bringing some of his past out into the light. But then he commented that the story of Draper’s ex-wife, Betty, seemed superfluous. Perhaps, in the sense of not contributing to the unfolding of Don Draper’s story, it is. But I like that it’s there. It’s unexpected. Wonderful. A counterpoint to the advertising world. To me, the series has something of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. The complex lives and unexpected developments. The “who would have thought” past which has been left behind.

I am reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries – the recent Man Booker Prize winner and a saga of 800 and something pages. It’s very much a nineteenth century novel in setting as well as in style. I am 190 pages in and, naturally, the scene is only being set, the mystery just beginning to unfold. Some of the characters have become known, others are still in the background. But I also came across Julian Notivz’s discussion of the novel in the Sydney Review of Books. Notivz discusses and, to some extent, defends, Catton’s choices of style and structure, but also, and most interestingly for me, touches on Catton’s influence by modern television narratives such as The Wire.

I like the argument that series such as The Wire and Mad Men is television finding a form equivalent to that of the novel, and possibly a nineteenth century novel at that. The Man Booker judges described The Luminaries as ‘a Kiwi Twin Peaks’. Perhaps the twenty-first century novel cannot help but find a form that has some of the attributes of television.