Reading, writing and ‘rch-enemies

22 Aug

In theory, this week should have been clear for me to concentrate on writing. Inevitably, my laptop has chosen this moment to stop working and I can’t access the latest versions of my works-in-progress… It’s particularly frustrating as I’m back to work next week. The gods that seem determined to prevent my work from seeing the light of day have once again prevailed. Ho hum. So I’ve been writing out passages for a potential new work… with pen and paper.

As a result, I’ve been reading rather more than writing. I’ve read sixteen books so far this year. That’s quite good going for me as I don’t seem to have anywhere near as much time to do so as I would like (in any given year, I’ll read somewhere between 15 and 25 books). I predicted that this reading year I would explore Japanese writing. It hasn’t quite turned out that way. It’s been another year of reading from around the world, though. Only one of the books that I’ve read might be considered “purely” British in origin. Thus far, it’s panned out as follows: Japanese (2), US (2), Norwegian (2), Ukrainian (2), Hungarian, Finnish, Icelandic, German, British/Canadian, British/Japanese (2), British. I have to say – and this may purely be my ignorance of the great work that’s out there – the majority of novels that I pick up/see reviewed by British writers seem dreary and insular by comparison.

I’ve continued to investigate the neo-realist trend in Norwegian literature, mentioned in my previous post. Per Petterson’s That’s Fine by Me turned out to be remarkably similar to Roy Jacobsen’s Child Wonder in certain regards. Both concern young male narrators, growing up with put-upon single mothers and absent, feckless fathers. Both narrators are gifted working class boys with a liking for literature. In each case, there is a lost sibling. Some of the same Oslo streets are even mentioned. For all that, it was a very good read. Told in spare prose but with some beautiful descriptions, it’s enormously evocative of a vanished era in the city. Perhaps the similarities are inevitable, given that Petterson and Jacobsen are almost exact contemporaries (for the record, the former’s book was written almost twenty years before the latter’s).


I’m sure that I’ve used this image of an Oslo street scene before, but I can’t access my photos…

It was pretty much confirmed that it would not be a good week for writing when I ran into my literary nemesis at the bus stop on the way to the library to write this post. He’s the character whom I’ve mentioned before, who joined the writing group of which I was a member, pretty much destroying it single-handedly with his megalomania and disorganisation. He declared that from what he’d seen my war novel didn’t work and consigned it to his literary dustbin. Looking like a cut-price Michael Moorcock (he wrote like one too), he either cut me dead or failed to recognise me. Fair enough. If I believed in omens, this would have been one. It’s always good to have these figures in one’s life, I find, to provide half-imaginary opponents against whom one can spar. And it was Yin and Yang. I heard from a writer friend whom I haven’t seen in a while and we made tentative plans to meet up for another pub crawl around literary London.

Perhaps the imposed break from working on WIP No. 1 (currently at the 54,000 word mark) will allow me to achieve some distance from the manuscript and help to push it forward. Or maybe I’ll just lose the thread. We shall see. In the meantime, I’ve continued mapping out ideas for a possible WIP No. 3. For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to write something about loss of biodiversity and its potential link to humanity’s future extinction. It may yet, as they say, have legs. I’d love to tell you more about it but the clock on the library computer tells me that I’ve got 23 seconds left and I’m about to run out of ti

All text © PSR 2013


6 Responses to “Reading, writing and ‘rch-enemies”

  1. August 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Loved hearing your thoughts on Per Petterson and Roy Jacobsen. I’m putting those two names on my to-read list, as I’m very interested in reading more Norwegian literature.

    Also very sorry to hear about your literary nemesis being so nasty about your novel. Please keep me in mind if you ever need an encouraging first reader in the future. I love to read first drafts for writing friends. The offer is always open 🙂

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves August 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Hi Lauren and thanks for your comments.

    There’s much to enjoy in the writing of Jacobsen and Petterson. Are there any Norwegian writers whom you’d recommend?

    Thanks very much for your kind offer to read my work. I shall definitely be taking you up on it. Likewise, I’d be more than happy to read your writing, should you wish me to.

    As for the judgement of my literary nemesis, I didn’t take it too much to heart. I’ve developed a rhino hide and, in any case, I don’t hold much store by his opinions.

  3. August 22, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I don’t have any I’d recommend so far. I’ve been getting into the work of Sjon (Icelandic) and stumbled across an unexpected treasure in John Ajvide-Lindqvist’s Let Me In (Swedish), and so I’d like to branch out into Norwegian literature now. Always on the look-out for new writers to add to my reading roster!

  4. Paul Sutton Reeves August 22, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Ah, Sjon! Someone gave me a Danish language version of The Blue Fox. I can read a tiny amount of Nordic languages and I think it was meant as a challenge. I haven’t attempted it yet! I’ll give it a try in English, then. I’ve not heard of Let Me In. I shall investigate that too. Yes, it’s always a pleasure to discover good writers one hasn’t encountered before.

  5. jhuwevans August 24, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    Sorry to hear about your laptop but I’m sure the imposed break will be good for your motivation.

  6. Paul Sutton Reeves August 24, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Hi Huw and welcome aboard my blog. I’m typing my response on my newly repaired laptop, so normal service is about to be resumed. It was a little exasperating as the week just gone was the first clear one I’d had in a long time. Such is life.

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